Two or three weeks ago I started hearing cryptic references to the book Fifty Shades of Grey followed by giggling and prophetic eye rolling. I was led to believe it was the new Lady Chatterley's Lover or Tropic of Cancer (spoiler: it ain't), so I figured I'd give it a whirl if only for blogfodder.
About five minutes after I bought the damn thing I figured out it was part of a trilogy which started out as Twilight fan fiction. WTF is fan fiction? Really? Ugh. That's when I started wanting to flog myself, but didn't know how. Good news! Some old, horny, British woman "wrote" a "book" about it.
I know two things about Twilight. It's about vampires and that's all I want to know about Twilight. So I just read this like it was a regular, stand-alone, book. I hope that's okay. Let's begin.
Anastasia Steele is a near college graduate who happens to be a virgin, not because of some moral code, but because up to this point she's never experienced so much a butterflies from lust and/or romantic love in her life. I guess. The first paragraph is devoted to a bad hair day. And away we go.
She gets... roped... into interviewing ultra-rich tycoon, Christian Grey, for her ill roommate. It's for the school paper. No really. And that's how the most extreme virgin in literary history meets the most this kinky, kinky, kinky man. I mean he's really kinky, but it's hot because he's rich and powerful and young and good-looking, not like if a pizza delivery guy was into the exact same shit. That would be gross because he's poor. And it would be porn not erotica. Erotica is fancy.
There are several peculiar things Ms. James (if you're nasty) seems hellbent on highlighting throughout the book. The first is that Ana Steele is an unrefined brunette, possibly a tomboy. It seems very important to Ms. James that we understand Miss Steele wears Converse. A brunette, virgin in sensible shoes. Just bein' into that makes the dude a freak, right?
During the interview he does things like rub his lips a lot, which apparently unleashes his special carnal magic over Miss Steele who spends the following days obsessing over him, then obsessing over why she's obsessing. OK, that part is realistic for brunettes in the Pacific Northwest who wear Converse in their early twenties... I've heard.
Steele describes Grey as Adonis-like repeatedly, but we know James isn't really Charlie Sheen or anything because there are no lesbians in this book. Where are all the guys going?
Grey eventually shows up at Steele's workplace where he buys a bunch of zip-ties - hint, hint. Bada-bing, bada-boom, she winds up at his fancy apartment where he introduces her to his "red room of pain", explains he's a dom looking for a sub and wants her to sign a contract essentially agreeing to be his sex slave, and if that premise repulses you it's because you're a prude. She decides to give it a whirl for reasons that make as little sense as me continuing to read this book.
Alas, I have a fetish for finishing things. At this point I decide that Christian Grey is Frank Reynolds. Hey, you have your erotica, and I have mine.
The rest of the book is a series of porno-passages taking place in the "red room of pain" which I'm told are arousing to a lot of women who've never had the shit beaten out of them, broken up by saccharine, adolescent email transcripts. The bulk of the plot seems to be Steele getting into BDSM a bit and Grey developing genuine loving feelings for Steele. SHE CAN CHANGE HIM!
It's as if we took all the Lifetime movies, made them into a scalding hot stew, put on some assless chaps, poured it on each other, realized it hurt, left screaming, but hesitated because stew is delicious... just not when it's that hot.
What sustenance shall we survive on now?
How about the hot latino who's been wasting away for 500 pages? It's an obvious choice because it works.
Gonzo was published in 2007, but I guess I was busy. Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour (mainly Seymour), gathered insight and anecdotes frGonzo was published in 2007, but I guess I was busy. Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour (mainly Seymour), gathered insight and anecdotes from those closest to him to compile this biography. It's a great read that goes all the way back to his boyhood in Kentucky. It's a must read for anyone who considers themself a fan and fascinating for aspiring writers (who should be forced to sign a contract pinky-swearing to stop trying to be the next Hunter Thompson). However, one should be positive they want to know the real HST before reading it.
