This book is so exuberantly, hilariously flawed that it requires a drinking game.
Drink every time:
- Christian Grey acts like a stalker with poor impulse control.
- Ana thinks, Oh my.
- A stray Britishism pops up.
- Ana’s subconscious [sic] or inner goddess requires slapping.
- There’s gratuitous product placement.
- You cringe on behalf of Christian’s servant-people.
- Someone name-shouts during orgasm.
- Someone’s mouth “forms a perfect O.”
- A tampon is pulled.
Finish your drink when:
- “Rectifying the situation” is used to refer to relieving someone of their virginity.
- An actual, full-length legal contract appears in the text.
In a nutshell: Young, bookish Anastasia Steele meets 27-year-old business tycoon Christian Grey. He has a dark past, majorly taut abs, a BDSM playroom in his fabulous penthouse, and a purported fear of intimacy that melts on contact with Ana’s magical vagina.
I was going to make a list of flaws, followed by a tally of the merits, but then I kept moving the flaws to the merit column because the flaws are so awesome, just like the pancake makeup in the Twilight movies.
- The writing pulls the neat trick of setting the bar so low that I fist-pumped in triumph every time E.L. James did something right, such as understanding the distinction between “figuratively” and “literally.”
- There are SO MANY ERRORS. How can this e-book cost $9.99 when there’s well-written erotica available for $0.99?
- Safe sex, yay! James gets kind of Pavlovian with the ripping sound of a condom package, and I salute that.
- Christian Grey, who probably owns a sweatshirt emblazoned “Byronic anti-hero,” is cold and distant but blows his game by saying dipshit things like “I’m like a moth to a flame” and “You beguile me.” Not to mention, “I want you to meet my mother” right after they Do It for the first time. HAHAHA HAHA HAHAHAHAHA, this book is awesome.
- Despite the busload of flaws, I think the romance works. Ana and Mr. Rochester Grey have very different neuroses, but of the same vector length, which is one of the keys to relationship success. She’s judgmental and street stupid, he’s emo with a bad temper; they so totally deserve each other! Win!
- The meet-cute portion of the story is a delicious, delicious festival of cringe. Remember how teen magazines used to have reader submissions where people would write in with tales of personal humiliation? Ana is EPIC in her ability to fuck up in front of Christian.
- Ana has two cartoon characters that provide windows into her interior life (because first-person narration isn’t enough, what?), which E.L. James refers to as Ana’s subconscious [sic] and Ana’s inner goddess. Like the Microsoft paperclip that used to pop up in Word, they manifest for no reason and grow more irksome each time. (Ana’s inner goddess mimes her feelings by doing a hula dance, hiding behind the sofa, or swooning onto a fainting couch.)
- The British have invaded Seattle! Although purportedly narrated by an American girl, this story is speckled all over with charmingly misplaced Britishisms. It’s amateur night at the editing desk. No, who are we kidding, this novel wasn’t edited by anyone.
- I don’t know what’s less believable, that Ana has never masturbated or that she doesn’t have a laptop or email account in 2011. See note above re: editing.
- This dubious book has the dubious distinction of having the most true-to-life contractual negotiation I’ve ever read in my fiction-reading career. The Dom/sub contract appears in its entirety (except Schedule C – Food), including subsequent markup rounds. Ana comments on legal drafts more astutely than most junior attorneys I have known, which just…I don’t know. She didn’t catch the redlining errors, though, so I’ll have to mark that on her next performance review.
- I don’t know much about the theory and practice of BDSM, but even I can tell E.L. James doesn’t know a damn thing. Some people are rightly offended, but honestly I can’t take this fuckwittery seriously enough to be offended. It’s like being upset about bad science in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Btw, it’s labeled BDSM, but the kink factor is totally mainstream, like the “spicy” Chinese food in the food court at the mall.
In conclusion, this book is optimized for drinking games, preferably in conjunction with a dramatic reading with friends. I mentioned the name-shouting during sex, right? It would only take 5 people to do a full-cast rendition (Christian, Ana, Ana as narrator, Ana’s subconscious [sic], and someone to mime Ana’s inner goddess).