This was like if Hannah Montana tried to write an erotica novel.
The popularity of this book makes me need to move t...moreThis was like reading a jackhammer.
This was like if Hannah Montana tried to write an erotica novel.
The popularity of this book makes me need to move to a different planet. I am making the assumption that it comes from people not actually liking to read, but liking to have their self-destructive cultural values reinforced. Girls don’t like to eat. If you do whatever he says, he’ll turn into a handsome prince. It’s not his fault he’s abusing you, it’s only because mommy was mean. To have good sex, a girl has to start out not wanting it. Women have to teach men how to be human.
If that’s not what it is, then maybe this book is an outline of a fairy tale and the sex scenes are what people are really looking at. Poor girl is asleep; rich prince is an asshole; they kiss and it wakes her up and turns him nice. We’re so used to the story that we don't need to hear any actual story again, but a shorthand is enough to awaken all of the comforting memories of being taught that if we stay with our abuser, he will change. It’s like this Jack Handy Deep Thought: “I remember the first time I ever saw a shooting star I said, ‘What the hell is that?’ But nowadays when I see one I just say, ‘What is that?’ I leave off the ‘hell’ part. Maybe when I'm old I'll just say, ‘Whazzit?’” Fifty Shades of Grey is the “Whazzit?” in a long line of stories about girls learning to be brainless to please their abusers.
So, maybe the Whazzit story has become so common that it is a neutral color and a reader who enjoyed this book would really be focusing on the sex scenes. But, then, is the sex really worth focusing on here? It uses the annoying euphemisms of typical romance novels and still manages to be even more prudish than usual about descriptions. I hate the “apex of my thighs” business, but that’s common enough. But, “he touched me There”??? That is just dumb. Another reader pointed out to me that if you search for the word "cock" in this book, it is never used to refer to a penis, but used about forty times to describe someone "cocking" their heads. It is used so much, and so oddly, that Ana even comments on all the head cocking that goes on. Not a super sexy use of a cock.
Also, the sex scenes are very logistically difficult to follow, which does not make for hotness in my book. I had no idea what happened during the one with the plastic tie. She somehow hooked her wrists on a bed post? Was she suspended away from the bed post? So confused. But, the weirdest one to me was the first bathtub scene. So, they’re in the bathtub, and she gives him the A+ blowjob, wherein we learn that she has no gag reflex. But . . . how much water was in the bathtub? How did this actually happen? Did they just have a couple of inches of water in the tub? That doesn’t sound very relaxing. If they had a normal amount of water, did she have to do an underwater bj? Did he have to float while she gave him the bj? Did he sit on the side of the tub??? If I don’t even know what’s going on, how am I supposed to consider whether it’s hot or not?
Even aside from being confused by the sex scenes, for me, most of this story was strikingly repelling. And I’m talking, like, I think even Pleasuring the Pirate was hotter. I imagine this can’t be true, but it’s possible that this book hits every turn off for me:
(1) “Baby.” Don’t ever call me a baby, unless I am actually being a baby. Also, never say “laters” before you say “baby.” The words “laters” and “baby” should never be used individually, and certainly not in the same sentence. Also, never say that like a million times and then discuss how original it is to say it. That makes me puke.
(2) Stick insects. Christian Grey appears to be some sort of stick insect with freakishly long tentacle fingers. I am not attracted to stick insects.
(3) Contracts. Not hot.
(4) Bossiness. I loathe bossiness. Why can’t people just do what they want to do, and also avoid being jerks? Why push everyone around? Unattractive.
(4) Boring snobbery. I just can’t abide it. It makes my skin crawl. If you want to be a snob, be a snob about something interesting, not wine and classical music and cars. Be a snob about stage makeup or teacups, or something. I don't know what. Be a snob about your own thing. Why is it cool to be a snob about boring things and nerdy to be a snob about something different? Wine/opera/cars snobbery is so expected. Plus, wine snobbery is impossible to listen to. I like wine, don’t get me wrong, but when people turn their nose up and start to talk vintages in a fake British accent, it is obnoxiously ridiculous. This didn’t actually do that, I imagine because James might ultimately know very little about wine, but it gestured at it as though she wished she could talk bouquets and oaks and vintages.