The counter-culture stuff attracted us when we were young, but I've grown to like him more as I get older. It might be because adult social roles are such a clusterfuck that curling up with HST at night reminds me I'm not obligated to pretend things are any different from what they are, do things any other way than as I see fit or apologize for any of it.
His hijinks aren't surprising, but tender memories like those of his high school sweetheart, a friend recollecting the impact of being left in jail after his accomplices had been bailed out by their daddies and his closeness with his mother are endearing. It's also interesting to read the accounts of how his writing and career developed, and how he saw himself as a writer. More importantly, how badly he wanted to be a prolific writer and recognized for it. Sometimes there's an impression that these great writers just got wasted and rambled and magic appeared. Writing is indeed really hard work, and Thompson worked really hard at it.
His first wife, Sandy, has a lot of interesting things to say. Not surprisingly, the gist is that he was a super-fun date, not a great boyfriend, even worse husband. That's no surprise, but it's not in the ways I would have thought. He was very bossy and possessive, yet they were both madly in love. She was an educated, independent woman, but she still followed him around the world just taking care of him. She found out they were getting married when he told her so in the car on the way to the wedding after he decided it was time, likely at the urging of his mother.
Sandy also gives her account of the infamous Merry Pranksters/Hell's Angels party, which Thompson helped arrange and ended with him walking in on a gang bang. Sandy attests to how sick it made him. Little anecdotes like this pepper the book and confirm that he wasn't the animal his persona portrayed him to be. The animal many fans still seem to want him to have been. Many fans are selfish and dense.
Aside: If someone hasn't made a ridiculous porno entitled "The Cum Diary" they should.
The book is littered with stories about Thompson being a deadbeat, taking advantage of friends and generally not seeming appreciative or acknowledging what people did for him. He was really bossy. But Rolling Stone's Tim Ferris tells a story about calling Owl Farm right after being laid off. Sandy answered first and mentioned they were having money problems. They only had $400 and nothing expected to come in. Then he talks to HST, mentions getting canned and HST asks Ferris if he needs to borrow money because he could loan him $400.
Jann Wenner gives insight into Thompson's writing process as far as Rolling Stone went. It took a harem of babysitters and asskissers to get him to deadline, but the end product was worth it, at least for a few years. In my opinion, the booze and the coke specifically devoured his talent. On the other hand, who would he have been without the booze and the coke. Doesn't matter.
In 1974 Wenner and Thompson held a conference in Elko, Nevada with handpicked liberal members of the media (including Sandy Berger and the guy responsible for Ted Kennedy's absurd Chappaquiddick response) to plan a conspiracy to use their positions to win the next election. Assholes (except for Caddel, everyone loves Caddel). It was a disaster, and Wenner comes off as the pompous yin to Bill O'Reilly's yang in this section.
Sally Quinn is a piece of shit feminist. She uses her measly paragraph to outline her affair with him and blather about how well he treated her. She isn't an idiot; she had to know that would bother Sandy. I'm not saying she shouldn't have discussed the affair, but the way she did it stunk. Then she dismisses his defamation allegations against her in a later interview as "bluster".
It sounds like after Sandy finally left him things got weird, and not in the fun way. He brought in an a series of female assistants who became his girlfriend until they couldn't take it anymore. He seems to have been a lonely man.
I don't have a clever transition, but I feel compelled to mention that in 1984 Margot Kidder got an emergency call from him when he needed to be rescued from someplace where he punched a hole in a wall and called Linda Ellerbee a fascist dyke. That is hilarious.
The last couple hundred pages are really sad. He was a chronic alcoholic and drug addict, and he was completely out of control. His writing circled the drain, largely because of all the coke. I'm an absurd comparison, but at this point his friends' anecdotes become a justified bitch fest about babysitting him and all the bullshit he put them through. I had a pretty self-destructive period of my own, and there are a handful of people who are fairly cold to me know, and I completely understand. That part of myself disgusted me too; I'm not sure Thompson was that self-aware. .. but then he must have been.
