No, there was not a typo in the title. I meant to do that. This series is atrociously ridiculous and hackneyed. Usually, derivative works tend to lose some quality in the translation. In the case of the Twilight series, I give the movies just a nudge—a mere vampire weekend, if you will—above the books. Yes, in this humble writer’s opinion, Stephenie Meyer is just that bad at what she is getting paid gazillions to spit out. She is suckling, like her monsters of inspiration, on the lowest common denominator’s teet.
While I have yet to conceive the next great American novel, much less write and [attempt to] publish it, I am fully confident that when I do, it will be a much higher quality work. I believe my blog writings and short fiction attest to that claim. What will it matter, anyway? It never ceases to amaze me what the seemingly literate public desires to consume. While Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Meyer’s Twilight are both novels under the strictly technical definition, one is clearly more objectively palatable than the other. Obviously, fortification for the brain is not the same as banal entertainment. It is the same reason that McDonald’s is a more popular venue for sustenance than your average health food store. It is quick and easy to digest. It also leaves you full of hot, putrid gas to compensate for lack of actual nourishment.
Let me do a quick comparison of some of the variances between Ms. Meyer’s vampires and the ones of lore:
Lore: Vampires can only come out at night.
Twitlight: Vampires go wherever they damn-well please. Inexplicably, it is high school.
Lore: Vampires burst into flames when exposed to the sun.
Twitlight: Vampires sparkle in the sun. I guess they don’t have to dive into the nearest plot-hole for cover.
Lore: Vampires have fangs.
Twitlight: Vampires must have an awesome dental plan.
Lore: Vampires fear religious relics, as well as garlic.
Twitlight: Vampires have some seriously powerful magic underwear. That’s the only explanation.
With fictional characters, there is a little poetic license allowed. I grant writers that, and have done it myself just recently with my own vampire tale, as well. So, parking the plot wagon for a moment, let’s focus on the quality of the writing. The premise is rather simple and unoriginal. Girl moves to new town, girl falls in love, girl almost dies, boy saves her. Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, that could be fully realized in less than 250 pages. At almost 500, it is too long for so little to happen. Egads did my mind drift as I waited for something remotely interesting to happen. It’s like the vampires glamoured me into a stupor.
There are two reasons I give the movies a notch above the books. First, the quality of the acting is good. Actually, it is sad to see such talent wasted on terrible material. Seeing the two stars—Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart—in better projects, just leaves me shaking my head. Second, I confess to having a grand old time as hubby, friends, and I conduct running commentary à la MST3000. Good times, good times.
There is a tendency for women to breathe life into their fantasies through their writings, and some of them are paid for it. Unfortunately. A common one is to make the female protagonist the objet d’lust for many characters. I’ll get to the point; apparently, it is thrilling to imagine powerful and sexy beasts willing to fight to the death in order to be with you. I don’t know why, but it is a rampant theme. See my previous post about it: Creatures of the Trite.
Despite my aforementioned kudos to the acting, I am not any closer to suspending disbelief with Ms. Stewart’s Bella Swan (is there a more contrived name, by the way?). While pretty, her character is so bland. The undead have more zest for life than she does, and the most mundane circumstance can make her so tense. She is stuffed to the gills with angst. She does play that convincingly, I will say that. But, I don’t get why vampires and werewolves (of course!) are so willing to lay their difficult-to-kill, if not immortal, asses on the line for her. I just don’t see it. Sorry.
Here is a lesson in writing: The plot must be consistent within its own internal logic, thus allowing suspension of disbelief. As an example, while on the surface, their lightning-fast baseball game seems clever and cute, albeit a lame attempt at achieving the same level of awe as Harry Potter’s Quidditch. Fail! Unfortunately, a ball traveling that fast and hit that hard would be structurally unable to withstand the extreme forces thus applied to it. Since these are fictional creatures in the real world, laws of physics still apply. It is difficult enough to swallow such a bastardization of vampire legend, but defying scientific logic where it should exist is inexcusable.
I noticed a lot of writers fall into what I call “murmuritus.” There are at least thirty synonyms for that word, but many default to that one. I don’t know what the hang-up is with that particular verb. Ms. Meyer is definitely no exception. Just to drive the point home, I downloaded all the books for the sole purpose of doing a search on murmur, et al. The “find” function is a wondrous tool for empirical research. Here are my results:
Book 1: 46
Book 2: 30
Book 3: 95
Book 4: 111
As you see, it gets worse as the saga thickens. I know emopires are so bothered that they are reduced to a mere whisper, but really, perhaps they should just learn to enunciate through their non-fangs. If that weren’t enough, Stephenie felt it important to demonstrate her characters’ blasé annoyance by having them roll their eyes. Inordinately. While I had the PDFs, I figured I might as well confirm that. If you don’t believe me, read it and weep blood:
Book 1: 12
Book 2: 18
Book 3: 21
Book 4: 25
I just decided to start rolling my eyes to see how many creatures, great and small, cock-fight to the death for my affection. Apathy is hot!
