Monday, September 27, 2010

Esther reviews the Twilight series

My reasons for liking the Twilight series are as follows. 1) I was finally reading a book that a lot of my friends were reading and excited about. 2) After I finished, I enjoyed the humor of the parodies and reviews of the books to the fullest. My reasons for not liking the books over-much are, well, everything else.

As stated in my first reason it was enjoyable to pick up a pop fiction book, know what the masses are reading, and see what all the fuss is about. The Twilight books are appealing in that they are able to engage and entertain.

John Granger in his article in Touchstone says that he believes the books are so popular because,
They meet a spiritual need. Mircea Eliade, in his book The Sacred and the Profane, suggests that popular entertainment, especially imaginative literature and film, serves a religious or mythic function in a secular culture. When God is driven to the periphery of the public square, the human spiritual capacity longs for exercise, and it often finds it in the “suspension of disbelief” and activity of the imagination that are available in novels and movies.

John Granger's enthusiasm is inspiring and it is refreshing how he reads with his eyes open. His article on Twilight was well done, and he makes some very interesting observations about Meyer's incorporation of Mormon symbolism.
The books are, in fact, a re-telling of the Garden of Eden drama—with a Mormon twist. Here, the Fall is a good thing, even the key to salvation and divinization, just as Joseph Smith, Jr., the Latter-day Saint prophet, said it was. Twilight conveys the appealing message that the surest means to God are sex and marriage.

Granger argues that Meyer's use of the meadow is significant as a symbol.
“Mountain Meadows,” means something much less pastoral and positive and much more visceral and painful to American Latter-day Saints (LDS). The summer of 2003 saw the publication of three books that focused on the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre, in which tragedy Mormon faithful in Southern Utah executed more than 120 men, women, and children on their way to California from Arkansas. All three books paint the Mormon faith as inherently bloodthirsty, violent, secretive, and abusive to women and non-believers. The Twilight novels, especially Breaking Dawn, can be understood as a response to the challenge they posed to Mormon believers like Mrs. Meyer. In brief, Meyer was inspired to write works in which she addresses and resolves in archetypal story the criticisms being made of Mormonism by atheists and non-believing gentiles.

He also points out other items of import. Meyer has Carlisle Cullen's birth in the mid-1660s, the same period when historic Mormonism was born in Europe. She also has Carlisle take up medical practice in the 1840s, the same time as Joseph Smith’s “restoration” of the gospel in America.

For those that do not need the books to serve a religious function, while immensely entertaining, they are...well, just that. They are so easy to read. So easy in fact, that it is nothing at all to read them and then completely forget what was read. (Although my skimming may have had something to do with that...but not much!) Meyer is a good storyteller, even if there isn't much a of plot or character development. One feels like a druggie might, going from book to book, or hit to hit as quickly as possible. She begins interestingly enough, developing her mythology, and setting up her characters, even if her storyline and descriptions seem to wane a bit. There are parts of the books that were taxing to even read. This, in reality, is more a fault of mine, since I cannot take the modern brand of "romantic". I found myself identifying with the reviewer who said, "The part of the story where Edward kisses Bella and her heart literally stops, I just...I don't even know what to do with this. Other than laugh hysterically while I beat my head against the table."

I'm not in the camp that sees the books as dangerous in and of themselves. Unless you are worried that your daughter might try to emulate the writing style. The argument that "it is dangerous" is not only incredibly vague, but is an argument that could be applied to literally anything. The danger lies in the reader not having the discernment or wisdom to see the books for what they are- which is fluff. And, yes, it is potentially dangerous when someone thinks that they are getting a balanced diet while eating marshmallow creme for 3 meals a day, everyday. A little fluff in a well balanced literary diet is no cause for alarm. However, the other side that is just happy that teens are reading and think "any reading is good reading" is like congratulating an anorexic for eating a marshmallow.

These books seem to suit those who have forgotten their child-like ways a long time ago, but not their
childishness. Their soul is forgot, fairies are forgot, but selfish fantasies last forever. However, this is not the whole appeal of the books, and the over-precautions parent who thinks it is, misses quite a lot. If you have filled your daughter's mind with truth, goodness, beauty this story will be read with diversion and amusement. I haven't met an overwhelming amount of girls like that though. These books should pose no threat when they can be read to entertain, but not to form.

Michele Catalano of Heretical Ideas writes,

Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight is being hailed as the next Harry Potter, but in reality it’s just an emo song in literary clothing. With vampires.
A couple of chapters into Twilight, I was seriously flabbergasted. How in the world did this book even get past an editor? Meyer’s writing style reminds me of what would happen if a Harlequin Romance was mashed with the Flowers in the Attic series. The flowery prose, the countless, breathless descriptions of Edward’s teeth, the way Meyer pours out adjectives like a bartender who forgot to put the regulator on the vodka bottle – it all makes for a cringe inducing writing style that makes me wonder if Meyer sold her soul to get this published.

