Thursday, April 29, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 4: The Precipice of an Enormous Crossroads

I've been reading New Moon, by Stephenie Meyer. Previous entries can be found in the directory. As always, please share your thoughts on this chapter in the comments.

Chapter 3: The End

The next morning Bella is feeling shitty and Edward is still all dead inside. I mean, he literally is dead inside, but for once he’s actually acting like it. Bella’s afraid he’s been thinking about “right and wrong” all night—if he has, he’s probably got some really retarded ideas this morning. Does Edward stay in bed with Bella all night? Does he ever get up and go for a walk? Catch a movie? It just feels like such a waste. What good is immortality if you’re not going use all of that time? Alice and Jasper have band practice at night. Emmett plays Call of Duty and re-watches Die Hard. Carlisle and Esme play board games (Operation, natch), and Rosalie practices bitchy faces in the mirror. They’re making the most of it!

Bella’s anxiety is sort of taking the form of a hangover—she’s got a pounding headache, she’s wincing at loud sounds—and to make matters worse, Edward is almost totally ignoring her. She’s got a million questions for Alice, but she never shows up to school. Edward finally tells her in the middle of that day that Alice is with Jasper. And Jasper has “gone away for a while.”

“And Alice, too,” I said with quiet desperation.

I would object to the appropriation of “quiet desperation” here, but Alice is gone? That blows! Edward keeps up the cold shoulder routine for the rest of the day.

“Did someone say pork shoulder?”-Charlie Swan

Bella’s frustrated that she keeps having to break the silence, but she does. She tries to use sex again to warm him up—okay, she uses the promise of more dry humping—but it doesn’t work this time. He’s ice cold. Literally, but also figuratively.

Bella has to go to work, and when she finally parts with Edward she basically has a panic attack in a parking lot. “I was able to talk myself into enough composure to handle getting out of the truck and walking to the store.” That is an ugly sentence—“enough composure?”—but I kind of admire it as a pseudo-entry in the Bella Swan Mixed-Metaphor Hall of Fame. Blame lying “on the doorstep of the town of Forks,” is still one of my all time favorites.

The “store,” by the way, is the Newton family sporting goods store. Mike greets her enthusiastically (Now we know the strings Bella pulled to get this gig—or rather the one string. Is that suggestive enough? I’m talking about Mike Newton’s penis.) and Bella nods “vaguely in his direction.” That’s a good move, Bella. I use that one a lot.

Bella spends work distracted thinking about what Edward could be thinking—she decides she’ll offer to stay away from his house from now on. “I’d see Alice at school,” she says. “No doubt I would also run into Carlisle with regularity—in the emergency room.” Sorry Jasper, Rosalie, Emmett and Esme! I guess you don’t rate! Then Bella has a reprise of her “let’s away to prison” King Lear speech, where she decides that the two of them should run away together into semi-seclusion. At some point in this chapter she just starts assuming that also is what Edward is thinking. It reads to me like a profound delusion, but maybe it’s supposed to be a real red herring.

Bella drives home and is relived to see Edward’s car in her driveway, but she ends up walking straight into some kind of Sam Mendes-style domestic hellscape. Edward and her father are sitting in the living room, watching SportsCenter. For a minute Bella talks to Charlie and Edward doesn’t say anything. Finally he makes dead-eyed eye contact as Bella heads to the kitchen, saying “I’ll be right behind you,” before returning to the TV. It’s weird that such a thing would be chilling, but it is. All of Edward’s charming chivalry is gone—he’s not sitting in a wife beater drinking a can of PBR, but he might as well be, you know? What is wrong with my testosterone levels that I find sitting around seemingly half-conscious and watching ESPN to be utterly appalling?

Bella sits in the kitchen running through worst-case scenarios. If Edward wants her to stay away from his family, she’ll do it. “Of course, he wouldn’t expect Alice to be a part of that,” she says. That’s right Edward! Don’t you dare try to keep Alice and Bella apart! Would you try to keep peanut butter away from jelly? No. You would not. Would you try to keep Ellen away from Portia? I promise I know other lesbian couples, but they are not springing to mind at the moment.

Bella returns to the “running away” scenario, and is troubled by the idea of leaving her parents. Thinking about them, she regards her camera and scrapbook sitting on the table and decides to start documenting the time she has left in Forks. She starts to think about Edward’s “carefree laughter” the night before juxtaposed with his current Al Bundy incarnation in the next room.

