Posted by: Hannah | 06/30/2015

50 shades of “here we go again”

Warning: this post contains NSFW language and themes. Also trigger warning for explicit mentions of sexual violence. Be warned. Here be dragons.

I have often wondered what I’m known for in my (admittedly-small) social media circle. I’m thinking it goes something like this:

– childcare

– Mindy Project fan

– future Mrs. Chris Hemsworth

– hates 50 Shades of Grey / E.L. James

When the new book by E.L. James, Grey, was released this month, a lot of people sent me messages asking if I’d be recapping it. Or live-tweeting it. Or at least reviewing it. I kept saying no. NO. NO I WILL NOT GIVE THAT WOMAN A PENNY OF MY MONEY, NOW OR EVER.

Then a friend pointed me at a site that will occasionally post copyrighted material for download, and said that if I hurried, I could get the book for free, and only break a few rules while I was at it. I took it as a sign.

A sign from a universe that hates me, as it turns out. This book. I can’t.

I read it, friends, in the way that I watched the last two seasons of True Blood. I could not believe what was happening. I knew it wasn’t going to get any better, and I could add up how many hours of my life I was wasting, and yet there I was, eating popcorn and making Michael listen to me read bits aloud so I didn’t have to suffer alone.

And so!

I will recap. I may not recap the whole entire book, chapter by chapter, because there are only so many ways I can say “this book is terrible and no one should ever read it, ever, and also no one’s penis is a separate sentient being that lives in the pants of men, stop doing that”. But I will try! For you guys! Because I love you. If you want to catch up on my reviews of the original trilogy, you can find them here, here, and here.

Quick housekeeping items: all quotes from the book will be in italics, with quotation marks, and all punctuation will be quoted as published even if it makes no goddamn sense. This book is a re-telling of 50 Shades of Grey, but from Christian Grey’s point of view; he narrates, but then he has internal discussions? arguments? with himself, so those bits will be in bold type as well as italics just so you can see what a hot mess this is.

The original trilogy was all from Anastasia Steele’s POV, and so we never really knew what exactly CG was thinking; E.L. James claims in the book’s dedication that her readers “asked… and asked… and asked… and asked for this”.The chapters are headed with dates, presumably so you can cross-reference with the original trilogy, or some bloody thing. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that FSoG started out as fanfic based on Twilight… and now Grey is just FSoG re-written with a different narrator, so we’ve learned right away that E.L. James has invented a new form of plagiarism hitherto unexplored in the annals of publishing.

We can call it “crapception”, I think.

***

May 9, 2011

We launch right in to one of CG’s memories of his mother, the “crack whore”. Immediately, this book has a huge problem; a retelling should not actually require you to have read the original story, and I guarantee if you hadn’t read FSoG that this dream sequence would confound the hell out of you. By page two it’s even more confusing, because the dream is over, but this is what we get:

I open my eyes and my dream fades … My thoughts stray to the day. I’ve nothing but meetings, though I’m seeing my personal trainer later … Bastille is always a welcome challenge. Maybe I should call Elena? Yeah. Maybe.

Bastille? THAT IS NOT A NAME OF A PERSON.

Elena? WHO IS THAT?

Why is the narrator talking to himself with two voices, while also narrating his every move and action? We’re only on page two and we’ve already got three “voices” here, except they are all CG, and he’s an idiot.

“As I stare out the window at the Seattle skyline, the familiar ennui seeps unwelcome into my consciousness. My mood is as flat and gray as the weather.”

 

Eventually he stops staring out the window in a fit of existential angst long enough to snap at his secretary for reminding him of an interview he agreed to, and Anastasia Steele (AS) literally falls into his office, because that whole stupid sequence wasn’t dumb enough the first time we all read it in FSoG.

“She has a small, sweet face that is blushing now, an innocent pale rose. I wonder briefly if all her skin is like that – flawless – and what it would look like pink and warmed from the bite of a cane”. 

NOPE. He literally just met this person. They haven’t exchanged a single word, and he’s already imagining caning her. I’m going to say this a lot in the course of these recaps, but that’s not normal behaviour. Ye gods.

“She gapes at me, and I resist rolling my eyes. Yeah, yeah, baby, it’s just a face, and it’s only skin deep.” Yes, this is something he thinks to himself when a pretty girl that he was imagining caning only seconds before looks at him.

Are you guys hot yet? Yeah, me too.

AS starts interviewing him about his business, and the words are all vaguely businessy but it reads like Mad Libs being played by Enron executives on their lunch break. This entire book is meant to be told in the first person present by CG, and yet E.L. James has a completely wooden ear for dialogue, so it ends up sounding really, really stilted. Example: “Flaunting my erudition, I quote the words of Andrew Carnegie, my favourite industrialist.

