Some of the Best Quotes From the First 35 Pages of “Grey”

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Since EL James’s new masterpiece debuted on Kindle late last night, I can’t offer you an immediate review of what will surely be one of the most harrowing reading experiences of my life. Partly because I’ve always been a slow reader, and partly because reading this book for too long with an expression of muted horror on my face was giving me a headache.

The amount I’ve read so far isn’t enough to render a real verdict, but it’s fair to say that this book was clearly more carefully edited than James’s original trilogy. I’d hoped that with the benefit of revision, James could actually see the major flaws in her “twisted” love story and may even be using this book to help justify what otherwise felt like an abusive relationship being masqueraded as a “kink.” If she truly didn’t see it that way, surely she could use this book to show skeptics how she continues to justify Christian’s behavior.

Instead, when you strip away Inner Goddesses, oh geezes, sloppy grammar, and punctuation errors, you’re left with a monster of a human being who seems to think that calling himself a “dark soul” and constantly whining about his very early childhood (before he was adopted by a rich family) is enough to excuse the fact that he’s just a shitty abuser.

Either way, I did manage to read about 35 pages before I passed out, and so before I attempt a full review, I’ll bring you some of the most memorable, bizarre, and downright horrible quotes from what is already shaping up to be the worst entry in James’s domestic violence series.

Without further ramblings ados, here you go:

I open my eyes and my dream fades in the early-morning light. What the hell was that about? I grasp at the fragments as they recede, but fail to catch any of them. Dismissing it, as I do most mornings, I climb out of bed and find some newly laundered sweats in my walk-in closet. Outside, a leaden sky promises rain, and I’m not in the mood to be rained on during my run today. I head upstairs to my gym, switch on the TV for the morning business news, and step onto the treadmill.

Following an incredibly hackneyed “tragic childhood dream” opener, this is how we’re introduced to Christian “in his own words”: a totally self-absorbed shitbag who can’t help but humblebrag about all the neat stuff he has because he’s rich.

Look: I get that a lot of rich people are incredibly smug about their wealth. But isn’t this meant to be the guy who cares a lot about feeding Africa and making solar-powered business, and other vague sentences that James threw together in the first three books? I understand that at this stage in the story he’s meant to see himself as a monster before Ana’s love cures him. But I don’t buy that anyone walks around going, “Fucking rain won’t fuck with my run! Doesn’t the sky know who I am? Fuck it — I’ll go watch business in my private gym!”

Which reminds me: the very first thing I noticed when I started reading is that EL James hit up the thesaurus hard this time around. She Percy Shelly’d her Frankenstein like nobody’s business, and now every “want” is “rapaciousness,” and every “light” is “luminosity.” So enjoy that.

[My personal trainer’s] parting words rub salt into my wounds because, despite my heroic attempts during our workout today, my personal trainer has kicked my ass. Bastille is the only one who can beat me, and now he wants another pound of flesh on the golf course. I detest golf, but so much business is done on the fairways, I have to endure his lessons there, to…and though I hate to admit it, playing against Bastille does improve my game.

I don’t even know where to start with this. Is James trying to earn our sympathy by telling us that this tragic billionaire hates a leisure activity where he’s forced to talk to other tragic billionaires about how they’ll exchange money with each other? I also love the idea that he must grudgingly admit that practicing a sport improves his skill at the sport. That is how sports work. When you practice them, you get better at them.

Since these are just a handful of quotes, I should say that Christian moaning about all the shit he hates having to do as a rich businessman (like sit in an office or play golf) is a major theme in the first few pages, mostly to establish how bored he is with his life and how much he craves some kind of big distraction. But none of this helps to engender sympathy, and it doesn’t really feel like we’re getting to know the character so much as it’s reinforcing this idea of Christian as a Ken Doll business person who does business things.

And before you ask, no — he still hasn’t clarified what the fuck his company does. But strap right in for this masterpiece of a paragraph:

As I stare out of the window at the Seattle skyline, the familiar ennui seeps unwelcome into my consciousness. My mood is as flat and gray as the weather. My days are blending together with no distinction, and I need some kind of diversion. I’ve worked all weekend, and now, in the continued confines of my office, I’m restless. I shouldn’t feel this way, not after several bouts with Bastille. But I do. I frown. The sobering truth is that the only thing to capture my interest recently has been my decision to send two freighters of cargo to Sudan.