Those are the turn offs I can think of now, but I’m sure there are more. Oh, sitting in a bathtub of menstrual blood is, it turns out, a turn off for me. I knew about the tampon scene, and whipping a tampon out to have sex does not freak me out the way it seems to freak some people. One of my friends got totally freaked out by a part where something similar (though more clearly and eloquently, and also maybe a little more creepily, described) happens in The English Patient, and I remember finding it a little haunting and creepy, but sort of beautiful, there. BUT THEN, in Fifty Shades, SHE DOESN’T PUT A TAMPON BACK IN!! And they go and hang out in the bathtub for a little while. So, that’s disgusting and unnecessary. I am not in favor of hanging out in pools of things that come out of my body. Turn off.
Oh, seeing life through the POV of an anorexic – turn off.
Locality annoyance: say, “I-5.” “The Interstate 5”? Please.
I’m not even going to talk about the subconscious and inner goddess because that is just facially crazy talk. And annoying.
Setting aside all of the distracting writing and the way my personal lady parts shrivel up and hide at all the details of this story, it really is the fact the relationship here that is the worst thing. People have talked this to death, but much of the sex and violence Ana experiences are sex and violence she acquiesces to because she’s too scared to lose a boy, not sex and violence she asks for because she wants them. That is very, very annoying to read about. It’s like listening to a nauseatingly long restraining order hearing while knowing the whole time that it won’t be granted. If you want to sacrifice your life with the hope that a man will change, it’s your life. But, don’t whine to me about your stupid choices.
This was TERRIBLE. Terrible!!! Why are you here book??? Why do you exist?? Why do you suck SO MUCH??? Ugh!! I was listening to this while walking to w...moreThis was TERRIBLE. Terrible!!! Why are you here book??? Why do you exist?? Why do you suck SO MUCH??? Ugh!! I was listening to this while walking to work in the morning, and I’m pretty sure I was waking up whole neighborhoods with my loud, “UGGGGHHHHHHH”s because I could not refrain from reacting to what a bitch this book is. This book is such a little bitch. It is not SO bad to start out with, just your normal Anita Blake bitchiness, like, “girls shouldn’t wear pink; girls shouldn’t shop; girls shouldn’t be feminine; girls shouldn’t like boys.” And then the boys like her sooooo much because she is such an asshole. So, don’t worry, slatherings of male approval if you don’t wear pink.
OH MY GOD. UGGGGGHHHHH.
And THEN, after you trudge through Anita’s complete lack of personality and LAME sense of humor, why not throw on some racism, homophobia, and a huge helping of ableism? WHY THE FUCK NOT?? UGGGHHH. I want to punch this book in its smug little curly-haired kisser. It makes me figuratively puke.
According to people who have read beyond this book, at some point, Anita starts having sex with random monsters, which . . . whatever. I don’t even care about that because she is so obnoxiously prudish in these first two books. And, the thing is, if you don’t want to have sex with a vampire, more power to ya girl. But THEN the simpering self-congratulation about it. It makes me crazy. You suck so much, Anita Blake. You are everything wrong about anything to do with gender.
I figure there are numerous ways women can react to sexism when they realize it is there, so I’ve made a little chart to illustrate my thoughts on the matter:
As you can see, in my mind, all choices except doing whatever the fuck you want lead to a woman’s life being basically sacrificed to sexism. And this probably works the same with masculinity, too, obvs. I feel like I've forgotten another manifestation of women accepting sexism that looks almost like feminism, but I can't think what it is. And Anita Blake, all through this stupid book, is calling herself a feminist. You know she's a feminist because all the boys think she a spunky little hottie. Puke. This fake bullshit is such an easy justification for people saying they aren't feminists. But, how can you say anything is feminist that hates women and only seeks male approval? Puke.
On the one hand, I am so grateful to the women who came before me and forced people to recognize their skills and abilities so that hopefully in the future this stupid conversation will never even happen. So grateful. On the other hand, I think it is disgusting that the lives of capable women are sacrifices to either some kind of awkward attempt to be men or to a fight for the mere survival of girls because they are girls. I would consider someone like Lisbeth Salander an example of a woman who is painful to read about because her life is totally sacrifice to the mere survival of women. I don't think that's bad on Lisbeth's part, just depressing. I would consider Anita Blake a grotesque caricature of a woman trying to prove she is a man. Ugh. So uncomfortable to watch and annoying to hear about. Dude, just let girls wear pink if they want to wear pink. Pink is just a color, so dislike it if you want; but, also, pink is our childhood. And girlhood is not bad, so to the extent pink symbolizes women at our most innocently feminine, it pains me to hear women criticize it with the weight of rejecting their own innocent femininity. Again, like or dislike pink. Whatever you want. But, there is nothing noble or professional about hating the decorations of girlhood.