Grey2

The next few pages have several of CG’s inner thoughts about things he’d like to do to AS. I’m just going to list them, in order:

– I’d like to exercise it [control] over you, right here, right now

– Images of her in assorted positions in my playroom flash through my mind: shackled on the cross, spread-eagled on the four-poster, splayed over the whipping bench

– testing the limits of attractive brunettes like her, and bringing them to heel

– I imagine fucking that mouth to distract myself … her mouth needs training, and I imagine her on her knees before me

– I have a sudden urge to drag her out of her seat, bend her over my knee, spank her, and then fuck her over my desk with her hands tied behind her back. 

This is all in the space of three pages. THREE PAGES. He’s conducting an interview with a college student he just met, for a school paper, and this is his interior monologue.

In the original trilogy, CG was supposed to be all enigmatic and mysterious. Now that we’re finding out what was going on in his head, this is me:

Grey3

If the purpose to this book was to make CG seem less like an abuser and a rapist, we can clearly hashtag it #epicfail.

Eventually, AS finishes her interview, and gets ready to leave. Desperate to keep her in his space so he can continue to fantasize about Hannibal Lector-ing her ass, CG first tries to offer her a job, then lectures her about driving safely from Seattle to Vancouver, because it’s raining, and that’s never a thing that happens in either of those cities, right?

I haven’t even mentioned that he thinks about her wardrobe in unflattering terms not once, not twice, but THREE FUCKING TIMES. I realize in light of the larger issues here that this might seem insignificant, but he thinks of her as “poorly dressed … in clothes from some cheap store like Old Navy … the jacket is worn and cheap.” That particular plot device got old and tired really fast. She’s a student. There’s a whole subplot where we see CG trying to send a shipment of food to the Sudan – the book tries to make a big deal out of his philanthropy – but he’s also a raging asshole who expects an English major to be wearing Anna Sui, or something. It’s ridiculous. E.L. James can’t even stick to simple characterizations, and if she has an editor, that editor should be given a very stern talking to.

The day ends with CG requesting a background check. This, instead of asking AS out for coffee, or exchanging email addresses or something. A background check. A BACKGROUND CHECK. First of all, that’s just weird obsessive stalkery behaviour, so I do not approve. And honestly, has this super-genius technologically-savvy awesome 27 year old billionaire not heard of the internet? We know that the book is set in 2011, so why isn’t he doing what every other 27 year old was doing four years ago and just Googling her?

Oh, E.L. James.

Posted by: Hannah | 06/17/2015

down on the farm

Today I took the dayhome kids on an outing to a small heritage farm, because we’ve only got a few more days of the freedom to pile in the van & leave whenever we like – once summer vacation starts, we’ll only be able to do that if I happen to be down a kid. We had a good time. Taking little city kids to a farm is one of the great joys of my life as a mother and a caregiver. I grew up in a very rural area. Most of my neighbours had livestock (oxen and horses, primarily). I once helped a friend’s family butcher their chickens as a fun sleepover activity. My grandparents had a massive vegetable garden. I would love that life, but it’s not practical for a whole host of reasons… so instead I take the kids in my care to experience it whenever I can.

It’s the best. On a farm, even a tiny little heritage one, I am the expert. I can answer all of their questions. I seem like the fount of all wisdom. They are in awe of my total lack of fear around animals. It’s pretty easy to get puffed up when you have a whole bunch of children (mine, plus assorted random stranger-children who tend to latch on to me because I’m explaining things) hanging on your every word.

We wandered through the vegetable garden and I identified plants for them. “This one is spinach,” I said. “REAL SPINACH???” asked Louis, in tones of surprise. “And these big leafy ones here, these are rhubarb. I use them to make pie, or rhubarb-apple crisp.” “We gon’ make pie ta-DAY?” asked Daisy, eyes like saucers.

We visited the sheepfold, and admired the twin black lambs, singing Baa Baa Black Sheep. I got them to be quiet so they could hear the crunching & ripping sounds as the sheep grazed. Charlie kept pointing and yelling “Hannie! Hannie SHEEPS! Sheeps EATIN’, Hannie! Eatin’ ‘NACK!” The older kids wanted to know if the sheep were boys or girls. I explained what to look for and how you could tell.

In the barn we met a pair of very young calves; they were clearly weaning, as they couldn’t stop frantically licking my arms as I was scratching their heads. “That cow is licking you. All over. Mom. MOMMY. Ew. EWWWWWW!” I explained that a calf licking you just feels a bit like wet sandpaper. “What’s sandpaper?” asked Louis.

They met a small flock of chickens, presided over by a massive rooster. Louis noticed that the coop had no roof, and was very concerned. “What if they fly out?” he asked, frowning. I explained that chickens can’t really fly; that they are too heavy and their wings too short. A costumed interpreter was wandering by and overheard. “You really know your chickens,” he said. “I have to explain to people all the time that the chickens can’t fly.”

