Sunday, January 31, 2010

BLOGGING TWILIGHT, pt. 12: Lux Aeterna

About three things I am absolutely positive. First, I am reading Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. Second, there is a part of me – and I don’t know how potent that part is – that is kind of enjoying this. And third, previous entries can unconditionally and irrevocably be found in the archives.

Chapter 12: Balancing

I'll say this about Jacob: he's appealing in a meat-headed, grinning idiot sort of way. He basically chuckles and shoves his hands in his pockets and says "aw shucks" throughout this next scene, in which Bella goes into a blind panic over Billy Black potentially telling her father about how she's been Associating with a Known Vampire. Compared to Edward and all his messy emotions, Jacob is appealingly uncomplicated. His lines aren't followed by phrases like "he groaned bleakly," or "he despaired longingly," or "his voice was wrought with longing despair." Jacob just smiles.

So Billy & Charlie are watching some kind of sporting event, and Bella & Jacob are gossiping in the kitchen (Isn't it weird that the adults have kid names and the kids have adult names in this book? I feel like that sentence should read "Billy & Charlie are in the sandbox, and Bella & Jacob are discussing cap gains taxes." But it doesn't). Billy hasn't really said anything at all to Bella, but his looks are very knowing and noble-savage like and suspicious! The first few pages of this chapter have an unnecessarily tense tone! Take a chill pill, Bella!

Jacob has apparently never actually met the Cullens, and he mentions not recognizing the dude in the driveway. Bella ducks the question, but it comes up again. Jacob seems to be pressing the issue. Just when we're expecting a Mike-like explosion of jealousy, Bella tells him it was Edward and he laughs. He's such a nice guy!

Jacob immediately realizes that this is why his father was giving Bella weird looks and shit, and reassures Bella that Billy won't mention anything to Charlie. He alludes to a previous incident when the subject came up and Charlie allegedly "chewed [Billy] out pretty good," presumably for his anti-Cullen views, which Jacob again characterizes as "superstitious" (pg. 239). Bella tries to play off her worry as if it ain't no thang.

I don't understand why Bella feels like she has to adopt layers of pretense around Jacob. Would you adopt of pretense around a wall, or a bag of potatoes?

Then they leave, because the game ends. Hang on! A lot of time just passed on page 239! Does S. Meyer understand how long your average sporting event lasts? Conversations between Bella and Edward, driving home from school, last fifteen pages. A whole football/basketball/baseball game (I don't think a sport was specified) lasts two? I understand that novels can compress time - that's one of the advantages of the form - but did Gabriel Garcia Marquez write this shit or something?

Anyway, the only thing that happens is Billy says "You take care, Bella." BUT HE SAYS IT OMINOUSLY! That was a lot of tension with no real climax. We've all got literary blue balls over here.

Next day, Edward's in the driveway again. She asks how his night was.

"Pleasant." His smile was amused. I felt like I was missing an inside joke. (pg. 241)

First of all, his smile was amused? Second of all, I feel like this is supposed to be some foreshadowing here. Edward doesn't sleep at night, so what's he doing? Cullen family orgies? It's definitely possible (they're not REALLY related, are they?).

They go to school, they talk. Edward mentions that he and Alice are leaving after lunch to go hunting. "If I'm going to be alone with you tomorrow I want to take whatever precautions I can," he says (pg. 243). Hot. The whole "Edward might lose control" thing gets drilled home HARD over the next few chapters. We get it.

So Edward is going off alone with Alice, who is his sister. But again, not really. I'm not sure how legal this adoption could really be; Edward is probably old enough that I doubt his paperwork is all in order. I'm betting he's not adopted so much as "adopted," you know? Should Bella feel weird about this? Remember all that talk about how when they go hunting they give themselves over to their instincts?

The rest of the Cullen kids, by the way, are very wary of Bella. Rosalie gives her a weird, dead-eyed stare at lunch. Edward says it's because their cover will be blown too if Edward accidentally murders and eats her this weekend. Bella yearns to comfort him. Yes, that is what her first thought is.

I realized slowly that his words should frighten me. I waited for that fear to come, but all I could seem to feel was an ache for his pain. (pg. 245).

We're all aching Bella. But the rest of us have headaches from trying to understand what your deal is. Also, I fail to see why this is a big enough deal to cause Edward pain. His siblings are reasonably uncomfortable with this whole scenario, and their discomfort has so far only manifested itself in a stare. What pain?

One could see how the other Cullens being hostile toward Bella could be read as some kind of racial metaphor - opposition to coupling outside the ethic group - and this would position the reader justifiably in Bella's camp. But think about it this way: If your brother came to you and told you about how he really liked this girl and felt a real connection to her and all that but she got him so worked up on a regular basis that he was afraid of killing her, wouldn't YOU discourage that relationship?

We finally meet Alice when she comes over to see if Edward is ready to go after lunch. S. Meyer's penchant for cartoonish descriptions leaves me with a weird mental picture of Alice. She has "a high soprano voice" and "short inky hair in a halo of spiky disarray around her exquisite, elfin face" (246). So basically a punk rock Minnie Mouse?

Part of this is I guess the fact that the Twilight-Industrial-Complex has burned Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner into my brain, but I'm drawing a blank for the rest of them. So Alice is played by an actress named Ashley Greene, who also starred in... uh, an episode of MADtv. Gotta start somewhere I guess. So I google-image searched her to get an idea of what she looked like, and I found this:

So yeah. Just picture her as that.

Bella is struck by all of Edward's talk about covers getting blown, and she doesn't want to blow his (you're welcome). So she starts lying to everyone saying she's not hanging out with Edward after all, she's just going to stay home and do homework, and Edward has a thing he's gotta do out of town anyway, so he won't even be around. So basically if she does get murdered, she's set it up so that her murderer will never be caught.

She even tells her father this (even though he still thought she was going to Seattle, alone, so that actually probably would have been better for the Forks Chief of Police to think if she wanted to ensure a quick getaway for the Cullens [if that is even what she is doing], but whatever, Bella is operating at half-awareness like Nancy Botwin or something) but Mike gets the news first:

"You know, you could come to the dance with our group anyway - that would be cool. We'd all dance with you," he promised.

Have I mentioned before how much I hated high school?

Bella goes home and has another freak-out over the now impending date. She convinces herself that he wants her to be safe, because he left a note on her car that read "Be Safe." Note that it did not read "I promise not to kill and eat you tomorrow."

A tiny voice in the back of my mind worried, wondering if it would hurt very much...if it ended badly. (pg. 251)

As in, if she died? Yes Bella, it would probably hurt very much. And also, you would be dead.

Bella's anxiety gets so intense that she deliberately takes a bunch of cold medicine to knock herself unconscious. WHOA. Bella, when I said take a chill pill, I didn't mean LITERALLY! But this is an interesting development. I'd like to see where this drug addict storyline could go.


Screen shots from "The Twilight Saga: Fast Times At Forks High"

Bella wakes up the next morning well-rested and singing the praises of substance abuse. Edward shows up on foot - Bella insisted on driving today.

I'd rather be driving this plot forward a little faster- Edward's Bumper Sticker

She asks him where to go. "Take the one-oh-one north," he says (pg. 253). Um. There's no denying that looks weird and ugly on the page. One-oh-one? I can't understand why it would even be important to include this detail. It seems like you can get your characters into a car and driving without having to relate all the stupid boring bullshit about directions. People who feel like they have to write about every time a character exhales or eats a meal strike me as having a specific and weird imaginative deficit.

They eventually get to their destination: the forest! An outdoorsy girl like Bella is really going to love that! "Don't worry," Edward says, "it's only five miles or so" (pg. 254).

Are you fucking retarded Edward? Do you ever want to get laid in your life? A nice dinner! A picnic if you insist on the outdoors! Somewhere close, though! Jesus!

And he's not joking! They get out and walk five miles. They take off their sweaters and Bella is momentarily stunned because Edward's shirt is unbuttoned underneath. So he was wearing a sweater over an unbuttoned shirt? That would be really uncomfortable.

Eventually they get to a beautiful clearing. Bella waxes poetic again, talking about "buttery sunshine" and "gilded air" and all that bullshit. But Edward is still lingering by the treeline. He's preparing to show Bella what happens when the "buttery sunshine" shines over "the marble contours of his chest."

I don't know what's going to happen, but I bet the description of it is going to be RIDICULOUS.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

BLOGGING TWILIGHT, pt. 11: It's (Not Very) Complicated

About three things I am absolutely positive. First, I am reading Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer (N.B. It was recently pointed out to me, in the comments, that Meyer spells her first name with that bizarre second e, so I have been spelling her name incorrectly the entire time. Sorry about that. I’m not going to go back and correct anything, but let the record show that I regret the error. What is with that, though?). Second, there is a part of me – and I don’t know how potent that part is – that is kind of enjoying this. And third, previous entries can unconditionally and irrevocably be found in the archives.