I wasn’t ready for that last sentence. Or this one:

Damn. I have to endure an interview with the persistent Miss Kavanagh for the WSU student newspaper. Why the hell did I agree to this? I loathe interviews — inane questions from ill-informed, envious people intent on probing my private life. And she’s a student.

Yeah, fuck students. Envious pricks.

What’s also weird about diving right into “the interview” moment is that surely offering the book from another perspective should be about more than just treading the same ground through someone else’s eyes. Instead, I did expect that we’d be offered alternative moments that were perhaps more important or more crucial to the other character. But as far as I can tell from the little I’ve read so far, this book is primarily about just re-hashing all of Ana’s big moments. So we jump right into the famous interview scene, and it plays pretty much exactly the same way through Christian’s eyes as it did from Ana’s:

A commotion at the door brings me to my feet as a whirl of long chestnut hair, pale limbs, and brown boots dives headfirst into my office. Repressing my natural annoyance at such clumsiness, I hurry over to the girl who has landed on her hands and knees on the floor. Clasping slim shoulders, I help her to her feet.

That’s a lot of stuff to notice about someone in mid-fall. And also, yeah — fuck people who fall. Don’t they know how to command gravity the way that Christian Grey commands the skies?

And while Christian deigns to find this clumsy student attractive, he also makes sure to let you know that he can spot dowdy clothing from a mile away, and it displeases him:

A bashful, bookish type, eh? She looks it: poorly dressed, her slight frame hidden beneath a shapeless sweater, an A-line brown skirt, and utilitarian boots. Does she have any sense of style at all?

Even better, Christian Grey knows exactly what kind of terrible dowdy clothing you peasants wear:

She sounds like a rich kid who’s had all she ever wanted, but as I take a closer look at her clothes – she’s dressed in clothes from some cheap store like Old Navy or H&M – I know that isn’t it.

I did say that the scene plays the same way from both perspectives, but that’s not totally true. While Ana’s busy going, “Oh geez he’s handsome like Greek Gods and Bruce Springsteen,” Christian spends literally the entire interview fantasizing about fucking her in detailed, graphic ways:

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.

And

As she fumbles and grows more and more flustered, it occurs to me that I could refine her motor skills with the aid of a riding crop.

And

Her mouth pops open at my response. That’s more like it. Suck it up, baby.

And

“It’s shrewd business,” I mutter, feigning boredom, and I imagine fucking that mouth to distract myself from all thoughts of hunger. Yes, her mouth needs training, and I imagine her on her knees before me. Now, that thought is appealing.

And

“Are you gay, Mr. Grey?” What the hell! I cannot believe she’s said that out loud! Ironically, the question even my own family will not ask. How dare she! 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 behind her back. That would answer her ridiculous question.

Yeah, that’s not actually how homosexuality works — but it is how rape works!

This predatory inner monologue continues when he immediately has all of her public records pulled, mopes about how he wants to see her again, and then stalks her at her work in the similarly famous hardware store scene. Christian also continues his tirade against poor people and their shabby little shops:

A bell chimes a flat electronic note as I walk into the store. It’s much bigger than it looks from the outside, and although it’s almost lunchtime the place is quiet, for a Saturday. There are aisles and aisles of the usual junk you’d expect. I’d forgotten the possibilities that a hardware store could present to someone like me. I mainly shop online for my needs, but while I’m here, maybe I’ll stock up on a few items: Velcro, split rings — Yeah. I’ll find the delectable Miss Steele and have some fun.

Let’s take a moment to analyze the fact that Christian had a background check done on her, flew to go see her, and only as he enters the shop does he consider a plausible excuse for being there. I simply do not believe that a “master of business,” and someone who’s had 5 days to pore over an extensive background check, didn’t think of any kind of story to explain how he randomly wandered into her workplace miles away from his home and business until 10 seconds after he walked through the door.

But it doesn’t really matter, because beyond having no shame about stalking her, he then follows her around, evaluating every inch of her body, fantasizing about fucking her, and deliberately tries to unnerve her in her place of work where he knows she has to be nice to him:

“There are a few items I need. To start with, I’d like some cable ties.” My request catches her off guard; she looks stunned. Oh, this is going to be fun. You’d be amazed what I can do with a few cable ties, baby. “We stock various lengths. Shall I show you?” she says, finding her voice.

She works in a hardware store. You asked for an item that is sold at a hardware store. Why would she be caught off guard by that? If you walked in and asked for a ball gag and some lube, I’d say she might have been stunned into silence. Because those are not things stocked at a hardware store. At best, she’s getting real hot and distracted imagining you trying to consolidate your DVD, TV, and lamp cords into one neat strand.

