Sunday, February 1, 2009

On "Twilight"

Being a Man, I have not read, nor had any inkling of a desire to read the Twilight series of books that are so popular right now. I have never really been one to get into books that are faddish (I have not read The Da Vinci Code, The Purpose Driven Life, any Harry Potter book or basically any book that has been endorsed by Oprah), but the amount that people (even well-read, literate people!) love these books does seem to border on psychotic. However, I was reading the blog of Birmingham blogger Amanda this morning and she linked a blogger's review, of sorts, of the book that has apparently been around since last March. It was too hilarious to not post here. This is just the first part of the review, entitled "I want to beat Edward Cullen with a stick," but the rest can be found here.

Bad Book Month
In Which I Read Bad Books on Purpose

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Oh, my. This book justifies Bad Book Month all by itself. It's appalling. The redeeming factors are few and far between (mostly Charlie, because he's sweet; and maybe Jasper), but they're helpless against the overwhelming gag factor.

The most appalling element, however, is how popular this novel is. How many teenage girls are drinking this up and screaming for more. I fear for my gender's future, for what they're learning about love and relationships through this series.

However, I'm not the only one who's noticed the general lack of quality about this book (and its sequels, which I hear just get worse). [info]avadriel posted an insightful, if scathing, review of the book. Reading the one-star reviews on Amazon is also quite fun.

Because of the amount of anti-Twilight stuff out there - though, granted, it only equals the smallest fraction of the pro-Twilight fangirl mania - I'm not going to write a review. I'm not going to go into the disturbing way Bella and Edward's obsessive relationship is portrayed as true love, or how borderline abusive it is, with Bella's complete lack of self outside Edward and Edward's controlling, emotionally unstable behavior. I don't have anything new to say on the topic.

I am, instead, going to provide you with a catalog. A count of various elements in the book, which should give you a feel for exactly how numerous its flaws are.

The Catalog

Number of Pages in the Book: 498
The First Hint of a Plot that Is Not Bella and Edward's Romance: page 328
When the Plot Actually Arrives: page 372

Boys that Totally Love Bella (Including Edward Cullen): 5

Approximate Amount of Time Bella and Edward are Romantically Involved Before Bella Is Begging Edward to Turn Her into a Vampire so They Can Be Together Forever: Like, two weeks. Maybe three. The timeline's a bit fuzzy.

References to Edward's Beauty: 165

Broken Down into the following categories -
  • Face: 24 (Favorite adjectives: glorious, heavenly, seraphic)
  • Voice: 20 (The voice of an archangel, donchaknow.)
  • Eyes: 17
  • Movement: 11
  • Smile: 10
  • Teeth: 8
  • Muscles: 7
  • Skin: 7 (Note: This only contains accounts of Edward's skin being beautiful. I didn't count references to it as "pale," "cold," or "white." If I had, this number would be about ten times larger.)
  • Iron Strength or Limbs: 5
  • Scent: 4
  • Laughter: 3
  • Handwriting: 2
  • Chest: 2
  • Driving Skills: 1
The Number of Times...
  • Bella Is Clumsy or Makes a Reference to Her Clumsiness: 26
  • Bella Sneers at Forks or Its Inhabitants: 22
  • Bella is "Dazzled" or Rendered Speechless by Edward's Beauty or Touch: 17
  • Edward Tells Bella to Stay Away from Him While Completely Contradicting Himself with His Behavior: 16
  • Bella is Utterly Desolate at Edward's Absence: 12
  • Edward and Bella Kiss: 8
    • Bella's Hormones Get the Better of Her and She Attacks Edward, Almost Causing Him to Eat Her: 2 (She's not even allowed to kiss him back! Where's the fun in that?)
    • Edward's Kiss Makes Bella Faint: 1
    • Edward's Kiss Makes Bella's Heart Literally Stop: 1
  • Bella Thinks She Isn't Good Enough for Edward: 6
  • Edward Is Referred to As Godlike: 5 (Note: This number might be off, as I didn't start counting until three or four mentions in.)
  • Edward Tells Bella She's Unnatural: 5
  • Edward Sparkles: 3
  • Bella is in Mortal Danger: 3
    • Edward Saves Bella from Mortal Danger: 3
  • Edward Stalks Bella, For Real: 2 (Note: One of these instances involves watching her sleep every night for, like, months.)
  • Bella says "Holy Crow!": 2
  • Bella and Edward Argue About Who Loves the Other Most: 1
  • Edward's Inability to Read Bella's Mind is Explained: 0
I would have kept track of how many times Edward's mood shifts unexpectedly and for no reason, but I didn't have that much paper. I am sad, though, that I didn't keep track of how many times words like "granite," "stone," and "marble" are used in reference to Edward. His arms, his lips. Explain to me how kissing cold, marble lips is at all appealing. And yet it makes Bella faint. I give up.