Now admittedly, I only read the first novel. I strongly suspect that it is a representative sample, albeit possibly misleadingly in favor of Ms. Meyer. From what I’ve heard, they get worse. Perhaps it is due to a few ridiculous key plot points in subsequent books, such as being turned [into a vampire] used as a metaphor for (eep!) going all the way—which must not happen until marriage, dagnabbit. I’ve also been informed that Edward is forced to turn his beloved Bella as she is giving birth to their vampire hatchling, because that bugger is being a recalcitrant monster imp. Edward must then commit an unspeakable act: Use his teeth to tear his offspring out of mommy’s stomach to save them both! Now that’s just nasty. I suspect Meyer took Vonnegut’s rule to be cruel to her characters just a wee bit too far. Be that as it may, there’s no Father’s Day Hallmark card for that creepy level of devotion.
To say nothing of the fact that the werewolf Jacob imprints romantically on the baby who miraculously matures fully by age seven. He is, in fact, lusting after a seven-year-old, ergo, making him a Native American Mormon werewolf pedophile. Ms. Meyers just squicked me.
In the second or third book (does it matter?) Edward spurned Bella’s advances because he is old-fashioned and wants to wait until they are married, blah blah blah. So, does this mean that he has gone over one hundred years without sex? Really, come on! Let’s put him in a taxicab for some dashboard confession here. He may rip out the cabbie’s carotid before allowing his chaste image to be sullied. All right all right, let’s assume he is a virgin for a moment. It must also be pointed out that he doesn’t feed off humans—just wild animals. Hmm. Not that I know personally, but every vampire tale speaks of the thrill of the kill and savoring the sanguine life force flowing from its human victim into his gullet. Assuming he is completely genuine (and all Mormons are, of course), what the HELL is the point of existing? So little pleasure and all this wasted energy expended on resisting tempta . . . oh wait, that sounds eerily accurate. Pfft!
Gotta love proselytizing pulp.
Quite literally, unfortunately.
Even though I have thousands of books and have a “library” in my apartment that contains them, I am a frequent user of the public facility. There is something about acquiring books and/or reading ones I do not own already that makes them more fun. In this economy, I must steer clear of bookstores, lest I spend all my disposable income on whatever strikes my fancy. Therefore, off I traipse to the library during my lunch hour every three weeks to check out at least four books at a pop.
Reading is my usual pre-sleep activity, so over the weekend, whilst laying in bed, I cracked open one of my loaners—Bluebeard. I was struck by how warped and discolored all the pages were. Then, I caught a whiff. I put my face up to it, and immediately pulled it away. Just to make sure it wasn’t an olfactory hallucination, I repeated that action. I got up and brought it to my husband, and asked him, “Does this smell like urine?” One quick sniff test confirmed it.
Yes, someone took a piss on Vonnegut.
Into the nearest plastic bag that foul pulp went, and I couldn’t move fast enough to the bathroom, nor could the water get hot enough, to cleanse my hands à la Lady MacBeth. Out, damned stench! Being a bit germaphobic, I was apprehensive crawling back under the covers as I tried to recall if the defiled book touched any part of the bed. Since it was too late to strip and wash, I decided that ignorance is occasionally a blissfully acceptable approach to the situation. I just hoped that it was either cat or dog urine. Hell, I’d even be okay if a horse emptied its bladder in a torrential downpour onto the poor, unsuspecting novel. I just couldn’t countenance it being human. It seemed . . . grosser. Besides, who could hate Vonnegut that much?
What I didn’t realize in my effort to keep the diseases at bay until Labor Day weekend came to an end, is that enclosing the urine smell makes it stronger. My nostrils were assaulted with that reality once I pulled it out of my bag when I got to work. The funk was pervasive, and even after putting it into an envelope AND inside a paper bag, I still smelled it. I called the circulation desk to alert them of my dilemma. To say the clerk sounded dubious is an understatement, but he did not verbally call me on it. He did tell me to return it as soon as possible. I couldn’t wait for lunchtime to roll around so I could be rid of that egregious object so that I could move onto prose that would be less offensive to my senses. Perhaps something from de Sade?
Thankfully, I did not have to wait in line for assistance. Sadly, the guy I spoke to on the phone was the next available attendant. He was not happy to see me, and made a show of annoyance as he removed the envelope from the paper bag, the plastic bag from the envelope, and opened the plastic bag to confirm the horror. It was like an iniquitous nesting doll. He pulled back his head in disgust, and this was the conversation that ensued:
Me: “It wasn’t that bad before when my husband and I smelled it, but the bag encapsula . . .”
Clerk 1: “Remove this book from the system right away!”
Clerk 2: “Eww, what’s the number?”
Clerk 1: (Do you think I remembered the number during my moment of ignominy? Make up one.)
Me: “I can’t believe someone would return a book after peeing on it.”
Clerk 2: “Okay, it’s gone. Now just put it away!”
Me: “Thanks.” Exit in embarrassment stage left.
Clerk 1: “Have a nice day.”
Now, do you think he really meant that? It was pretty obvious from their responses (yes, in a fit of paranoia, I honed in on their micro-expressions) that they didn’t believe I was the innocent victim here. Perhaps it was that askance look he gave me as I explained the physics of entrapped odors and their affect on the strength of them. I was very tempted to officiously ask, “Do I look like someone who would take a piss on a book, much less public property?” But, one way to detect that someone is lying is if she gets a bit too wordy. I thought that would be throwing me into the gray zone. I left fully confident that I introduced a little slice of Hell into their day.
I suspect when the remaining books are due, I will just deposit them in the overnight book drop, lest they flagged my account as a problem user. Oy. I think I’ll take a short vacation from checking out books, just long enough for them to forget my face.