From September 6, 2008
Warning: Contains Spoilers!
It seems ironic that on the dawn of this new section of my site I choose to write about creatures of the night. Ok, now that cliche is out of my system let’s get onto the real topic of discussion.
I remember quite clearly the first time I heard about the Twilight series. It was on PotterCast – A Harry Potter podcast of all things. Its funny; that show has introduced me to some really great reads – specifically His Dark Materials – the series by Philip Pullman. Just recently it was the Twilight series. I have to admit it was both what I expected and not what I expected. I knew relatively nothing about the series going into it except that it centred around vampires. This is the way I like to read a series of books. It was like that with Harry Potter and mostly the same with the Pullman trilogy as well.
The first thing that I have to say about these books is that they are certainly a quick read. I read this book in two days and that was without any real concentrated effort. One of the things that this series has made me realize is that I love to see the bizarre, magical and/or mythical crossing over into everyday life. I’m not going to discuss the next book in the series here, but I am fascinated with the idea of a vampire sitting casually in the living room watching a sporting event. You’d never catch Anne Rice’s vampires doing that! I think this might be one of the reasons I enjoyed the Harry Potter series so much, and Order of the Phoenix in particular.
For those who do not already know, the Twilight series is about Bella Swan and her romance with a vampire: Edward Cullen. My first question as I was reading this book was what is wrong with this girl? How could someone actually be attracted to a bloodsucking monster? As if that would really happen! But, of course, if we talk in literary terms the first example that comes to mind is Bellatrix Lestrange’s fascination with Voldemort. An argument can rightly be made that she was slightly psychotic – not to mention the fact that she is fictional. But how do we then explain the groupies that serial killers get in our real world? I argue that perhaps there could be something within their sanity that we could also question. Meyer does make a point of saying that Bella was not generally comfortable around other humans. That’s most definitely a quirk.
In due course we come to learn that Edward and his family are friendly vampires who do not hunt humans – of course! Who could like a monster that kills other people to satisfy their own needs? But the desire is still there quite strongly which makes it all the more ‘romantic’ that Edward is able to resist his urges to drink Bella’s blood – but not before we hear just how alluring it is.
I am not going to give away any more of the plot in case there is anyone else out there reading this who has not read the series. Suffice it to say that there is not much of a plot – particularly in this first book. It was all about establishing the relationship between the girl and her vampire (oh there’s a story title for you . . . hmmm – must find the story to fit!) In fact, I don’t think that it was until chapter eighteen or something up there that we get any real action out of the story. It was certainly not plotted as well as my beloved Harry Potters were, but it was not an unenjoyable read.
Another thing that I did not like about the story was the constant refrain of “don’t leave me” that we get a nauseating amount of times from Bella. After the hundredth time she says it I was ready to chuck the book out the window. I must admit I found her character a little grating at times in this first book. I guess its a teenage thing – angst, you know. I suppose we could chalk it up to first love and the insecurities therein. I found Edward more interesting anyway, the mystery. you know.
The last annoyance that I had with this story which I think has more to do with the genre than the actual story, was the overabundance of male attention that Bella got. I think I lost count of how many people were interested in her. I do, however, have enough of an understanding of the romance genre to realize that it wouldn’t be all that poignant for the allurement aspect if the only person that found Bella attractive was the vampire. It would sort of deplete the strength of his resistance. Again, one could make the well thought out point that in a small town like Forks where everyone knew everyone from the time they were a zygote having a new face would bring a certain amount of attraction anyway. Here’s a girl from a big city – an unknown quantity if you will.
OK, now I’ve dealt with the negative – here’s what I liked about the story and what has made me speed through New Moon – well other than the fact I’ve already shelled out the money for the books and so need to read them. I think my inner sap comes out when I read books like this and Pride & Prejudice. What I mean by that is you have two people who really should not be together but end up together. When you add in the fact that he’s about a nanosecond away from killing her at every moment . . . well that’s just added conflict now isn’t it? I do like the way Meyer has described Edward’s resistance – his will-power. One must think it takes a hell of a lot of mind-over-matter to deny such a base instinct.
I also like, and again this is the sap speaking, the idea of finding true love at such a young age. It is a struggle for most of us humans to find someone – and we all, I think girls mostly, want to believe that it really is that easy. You see that person sitting across the cafeteria from you and find out they’re the one you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. To see that person that you instantly share that spark with. It is something that most people don’t get to experience even once in a lifetime – let alone at the young age of seventeen. The idea actually depresses me a little bit – to know that its just fiction and that life really isn’t that simple. Perhaps this is why I like writing so much. I can write into existence all the things that are lacking in my life.
Now that was dead depressing so lets get away from that. My very last statement might be a bit of a spoiler – you have been warned.