Aside from that, oh my god, the ableism in this book is absolutely disgusting. There is this whole section about a prostitute in a wheelchair, and Anita is like, “OH MY! KINKY! That is disgusting that anyone would want to have sex with a woman in a wheelchair!” No, you are disgusting, Anita Blake.
This is totally just a personal pet peeve, but it also really, really annoyed me the way Hamilton imagined being hardened to crime. Anita is hardened to crime here, so that means that she tosses around body parts at a crime scene and dares police officers not to puke in a room where the carpet is soaked in blood.
(Sidebar: it only really bothers her when she sees the dead bodies of children. Which, okay, I agree that it is, for whatever reason, exponentially more disturbing to hear about violence to children than adults. In a room soaked in blood, however, it strikes me as weird that she would not be bothered at all by a police officer jiggling a boob attached to a bloody rib cage, but a child’s hand would make her swoon.)
I have been privy to some pretty hilarious I-work-in-the-criminal-justice-system jokes lately, and, here, Hamilton did not even come close to what those sound like. Because they are only funny if they are respectful, if they have some kind of hope that some good will come of all of the criminal justice bullshit. This was so disrespectful. Not even close to funny. This link is totally NSFW, but it is How You Do criminal justice system investigation comedy. Hamilton's jokes are stupid, and her protagonist is stupider, and her snotty attitude about everyone who isn’t a 5’3”, 107 lb., curly-haired sprite is stupidest. Gross. UGGGHHHH. I hate you, book.
The audio reader was still good, though. I don't know how she managed reading this whole series. Voice of steel. Ugh, puke again on behalf of the poor reader.(less)
I’m just going to say what we’re all thinking: what the hell is wrong with this book? I don’t know about you, but I want my pirates to be more like th...moreI’m just going to say what we’re all thinking: what the hell is wrong with this book? I don’t know about you, but I want my pirates to be more like this:
This book argues that pirates are actually like this:
I read this book for a class on pirates that I took in Zanzibar. “Crimes of the high seas” is how the class was billed. It was like one of those freaking Jerry Bruckheimer movies where there’s more action in the preview than in the feature. I don’t know how I could have had higher expectations or how they could have been more brutally crushed. Maybe if we hadn’t spent two days watching The Amistad it would have been worse. I’ll let you in on the secret: pirates are outrageously boring. Tax assessors of the sea. Worse. I apologize to tax assessors. Pirates are more boring, according to this book, than doing taxes - just sitting there, slowly counting their gold coins and measuring the dimensions of their boats. Kill me now.
I mean, pictures! Pirates need pictures. And if you’re going to tell me the dimensions of every freaking pirate boat that ever existed, give me a diagram to tell me what it looks like, don't just use your words. UGH. And if the only other thing you want to tell me about is the exact inventory of all of their booty, at least lay it out like the Ikea catalog. With pictures!
This book is maybe out of print. I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just an on-demand book, or something. They (I don’t know who “they” is, but I think it’s the universe) ran out of copies while we were buying them for class, so not everyone had the book. I don’t necessarily think that made any difference in terms of what they learned, though. This book should be out of print. Sorry, Angus Konstam. I believe that you know everything there is to know about pirates, but it turns out that pirates are more like really bland sausages than I’d expected. You should have hired Richard Donner to present the information to me.
I’m also kind of not sorry, though. One of the main points of this book is that pirates are not fun, like in pirate movies, but that they are actually boring instead. It is beyond me why you would write a book with that thesis. It’s like writing a kid book about how Santa Clause is actually Newt Gingrich. IF THAT’S TRUE, I DON’T WANT TO KNOW.
The other really crap thing about this book is that I was so excited about it before we went to Zanzibar that I put some really personal, irreplaceable, memory-type items in it as bookmarks. I think I thought something like, well, I’ll obviously want to read this whole book all the time on the trip, and every time I’m reading it, I’ll also look at this comforting memento. That did not happen. Then, after I took the final for the class, I was so brain dead and excited to never look at the book again that I put it on the pile of giveaway books as soon as I walked out of the class. I didn’t remember that the mementos had been in the book until I was in an entirely different city trying to find the mementos. I’m really, really bitter at this, and I’m blaming it on how boring this book was.