Chapter 11: Complications

In Biology class, they watch a movie. Really the best part of high school, isn’t it? I had a Physics class in which we watched such educational films as Roland Emmerich’s “The Day After Tomorrow.” I was especially offended that such a film was screened in a Physics class. Show me the Law of Physics that justifies Jake Gyllenhaal racing against sub-zero air, and actually beating the sub-zero air, in a footrace, and then locking it outside. That’s what Newton thought of when the apple landed on his head and then he had to outrun that tornado, right? Somewhat more appropriately, we also watched an Eagle’s reunion concert. Not kidding at all. The fact that Don Henley has been gaining entropy all this time and can still utilize centrifugal force to play the drums is really something.

Plus my teacher broke his leg in a skiing accent and was out for like two weeks, and so we watched more (actually relatively educational in purpose, but not necessarily on-topic) movies. So I don’t know a single fucking thing about Physics. And I’m pretty sure I got an A in that class.

Bella doesn’t have such a blissful, incredulous time as I did, though, because there’s a whole lot of tension at her table when the lights go out.



Bella describes a feeling of unexpected electricity between Edward and herself. She has a crazy impulse to reach out and touch him. Has this poor girl never been even remotely turned on before?

Maybe we should start talking about the fact that S. Meyer is a Mormon. I knew this would come up eventually, but the sexual tension in the last few chapters has been so bizarre and so unlike normal sexual tension that I really don’t know what to make of it. Bella has no specific religious affiliation (yet), so it’s not like this book is supposed to convert young girls to the LDS church (yet), but Bella also seems to be completely unaware that sex exists. And that’s weird. She’s a high school student in the aughts. Shouldn’t Jessica be inviting her to blowjob parties and that sort of thing?

Edward notices the electricity too, and when he walks Bella to gym afterward, he finally acts on his urges:

He raised his hand, hesitant, conflict raging in his eyes, then swiftly brushed the length of my cheekbone with his fingertips. (pg. 220)

That’s basically third base, right?

In gym, Mike gets all up in Bella’s face about her suddenly-more-public relationship with Edward. Bella tells him to mind his own fucking beeswax (I’m paraphrasing).

“I don’t like it,” he muttered anyway.
“You don’t have to,” I snapped.

“He looks at you like…like you’re something to eat,” he continued, ignoring me.
I choked back the hysteria that threatened to explode, but a small giggle managed to get out despite my efforts. (pg. 221)

I’m thinking Bella is laughing because Edward has already literally threatened to eat her, but the rest of us are laughing for a different reason. These sorts of double-entendres go totally unnoticed in Forks (and by S. Meyer, right? How could she not see how that would read?).

So we’re actually approaching this Saturday date—original destination Seattle, current destination TBD. For the rest of the week, Edward and Bella follow a sort of routine. He picks her up; they talk. They go to class; they don’t talk. They go to lunch, they talk. They go to biology and a video plays; they suffer through agonizing sexual tension until the lights come back on. This goes on for somewhere between two and 2,000 days. I can’t really remember. They might be watching Apocalypse Now Redux in Bio or something.

One night Edward more clearly articulates why Bella could never go with them on a hunting trip.

“When we hunt,” he spoke slowly, unwillingly, “we give ourselves over to our senses…govern less with our minds. Especially our sense of smell. If you were anywhere near me when I lost control that way…” He shook his head. (pg. 225)

Naturally Bella goes home and has sex dreams. Not explicitly (the dreams are probably explicit, if Bella has a basic grasp of birds-and-the-bees [which is not necessarily clear] but they are not detailed explicitly by S. Meyer, sadly) of course:

…the climate of my unconscious had changed. It thrilled with the same electricity that had charged the afternoon, and I tossed and turned relentlessly, waking often. (pg. 226)

Edward questions Bella about all sorts of things—favorite color and all the requisites. Her favorite color is brown. Make of that what you will. When Edward asks what CD is in her player right now, the most god-awful egregious example of S. Meyer being unwilling to mention band names occurs:

I realized I’d never removed the CD Phil had given me. When I said the name of the band, he smiled crookedly, a peculiar expression in his eyes. He flipped open a compartment under his car’s CD player, pulled out one of the thirty or so CDs that were jammed into the small space, and handed it to me.
“Debussy to this,” He raised an eyebrow.
It was the same CD. I examined the familiar cover art, keeping my eyes down.


WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?

Edward spends a whole day asking Bella questions. Bella mostly talks about books and feels self-conscious (I am you, Bella). They end up in Bella’s driveway chatting for hours, until Bella realizes her father will be home soon.

"It's twilight," Edward murmured, looking at the western horizon, obscured as it was with clouds. (pg. 232)

Hmmm. Why do I get the sense this section will be important somehow?

"It's the safest time of day for us," he said... "The easiest time. But also the saddest, in a way... the end of another day, the return of the night." (pg. 233)

I don't know if he means he and Bella, with that "us," or if he just means vampires in general. Either way, he's wrong about all that safety, because a car pulls up and Edward gets all weird and peaces out.

It's not Charlie - although he's around the corner -Jacob Black and an old Indian dude are there, and before Edward pulls out (of the DRIVEWAY, pervert!) he gives them a stare Bella interprets as defiant.

Bella recognizes Jacob's voice first, which is kind of impressive, and then gets a look at the old dude through the rain:

In the passenger seat was a much older man, a heavy-set man with a memorable face - a face that overflowed, the cheeks resting against his shoulders...

WHAT. I'm picturing like, the biggest face ever.

Chief Black (My Artistic Rendering)

And that huge face is giving Bella the (presumably also huge) evil eye. Did he recognize Edward as one of the Cold Ones? Ummmm.... yes, probably.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

BLOGGING TWILIGHT, pt. 10: Three Characters In Search Of A Jacket

About three things I am absolutely positive. First, I am reading Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer. Second, there is a part of me – and I don’t know how potent that part is – that is kind of enjoying this. And third, previous entries can unconditionally and irrevocably be found in the archives.

Chapter 10: Interrogations

So the first thing you have to understand about this chapter is that there is a lot of business involving jackets. Bella left her jacket in Jessica’s car way back in Port Angeles, so at the restaurant and on the ride home Edward gave Bella his jacket [Fig. 1]. She obsessed giddily about the smell, but declined to actually take it into her house because she’d have to explain to her father that she was with Edward (at which point she would have to tell her father that she even knows Edward at all).

Bella has also (obviously) not made Charlie aware that she’s planning on going to Seattle with Edward this weekend. She’s playing this one pretty close to the vest. So the morning after Port Angeles, Bella steels her mind in preparation for a trip to school sans jacket [Fig. 2]. But Edward is waiting in her driveway to pick her up (and provide the services of his jacket a second time).

A Few Visual Aids To Assist In Comprehension Of The Whole Jacket Thing (Click To Enlarge):
[Fig. 1]


[Fig. 2]

Edward walks her to class, which gives her the opportunity to at least delay filling Jessica in on the details from the previous night (since they're meeting before class to exchange jackets). Jessica is almost literally frothing at the mouth when she returns Bella’s jacket, at which point everyone now has the jacket they started out with (for the record). But Bella still has to explain her night on the town (to Jessica, who I am assuming has her own jacket, but it's never mentioned) come Trig.

I don’t have much of a grip on Bella’s school schedule. She goes to English first, it seems, then Trig, then lunch, then Biology, then Gym. But Spanish is in there somewhere. And she’s not taking History? I suppose we’ve already established that Forks High is doomed to government intervention someday anyway. Won’t somebody set up a perimeter of charter schools and put this place out of its misery?

So Bella and Edward start a little courtship. There is a lot of talking in the next few chapters, and utterly no fucking, whatsoever. Or even kissing, for that matter! You’re really just going to talk for a hundred pages, Edward and Bella? Whatever floats your (vampire) boat (in a sea of blood) I guess. But I feel like they should be fucking by now.

I’ll give S. Meyer credit for managing to work the word “ostentatious” into chapter ten on three different occasions. Edward says it every time; I think someone has a word-of-the-day calendar, no? It seems the rest of the Cullen clan drove to school in Rosalie’s (the apparently unspeakably hot blonde one—I say unspeakably because I think she hasn’t been mentioned since chapter one) red convertible. We later learn it is a BMW M3, which is essentially Greek to our heroine. “I don’t speak Car and Driver,” she says (I am you, Bella). The males of Forks High are nonetheless impressed. The fact that they are more impressed with the car than the apparently mega-hot driver makes me worried for these boys. But Forks is a curiously desexualized town. Is Morrissey the mayor here? Is there something in the water? Injun magic? I’m awaiting an explanation.