What I found curious were all of the enraged
fans. Those that recognized Meyer's writing as inferior but still enjoyed the the beginning. Below are some reviews that I found extremely funny. Both those of you who thought the books a fun read and those of you who did not, I think will enjoy the following reviews.

1) Edward goes through more mood swings in an hour than a pregnant woman does her whole term. You would think 100+ years would teach him to even out that temper a little. He is awesome. Lest you forget it, he's even awesomer than the rest of his vampire family at everything. And for some reason, he doesn't mind taking high school over and over again - which some would describe as a kind of hell.

2) Anytime somebody gets labeled something histrionic ('The Next J.K. Rowling'), I'm curious. Unquestionably, this author has worked very hard to crank out some seriously long novels that are seriously packed with - well, not really plot, or action, and a great deal of thin, meandering dialogue - so I'm not quite sure what's in each book, but I do not doubt for one second that the passion of her romance writing is bizarrely gripping. I read all three of these books faster than whatever book I last read in the airport, and that's saying something.

3) Yet another heroine who doesn't know she's beautiful and describes herself as shy but never exhibits the trait. The book is told in first person, which is unfortunate, because that means the reader is at ground zero for all of her insipid thoughts.

4) Meyer tends to overuse adjectives and adverbs, but does so in the least descriptive way possible. How did Bella look on her wedding day? I couldn't tell you, since Meyer never bothered to describe her dress other than to say it was satin-y. And how about the rest of the wedding ceremony? There were flowers "everywhere" and everyone looked "amazing." Thanks. I can totally picture that.
5) There were so many errors it was distracting. Dialog tagging: use it. Also, adverbs are not your friends. If Bella "shyly" does one more thing, I'm going beat her with her own arm. If you have to tell us that people are chuckling, giggling, that their eyes are "tightening" (what does that even mean?) then you're failing at description. If you must tell and not show, read some Willa Cather. She gets away with it. You don't. So stop.

6) Bella is also the ultimate Mary Sue, which doesn't help Meyer's writing skills in my eyes. Bella is SO PERFECT. Everyone LOVES HER... injury-prone Bella is adorable. Will Charlie object to Bella Sue getting married at 18? Of course not! Will Bella Sue become the most graceful vampire ever, even though she was the world's clumsiest person? You bet! Bella gets everything she wants in Breaking Dawn and sacrifices nothing.

7) Renesmee - Say it out loud. I dare you.
...Renee and Charlie - So, while Renee has been the primary parent and the person that Bella is closest to for the entire series, suddenly she's just...absent. Laaaame.

8) Here, Bella, dieing and screaming in agony, vomits blood while the mutant baby inside of her destroys her body, internal organs and spine. Edward uses his teeth to bite the baby out of her uterus. Bella dies and then Edward injects vampire venom into her heart with a syringe.
This is how Bella starts her new life with him. TOTAL Slap. In. The. Face.
I was ready to drive to Arizona, find Stephenie Meyer's house, and burn it down.
...If it weren't bad enough that this annoyingly perfect child that absolutely everyone in the book ADORES exists, she is destined to be with JACOB. At the end of the book, Edward calls Jacob SON. I just shuddered again WRITING that.

9) This whole series was a travesty really, but like any good masochist I plodded through. I find it fascinating that the author tiptoes gently over the whole implied sex thing, yet goes above and beyond (wayyyy above and wayyyy beyond) to make sure the Miracle of Childbirth is depicted in a way that would make the makers of the Saw movie franchise proud.

10) I can only hope that the third book doesn't contain the following phrases and/or words, because I HATE THEM BY NOW:
velvet voice
tousled bronze hair
marble slab
perfect face
singing laughter
aching hole
russet skin
angelic anything
it felt like I was dreaming
I wasn't sure if it was a dream
it had to be a dream

Here is part of the parody that I came across.