Sorry, Johnny Depp, you’re still hot, even as a pirate, but I’ve defected to Team Ninja.(less)
**This review contains spoilers, but don’t let that turn you away. Really, I’m doing you a favor.**
I’ve generally thought of myself as a fan of drunk...more**This review contains spoilers, but don’t let that turn you away. Really, I’m doing you a favor.**
I’ve generally thought of myself as a fan of drunk writing, but Skye O’Malley is solid proof that even the best ideas can go horribly wrong. What I’m saying is that there is no way most of this book wasn’t written in a creepy, drunk, sadistic binge. Until now, I have been reluctant to label the shelf of books I hate just "burn pile" because it seems so wrong to burn any books. This book has convinced me that burning books isn’t always so bad, so time to rename the ol’ shelf.
I’ll admit that part of my problem with this book is that I read the wrong sections. It was obvious from the start that I wasn’t going to read all of the pages of the book because no book this silly, I thought, should also be this long. I had two options: either read the dialog and rape scenes, which I believed made up the essence of the “story,” or read the detailed descriptions of every stick of furniture in every house, every stitch of clothing everyone wore, and the recipes to every item of food that everyone ate in this entire book. In retrospect, I’m not positive why reading the dialogue and rape scenes sounded like a good choice. We’ve got this whole fun, silly MST3K for books thing going on here, though, (Mystery Science GoodReads 3000?) and I thought if my only contribution was that the harshness of everyone’s black velvet bodices was softened by fragments of lace, it would take the fun out of the game. That was a major tactical blunder on my part. What I didn’t realize was that if you only read the dry clothes/furniture/food descriptions, this book would just be a fashion porno, like reading Vogue without pictures or Sophia Copella’s notes from the movie Marie Antoinette. Boring, maybe, but not rage-inducing offensive. The other road leads you to a child-rape scene that I HATE SO MUCH I can’t even find words to describe this total nausea I feel from it.
People say, you know, it doesn’t matter if authors put scenes in books that so violate the reader’s brain that the readers find it necessary to reach for bleach and a syringe. I might be paraphrasing, but I think that’s the idea. The argument goes something like, authors don’t necessarily want all the stuff they fantasize about to actually happen. I have two responses to that:
1. DUH! and
2. I don’t care if they want it to happen, I care that they want me to read about it happening. (okay, I also have a third thing:
3. I’m not talking about censorship, like there should be laws about what you can and can’t write, even though there are laws about that, and I’m basically in support of those laws. I’m a big fan of the First Amendment so far. I, too, am exercising my freedom of speech by just getting really, really angry by what I see as an author’s choice to create a totally sadistic fantasy world where she could torture women and children and then her choice to release it to the public so I would one day read it. You’d think there’d be some idiot things people wouldn’t do just because they didn’t want to do them, without even needing them to be against the law.)
There are some circumstances where I can see how it is necessary to write about really horrible things – to warn about holocausts, to show the danger of blind fear, things like that. The thing that really kills me about EVERYTHING in this book is that there is NOTHING redemptive or cautionary about the violence and disregard for humanity written in to it.
Authors are the gods of their own universes. No book represents complete reality, obviously, and so I hold authors responsible for the ways they create an altered reality. Regardless of Ms. Small’s intent, I’m going to proceed with the assumption that she’d like me to believe her characters and approach her story with a certain amount of credulousness. I’m trying to convey the thing that really gets me about this book. The woman created this little girl in order to display her in this totally inhuman way, and it served absolutely no narrative purpose other than sadistic voyeurism. As a reader, suspending my disbelief, this little girl existed to me on some level. And I contend that the worst part is that Small knew what she was doing. In this scene, as in the other scenes that she intends to be rape, she describes the victims with a cold accuracy that makes my skin crawl. Then, suddenly, back to fashion porn.
So that you don’t ever feel the need to read this book, I’m going to give you a summary of its major plot-points and overall message, and highlight a couple of moments that lived up to my MSGR3K hopes. I’ll go ahead and gloss over the more ABOMINABLE parts of the story.
This is a historical account of a legendary Irish witch who had a catfight with Queen Elizabeth I over a boy that neither of them wanted to have sex with, while Elizabeth was PMSing. The moral of the story is that the more husbands and children a woman has, the happier she will be, but the more political influence a woman has the more the entire world will suffer.