So there’s a bit of business involving the fact that Bella realizes Edward will be reading Jessica’s mind when she inevitably has to fill Jessica in on her little date. Obviously Bella isn’t going to tell her about the mind-reading vampire shit. Not that Jessica would even think to ask. She literally asks “So you like him, then?” and her follow up is “I mean, do you really like him?” (page 205). This is some Frost/Nixon shit up in here. Bella isn’t shy about making her feelings known, even though Edward is listening. She likes him. She really likes him.

Jessica says she doesn’t understand how Bella is brave enough to be alone with Edward; Jessica finds him intimidating. “He is unbelievably gorgeous,” Jessica says—“as if this excused any flaws,” Bella editorializes (pg. 204). Uhhh, I think this is a little of the ol’ pot calling the kettle superficial, you know? Haven’t we been listening to Bella rhapsodize about Edward’s physical attributes for the better part of 200 pages now? Bella manages to distract Jessica by talking about Mike, but not before she lets slip that she thinks her feelings for Edward are stronger than Edward’s for her.

Edward and Bella have lunch together; Bella ends up daring Edward to eat a bite of food and, kind of shockingly, he does it. He eats a bite of pizza. Is that going to be in his stomach forever? How does this work? If vampires CAN eat food without any problems, why wouldn’t they do it? Edward compares it to eating dirt, but is it really that bad? The prime directive for the Cullens seems to be “blend in”—this is Edward’s explanation for why Rosalie doesn’t ordinarily drive the M3 to school, and he mentions it a few other times. Clearly all of the other students have noticed their family habit of buying a bunch of food and not eating it, so don’t you think they should change-up a bit? If the Cullens are all so old, why are they so stupid?

Edward confronts her about the whole I-like-you-more-than-you-like-me thing. “His liquid topaz eyes were penetrating,” Bella says (pg. 209). Jesus. Liquid Topaz is my new band name. Anyway, he says he likes her just as much as she likes him. Thankfully, they don’t get into one of those “No, I love YOU more” arguments. Yet.

There’s still a lot of tension, though. Bella tells Edward she feels like when he’s saying one thing, what he’s really trying to do is say “goodbye.” This theme has been hinted at for the last few chapters (and in most songs from the 1990s), but I thought Edward had already decided, Huck Finn-like, to just go ahead and do what he knew to be bad. So what’s with all the misgivings a hundred or so pages later? He’s also hurt that Bella won’t tell her father about him.

“Won’t you want to tell your father that you’re spending the day with me?” There was an undercurrent to his question that I didn’t understand. (pg. 213)

You don’t understand the need to be accepted, Bella? Have you no soul?

“Why in the world would I do that?”
His eyes were suddenly fierce. “To give me some small incentive to bring you back.”
(pg. 214)

Oh um, okay. Not really what I was expecting. Sorry Bella.

Bella asks what exactly they were hunting over the weekend, mentioning that her father said no one camps wherever Edward said they'd been camping (Goat Balls Rocks? No, that can't be right) because of all the bears. Edward confirms it: they were hunting fucking bears. Badass.

He goes on to compare Emmett’s hunting style to that of a bear. It’s basically like Hans Landa’s speech about Jews and Rats the beginning of Inglourious Basterds except not anywhere near as creepy or interesting.

“Are you like a bear, too?” I asked in a low voice.
“More like the lion, or so they tell me,” he said lightly. “Perhaps our preferences are indicative.” (pg. 216)

Perhaps you shouldn’t be so fucking transparent with your symbolism, Stephanie Meyer!

That's all for this week, but a few weeks ago Suzette posited that maybe I was suffering from some sort of Stockholm Syndrome, identifying with Bella so much. Maybe that's true; I just know now that research for this blog is taking a real toll. Check it out.

Friday, January 22, 2010

BLOGGING TWILIGHT, pt. 9: STFU Bella

I’ve been reading Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer, for reasons I’ve only partially managed to articulate. It’s really beside the point now. Buy the ticket, take the ride, right? Previous entries can be found in the archives.

Chapter 9: Theory

In the car, Bella doesn’t let Edward start asking questions yet. She wants to know how he knew she’d headed south after bypassing the dowdy bookstore—reading Jessica’s mind wouldn’t have gotten him that far. “I followed your scent,” he confesses (pg. 180). Gross.

She continues to pester him about the mind-reading—this is when she calls it make-believe so it’s unclear why she’s even asking—she wonders why he can’t read her mind. He speculates that maybe Bella is on the AM frequency and he’s only getting FM. That’s a nice analogy, but the child of the 90s inside me feels like he should have told Bella she was on the FM frequency—having an AM mind sounds like a veiled insult.

I had political science professors who loved to cite a poll from before the election that stated that voters associated Obama with brands like Coke and Nike and Sony and other “cool” stuff, whereas voters associated McCain with products like Pepto Bismol and Bengay. I’m sure that poll really happened. Still, to this day, it is the dumbest thing to which a professor has attempted to assign meaning.

How on earth could data about brand associations be collected in a way that wasn’t statistically insignificant or misleading? If you asked a thousand people what brand they most associated with Obama, don’t you think you’d get at least 500 or 600 individual answers? Thousands upon thousands of people write-in a fictional character for President every four years, but Homer Simpson and Mickey Mouse don’t show up on any of the final tallies because a hundred people pick Homer, a hundred more pick Mickey, 200 more pick “Lizard People” and a thousand other people write down their own name. So maybe 11 percent of people polled associated Obama with Coke, 11 percent associated him with Nike, and another 11 percent associated him with Sony, but the remaining 67 percent was one or two points each for fifty-odd other brands. Does the poll tell us anything? No, but it will still get published and written about in 40 newspapers. The only other way this happened is a guy went around with a list that read “Coke, Nike, Sony, Pepto Bismol, Bengay” and asked people to indicate which presidential candidate each product made them think of.

The point being—well, I guess the above point is that polls are dumb—but the original point was going to be that I actually would associate Obama with FM and McCain with AM, but Sarah Palin would be FM too (the sort of FM station that makes you groan when you pass it on SCAN, because they’re playing Nickelback or Big & Rich or what have you). Clinton was FM, even George W. Bush was FM. George H.W. Bush was AM. Carter was AM. Nixon was AM. Reagan was TV.

Bella eventually confronts Edward with Jacob’s story, and he basically cops to it without saying the word “vampire.” Again, it’s sort of unclear how much Bella understands. She says it doesn’t matter to her what he is, even if he isn’t human (he pretty much already cleared that one up for you, Bella). Bella’s laissez-faire philosophy pisses Edward off briefly, but he somehow seems to have curbed his mood swings for the most part. His lips “press together in a cautious line” but he doesn’t tear the steering column out or go on a shooting spree. He’s growing up! Well, not really:

“How old are you?”
“Seventeen,” he answered promptly.
“And how long have you been seventeen?”
His lips twitched as he stared at the road. “A while,” he admitted at last.

Great line, but that’s not how age works, Edward! Finally Stephanie Meyer gets her paragraph breaks right, by the way, did you notice?

Edward likes to drive really fast, apparently almost 100 mph, but I don’t believe for a second that you could get a Volvo anywhere near that speed. Bella points out that Edward would survive a car crash, but she probably wouldn’t. The Don Draper inside me realizes this would be a perfect time for Edward to mention casually that Volvos are very safe and durable—I bet that C30 has a roll-cage like something Jeff Gordon would drive in the Daytona 500. Hell, the car I once crashed into a boat was a Volvo. I'm still here.

"Edward told me that in Greek, 'nostalgia' literally means 'the pain from an old wound.' It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. I mean a Volvo. It's a Volvo. Did I say time machine? What the fuck?"-Don Draper

Again, without ever actually using the word vampire, Edward dismisses a bunch of myths about vampires. They don’t get burned by the sun, they don’t sleep in coffins—in fact they don’t even sleep. Edward admits this last bit as though it is something very tragic about himself—it’s a somber moment in an otherwise lively conversation (about how Edward is a vampire with a thirst for human flesh but still). To me, that’s the biggest selling point to being a vampire. Never having to sleep? Wow! Think about how much shit you could get done!

Twilight has incurred the wrath of a certain type of fanboy for taking these liberties with the vampire myth. I’m thinking of that horrible video from around the time the New Moon film came out, when some asshole (think Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons with a fascist streak) rounded up a bunch of Twilight fans, promised them a screening of the film (this was opening night, mind you) and instead decided to lecture them about what vampires were really supposed to be like. I won’t even link to the video—these kind of mean-spirited stunts have proliferated on the internet as people lust after “going viral”—and I hate that look of self-satisfaction unfunny people get when they think they are being funny.

The worst part is the people who complain about this stuff are wrong. Twilight would in some way be desecrating the myth of the vampire, I suppose, if the normal notion of a vampire was totally ignored—in other words if the conversation in the car never took place—but Twilight is a post-vampire-novel novel. Stephanie Meyer’s creation is a world in which the myths about vampires exist, vampire movies exist, vampire novels exist. And the vampires who exist in the real world are different—the myths didn’t quite have it right.