For snack we had huge homemade biscuits, slathered in homemade strawberry jam and real whipped cream. We went around to see all the animals one more time and then headed home.

We had lunch and the nappers went right to sleep. I spent quiet time working on the deck in the sunshine while Louis and George played in the yard.

It was a good day.

Posted by: Hannah | 06/11/2015

the more things change…

Today is my blog’s 5th anniversary. No, I did not say “blogoversary”, a portmanteau that makes my left eye twitch.

I thought about writing a cheerful happy post as a shout-out to the milestone, but it’s Thursday, and I’m surly, and you all come here to listen to me snark, anyway.

So… drumroll please… SURLY THURSDAY, THE GROUCHENING.

In no particular order, we have:

My washing machine, which broke yesterday, and in a house with five people this is so very very bad. It’s likely a $300 fix, and the part needs to be ordered, so I’m without a washing machine until next week. It’s baseball season. Everything is dirty and covered in grass stains, sunscreen, and bug spray. Also, the fucking thing broke as I was starting to catch up on all the regular laundry that got missed over the weekend because I was too busy doing stomach virus laundry.

Which leads me to the stomach virus. Charlie was patient zero – his dad and brother were sick, and his mom insisted it was food poisoning. News flash, universe: it is almost never food poisoning. I have this theory about childhood illnesses, actually. Families with two working parents do miss a lot of work for their kids’ various contagious diseases. All daycares and most dayhomes have exclusion rules for communicable bugs, and so parents tell themselves that the vomiting is food poisoning, the goopy eyes are from a cold not pinkeye, the rash is dermatitis… then they bring their little petri dishes to daycare, and wham, they take out a dozen people. In the end, all five of us as well as Louis, Arthur, and Arthur’s parents all went down. Food poisoning, my ass.

Today I heard of Tove Lo for the first time, and now I need to bleach my brain. Apparently her song Talking Body is popular right now, and on the radio the lyric is if you love me right / we love for life / on and on and on which is actually kind of sweet, in a way. Then you find out that in the original version, that second “love” is replaced with “fuck” and oh, that’s a different tone altogether. I blame EL James.

And speaking of that wanker, she’s got another book coming out because let’s milk this hideous cash cow some more, lord knows she hasn’t got enough money yet. This time it’s the execrable 50 Shades story told from Christian Grey’s point of view. Essentially, we’re going to get 300 pages of an abuser mansplaining why everything he did to Ana Steele was totes OK, ya’ll, stop telling me I’m glorifying partner abuse.

It’s all part of the troubling misogyny that is either on the rise or finally getting dragged out into the light where it belongs. Witness Tim Hunt, the Nobel laureate who said this week that research labs should be sex-segregated because three things happen when women are in labs: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry. Then when the entire scientific community jumped on his shriveled ass, he issued a “sorry you were offended” apology, which included the line “I was just trying to be honest, actually”.

It made me think about apologies, and how we are all so quick to offer totally insincere apologies as a band-aid for any and all hurts, slights, and insults. I think it starts in childhood, when well-meaning adults demand children apologize to each other. “You hit him? APOLOGIZE!” a scandalized parent says, and the kid whines “sor-RY” in That Tone, without actually considering how their actions have hurt another person. By the time those kids are Nobel laureates, athletes, politicians, or Duggars, they can spew out an “I’m sorry if I offended anyone” without even breaking a sweat.

My final grouch is about pre-packaged snack food marketed at children. I have grumbled about this before, I think, but it’s been a while, and lately it’s been a real issue with the dayhome kids so it bears repeating. On a daily basis, these kids have yogurt tubes, chocolate-dipped granola bars, mandarin orange pieces packed in syrup, sweetened applesauce, and those squeeze-pouches of pureed baby food (and as a reminder, my dayhome kids are aged 5, 3, and 2 – I should not be seeing baby food at all). There are several problems with this, in my humble opinion as a human person. 1) SO MUCH SUGAR HOLY SHIT. Ever read the nutritional information on a flavoured yogurt tube? Seven grams of sugar. Eighteen grams of sugar in one of those single-serving cups of mandarin oranges. Dammit, people, read labels. 2) SO MUCH GARBAGE. I do my very best to send my kids with litterless lunches, or very close to it. I have kids who come here and every single thing in their lunch comes in a single-serving non-recyclable plastic package. 3) Preschoolers and toddlers who are constantly fed pureed food where the primary flavour profile is “sweet” become the kids who won’t order anything in a restaurant except chicken fingers & fries. Parents who feed their kids bland processed junk as a default are creating picky, texture-sensitive children who will struggle to be adventurous eaters later in life.

I didn’t even grouch about baseball or how teachers are totally ineffectual at dealing with serious bullying, and those are really my biggest stress point right now. Guess those will have to wait until next week.

 

 

 

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