ifty Shades of Grey began life as fan fiction, E L James sexing up Twilight, getting right in there between Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, before re-casting it as her own work. Now, in her new book Grey — all 559 pages of it — she’s written fan fiction again. She’s proved herself once and for all her own biggest fan ever, the slave of herself. It’s so fanny, it’s almost funny.
Grey re-presents the story of the first volume of the trilogy only (so there’s scope for two more in this series — you didn’t think she would miss that trick did you?) through the eyes and voice of Christian Grey. But it’s otherwise exactly the same. You can’t improve on perfection, she thinks, perhaps.
We know that when it came to making the film of Fifty Shades of Grey, James overruled the inappropriately tasteful and gifted director Sam Taylor-Johnson and her scriptwriter Kelly Marcel, by insisting that they used her dreadful dialogue rather than anything better. Even a re-write from Patrick Marber, no less, was rejected. Such vanity, such rapturous self-regard was nothing, however, compared to Grey, which loyally repeats every line of spoken dialogue from the original Fifty Shades, every excruciating email: every single scene happens exactly as it did the first time around.
Only this time, we see it not as Ana sees it but as that prize dick Christian Grey sees it. On the plus side, this means that we do not get to hear any more that her “inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves” and so forth, although we do still get the ceaseless lip-biting, reported not from her side but exclusively his, as infallibly driving him mad.
Instead, we get a direct line to his cock. After their first, chaste night together, when he has stalkerishly brought her back to his hotel room blind drunk and stripped her, he begins to tell her that he has “very singular tastes”. She says: “Enlighten me, then.”
In the original version, Ana reports merely: “We sit gazing at each other, neither of us touching our food.” In this new version, Christian tells us: “Her words travel straight to my cock.” Nice to know! When they kiss and she moans, he informs us: “The sweet appreciative noise echoes through me — to the end of my cock.” The end! And so it goes on, charmlessly. When Ana famously boasts of sucking on her “very own Christian Grey-flavored popsicle”, all he has to report, in his more manly way, is “That was one hell of a blowjob.”
His own disturbing backstory is briefly revealed after he has upset Ana with her first seriously violent flogging with a belt at the end of the book and she has called him “one fucked-up son of a bitch”. “She’s recognised me for what I am. She’s seen the monster,” he says, self-pityingly. “Get a grip, Grey,” he tells himself. He lays in bed feeling ever so sorry, remembering his mommy being beaten with a belt by a man who called her a “fucked-up bitch”. He tried to stop it, he really did: “Stop hitting Mommy”! Now he says: “Ana’s words ring in my head. Like his. Fuck. I couldn’t help the crack whore. I tried. Good God, I tried.”
So there we are, that’s the explanation for his tastes. Poor rich Christian. Doesn’t this suggest that S&M is the product of abuse, conclusively disqualify it as an acceptable practice? No matter. In July 2012, Fifty Shades sold 665,000 copies in one week in the UK alone. Altogether it’s shifted 125 million worldwide. There’ll be no stopping “Christian’s POV of #FSOG”, as James gleefully announced it on Twitter. The publishers warn: “This book is intended for mature audiences.” I don’t think so.
Grey by EL James is out today, Arrow Books, £7.99