So vampires of yore exist in this wholly separate sphere, a totally alternate reality in which vampires are real and have no knowledge of a realm in which they are not real. Twilight exists in the same sphere any other YA novel exists in—the real world—where the characters are conscious of the other, fictional vampire sphere. So vampires, in Twilight, are both real (in the Cullen-variety) and not real (in the Dracula variety). I’m sorry if this sounds incredibly obvious to you, but some people apparently need to be taught this.

This scene in chapter nine also contains this phrase: “his tone was as hard as his face” (pg. 183). I feel like there’s a dirty joke to be made there, but I can’t get the bat off my shoulder. One thing about these scenes between Edward and Bella that especially bothers me is that Stephanie Meyer feels the need to qualify every single line with a particular, specific emotion. This is what my arguably-dogmatic writing teacher was afraid of having to deal with when she outlawed variations on “said.” On page 186, Edward asks a question “sarcastically,” then has a “bleak” voice two lines later, asks something “flatly” two lines after that, and then has a voice described as “deeply skeptical” two lines after that. Almost every line has an accompanying detail and reading it is exhausting. On the next pages he whispers, then warns, then explains slowly, then murmurs, and then his voice is “very low.”

So Bella inquires as to the purpose of Edward’s trip with Emmett the previous weekend. It turns out they were hunting, but Bella is a little upset to learn that they returned on Sunday. That, of course, doesn’t explain his absence from school at the start of the week, which Bella points out bitterly. Edward explains he can’t be seen in public when the weather is nice, even though he doesn’t burst into flames or anything. Hey, wait, wasn’t it supposed to be Edward’s turn to ask questions in this chapter? Shut up, Bella.

Shit gets heavy in the car when Edward realizes it’s dangerous for him to be around Bella alone. “This is wrong,” he says (actually, he “groaned quietly” per S. Meyer) and Bella bites her lip again (pg. 190). Is that four or five lip bites so far? I lost count.

Edward drops Bella off, promising to actually come to school the next day. Bella avoids telling the whole truth to her father, who is a little bewildered that she is home before eight.

How’s My Driving? – Edward’s Bumper Sticker
If You Can Read This, You’re Also A Vampire So Let’s Have A Race – Edward’s other Bumper Sticker
I’d Rather Be Driving A Stake Through Your Heart – My wife’s suggestion

Bella goes up to her room after taking a deliberately long shower again (this might be some kind of OCD symptom actually) and a key passage follows. I know it is key, because it’s also on the back of the book:

About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how potent that part might be – that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him (pg. 195).

Oddly, the blurb on the back misquotes this passage slightly, substituting “dominant” for “potent.” I don’t know what’s up with that. “Dominant” is kind of better, being more evocative of a struggle between Edward’s good and evil sides, the heartthrob and the monster, the Jekyll and the Vampire, but whatever.

Friday, January 15, 2010

BLOGGING TWILIGHT, pt. 8: Never mind, I'm Team Edward

So I've been reading Twilight and writing about my experience-- you can find the previous installments in the archives. I have actually recently outfitted a TUMBLR page to essentially aggregate all of the posts from this site and the AngryFilmsProductions site, at which I also occasionally write about subjects including-but-not-limited-to Twilight. So you can actually just check there, because you will also see videos I have written and (sort of) acted in. It is at http://zaclittle.tumblr.com.

It occurs to me that the “wise-beyond-her-years” narrator device is a pretty clever way to get out of writing in the voice of an actual teenager, just as “writing in the voice of an actual teenager” is a great way to get out of using proper grammar and usage. Stephanie Meyer’s writing exists at the weird nexus between these two excuses. That’s the meanest thing I’ve written about this book so far, but it’s true.

Chapter 8: Port Angeles

Bella goes to Port Angeles with Jessica and Angela (the antagonistic Lauren could not come because of the rescheduling) and is invigorated by “the estrogen rush” (pg. 152). Bella learns that Lauren dislikes her because she likes Tyler (he of the car crash and subsequent botched seduction). What’s more, Tyler has been telling everyone that he is taking Bella to the Prom—an over-interpretation of an earlier exchange when a freshly rejected Tyler says, “there’s always Prom” and Bella replies in the affirmative. This is the pettiest of unreal high school concerns, and yet I was OUTRAGED at this.

Bella manages to get a bit of gossip out of Angela when she asks if the Cullens are often out of school. Angela says they are out whenever the weather is nice, because Dr. Cullen takes them all hiking. He doesn’t have duties at the hospital? Guess you can't get sick when the weather's nice in Forks! This town has weirder rules than that, I guess.

When the girls finish shopping, Bella breaks off from the group for a while to find a bookstore. The one Jessica directs her to is a little dowdy, so she wanders off further, maybe in search of a Borders or something. Volvo doesn’t own any bookstores so no brand names are mentioned. She gets briefly harassed by a group of slightly older guys, but extracts herself, only to have two of the four start following her. Naturally, she gets freaked out. It’s getting dark, and she seems to have failed in her efforts to find another commercial center—it’s pretty desolate on the street.

The situation dawns on Bella over several pages; it is really well done and dread-filled. Bella tries to ditch the two following her, only to find the other two and the end of a street—they were cornering her. Bella tries to remember the self-defense moves she knows and prepares to scream just as a car flies around the corner. A familiar voice commands her to get in, and guess who it is? Edward pulls away, swerving intentionally toward the would-be gang-rapists but not actually running them over. Edward is full of righteous anger, and it is awesome. I am Team Edward.

“Are you okay?” I asked, surprised at how hoarse my voice sounded.
“No,” he said curtly, and his tone was livid.
(pg. 162)

That “and” (and "was") notwithstanding, the conversation in the car is great.

“Distract me, please,” he ordered.
“I’m sorry, what?”
He exhaled sharply.
[paragraph break sic:]
“Just prattle on about something unimportant until I calm down,” he clarified, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. (pg. 163)

Part of me wanted Bella to order Edward back there to dismember those mooks in short order, but Bella is not Carmela Soprano. Instead, Edward insists on taking Bella to dinner. They find Angela and Jessica, who have been waiting a while, but not sufficiently panicked for my taste.

There’s a lot of comedy in this chapter derived from Edward talking to other women—given his reticent school persona, he clearly doesn’t make much use of his sex-eyes power. When he asks if he can join the girls at dinner, he nearly knocks Jessica unconscious.

EDWARD:
"May I join you?"

JESSICA:
But it turns out the other girls already ate while they were waiting. So Edward offers to drive Bella home himself, and the girls leave. At the restaurant, the hostess greets Edward “a little more warmly then necessary” as far as Bella is concerned (pg. 167). He requests a more private table than the one they are given first—Bella notes she’s never seen anyone make such a demand outside of old movies—and when the hostess brings them to a more isolated area he flashes a smile that momentarily stupefies the poor girl.

The brand-name embargo is lifted at the restaurant—Bella and Edward both order “Cokes” and not “colas.” So there’s that. It does provide a funny quote when taken out of context—this exchange happens when Bella starts shivering:

“Are you cold?”
“It’s just the coke,” I explained, shivering again.
(pg. 169)

I might have neglected to capitalize one of those words up there.

The conversation is long but whatever distance was once between them has dissolved. Edward is honest with Bella about his ability to read minds and more or less confesses to being a vampire without using the word “vampire.” The problem is, I don’t know if Bella is getting the message or not.

When Bella asks hypothetically about how reading minds would work, and Edward engages the question, Bella says she is “thrilled that he was playing along” (pg. 172). Eventually the hypothetical pretense drops away, but Bella still seems to think she’s a few layers removed from the truth. In the next chapter she feels ridiculous “asking for clarification on make-believe” when he is still explaining the finer points of mind-reading (pg. 180). Other than the occasional aside like this, there’s no strong indication whether we readers are supposed to think Edward is lying or Bella is stupid. We’re stuck in the middle, not knowing if we should believe Edward or believe Bella’s disbelief (if that’s even what it is). It’s a little distracting.

Edward remarks that Bella seems prone to trouble—that only she could almost get gang-raped in a small town. Funny guy, by the way! “You would have devastated their crime rate statistics for a decade,” he says (pg. 173). “Crime rate statistics” is an irritating redundancy that has been bothering me ever since I read it. And yes, in case you are thinking it: “irritating redundancy” is a redundancy to anyone who understands the basic concept of redundancy.

He also basically tells Bella he almost murdered her—she jokes that he’s saved her life two times now and maybe her number is just up. “Your number was up the first time I met you,” he says (pg. 175). Naturally, this turns Bella on. A few lines down there is this:

“You remember?” he asked, his angel’s face grave. (pg. 175).

Angel’s Face Grave is my new band name. He explains that he followed her to Port Angeles and kept mental tabs on Jessica but eventually lost track, at which point he stumbled upon the inner thoughts of the would-be-rapists. Rape make Edward angry. He almost crush puny humans. But he didn’t. They leave the restaurant, and as the chapter ends Edward tells Bella it’s her turn to answer questions. That’s right: this conversation lasts two chapters.