Anyway, here’s a hilariously clunky reminder that Ana is basically just Kristen Stewart:

She steps out from behind the counter and gestures toward one of the aisles. She’s wearing chucks. Idly I wonder what she’d look like in skyscraper heels. Louboutins…nothing but Louboutins. “They’re with the electrical goods, aisle eight.” Her voice wavers and she blushes…She is affected by me. Hope blooms in my chest. She’s not gay, then. I smirk.

Still not how homosexuality/bisexuality works. But thanks for that, EL James.

Oh, and have a little random casual sexism to go with your homophobia:

“Are you in Portland on business?” she asks, interrupting my thoughts. Her voice is high; she’s feigning disinterest. It makes me want to laugh. Women rarely make laugh.

I hate him so much.

Okay — believe it or not, that’s not even the first 35 pages, but I’m getting yet another headache from having to relive these moments. In my next post I’ll catch you up on the inner musings of Christian Grey, universal man-hater, and whatever else I’m able to read without wanting to cry or scream.

Next Recap.

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12 thoughts on “Some of the Best Quotes From the First 35 Pages of “Grey”

  1. Pingback: What Would You Like to #AskELJames? | Tea Leaves and Dog Ears

  2. Pingback: All the Worst Parts: Chapter 2 of EL James’s “Grey” | Tea Leaves and Dog Ears

  3. Interesting. That all reinforces my earlier impression that, whether she acknowledges it – or even realises it – James wrote a transformation narrative with the Fifty Shades trilogy.

    A big part of Fifty Shades is that what Ana initially perceived as Christian being cool and in control was later revealed as him being fragile, needy, damaged, emotionally stunted and yes, predatory due to never overcoming the emotional damage he suffered as a child. Over the course of the trilogy, Ana helped him grow up by virtue of being (a) irresistible to him, and (b) willing to leave him if he didn’t grow up and learn to treat other people (and particularly her) *as* people rather than as playthings. Christian wasn’t used to people saying “no” to him and it was a rocky transformation but he mellowed significantly by trilogy’s end.

    As such, I don’t actually have an issue with many of the sections you dislike. They show Christian as a self-absorbed, controlling, intolerant jerk used to getting his own way – which is completely consistent with how he was in book 1 of the original trilogy, and I have no problem with it. I can totally buy him being passive aggressive at the weather for daring to rain on him or being annoyed at people for tripping in his presence. I also totally buy that he’s viewing Ana entirely through a sexual lens as something he can use, control and put in her place. Characterisation seems fine to me.

    Also, don’t forget that Christian isn’t obsessed with feeding Africa, etc. because he’s a caring human being. He just hates hunger because he was deeply traumatised by starving (among other things) as a child.

    BTW, this comment: “[…]calling himself a “dark soul” and constantly whining about his very early childhood (before he was adopted by a rich family) […]”? Being abused at an early age does change people for life. It is *not* cool to imply that lucking into wealth should automagically make the psychological damage go away and if people don’t get better after that then they’re just whiners.

    I’m surprised he whines about it, though, given that he’s basically spent his entire life trying to repress that trauma. Which brings me to…

    A big problem with ‘Grey’ appears to be that James has chosen to write it in first person, present tense (so the whole thing is written from Christian’s perspective) and isn’t entirely comfortable with its constraints. “[My personal trainer’s] parting words rub salt into my wounds because, despite my heroic attempts during our workout today, my personal trainer has kicked my ass.” and “Dismissing it, as I do most mornings” are awkward – people just don’t recap stuff to themselves like that.

    And while a person can theoretically think things to themself like “the familiar ennui seeps unwelcome into my consciousness.”, I really don’t see Christian doing so or having the self-awareness to recognise it in the first place. It sounds like a mopey goth kid composing poetry for his blog.

    The level of Christian’s language has always been wildly inconsistent, varying from “it occurs to me that I could refine her motor skills with the aid of a riding crop.” to “suck it up, baby.” at a moment’s notice.

    I don’t really get your “That’s not how homosexuality works” comments. The first instance (Christian response to being asked if he’s gay being an urge to forcibly demonstrate to Ana just how straight he is) seemed in character, and not at all confused about what homosexuality means.

    The second one (“She is affected by me. Hope blooms in my chest. She’s not gay, then. I smirk.”) is obviously him making an ironic callback to her earlier question (with bonus smugness!).

    Neither of those references seem confused or out of place to me.

