The Wax Conspiracy

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

It's as you've heard. Graphic literary porn. The kind you're supposed to read with one hand while the other is pulling the belt around your neck in order to put your lights out to stop the reading. Whether that also turns you on is a matter for closed doors and not wet spots in public seating areas.

The title promises so much nuance and character depth that it quickly shatters on the ground like a glass pelvis when you realise there are only two shades to the titular Christian Grey. Horny and "it's complicated". A man of untold wealth and access (which probably means the money is rolling in from the lucrative import/export business of human trafficking) who finds himself breaking in a new young woman with his many sexual turns of phrase and slapping.

After the first chapter it dissolves into a sparring match between two catchphrases repeated ad nauseam. Grey's, "stop biting your lip" and Steele's warring internal narratives against her inner goddess. All this between bouts of sex (some debauched) and bondage written in a way to tire you out. "Enough already" may be your call to, or perhaps it's "Oh, Mister Grey, stop! I'm chafing too much already. (I didn't mean 'stop' stop.)" However you get to sleep, you're there. Contract or no.

Anastasia Steele is a destitute and annoying character. She has no clothes of her own and is constantly wearing her roommate's. And when her sugar daddy and sexual dominant, Grey, picks out and buys her clothes she's taken aback at the forwardness. Girl, if you can't get it together to have your own outfits don't complain with what others are generously offering or purchasing. She starts out as an innocent substitute interviewer who evolves into a sex doll who thinks about other women when she and Grey are having sex, or some semblance of it.

The pages of email back-and-forthing nails it on the head if you've ever used it to talk to someone who insists on being cute and vague which means scanning the subject lines later on is awash with sentence fragments that give no hint as to what it's about. Then you have to wade through minutes as you open up and read through each of the messages in order to find that one with the planning details you needed that they mentioned off-handedly and never thought to send in a separate email because they thought it would be okay as an aside buried deep within playful banter. So there's that.

Physically the pages feel cheap and at least evokes that shared sense. That loss of dignity you once had as you lie there fetal under the shower head, scrubbing and crying away all your filth. The hot water fogging up the room and the sound of water echoing with your quiet sobbing. But nothing, no polishing off with a pine cone or diluted bleach solution will fully wash away the pain and suffering. You live with it, you move on.

For that the paperback wonderfully captures that visceral experience of what it feels like to be a used condom. Cheap, tossed away after the fling, tied at the top and put into the burner. And it's there where you can start to relate to the shell that is Anastasia Steele. Just, so used.

There's a whimpering end after getting slapped with a belt, but at least it doesn't leave you on a cliffhanger as is the wont of most fantasy novels. It's a trilogy, with Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed in tow, though there's no desire to continue reading.

Fifty Shades of Grey is, like masturbating on a public train, a regrettable experience. A book that you're thankful for putting down and walking away from.

Ethan Switch

Reviewed on Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Wax Conspiracy


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