He led me to a small creek and sank gracefully into the grass at its edge. I tripped over a pebble and landed on my face in the mud. Edward laughed. How could he love me? He was so beautiful, gorgeous, and perfect. Like the statue of David come alive. Like Adonis, a god, an angel.
Edward removed his shoes and rolled up the cuffs of his jeans, and I gasped at the sight of his white, smooth ankles. Sunlight reflected off his toenails, each an ivory glint of perfection. I’d never seen Edward’s feet before. I hadn’t realized he could be more beautiful than he was, but there seemed no end to his beauty.
My heart beat madly in my chest, bounced up into my throat, ricocheted off half a dozen ribs, and finally settled somewhere in the vicinity of my kneecap. I collapsed.
Faster than a speeding bullet, Edward had lifted me in his marble arms and cradled me to his granite chest. “Bella? Bella!” he screamed. “No!”
The sight of his perfect, glorious face so twisted in anguish sent waves of torture through my body. “Edward!” I gasped.
“Will you answer a question?” I asked.
“Of course, my love, my life, my forever,” Edward said, casually tearing boulders apart with his toes. I watched, spellbound for a moment, before remembering myself.
“He stood, stretched, and his shirt rose enough for me to catch a glimpse of his sculpted abs above his waistband. I hyperventilated and passed out.
...Despair settled over me, so thick and heavy I could hardly see. “No, Edward! Don’t leave me! I know we’ve only been together for three hours, but I want to spend forever with you! Please!”
His perfect, glorious, heavenly face dipped toward me, and he touched his cold lips to my neck. He growled deep in his throat, a sound that traveled up and down my spine like lightning.
Then nothing.
Edward looked down at the body of Bella Swan, pale and lifeless in his pale and lifeless arms.
His sobs shook the forest for six long seconds, and then he stood, wiping a drop of blood from the corner of his mouth.
He sprinted for the edge of the forest, moving faster than any living creature, and wondered if that Angela girl would be his new lab partner.
The End


Charis said...

"Unless you are worried that your daughter might try to emulate the writing style."

Hilarious and right on the nose.

I have yet to read the whole series (while working in the library, I skimmed each of the books as they came through my hands), so I can't really bash but your review expresses my sentiments exactly.


Esther said...

Thanks, Charis! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun writing it. Almost made reading them worth it...almost.

The R said...

This was excellent. I laughed the whole way writing I've seen - ever. You should sell your satire to a magazine. You'd make millions. Just don't forget the one who gave you the idea. ;-)

Esther said...

I guess I can only go down from here.
Thanks for the complements.:)
When I do make all those millions, I'll be sure and let you know.

Lydia said...

This was hard to read, and if u ask Drew, harder to listen to... but well stated by the E. I really enjoyed the link to the parody as well. But I tend to disagree with the "anyone can read this" thinking.
It's my belief that we as Christian adults should be copious and add fluff to our meaty diet. We also use a sieve when doing so and see it as fluff; not something that we can wrap our souls in to keep them warm at night. Don't make the mistake of thinking everyone is as discerning as thee. I know I even miss that mark. I wish I had the wit of the Belle. But I digress.
Danger comes in because everyone needs a religion (i.e. something to follow). Unfortunately, we are seeing teens engulfed in this religious frenzy following around a perfect, sultry, chiseled, did I say perfect Edward wanting to have his baby.
PS Drew says that he has no problem with adding fluff to the diet, but reading swill serves no purpose. If u want crap, u can buy it in a can apparently. And his final exhortation, "don't be a lemming."

Esther said...

Wow. Wow. Perhaps you aren't an orator? Only joking. I know the loveliness of your voice. I believe we (mostly) agree. (Although, I am sure Drew would point out that there is quite a difference between mostly agreeing and agreeing. Princess Bride, anyone?) I can't say you said anything that I would out and out disagree with. (Except perhaps the part about me being hard to read. We all know THAT can't be true! I love to read myself!) Allow me to quote none other than...well, than myself, "danger lies in the reader not having the discernment or wisdom" and again, "These books should pose no threat when they can be read to entertain, but not to form." Also, the quotes I included stated exactly Lydrew's point (as I understood it), "They meet a spiritual need" (Granger), "...serves a religious or mythic function in a secular culture. When God is driven to the periphery of the public square, the human spiritual capacity longs for exercise" (Eliade). (Sorry to take you though that again...I know it's hard to read...again.) Of course, these "teens are engulfed in this religious frenzy"- their souls are completely malnourished. And, could I make the mistake of thinking everyone is as discerning as lil ol' me? Now, if you will excuse, I will go read myself and think about how much more discerning I am than everyone else. Tootle! P.S. No danger here of being a lemming, a rat fink perhaps, but a lemming never.

Lydia said...

I knew I should have commented directly after reading the post, but I didn't! and this is what I get. Ah, well, it's the age old mistake of trying to walk across the water instead of finding out how big it is by walking the circumference. Get your estimation only after reading all the provided material (i.e. Granger).

Lydia said...

PS. In the above comment I was talking to myself :) there I go trying to be witty again and confusing people!

Esther said...

Lyd, Having NOT read the source material may give you the advantage in this case.:)And I find talking to ones self does one a world of good- don't ever stop.

grace said...

I think you have said just about everything I wanted you to say about this:) I especially liked the marshmallows analogy, because I like eating marshmallows, but not often. Some people hate marshmallows, and I don't blame them. So from now on when someone asks what I thought of the books, I will steal your idea and say "They're like marshmallows"...and that's all I need to say. I realize that I probably commented on one of the simplest ideas from your brilliant article, but what can I say? I like simple ideas.

Esther said...

Thanks for the discush that first got the idea rolling for me. I love it when that happens.
I love all your comments by the way.