If you’re concerned with being hip you have one of two poses available to you RE: your response to the Twilight phenomenon. You can either abhor the books outright or you can sort of shamefully admit to loving them with a sheepish grin on your ducked head. I for one am totally on board with guilty pleasures. For example, right now I can’t stop listening to Whip Your Hair, the debut single by Willow, 12 year old daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith. I hate myself. And YOU should hate YOURSELF if you like the Twilight books. The movies I will not criticize here, because I don’t know as much about what makes a movie good or bad. I do however know a little something about what makes a book good or bad and the writing in Twilight is SO BAD. SO BAD!
The plot is not totally wretched, at least not in the first book, which is the only one I’ve read– and do not tell me, Oh but you’ve got to read the other three, they get so much better as they go on. That’s like if your friend had sex with Charlie Sheen a couple of times and then you have sex with him and it’s really bad and then your friend says, Oh but you’ve got to have sex with him three more times, it gets so much better as you go on. No. You only need to have sex with Charlie Sheen once to know you shouldn’t be having sex with Charlie Sheen. (Actually, you probably don’t need to have sex with Charlie Sheen even once to know you shouldn’t have sex with Charlie Sheen– you can just read US Weekly– but I’ll grant you the one time, in the name of science or whatever.) Anyway the plot of Twilight is not totally wretched. I couldn’t put the book down for its first half, even though reading the prose made me feel like I was Alex undergoing the Ludovico Technique in A Clockwork Orange:
The plot’s first segment is classic he-loves-me-he-loves-me not fare that anyone with a weakness for romantic comedies and Coldplay (i.e. me) will love, and it’s made all the more interesting by the addition of vampire folklore. I will say Stephanie Meyer does a nice job of explaining, without too much exposition, how her version of vampires exist in the modern world. This part of the plot is however supremely derivative of Jane Austen, and when I say derivative I mean in the same way that urine is a derivative of Veuve Clicquot. Bella, our heroine (And isn’t it a tad obvious to name a main character in a vampire narrative Bella, after Bela Lugosi? Or maybe it’s clever, I don’t know.) is given vaguely Austenian shadings: she likes to read, she doesn’t know she’s pretty, she rolls her eyes at her silly mother. Unfortunately, as soon as the plot, halfway through, turns to action, all these slightly charming attributes fall away to reveal another side of Bella: the physically helpless codependent Victorian girl, unable to kiss without fainting, panicked and shrill at the merest suggestion of being dumped by her vampire boyfriend Edward. At one point, while fleeing a band of murderous rival vampires, Bella is gripped by fear and LITERALLY CANNOT BUCKLE HER OWN SEATBELT. Edward has to do it for her. You can almost see the author cheerfully setting out to create a modern-day Elizabeth Bennett or Marianne Dashwood, but then, becoming distracted by the swoony good looks and fiscal or moral or physical heroism of Austen’s male leads, she throws all Bella’s plucky, independent characteristics aside to create a softcore rescue fantasy whose main female character most resembles the invalid daughter of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice. Whom, may I add, did NOT end up with Mr. Darcy.
I mean I totally have a little person living inside my heart that gets Taylor-Swift-music-video-dizzy when she kisses someone she really really likes and who wants guys to do things like open doors for her and give her his coat when she is cold and maybe use a matchbook to pick out the sesame seed that will invariably get stuck in her teeth during lunch (That actually happened to me once. Is that gross? I thought it was amazing.) but I keep her safely tucked away inside my heart and I love her and cherish her for never giving up hope in chivalry and romance but I do not make her the heroine of my life. And when she gets panicky and shrill at the thought of being dumped and left alone for the rest of her life I tell her to shut the fuck up already. And I certainly do not bring her out of hiding when I am being chased by a band of murderous rival vampires.
It terrifies me to think that for millions of American girls this will be their ne plus ultra of fictional romantic relationships. My friends and I had Ethan and Winona from Reality Bites and look where that got us.
The climax of the book has all the subtle pacing and logical dialogue of Air Force One, and the denouement involves the flimsiest cover-up in the history of fiction. Like I literally told better lies, in Spanish, to my Spanish 102 teacher about why my homework wasn’t done. Also I failed Spanish 102.
And now to come back to the writing. It’s that sort of unpracticed prose style wherein every line of dialogue ends with a new adverb: “he said darkly”, “she said softly”, “he said happily”, “she sad sadly” and now I’m going to puke loudly. This sentence structure is used over and over again:
“I felt a spasm of panic as I looked into her wild, childlike eyes.”
Why do I hate the use of “as I” as a sentence joiner? To me it smacks of amateurishness, of romance novels (which Twilight basically is), of short stories written (by me) for seventh grade English. I ripped open my bodice as I gazed at his pulsating man-mound. You know, that kind of thing. Also, the above sentence is taken from page four of my paperback edition. PAGE FOUR. What on earth could your characters already be panicking and spasming about on PAGE FOUR, Stephanie Meyer? You can’t throw away all your hyperbole up front.
It’s really all too bad, because nothing gives me a lady boner like getting completely engrossed in some serial fantasy fiction. Oh well. Off to don my Gryffindor dress cape and lion hat for the midnight showing of Harry Potter.