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Fire Watch
Connie Willis
Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a shoestring
China Williams, Greg Bloom, Celeste Brash, Andrew Burke
Fodor's See It Thailand 2008
Fodor's Travel Publications Inc.
Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1) - E.L. James I want to say I read this for research, but that would be a little bit of a stretch. See, I got a gig desiging the costumes for a parody musical of Fifty Shades, and I had to read it to find out what everyone wears, right? However, the show ended up going up so quickly that I had to start work immediately and ended up mostly just picking the brain of the director and others on the team who had read it. I didn’t actually have a chance to crack the (digital) cover until we were in tech, but I figured I may as well check my work and see how accurate the parody was.

Pretty hilariously accurate, as it turns out. Yes, this book is terrible. The writing and use of language are really bizarre--horribly stilted dialogue, large vocabulary words randomly inserted into casual speech, weird British-isms sprinkled here and there in what is supposed to be an American setting with American characters. The sex scenes aren’t even very good. Apparently that’s all most people read this for, but I can’t even understand that—-they’re repetitive, flowery, and overwhelmingly vanilla. I fail to see the shock value here. Except for one or two scenes, there’s very little I would recognize as S&M sex. Seriously, ice cubes and feathers? That’s nothing more than sixteen-year-olds experiment with after reading Cosmo.

Speaking of which, I think there’s an important distinction to be made here. I’m a liberal New Yorker with parents that openly discussed sex, I’ve been reading Savage Love since I was in middle school, and I have friends heavily into the kink scene. I’m no stranger to BDSM and alternative lifestyles, and while a 24/7 Dom-Sub relationship definitely isn’t for me, I know it works for some people. I don’t judge what takes place between consenting adults. That’s my issue here—-Ana is not consenting. She despises all the S&M stuff and allows herself to be manipulated into it because she is madly in love with Christian (if only I knew why) and will do anything for him. That doesn’t sit well with me. If she were getting off on being hit, stalked, punished for breaking arbitrary rules, forbidden from seeing male friends, etc., that’s totally cool. She’s not, so as far as I’m concerned it’s abuse, plain and simple. Not only is abuse downplayed here, rape is as well-—a male friend puts the moves on Ana, she says no and tries to fight him, and he just keeps going. A few days later, this conversation happens:

“I’m sorry about Friday night. I was drunk… and you… well. Ana—please forgive me.”
“Of course, I forgive you Jose. Just don’t do it again. You know I don’t feel like that about you.”

Um, what? Granted, his assault didn’t go as far as it could have, but it was far enough. And she’s back to being BFFs and going out for drinks with her would-be rapist within the week?

Naïve doesn’t begin to describe Ana. E.L. James, please tell me how it is possible for a college senior in 2012 to not have an email address or even basic understanding of the internet? She’s the very definition of a too-dumb-to-live protagonist. I almost preferred crazy stalker Christian, who is not nearly as complicated as she tries to convince us he is.

Other WTF-worthy moments:
“His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel… or something.”

Oh yeah, that simile went well.

“It’s Friday, and we shall be celebrating tonight, really celebrating. I might even get drunk! I’ve never been drunk before.”

Wait, seriously? Judging by how casually she imbibes for the rest of the book (including getting wasted on Cosmopolitans with her mother, which seems to be their usual MO), this sentence just makes no sense.

“No one has ever held my hand.”

Again, seriously? She’s like 22. I can buy being a virgin, but hand-holding? Never? Not even with a friend? Okay, if you say so.

“Oh, this is a dark morning of the soul for me. I’m so alone. I want my mom.”

Maybe I’m a horrible person after everything I said about abuse up there, but this just made me laugh.

I don't know if this is quite on the level of so-bad-it's-good, but I definitely had trouble putting it down. I've already downloaded the other two from the library. No shame.

Well, maybe a little shame.