BLOGGING TWILIGHT, pt. 7: The Volvo Paradox

I’ve been reading Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. And how long have I been reading it? A long time. Previous installments can be found in the archives.

Chapter 7: Nightmare

Bella goes home and blares some death metal into her headphones to try and turn her brain off—she listens to the CD over and over again until she falls asleep, her clothes and shoes still on. This is where I first started to pick up on the curious avoidance of brand names in this book.

I’m not against the notion of product placement in most forms of media—there has been a pop-culture discussion as of late, mostly because of shows like 30 Rock and The Office, which both prominently feature actual (presumably paid) product placement and winking, over-obvious (presumably un-paid) jokes about-and-involving product placement. This inevitably triggered a discussion—it seems like it was designed to (Either that or it reflects the misgivings of the showrunners who get for paid-product placement and then feel guilty for some reason). Someone, maybe Greg Daniels actually, mentioned that he thought it would be awkward to have someone drinking some generic or invented soda when they could easily be having a Coke. There’s no use pretending the ubiquity of advertising does not exist, especially if you are depicting an honest portrait of American life. So why avoid brand names? And this is coming from someone who read No Logo! Those of us sensitive to advertising aren’t going to be brainwashed, and those who already have been brainwashed (people who think adherence to specific brands imparts something essential about their class and/or identity, that sort of thing) aren’t going to be saved anyway. Plus, every form of media, these days, is looking for new sources of revenue. And so, if the money is there, and you could get paid for featuring the brand names that you might as well feature anyway given that they are an inexorable part of American culture, why not take it? If these companies are going to offer it, what do you really lose?

Product placement and other forms of brand-sponsorship seem crass in theory, but in practice it is usually instituted in a way that doesn’t compromise artistic integrity anyway. Gawker getting sponsored for a day by a vodka company isn’t out of step with that website’s ethos. A sponsored post about a relevant book on Talking Points Memo wouldn’t freak me out, if it ever happened. If Tony Soprano is going to drink a soda or McNulty is going to drink a bottle of whisky—acts not out of step with their respective characters—why shouldn’t it be Coke or Jameson? And if David Chase or David Simon can make extra money and keep working because of that, so much the better, right? The sort of show or website that would misuse product placement is the kind I wouldn’t watch or read anyway. Artistic Integrity will survive this economy.

So where do books fall into all of this? We tend to think of books as aspiring toward higher art, but isn’t that also true of The Sopranos or The Wire? Wouldn’t most people consider those shows higher forms of art than Twilight? But wouldn’t those same people consider product placement on television as possibly valid or maybe unavoidable but nonetheless object vehemently to product placement in books, probably in rather absolute terms? What I’m saying is, this is a more complicated issue than many people acknowledge, and I personally am not necessarily against product placement, maybe even in books.

All of that said, there is something weird and terrifying going on with the brands in this book. If you’re not getting paid (and let’s assume for a moment that Stephanie Meyer is not) then anytime you can reasonably (read: not awkwardly) avoid mentioning a brand name you probably should; this being a text-based medium in which Bella drinking “a soda” is less bizarre than Joey from Friends drinking Red Brand Cola. Which is why it is a little strange when the next morning Bella says she types “vampire” into “my favorite search engine” (pg. 133). This is an inarguably awkward and jarring phrase. I don’t know anyone who has a favorite search engine. This is a situation distinctly different from the cola example. It certainly could have been phrased differently, but the way it is phrased now it only draws attention to the absence of a specific brand name. It’s a gaping hole in the page. She also keeps referring to the CD by the band she is listening to as the CD by the band she is listening to. It’s like how you would talk to your grandmother about music, avoiding proper nouns so as to not confuse her.

There’s an argument to be made that these sort of precautions could be made to make the work timeless, but the notion that Bella uses a dial-up modem and listens to a CD player was already becoming antiquated in 2005.

And then of course there is the Volvo. Edward drives a Volvo. We know this, because the word “Volvo” appears in nearly every chapter. “Silver car” is a less awkward phrase than “my favorite search engine” so it’s not like it was an unavoidable detail. “Silver sedan” even has some nice alliteration to it! As many already know, the Volvo is now a rather integrated part of the Twilight Marketing Universe. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury:



PODCAST: "The Twilight Vampires Would Like To Sell You A Volvo"- Hatecast

I would at this point like to point out that I am reading a first paperback edition of Twilight, published 11 months after the first hardcover edition. The phrase “my favorite search engine” is awkward enough to suggest to me that it was a substitution from an earlier draft (“I finally made it to the Google homepage”). Or even, dare I suggest it, an earlier edition?

Of course, it doesn’t make sense that Volvo would have the foresight to know that Twilight would be a merchandising juggernaut three years after publication. Before a single book had been published? No way. Talk about long odds! How could a deal like that even be brokered? But how else do we explain the fact that the only brand that seems to appear throughout is Volvo? Does Stephanie Meyer’s father OWN Volvo? What the fuck is going on here?

Bella has a nightmare in which she is tormented on all-sides: Edward, all sharp-toothed and vampire-y, Jacob, who turns into a wolf (um, spoiler alert?), and Mike, who is such a pussy only his disembodied voice shows up in the dream. Dream-Bella is taken with a manic desire to find the sun, sort of like Oswald Alving at the end of Ghosts. She wakes up at 5:30 in the morning, angry at her own sub-conscious for forcing her to confront the information she’d worked so hard to ignore the night before. She buys some time by taking a long shower, but eventually she has to face her demons and do a web-search on the word “vampire” (at the aforementioned myfavoritesearchengine.com).

It seemed that most vampire myths centered around beautiful women as demons and children as victims; they also seemed like constructs created to explain away the high mortality rates for young children, and to give men an excuse for infidelity. (pg. 134)

Bella’s analysis of vampire-myths is entertaining, but I’ve come to dislike when non-fiction intrudes upon fiction. I recently read Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell, which fashions itself after old detective novels but reminds me more of the sort of things I liked about Chuck Palahniuk (meaning it did not have the Chuck Palahniuk-ian urge to be as disgusting as possible as frequently as possible, at least until the last few chapters). The medical info dished by the narrator is interesting, but becomes increasingly ridiculous until I sort of felt misled. Not that I was going to put any of that information to practical use anyway, but I was mentally storing away some of the anecdotes about the medical profession for future social gatherings, essentially assuming that they were true and the narrative around them was the fiction, until I read the author’s disclaimer at the end of the novel, in which he essentially distances himself from everything written therein.

The point is I’m getting sick of trying to distinguish when the non-fiction intruding upon my fiction is fictitious and when it is not. So I assume it is always made up. Which makes this section especially boring, because Bella’s research leads to a series of dead-ends. She starts to realize just how ridiculous she looks, reading about vampires on the internet (an irony apparently lost on most of the denizens of the Twilight Fandom Online Community and, I guess, me). She decides that most of the blame belongs “on the doorstep of the town of Forks” a mixed-metaphor we’ll let her get away with for the time being. Bella turns her computer off manually in frustration, not shutting it down correctly on purpose. The part of me that is very protective of my computers and other devices winced in pain at this.

Bella wanders into the woods to contemplate whether or not Jacob’s story is possible. She does a mental checklist of Edward’s more unusual traits: the super-speed, the changing eye-color, the super-strength. He “sometimes spoke with unfamiliar cadences and phrases that better fit the style of a turn-of-the-century novel,” she says (pg. 138). When exactly? Maybe page 106: “Would she extend the same courtesy to you, do you think? No matter who your choice was?” is the closest unfamiliar cadence I could find at a glance. This is not something Bella has really noted before.

She decides that the Cullens are definitely something. “Something outside the possibility of rational justification was taking place in front of my incredulous eyes” (pg. 138). If I had to describe that sentence in one word, I think I’d go with “Palin-esque.” Or “clusterfuck.”

Bella argues with herself in a scene reminiscent on Gollum arguing with his own reflection in the Lord of the Rings. Her ego and id ultimately conclude that whether Edward is a vampire or not, they don’t care.

On page 139 she analyzes her own dream but uses too many masculine pronouns, making it sort of difficult to determine whether or not she is saying she is afraid of vampire Edward or werewolf Jacob or either of them or both of them. It’s supposed to underscore her decision to not care about what Edward is, so the pronouns probably (mostly) refer to him.

She’s happy she made a decision, but uh, did she? She goes into the forest to decide whether or not Edward is a vampire and decides that it doesn’t matter. Kind of a cop-out, Bella.

Next day it’s sunny out, and Bella is in a good mood. She leaves for school. “By dint of much elbow grease, I was able to get both windows in the truck almost completely rolled down” (pg. 142). By dint of much elbow grease? Now who is using unfamiliar cadences better fitting a turn-of-the-century novel, eh?