The witch carries her power in two small globes. Through these globes, she manages to destroy all men who come in contact with her. Her male counterpart is a sort of Goldilocks character, always finding women too sexy or not sexy enough, until he ultimately consolidates his power with the witch. The witch is educated in Ireland in incest and fancy clothes. She sends her first husband to an early grave by breaking his back. Then, she is able to focus her energies on the family piracy business.
Unfortunately for the witch, in a moment of plot-twisting, she is taken captive by other pirates, and winds up in Algiers with a tidy case of the amnesia. Luckily for her, the local Whoremaster falls under the spell of the small globes. After the narrator tells him that intelligent women are really rare and the witch is an intelligent woman, the Whoremaster marries her and makes her his business partner. She realizes how terrific it is to own brothels, and they walk around with some panthers on leashes. (There are so many reasons why the panthers on leashes thing is awesome, and not just because of what it says about strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities in pre-Elizabethan Algiers.) The Whoremaster, too, dies from the curse of the small globes, stabbed in the night by a catty whore who thinks he’s the witch. Oops.
The witch hightails it back to England, where the small globes bewitch her a third husband, a man with Shreck-green eyes and a phenomenally long tongue. They have some odd make-out sessions, one where they fence with their tongues (p. 203), and another where “[h:]is mouth closed over hers, his tongue exploring the roof of her mouth, then flicking downward to tease at her sensitive breasts” (p. 291). Even this lizard man can’t escape the curse of the small globes, however. He contracts an X-Files type of illness, where they have to pull grey, alien mucus membranes out of his throat. His species could not survive on Earth for long. (Okay, I added the alien part, but only because it makes the story better.)
Then, there’s the consolidation of power with the Goldilocks dude, the catfight with Elizabeth, and an It’s-a-Wonderful-Life ending, where the witch tells us that having a bunch of men, who are totally your BFFs, is better than a bag of emeralds.
I haven’t touched on the swooning, matted chest hair, or the tear-away clothes everyone seems to be wearing throughout the book. It’s probably enough that you just know that they’re there, creating atmosphere. There’s really nothing left to say that hasn’t already been said by my esteemed MSGR3K colleagues. I’m only glad that I gave Pleasuring the Pirate two stars, so that I can show that I like this book LESS. Oh, also, Historical Fiction, you and I have had a rocky past, but I didn’t expect this, even from you. Don’t try sending your spies later to talk me out of this pure hatred. You and I are through.(less)
"Whenever you read a good book, it's like the author is right there, in the room, talking to you, which is why I don't like to read good books." - Jac...more"Whenever you read a good book, it's like the author is right there, in the room, talking to you, which is why I don't like to read good books." - Jack Handey
This is one of the only books I plan never to finish. I thought the writing was beautiful, and I don't even know that I would say it was badly edited (a comment I read in another review), but I hated all of the characters. I loathed them by the time I stopped reading. I even hated Chick a little bit. I skipped some and glanced at the end to see if it would be worth finishing, but I couldn't get too excited about anything I saw. If anyone has a good reason for me to finish this book, I would be interested to hear it.
I was recommended to read it by two very different people - the prom queen my Senior year of high school, and a friend of mine who was later locked up in a high security mental ward in Seattle. Made me want to give it a try, you know? I don't know if I've ever hated so many characters in a book as though they were my personal enemies.
This book sat inside my nightstand for a couple of months, and then I just couldn't stand having it there any more, knowing it might be sneaking out and watching me while I slept. I took it to the library and handed it to one of the customer service people, asking him if I could give it to the library. I didn't want to sell it to a used book store and then have someone make the mistake I made of actually spending money on it; and I couldn't throw it away because I do think it's well written, so I had to give it more respect than that. The man tried to scan it for about thirty seconds as though I was returning it. "No," I explained, "I'm not returning it. I just want to give it to the library, if that's okay." "Oh," he said, looking at his computer screen and not giving any other response. I walked away quickly, just in case he was planning to tell me I couldn't leave the book. He's the librarian here at the Eugene Public library with the handlebar mustache, and the greying hair with a bowl cut, who looks like he's part basset hound. That's a pretty irrelevant story, but why are you still reading this? (that's what Katherine Dunn said)(less)