    “She works in a hardware store. You asked for an item that is sold at a hardware store. Why would she be caught off guard by that?”.

    I actually thought that was quite interesting as an insight on the way Christian perceives things. (This is an actual *good* use of first person, present tense!). Christian automatically assumes Ana is shocked because she’s inferred what he intends to do with his purchases. But actually she hasn’t even considered that possibility and is just shocked because that hot billionaire guy she never expected to see again has unexpectedly wandered into the place where she works and she’s totally self-conscious. Works for me and, actually, you want a fair amount of “his perspective, her perspective” differences, or telling the same story from a different perspective is entirely pointless.

    PS. I think it’s vaguely hilarious that James is ripping off Stephanie Meyer’s ideas again, even when she’s rewriting her own stuff. Wasn’t Meyer going to release a book that retold Twilight from Edward’s perspective? (She abandoned the idea when an early draft leaked on the internet, though).

    PPS. You totally missed an opportunity by not reading fifty pages and calling your post “Fifty pages of ‘Grey'”. 😛

    • Let me start by saying that I do respect your argument, and so due to that I’m not really going to hold back with my reply — because I completely understand where you’re coming from, and I understand the way you’ve interpreted my response to it, but I want to at least argue my side of things a little more… aggressively.

      To start, I fully believe that James wrote this as a transformation narrative. And honestly, if it had been written better, I might have really enjoyed a story about a young girl discovering her sexuality while her partner learns to control and better understand his. And I do see how the *text* tries to argue that the two “heal” and help each other, and how — while it takes a long time to get there — they ultimately complete and understand one-another in a way nobody else could.

      The trouble is that the text flat-out says that, but it doesn’t actually show it.

      So to start, here’s my problem with the “he’s just emotionally needy, and she helps by proving she can leave”:

      She can’t leave. She tried once. It lasted what — 3 or 4 days? And when they reunite he just continues to do all of the problematic shit he was doing before. She says she’ll leave him — and he says he’s scared that she will. But he’s proven time and time again that he will stop at nothing to ensure that he knows where she is at all time and that she’s only doing things that he finds acceptable.

      I know, I know — that’s his “problem” that she’s helping him with. Except even by halfway through the THIRD book he’s still as controlling as he ever was. So while his parents and therapist keep *saying* that he’s getting better, the way it actually feels is that they’re all relieved that he’s not being shitty with *them* anymore. And the conclusion I draw is it’s because he has so much fun and distraction just focusing on controlling *her*.

      But that brings me to my single biggest issue — Anastasia is a deeply insecure girl who’s just graduated university and (though it’s totally implausible) lands her dream job right out of school. She’s beautiful (according to everyone but her), smart, capable, etc. etc. It’s a total cliche, but she is written as having her whole life ahead of her. She doesn’t need to be locked down in a very adult relationship with someone who has a lot of issues that HE needs to work through.

      And I don’t buy that “standing up for herself” when he gets controlling and abusive with her has helped her to find her confidence. Instead, the fact that she stays with him because she believes that she must cure him undermines all of the moments where she stands up for herself because she keeps basically saying to him, “But it doesn’t matter — because I’ll never leave.”

      Either way, what troubles me is the fact that nearly all defenses of this book rest on the idea that Christian is misunderstood and needs healing. I don’t mean to suggest that someone who was abused at an early age and then adopted by a rich family can’t have problems — he definitely can. I just don’t like the way that the book makes it seem as though only her magic vagina can save him, because if your recovery rests on *another* person, that will always be a volatile and co-dependent relationship.

      And that’ what they have, and continue to have, until the end of the series.

      • Aggressive away. 🙂 As long as you’re attacking opinions rather than people, it’s all good by me.

        I included that clarification up front about it being a transformation narrative because earlier you said “The author has repeatedly stated that she doesn’t see the relationship as abusive or problematic.”. I read that as you saying it wasn’t a transformation story – ‘cos why transform if nothing’s wrong, amirite? I suspect now that that was more about degree – that James saw Christian as damaged but without acknowledging just how problematic and abusive the relationship actually was. Is that right?

        I’ll be the first to agree that James didn’t really have the writing skill to execute the story she presumably wanted to.

        Incidentally, I wouldn’t say I’m going so far as *defending* Fifty Shades. It just seems like a lot of your criticisms boil down to “Christian comes across as a total dick” when I feel that’s probably intentional at this point in the story.

        She left him. Yes, it only lasted 3-4 days. That’s more than anyone else ever managed, and more than enough to demonstrate that she had the will to do so.