I highly suggest reading the rest of the review, which includes a parody by the author entitled "Duskiness."


Unknown said...

I teach at a small high school in Texas. The "Twilight" book are all the rage. The high school library has a waiting list of the girls who want to read the "newest" book.
I guess they could be doing something worse?
The only problem is, I really wish they were spending the meager library budget for a few more selections in non-fiction. ( I am a history teacher.)

Valerie said...

Trip, I've read all the books and couldn't stand them. I kept hoping they would get better and maybe I could understand everyone's obsession with these books. Bella is insipid and Edward is a controlling psycho. Not exactly what I want my 14-year old daughter to read.

Carrie said...

Maybe it's not such a great idea to post about books (or movies, like your chick flick post) that a huge segment of the population loves if you haven't even bothered to try to understand them?

Twilight is badly written, and I agree that the attraction is a little disturbing. I wondered why girls (women of all ages, really) are so attracted to them, so I actually read the books, not just the thoughts of another blogger.

I think Twilight is so addictive because Edward is strong and protective, and that's something that many women are missing in their own lives.

Also, just as Bella constantly feels clumsy, we all (and I think this applies to men, too) feel unattractive and unlovable at times. Edward makes Bella feel beautiful, even though she doesn't see herself that way. I think that's another thing women are attracted to.

(And I think so many people love the world of Harry Potter because we are drawn to mystery and purpose and those are concepts that are largely lacking in our science and reason-driven culture.)

I think that, before we point fingers at things we personally think are pointless, it might be best to step back and ask ourselves what's so attractive about them. Before writing people (and the hobbies and books they love) off as stupid, I'd rather see what I can learn from them.

For example, my first thoughts on reading a blog that dwells mostly on jacket cuts, old J. Crew clippings, and a strange obsession with preppiness, might be that it's a vapid waste of time.

After giving it a chance, however, I realize those topics can also be compelling and interesting, and that maybe bringing a little beauty and structure into my own life might not be such a bad thing.

Zingiber said...

I have not read the books, but my 13-year-old daughter is addicted so my wife read Twilight to find out what the fuss was all about.

What I took away from my wife's experience was less about the book and more about what it says about 13 year old girls (and, by extension, my daughter). The poor things are just seething with romantic feelings. I'm not sure they're real concerned about the quality of the prose.

I am convinced that books like this -- books that achieve a popularity seemingly disproportionate to their literary merit -- somehow are speaking to what people need and want at a deep, emotional level. Which is to say, for all who are concerned about what this kind of book is "teaching our children," I'm not at all sure the kids are influenced by it; I think the needs, wants, and desires are already there, and the book simply connects with (or perhaps satisfies) them.

Anonymous said...

Might you be taking the post a bit too serious?

Unknown said...

I am a high school librarian, and while I have deep reservations about a 17-year-old who decides after a few short weeks that she wants to spend the rest of her life as a member of the undead, I'm delighted by any book that gets teens reading. I would be a very wealthy woman if I had a nickel for every kid who groans "I hate to read!" at me.

No, these books aren't great literature. But they do, indeed, apparently speak to some fundamental need of the teenage soul. As long as the girls (and guys) listen when I voice some skepticism that 17 years is a bit short of the experience needed to determine one's life partner, I say let 'em read. It's just one more opportunity to engage my students in active dialogue and prompt them to support their opinions when I play Devil's advocate.

I work very hard to make my library collection attractive and relevant to my users. (Yes, I add non-fiction titles - "Into the Wild" was popular this year.) I also work hard to develop relationships with my students, in order to add books that they actually want to read. And when I think back on my own experiences as an angst-y, hormonal, emotional teenager, Twilight doesn't seem so bad. Heck, some of the romances I read were more insipid and unrealistic than Bella and Edward could ever hope to be.

I read all the Twilight books, and I did think the last was fairly entertaining, if a little long. As the saying goes, "chaqu'un à son goût;" if you don't like it, there are a million other books waiting to be discovered!

frenchie in NYC said...

TAKE IVY! no comparison... most stylish!!!