Mike hits on Bella before class, noting that her hair has red in it, and taking the liberty of tucking a stray strand behind her ear. “I became just a little uncomfortable,” Bella says. I became a lot uncomfortable. Mike asks her out again, and she finally tells him (at least part of) the truth: Jessica really likes him (the other part of the truth being she thinks he is a fucking creep). He is “dazed” by the news (pg. 144). The scene is sort of amusing, especially Bella threatening to beat Mike to death if he should tell Jessica what she is telling him. Maybe I just find the image of Mike being beaten to death amusing. The problem is the whole notion of a guy-liking-a-girl and-then-suddenly-being-made-aware-of-the-pretty-girl-who-liked-him-all-along is a little too cliché to be all that interesting.

Bella gets invited to Port Angeles to shop with Jessica, Angela, and Lauren (a.k.a. Doesn’t Like Bella Because of Mike, Likes Bella Fine, and Doesn’t Like Bella for Reasons Unknown) for the upcoming dance. She agrees to go, but the trip gets pushed back a day because Mike asks Jessica out to dinner. Great! Does that mean we can stop hearing about this asshole for a while?

The bad news is that Edward doesn’t show up for school for the next two days. Bella starts to worry about their planned Seattle trip at the end of the week, which is the day of the dance. Haven’t these girls kind of waited until the last minute to find a dress, by the way?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

BLOGGING TWILIGHT, pt. 6: I am Team Jacob

For the past month or so I’ve embarked on a bit of an experiment. Having no real knowledge of the Twilight phenomenon outside of its existence as a phenomenon, I decided to investigate the series by reading all four installments. So far I have read more deeply than I probably originally planned—this series is rapidly approaching the 10,000 word mark and I have barely overtaken page 100 of book one, Twilight. Previous installments can be found here.

Chapter 6: Scary Stories

So finally in this chapter we meet Mr. Jacob Black, a character I understand to be very important. I know this from seeing the hysteria at places such as the New Moon premiere, where middle-aged women professed their (seemingly sexual) attraction to a fictional character who is fifteen years old. More on that later, I’m sure.

Bella finally goes on Mike’s beach trip—he greets her ecstatically when she arrives, much to the chagrin of the other girls. The Bella-hate among the female population of Forks has been gradually building, apropos of basically nothing. The undying affection of Mike and Tyler (he of the “Sorry I almost murdered you would you like to go on a date?” school of flirtation) is probably the biggest factor, which is a little crazy. These girls don’t have better boys to chase? They carpool from Mike’s parents’ store to the beach (at least they are environmentally conscious) and basically nothing happens for a long time. The prose in the (eventual) romantic scenes better sweep me off my feet because I’m not feeling particularly moved by Stephanie Meyer’s description of nature. To wit:

The water was dark gray, even in the sunlight, white-capped and heaving to the gray, rocky shore. Islands rose out of the steel harbor waters with sheer cliff sides, reaching to uneven summits, and crowned with austere, soaring firs. The beach had only a thin border of actual sand at the water’s edge, after which it grew into millions of large, smooth stones that looked uniformly gray from a distance, but up close every shade a stone could be: terra-cotta, sea green, lavender, blue gray, dull gold. The tide line was strewn with huge driftwood trees, bleached bone white in the salt waves, some piled together against the edge of the forest fringe, some lying solitary, just out of reach of the waves.
There was a brisk wind coming off the waves, cool and briny. Pelicans floated on the swells while seagulls and a lone eagle wheeled above them. The clouds still circled the sky, threatening to invade at anyyyyy;oanPD WFCUwqe (pg. 114-115)

Sorry, I just died of boredom trying to type the rest of that out. It’s like a sixth-grade writing prompt: “describe the beach, using as much florid language as you can muster.” I read that section like ten times to see if there was anything in it. It’s the literary equivalent of static on a TV screen. If I had a Kindle I’d be looking for the tracking button.

I will give Meyer credit for utilizing the “list-of-items-sans-conclusive-and/or” (I'm sure there's a better term for that) in the middle of the first quoted paragraph, which gets her out of having to literally list “every shade a stone can be.” I’ll tell you there are definitely more than five shades.

It’s not that I have a problem with florid descriptions, per se, it’s just that it really ought to be in service of the story, you know? JK Rowling gets away with endlessly describing Hogwarts because we’re experiencing it through the wonder-struck eyes of Harry Potter. I’m not buying Bella’s wonder-struck-ness here. It just feels like the book needed some padding.

Speaking of padding, the first half of the beach trip goes like this: blah blah blah girls are mad at Bella blah tide pools blah beautiful blah blah Bella is clumsy blah blah Mike blah Jessica jealous blah something something a bunch of Native Americans show up.

Bella doesn’t catch all of the Natives’ names (they all look the same, right Bella?) but she picks up on one named Jacob who shows a flash of recognition at Bella’s name when it is Mike’s turn to introduce the white people. It’s a strangely formal introduction: one male per ethnic group introduces everyone else. Apparently this Indian reservation has a lot of rules.

Jacob eventually fills Bella in on another rule, but that’s later, after he introduces himself and they get to talking. Turns out he knew Bella when she was young—his father is the one who sold Charlie her truck. Is Jacob’s father the Chief, do you think? Since Charlie Swan is the chief of Police, you know? Is that why they are friends?

For some reason that sort of thinking reminds me of being in Kindergarten—my friend Tad used to always insist that my name, Zachary, was a composite of two names: Zack and Arie, another student in our class. I guess he figured my parents were indecisive. It’s not as bizarre an accusation as I thought at the time—I had yet to meet any Mary-Beths or Mary-Louises.

I like this Jacob fellow. He is funny and flirty, and not flirty in the Edward Cullen “I’m going to kill you or maybe fuck you but probably kill you” style. This is probably why Bella is immune to his normal, not-vaguely-threatening charms.

Bella, in turn, lays it on thick with Jacob when he accidentally lets slip that the Cullens are not allowed on the reservation and then clams up. Bella’s subsequent self-conscious attempts at hair-flipping and seductive chatter are genuinely funny. She manages to awkwardly sex-up Jacob enough that he tells her an old Indian legend about “the cold ones,” who apparently came to town and arranged a tense peace accord with the Natives many moons ago. But check this shit out: Jacob’s ancestors made the accord with “the cold ones,” but the “cold one” signatories he speaks of are literally the same ones living in Forks today! Their last name is Cullen, Jacob, not cold one! Clearly this is like getting your myths via the telephone game. I kid Jacob, I kid. He explains that these cold ones were not like the other cold ones. (Am I the only person who feels like a cold one right now?)
The Cullens, according to the myth, do not feed on humans, but rather animals, which is part of why Jacob’s people made the peace agreement. So it’s difficult to tell what the problem is. Jacob later mentions that some of his people no longer go to the hospital because Dr. Cullen works there now. That seems kind of silly! This is a weird grudge they have. I guess that’s always been the case. What did the Hatfields have against the McCoys again? Or the west coast rappers against the east coast?

One time I wrote a poem called “Juliana Hatfield” and posted it on an older iteration of this blog. After that I started getting spam comments from someone apparently offering Juliana Hatfield’s services as a prostitute. It was weird. Anyway, look for that in the comments in a few days, maybe.

So Bella is all shook up by Jacob’s story. As they leave, Jacob picks up on the weird jealousy mess that is Mike, and deliberately taunts him with his (Jacob’s) new found closeness to Bella (they wandered off alone as part of Bella’s seduction strategy). I am definitely Team Jacob. Plus, on page 123, he bites his lip! Soul mates, these two.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

BLOGGING TWILIGHT, part 5: There Will Be Blood-Typing

I’ve been reading Twilight for the past few weeks and writing about my experience. Naturally spoilers for the book Twilight follow.

Previously
Part One (Epigraph)
Part Two (Preface and Chapter 1)
Part Three (Chapter 2)
Part Four (Chapter 3)

Chapter 4: Invitations

Bella has a dream about Edward that is kind of like Tommy Lee Jones’s dream from the end of No Country For Old Men, except where the description of that dream was poetic and bleak and revealing and provocative, this dream is too boring to even summarize.

In this chapter Bella finds herself pursued on all sides by boys—there are copious side characters at Forks High that I have mostly ignored so far—one is Mike, who has been planning a beach trip since chapter one. Another is Tyler, the car crash guy, who is now following Bella around trying to make amends. Another is Eric, who is basically of no consequence whatsoever. They are not particularly well-drawn characters. Whenever someone other than Bella or Edward is mentioned, I just picture a random member of the cast of Saved By The Bell. It works well enough.