The very last thing that keeps me turning the pages is a twist that I admit, shame-facedly, that I did not see coming – the want to become a vampire. That fascinates me as much as her attraction to the vampire in the first place. I understand entirely why she does want to become one – for the immortality and the power that would allow her to be Edward’s equal and not to age – but really! Now that is gothic!! I really wonder now if she will become one.
I’ve just started reading eclipse, so I will have some more comments coming shortly on New Moon. Look forward to that.
August 27, 2011
Twilight Second Sight
I’ve previously published some extensive comments about Twilight, and had not initially planned to write more on the subject, but with my own potential plans to write a vampire story, I’ve started rereading all of my books on the subject, Twilight among them. That is not the only reason I decided to reread, however. In the three years since I last read the series I’ve made many scathing comments about Meyer’s books, and therefore felt it was only fair I give them another chance. No one is more shocked than I am to admit that they improve upon second reading. Who would have thought that books that don’t even come close to touching my beloved Harry Potter in depth, thoughtfulness, or inventiveness could possibly improve on second sight?
Giving credit where it is due, I have to thank the person who commented on a blog post that was comparing Harry Potter and Twilight. This person said that we must stop comparing the two because they are vastly different stories. It is true that they have both been wildly successful, and they deal with the supernatural, and Robert Pattinson has been in both series, but that’s really where the similarities end. Having this pointed out has been liberating, and now that I’ve stopped being so scathing, I was able to find more profit in the reading of Meyer’s first book.
In the last three years I have also acknowledged certain predilections that may have initially caused a backlash to that first reading. As a supposedly independent woman of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, it might not be completely kosher for me to say that I love a hero, but I must admit the truth. I first fully acknowledged this potentially problematic predilection on July 15, 2009. Yes, I know the exact date because it was realized when I was first watching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I don’t have the exact time signature (I’m just slightly less obsessed with that), but somewhere halfway through the movie Bellatrix Lestrange and Fenrir Greyback put in an appearance at the Burrow and Harry goes chasing after the former. Ginny follows and nearly gets attacked by Greyback but then – BAM! – all of a sudden Harry’s there out of nowhere. That was, and is, probably one of my absolute favourite scenes out of the entire series. Sigh! And of course there are parallel moments in Twilight when Bella almost gets crushed by the oncoming van, nearly gets attacked in Port Angeles, and nearly killed by the psychotic vampire, James.
It can get a bit aggravating in some cases, but another thing I’ve discovered is that selflessness, and self-torture can make for good reading. I think it was written much better in Harry Potter, probably because J.K. Rowling is simply a better writer than Stephenie Meyer, but also because it is a different subject matter all together. Nevertheless, I spotted traces from Bronte’s Jane Eyre in Edward’s character. He knows it’s wrong to be with Bella, but he can’t stay away, much as Mr. Rochester behaved toward Jane Eyre. The difference, here, is that Bella doesn’t leave, but Jane does. And now I need to read Jane Eyre again! It does make for interesting reading, the idea that you can feel so passionately about someone that you would go against everything you feel is right and proper to be with that person (cue Mr. Darcy now!)
And speaking of passion . . . On first reading this story so many years ago, I found Bella to be absolutely annoying, and I was praying that Edward would get up and leave (who knew how prescient I was). On second read, perhaps because I was prepared for it, I did not find her quite so grating. I think that part of my newfound tolerance can be traced to two additional things other than my preparedness. In the first case, on the DVD there are special features and Meyer was talking about the dream that started her writing the book and her interest in how they would be together with so many things working against them. Secondly, I was discussing the series with a friend of mine and she pointed out that Meyer was specifically writing about first love. A first for anything can put us quite over the edge, and if we add in the extra allure of a vampire, it makes for an attraction that is that much stronger. Edward, having a thirst for her blood, would be drawn to her that much more. In it’s essence, though, if we take away the supernatural, the story really is about being together against the odds – a timeless tale.
Finally, I’ve saved the last interesting thing for the end of this eternally long post. The idea of immortality fascinates me from a storytelling perspective. Carpe Diem is a common phrase in human parlance. Our days are numbered so we have to make each of them count. But what if our days weren’t numbered? What if we know that you could potentially live for hundreds or thousands of years? Living through so much human turmoil, the same thing over and over can surely grow wearisome. How would you really have any respect for human life when you know that it doesn’t matter who lives or dies, things will come full circle? And at that same token, if you do find someone to be with, who you love, and you really have an eternity to spend with them, will you always feel the same? When a mortal couple is married for 30, 40, or more years it is always with the expectation that they will one day be parted. Carpe Diem! If there is no expectation of being parted, how long will the passion hold up?