I think his real undoing was trying to live up to his persona. What he had to do to be that caricature people wanted could only end one way.
"What happened, of course, was more about the image. And the way it turned out was absolutely not the life he dreamed." -Sandy Thompson
When Doug Brinkley writes about helping put together the Gonzo papers he mentions that Thompson was very open about himself as far as which letters would be made public, but he was very protective about the women in his life. Anything that would hurt or humiliate them was held back, especially pertaining to Sandy.
Most would say the drugs did him in, but that wasn't really it. Two back surgeries (which did require painful alcohol detox processes) and a broken leg left his body in a state he'd never recover from. My personal adoration of him has a fatherly quality to it, which I've always thought was weird. But this stage of his story helped me figure it out. Both men had bigger hearts and felt things more intensely than they'd ever let on, had a charisma which made them bigger than life to those who loved them and both men deplored how their bodies betrayed them as they slowly withered away in their final days. I knew the circumstances of the day he chose to check out, but reading about his physical and emotional agony leading up to it took me back to watching my dad on his death-bed. Some call his suicide courageous and say he went out on his own terms, as if he swaggered across the room with that smile on his face and blew his brains out as another one of crazy Uncle Hunter's stunts. BULLSHIT. It was an act of desperation, albeit a calculated one, that shouldn't be applauded or condemned.
Hunter S. Thompson was a force of nature trapped in a long-suffering body who made a willful decision throughout his life to destroy himself in order to keep up the persona we loved (and to get really high). Any HST fan should read Gonzo if only to love and try to understand the man behind the persona.
His last wife, who I believe still resides at Owl Farm, didn't contribute to the book. They were only married two years and they were volatile ones.
Prison Planet suggests his suicide was an inside job to cover up evidence he had that 9/11 was an inside job. As if Hunter Thompson is gonna let George Bush kill him and make it look like a suicide.
Bebe Baker recounts events leading up to her current circumstances, in a halfway house and trying to finish cosmetology school, where she's trying to really put her life together for the first time. I wouldn't say she's reinventing herself since she's essentially been fumbling around up until this point.
I give it 3 stars. Good book, easy to dance to.
I'm more interested in the author. Jillian Lauren really is a former stripper and cosmetologist. She's also a former escort, including a couple stints in the harem that prince in Brunei. Now she's married to Weezer's bass player and they adopted a son she has nicknamed T-Bone.
She is a very good writer. I found myself pulling quotes a few pages in.
"You have to be careful how you fake it, though, because things like that can stick and before you know it you become what you're pretending to be."
"Dancing was another one of those choices I made that I didn't know until way later what it really meant."
"And even if it wasn't Madison, it had been hundreds of others and probably hundreds more. That's what happens to your eyes when you spend your nights in the laps of everyone else's husbands....more
I don’t typically read books by authors who are alive, sober and successful, but got behind on my Doubleday Book Club featured selections. And that’sI don’t typically read books by authors who are alive, sober and successful, but got behind on my Doubleday Book Club featured selections. And that’s how James Patterson’s Guilty Wives wound up on my plastic nightstand. This is the only Patterson I’ve read, so I don’t know how this compares with his other 400 best sellers. Wives is about 4 attractive and affluent women, including Abbie Elliott, the main narrator, who go to Monte Carlo for one of those wild ladies’ weekends. All of their marriages are a mess in one way or the other, setting them up to feel entitled for the night of very bad behavior which ruins all of their lives. The story starts near the end, so it’s no spoiler to tell you they wind up wrongly imprisoned in France for a very high profile murder. At least half the book takes place during Abbie’s imprisonment and torture by dirty prison officials. It reminds the reader of Amanda Knox. Patterson clearly outlined the book to be a movie, specifically a Lifetime movie. They can make it for the big screen to only eventually be re-aired on Lifetime, but this is a Lifetime story. Beautiful heroine, underestimated by her foes using her wit and determination to save the day.