        I could be wrong here – it’s been a while since I read it and I *really* don’t want to have to read it again. xD But as I recall it, what happened after she left him is he went from being someone who did whatever he wanted to do, regardless of what anyone thought to someone who did whatever he wanted to do until Ana said “That’s not cool, back off” (which she probably did less than she should have but she *did* clearly have that clout with him). So yeah, still not ideal, but definitely an improvement.

        I also walked away with a quite different impression of Ana to you. She didn’t strike me as feeling like she needed to stay with Christian in order to cure him. She stayed with him because he (*sigh*) brought out her inner goddess. I can’t say I understand her taste in men, but she was clearly staying with him because she wanted to be with him, not out of a sense of obligation.

        And I found Ana considerably less insecure than Bella Swan from Twilight (I’ve only read the first Twilight book, but that’s the one the entire Fifty Shades trilogy is derived from, so…). Kinda low-hanging fruit, but… yeah. She was overwhelmed by Christian’s world (as most people would be in her place), and she started off with a low opinion of her looks, but she seemed to have a reasonable willingness to express herself and faith in her abilities (apart from being dropped into interviewing a billionaire at the last second which, again – understandable. And even then, I think she did admirably – I think I would’ve freaked and run before I even got there. o_O).

        I don’t think Christian is misunderstood. I think he’s *blatantly* a childish, emotionally-damaged control freak. Ana helps curtail his excesses and by the end he’s better than he used to be. But he’ll always be a control freak.

        I think their relationship by the end is… okayish. It’s not healthy that he’s so dependent on her (I don’t actually think she’s dependent on him) but then he’s *not* healthy and probably never fully will be. She has his excesses largely under control (and rather enjoys them in small amounts), and she’s happy with their relationship as it is now.

        Is it intrinsically a bad idea to have a relationship with someone mentally ill and unstable? That’s a complex question, and honestly one I would have loved to have seen a better writer than James tackle.

        P.S. One thing I *really* wish James would’ve made more obvious is that Christian is a cautionary example of the worst sort of predatory faux-Dom and Fifty Shades is *not* an accurate example of how BDSM is supposed to work.

      • I think my biggest problem with the way EL James shows Christian’s “transformation” is that it’s all tell and no show. You have endless characters telling Ana, “He’s gotten so much better!” and yet what we — the readers — see is an endless barrage of controlling behavior, even halfway into the third book. Christian’s therapist flat-out tells Ana that she needs to stay with Christian so he can continue to “heal,” and that she’s done more for him than therapy ever could. That’s a terrible thing to say to someone — it makes her feel completely responsible for his mental health, and I don’t think any responsible psychologist would say something like that.

        But the other problem is that there’s almost an element of gaslighting that the text does to Ana — everyone ELSE can see his transformation, so why can’t she? Because the book doesn’t actually show him changing. It just keeps telling us that he is. That’s my issue. I completely believe EL James meant this as a transformation, but I don’t see it happening and so I call bullshit on it.

        I think Ana is so one-dimensional that trying to argue any kind of motivation is difficult. By splitting her consciousness off into two character character representations of her “inner self,” she feels even more unreal because it’s never *her* feeling anything — it’s a battle of wills between these two nonsensical entities.

        And yes, my criticisms do boil down to, “He’s just a dick,” but I guess my issue is that I don’t see that change at all as the series progresses. He’s just an asshole who can be charming if he wants to — but more often than not prefers to be an asshole. At best, he just gets better at manipulating Ana into thinking he’s getting “easier” to handle, but he still always winds up getting what he wants.

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  5. Are these direct copy pastes, or did you have to type them?

    Your post about 50 Shades was enough to endure I would NEVER subject myself to this trash, and this just confirms it. I hate writers who try wring every ounce from their sentences with gratuitous descriptions, excess thesaurus use, and ridiculous metaphors… There are some writers whose stories I like but who annoy the shit out of me and it’s hard to read them sometimes simply because of their writing style. This chick has neither going for her.

    • Yeah, I typed these by hand. It was a horrifying experience.

      At this point I think EL James is firmly in “fuck the haters” mode where she has enough “yes men” fans around her to tell her she’s amazing and doesn’t need to change anything about her writing style or horribly abusive romance.

      • Well, she has money now right? Yes men, love that. lol. But I was asking cuz I found a grammar error in one quote and I thought it would be super funny if it was hers, given her obvious attempts to sound brilliant. (If it’s yours, you can fix it and then erase this comment!) 😉

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