Forks High Class of 2007 (Camera Shy: Isabella Swan and Edward Cullen)

There are other girls who seem to like these boys, so Bella is playing politician/matchmaker as boys fall all over themselves trying to get asked by Bella to an upcoming dance—one of those “girls ask the guys” shindigs. Bella hates dances (I am you, Bella) so she diplomatically decides to take a trip to Seattle on that weekend and proceeds to suggest new dates as boys awkwardly throw themselves at her.

It’s actually pretty funny. Tyler, he of the motherfucking car crash, tries to hit on Bella. Perfect. It’s been like one day.

There’s still plenty of angst here; it’s not all fun and dancing. Edward is ignoring Bella, sitting facing away from her at lunch. She notices that his fists still occasionally ball up. Does this school have guidance counselors? Will someone please bring this boy to their attention?

Mike makes his aborted effort to take Bella to the dance at the start of class. Edward pretends to not be paying any attention, but I wonder what would have happened if she’d said yes and not improvised the aforementioned Seattle trip. They’d probably have to pick up pieces of Mike all over the school, and everyone would have kicked themselves for not noticing all of those warning signs.

Bella and Edward have a tense conversation in class, in which he tells her it’s “better” if they are not friends, and Bella reveals her interpretation of the whole “don’t know why I bothered” thing, which obviously shocks Edward, and inexplicably pisses him off further. On the way out of class, Bella drops her books.

I sighed and bent to pick them up. He was already there; he’d stacked them into a pile. He handed them to me, his face hard.
“Thank you,” I said icily.
His eyes narrowed.

“You’re welcome,” he retorted. (pg. 75)

That paragraph break between those last lines is Meyer’s own. I don’t know what’s going on there. Maybe someone else’s eyes were the ones that were narrowing? This same dialogue-formatting confusion happens again later, too.

In the parking lot, Eric makes his move; Bella bites her lip. Edward causes a traffic jam waiting for his siblings, and then Tyler seizes the opportunity to knock on Bella’s window like he’s going to offer to wash her windshield. He grins like a dumbass and Bella has to get a hold of herself and let him down easy, rather than, I don’t know, roll up the window on his hand, or punch him in the face, or jam her car into reverse and destroy his front bumper. Those are just a few ideas. If Bella smoked she could put out a cigarette in his face. That would work.

Bella goes home and makes dinner and generally has an internal freak-out when she concludes that her attraction to Edward must be showing—his cold shoulder is his way of letting her know the feeling isn’t mutual. When her father comes home she informs him of her trip to Seattle. He’s basically worries about her going all alone, which is a totally fair thing to be concerned about. I am an adult and I don’t like going on trips alone. But Bella is a teenage girl, and so this makes her angry. Grow up, Bella.

Next day Edward is friendly again—or at least predominantly. They have a conversation in the parking lot—in which Bella bites her lip exactly once—where Edward asks her if she would like a ride to Seattle the weekend of the dance. The ensuing fight/flirtation contains the best bon mot so far in this book. Bella is walking to class, annoyed, and Edward is repeatedly catching up to her, explaining that he was planning on going to the city anyway, and that he doubts that her truck will be able to make it all the way there. She counters that her truck works just fine.

“But can your truck make it there on one tank of gas?” He matched my pace again.
“I don’t see how that’s any of your business.” Stupid, shiny Volvo owner.
“The wasting of finite resources is everyone’s business.” (pg. 83)

BOOYAH! ZING! KABLAMO! Edward knocks that one out of the park. Anyway she agrees to go.

I’ve been reading and writing about Twilight for about three weeks now. I’m literally less than a third of the way through the first book. I’m beginning to regret this decision, but a man has to do the things he set out to do. Winston Churchill said that, I think. But he might have been drunk at the time. Anyway, I’m starting to worry about what this book is doing to me.

As I write this, it is 8:45 am on January 1st, 2010. I am listening to “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga. I inexplicably love this song. I’m not saying Twilight has anything to do with it; I’m also not saying it doesn’t. I don’t know what is happening with my life. But this song is the jam.

Chapter Five: Blood Type

Bella goes to class after Edward asks her out in sort of a daze. She’s late, but who gives a shit? I felt guilty about being late exactly once in my life.

It was freshman year, so I was attending La Salle University in Philadelphia. My roommate Sam and I had finally decided to upgrade to lofted beds in our dorm room, which would free up a lot of space. So we called building maintenance and it basically works like having a cable repair man come over: they were going to show up sometime between 1 and 5 o’clock. We planned on having to skip English that day—which was at 3 pm. But the lofted bed guys showed up at like 2:30 and were done by 2:35. Confidence inspiring, to be sure, but the point was our justification for skipping was gone. So we could have gone to class. But we’d already been planning on skipping. Never mind that it was a tiny school and we were in an even tinier honors program and we were roommates who sat next to each other in an English class of about nine people so therefore our absence would be INCREDIBLY conspicuous; we were planning on it!

So we spent a long time organizing our room before the guilt overwhelmed us and we went to class something like 45 minutes late. Our professor barely said anything about it, but when we walked in he gave us this look—he was disappointed.

I really admired that professor, for reasons including but not limited to the fact that he was the first teacher I had who started a class discussion about the word “motherfucker.” I didn’t forget that look; three years later I still feel terrible about it. But that was a totally willful decision, which is the only reason I felt bad about it.

Bella’s been swept off her feet by a fucking VAMPIRE, though. You’d think her English teacher would understand.

She gets to lunch, and Edward is not sitting with his family. He is sitting alone, and proceeds to very publicly beckon her over to him. He raises a hand and motions with his index finger. What a dick move, huh? You couldn’t get up and walk over to the girl? You have to gesture with your finger like an abusive husband?

They sit together and it’s weird, but like a good weird. “I decided as long as I was going to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly,” Edward says to her (87). This is the most bizarre appropriation of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn I have ever encountered.

One of the most famous and moving sections in that book is when Huck decides that he can no longer stomach slavery (and racism in general), despite the fact that he lacks the social awareness to see how slavery could be evil in a macro sense. As far as he is concerned, slavery is the World Order and he is being an apostate for thinking otherwise. Notably, he isn’t persuaded by a speech from an abolitionist or anything like that (a conversion in the fashion of The Jungle, say)—he comes to his own conclusion that slavery is wrong. He understands that thinking this way is sinful. He has no other way of seeing it. Nonetheless, Huck decides that he will have to go to hell, because he can’t live up to society’s interpretation of “good.” It’s a stirring moment because he makes the right decision at the expense of regarding himself as evil.

Inevitably I think of this passage when I read Edward’s line, and I doubt I’m the only one. I’m assuming it is unintentional—because I can’t see where any lines would connect. Bella is Jim, Edward is Huck? God, if Twilight starts to make weird “human is to slave as vampire is to slave owner” analogies I won’t know what to do. Like I said—I’m thinking this is an unintentional parallel, but the sentiment is eerily similar.

So Edward is suddenly more forthcoming about his attraction, telling Bella that he is sick of trying to stay away from her and all of that. He still has mid-sentence mood-swings, and I mean like every third paragraph. I’m getting sick of cataloging them. From now on, when ever I quote Edward, just imagine him starting every sentence smiling and laughing and ending every sentence sternly with “a hard edge [creeping] into his voice” (pg. 88). He literally does it on almost every page. On page 90: his “mood suddenly shifted.” On page 93 “his face was abruptly severe.”

Bella tells Edward she isn’t sure what he is. He asks for her theories (Trench Coat Mafia Don?). She refuses, and he gets frustrated that she is so unwilling to chat. She calls him on his hypocrisy, since he is apparently Mr. Cryptic, keeping her up at night with weird little mysterious comments. I suppose that’s sort of a fair accusation, but Bella is mostly kept up at night by her own penchant for over-interpreting everything anyone says about anything, ever. She’s going to worry herself to death someday.

Bella’s not eating anything today, which worries Edward. He asks if she’s hungry.

“No.” I didn’t feel like mentioning that my stomach was already full—of butterflies.

Oy vey.

Bella goes to class, but Edward decides to skip. When she gets there she finds out they are doing a blood-type lab, and pricking their own fingers. Literally just typing that gives me a little nausea and makes my fingers get all numb and weird. Bella’s reaction is similar—she almost passes out, and Mike volunteers to escort her to the nurse. This is a good idea—one of my fifth grade classmates got similarly weird over a D.A.R.E lecture about needle drugs and asked to be excused. He started walking down the hallway to the nurse’s office, fainted, and landed on his face. Somebody found him five or ten minutes later.

In the courtyard area between buildings Bella asks to sit down, and Edward, who is apparently the kind of idiot who skips class and then stays on campus, shows up and dismisses Mike. Mike protests, but he’s a pussy and leaves. This is mostly because Edward just picks Bella up like a grocery bag and starts walking. One can imagine Mike heading back to class, tail between legs, silently resolving to work out more.

Edward finds Bella’s whole aversion to blood very amusing (people in glass houses, huh?) but he manages to persuade the nurse to let her out of school for the day.

