A Close Reading of the New EL James Book
Honestly, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get to this, but here we are at last: EL James is releasing a new book, and we have an excerpt to poke at. For those new here, I first got involved with EL James’ inimitable work a few years ago, when I recapped all three of the Fifty Shades of Grey books (and the fucking terrible movies, too, a big shout-out to my darling friend Ellie who joined me for all of those horrible days out).
A brief summation of my dalliances with her writing: not only is she embarrassingly derivative, lifting a huge number of plot elements from Fifty Shades (which started life as Twilight fanfiction) wholesale from Stephanie Meyer, she is one of the singular most terrible writers I’ve ever come across in my life (“I wiped my hand over the back of my mouth” will stick with me forever). But most upsettingly, she created a series which promoted emotional and physical abuse, sexual assault, emotional manipulation, stalking, and rampant, unyielding misogyny as sexy romance. And for that, I think it’s my duty to yell about her shit her work is until she fades out of literary relevancy forever and finally my soul can be at rest.
This book is called The Mister, which is a dumbfuck name right off the bat. And I refuse to share any further information about it because honestly, I hope nobody buys it and we can finally move the fuck on from the “bad boy billionaire fuckboys who disguise their rampant interpersonal abuse as BDSM” adolescence that romancedom has been sticking out since Fifty Shades hit the shelves. Instead, why not donate to or share the work of ManKind, a domestic abuse charity for men, or Women’s Aid?
Anyway, I know you’re here for the snark, and let’s get into it. We’ve been blessed with an excerpt and I, for one, I’m ready to indulge myself with some deliciously terrible writing. Without further ado:
“Alessia opens the door but freezes on the threshold of the room.
Alright, so we’re going to get a whole lot more of the ridiculous “Inner Goddess” interjections that Fifty Shades so graciously introduced us to. And I understand that The Mister is probably some kinky BDSM title, but it just makes me go to a “gee, golly whillikers, Mister” place in my head, which isn’t as arousing as you might think.
“Fast asleep facedown and sprawled naked across the large bed. She stands, shocked and fascinated at once, her feet rooted to the wooden floor as she stares. He’s stretched across the length of the bed, tangled in his duvet but naked … very naked.”
As opposed to slightly naked? Three uses of the same word in two sentences, off to a cracking start. And this is the excerpt they used to sell the book! Also, I enjoy the thought of this sexy masculine hero just faceplanted into his bed like he was dropped there from a great height. Oh, wait a second-
“His face is turned toward her but covered by unkempt brown hair.”
So, he’s…not facedown? I love it.
“One arm is beneath the pillow that supports his head, the other extended toward her. He has broad, defined shoulders, and on his biceps is an elaborate tattoo that is partially hidden by the bedding. His back is sun-kissed with a tan that fades as his hips narrow to dimples and to a pale, taut backside. His long, muscular legs disappear beneath a knot of grey duvet and silver silk bedspread, though his foot sticks out over the edge of the mattress.”
I get it, I do, trying to describe someone’s body in a way that doesn’t just sound inherently ridiculous is difficult. But it’s not difficult enough to justify this passage. I just…do we really need to know what way his arms are pointing? The way his foot is dangling out of the bed? That his butt is paler than his back? I know this is just my reading, too, but the way his broad shoulders and narrow hips are described, I’m fully picturing this man as the shape of a Dorito. And I’m trying to figure out how the covers are laid over him that she can see his shoulders but only part of his arm, his back, his ass, some of his legs, and one of his feet? And why he has a silver bedspread? So many question, so little care for the answers.
“He stirs, the muscles in his back rippling, and his eyelids flicker open to reveal unfocused but brilliant green eyes. Alessia stops breathing, convinced he’ll be angry that she’s woken him.”
Fantastic. Another hero who the heroine has reason to be nervous around. At the start of this passage, she expressed surprised that he was here, but now thinks he’s going to be mad that she did something she had no control over? Also, “unfocused eyes” makes me think his pupils are sliding in different directions like a broken doll, and honestly? Hot.
“Their eyes meet, but he shifts and turns his face away. He settles down and goes back to sleep.”
And, like our esteemed and probably giant dickwad hero, I return to my EL-James-free slumber once more. You can catch up on my Fifty Shades recaps here, and my other book recaps – Carrie and Harry Potter – in those links. And, hey, while you’re here and we’re talking about new books and whatnot, why not pre-order my own debut novel, out in just over a month and available for a 20% pre-release discount, right here?