Persuasion Eyes, ACTIVATE!


Edward won’t let Bella drive—when she breaks for her car he literally grabs her jacket and drags her to his. His emotions continue to oscillate wildly, so it’s difficult if this scene is supposed to be played for laughs or what.

In the car they talk about classical music—they both like it. A couple of old souls, these two. I suppose it would have been ridiculous if they’d bonded over Radiohead or something, but personally I’d rather a bunch of teenage girls were buying tracks from Kid A off of iTunes than Googling Debussy. I remember when Kristen Stewart wore a Minor Threat t-shirt to Comic-Con the blogosphere had a minor meltdown over it. I’m totally opposed to that kind of reaction, because I can remember being young and getting into alternative music and being greeted with scorn from older, existing fans. Granted, when I was 13 I was getting into “alternative music” like Blink-182 and Green Day, so maybe they should have worked harder to scare me off. And why were there older Blink 182 fans anyway? I was too old for it at 15. But it was a gateway drug to much better music. I think people should be allowed to like whatever they like. That said, if they were bonding over “Fake Plastic Trees” I probably wouldn’t feel this way. I’d bitch about it for a thousand words or so.

The beach trip is finally happening this weekend, and Bella invites Edward. He can’t go, he and his brother are going camping. Personally I think Bella lets him off the hook a little too easy. This is not a very good excuse. Outdoors is outdoors, right? Why not camp near the beach? It’s very vaguely suggested that Edward is avoiding the beach on purpose. Bella mentions the location and says his eyes “narrowed infinitesimally.” As if eyes normally narrow a huge, measurable amount? What could that possibly mean?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

BLOGGING TWILIGHT, part 4: Paging Dr. Acula

For the past two weeks or so I’ve been reading Twilight and reporting on my experience. This is part four. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here, and part 3 is here.

So over the holiday weekend it was twice pointed out to me that Wuthering Heights, Bella’s favorite book, has been re-issued for the Twilight set specifically re-branded as “Bella’s Favorite Book.”
Whoa. First of all, there is the nagging suggestion in my head that girls will read this book thinking it some kind of addition to the Twilight universe written by Stephanie Meyer. Like how JK Rowling released that thing about The Beetle and The Bard after the Harry Potter series concluded. I know that probably won’t happen. But what if it did?

Really I guess only good can come from this; a new generation of kids will be introduced to a book that is not always a standard in the high school curriculum. Even still, Emily Brontë rolled in her grave so hard she exhumed her own corpse. Her skeleton will be making a cameo in Breaking Dawn as one of Edward’s former lovers.

Chapter 3: Phenomenon

Bella wakes up to find Forks covered in a blanket of snow and her driveway coated in a sheet of ice. She debates about not even trying to go to school (maybe the absenteeism problem at Forks High is so great that administrators have given up; there is no other way to explain why their students seem to view going to school as completely optional) but she is excited to see Edward Cullen. She realizes this is “very, very stupid” (pg. 54).

“I was still frightened by the hostility I sometimes felt emanating from him, and I was still tongue-tied whenever I pictured his perfect face. (pg 54)

I feel like the emphasis ought to be on the former concern, but I doubt that it is. Bella has no problem with the icy roads, and in the parking lot at school she figures out why. Charlie has outfitted her tires with chains—an unexpectedly fatherly gesture that momentarily chokes Bella up. What a nice, real moment! Too bad it is interrupted a few lines later by a MOTHERFUCKING CAR CRASH!

A van comes careening at Bella when some idiot hits an ice patch (his father must not love him) and our heroine has one of those bullet-time slow-motion moments like The Matrix. She sees the car coming, recognizes that she doesn’t have time to move out of the way, sees shocked faces, including Edward, four cars away. Then SOMETHING hits her, but from the wrong direction. She slams against the pavement (smooth, Edward) but the van hits the corner of the truck and curls around it. Bella is in the path of destruction a second time. Then it gets a little weird.

A low oath made me aware that someone was with me…two long white hands shot out protectively in front of me, and the van shuddered to a stop a foot from my face. (pg. 56)

A low oath? What? Did Edward cast a SPELL? I read the next section a few times, because it’s pretty confusingly worded. It sounds like the van has popped into the air, because Edward’s hands are under the body and he swings Bella’s legs out of the way as it hits the ground. So basically the van almost managed to hit her three times. I think we have a new world record! Sorry, Brad Pitt:



It actually reminds me of a story the BU Head of Security told at Orientation. I was a transfer student and kind of pissed off that I had to be there (or at least, I was under the impression I had to be there) and even more pissed off that I had to stay in the dorms that night, when you know, I lived in the damn city, but I enjoyed this story.

You’ve got to understand that the BU campus is divided by Commonwealth Avenue, which is itself divided (two lanes on either side) by the green-line trolley with tracks leading in each direction. Students get hit by cars on Commonwealth Avenue all the time, because they dart across the street between classes; this is understandable. I stupidly took a bunch of geographically distant classes only ten minutes apart last semester and showed up late basically every day. I was late because I am not the kind of person who runs to catch anything. But I understand people who do.

If you’ve ever crossed Commonwealth Ave. without a walk signal you know that taxis speed up or change lanes to try and hit you when you do it. Or at least it seems like that’s what they’re doing. So the story goes that a BU student one day darted dangerously across the street, narrowly avoiding getting hit by a cab. As she jumped onto the sidewalk, she stumbled backward and was hit by a train, which bounced her onto the opposing tracks, where she was clipped by another train coming in the other direction. The momentum from the second train sent her into the street, where she was finally hit by another taxi. The moral: wait for the fucking signal (I’m paraphrasing). “She was fine by the way,” he added with a smile. “She was from Jersey.”

So anyway, Bella’s bullet-time Matrix senses abandon her, and on the ground post-crash she tries to sort out what happened. At some point Edward dents the car parked next to Bella’s truck, bracing himself against it or something. The insurance company is going to have a field day with this shit. “In the abrupt bedlam I could hear more than one person shouting my name,” she says (pg. 57). Abrupt bedlam indeed! Abrupt Bedlam is my new band name.

On the ground, Edward instructs Bella to stay put; she complains that it’s cold. His mood swings have apparently reached such a velocity that they occur between sentences now: “It surprised me when he chuckled under his breath. There was an edge to the sound” (pg. 58). I’m getting whiplash with this guy. Bella starts to recover her senses and demands Edward explains what the fuck happened (paraphrasing again). As always he gets defensive and angry, but not before he REALLY rolls out the old Cullen charm:

“Bella, I was standing with you, and I pulled you out of the way.” He unleashed the full, devastating power of his eyes on me, as if trying to communicate something crucial.
“No.” I set my jaw.
The gold in his eyes blazed. “Please, Bella.” (pg. 58)


Sex eyes, ACTIVATE!


But it doesn’t work, so he gets “abruptly exasperated” (pg. 58).

They go to the hospital in an ambulance, Bella in a neck-brace on a stretcher, Edward up front. What? Is that allowed? In movies there is always a scene where someone’s trying to get in an ambulance and the EMT won’t let them. Can Edward really just yell “shotgun!” and hop in? Maybe it’s his father’s pull at the hospital—speak of the (probably a) Vampire, Bella is examined by the dashing Dr. Cullen upon arrival.

Wouldn’t it be great if Dr. Cullen’s first name was Acula? Alas, it is not. Bella’s fine. The boy who nearly killed her is wheeled in all sliced up—they put him in a hospital bed adjacent to Bella’s. Putting car crash victims and perpetrators next to each other seems like bad hospital management to me.

Bella finally gets a spare moment alone with Edward and proceeds to interrogate him about the crash. He does his usual joking-mixed-with-brink-of-violence-rage routine. Bella asserts that Edward stopped the van and lifted it off the ground. He deflects.

“You think I lifted a van off of you?” His tone questioned my sanity, but it only made me more suspicious. It was like a line delivered by a perfectly skilled actor. (pg. 65)

I laughed at that line because of, you know, perfectly skilled actor Robert Pattinson.

The argument reaches a climax when Bella gets abruptly exasperated and asks him why he even bothered and Edward gets equally abruptly exasperated and says he doesn’t know. Bella takes that to mean he doesn’t know why he bothered saving her life. I’m pretty sure that’s not what he means. Ask more questions, Edward. Ask her to clarify It saves everybody a lot of trouble

Bella leaves the hospital—ridiculously, most of the school has started an impromptu vigil in the lobby, even though they all saw her getting into an ambulance alive all of ten minutes ago. Why aren’t these kids in class? Forks High has the worst fucking administrators! Maybe something good will come out of No Child Left Behind when Forks High inevitably doesn’t make Adequate Yearly Progress and these assholes get tossed out on the curb.

Charlie brings Bella home and confesses en route that he told Bella’s mom about the accident. Bella is “appalled.” Never mind that thoughtful gesture with the tires, dad! I hate you again!