It made me feel a little bit dizzy, like I was standing on an edge of a precipice somewhere much too high.

"All due respect, Bella, you got no fuckin' idea what it's like to be Number One. Every decision you make affects every facet of every other fuckin' thing. It's too much to deal with almost. And in the end you're completely alone with it all."

We’re accumulating themes at a pretty rapid pace here—we’ve got the Romeo and Juliet motif, the self-absorbed love stuff, the cliff imagery, the soul garbage. I’m not complaining; compared to the relatively thematically shallow Twilight this book is reaching Shakespearian thematic density. Didn’t see that coming.

Bella takes a picture of her room, despite the fact that it hasn’t really changed since her childhood. She notes that her mother will recognize the quilt—you know, the one she dry humped Edward against—because it was made by her grandmother. Gross.

Bella feels change coming, and the urge to take pictures is weirdly compulsive. She goes down to the living room, where Edward and Charlie are still staring at the TV, and forces them to pose for a few shots. She notes the “strange distance” in Edward’s eyes. “Probably he was worried I would be upset when he asked me to leave.” Poor Bella! Oy! They take some joyless photos—Bella can barely smile—and she tries to be casual around Edward but after Charlie takes a picture of them, this happens:

Edward dropped his hand from my shoulder and twisted casually out of my arm. He sat back down in the armchair.

O cruel! What a dick! Bella sits on the floor and tries to hide her shaking hands. The show ends and Edward gets up to leave. What a dick! My allegiance to Team Alice grows stronger every day. Bella follows him, he refuses to come back and stay the night, and he leaves her awkwardly standing in the driveway in the rain until Charlie calls her back from the porch. I have to say, it’s quite a compelling miserable scene, New Moon’s own little Revolutionary Road. And someone needs to punch Edward in the face. Dick.

The cycle continues for a few days—Edward walks with Bella everywhere, goes to class, and doesn’t talk. It echoes the scenes in Twilight where the opposite happens: they talk for days and days. Both are a little tedious! Last time I was like, fuck already! Now I’m just like, fucking break up already! “If only Alice would come back,” Bella laments. I know!

One day after work Bella picks up the first roll of developed photos. She goes home and looks at the first picture. “When I pulled it out, I gasped aloud.” That’s what she said. Bella, I mean. Edward looks just as good on film as he does in real life. “It was almost uncanny that anyone could look so… so… beyond description. No thousand words could equal this picture.” Well, thanks for trying anyway, S. Meyer.

The next few pictures, taken after the party, show the very different, new asshole Edward 2.0. He’s still hot, but it doesn’t cheer Bella up. Looking at them together she feels uglier by comparison rather than hotter by addition. She folds the picture in half and puts it in the book, Edward facing up. I’m thinking maybe instead of a picture of a shadow being cast by the number four I should just have a “cymbal” sound effect or something for symbolic moments like these.

One day the axe just falls. Edward asks Bella to take a walk with him in the woods. There’s a lot of stuff about smiles not touching/reaching eyes and Edward speaking in an “unemotional tone”—clearly this is not going to be a walk to a surprise party or something. Bella’s been waiting for a chance to talk through whatever the fuck is happening, but now she’s seized with panic.

I didn’t like this. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, shit, the voice in my head repeated again and again.

Well, that’s not exactly an accurate quote, but you get it.

They only walk a few feet into the woods before Edward stops. “We’re leaving,” he says. Bella, not understanding what he meant with the “we,” starts pushing him to wait a few months until graduation. When he starts talking about how Carlisle is trying to pass for thirty-three, the awful truth dawns on Bella. It gets pathetic real fast.

“I’m not good for you, Bella.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” I wanted to sound angry, but it just sounded like I was begging. “You’re the very best part of my life.”

The problem is, the rest of this chapter has turned me against Edward so much, I’m kind of excited he’s leaving. I’m not stupid—I know Bella is about to get fucking miserable—but this motherfucker is more trouble than he’s worth. Good riddance (for now) to bad rubbish (at the moment) is what I say.

The fight hits some predictable beats:
  • Bella brings up his promise in Phoenix that he’d stay—he reminds her that he said, “As long as that was best for you.” Bella knew that was going to come back and bite her in the ass one day.
  • Bella brings up the soul stuff: “You can have my soul. I don’t want it without you—it’s yours already!” Nicely played, Bella. That would have worked on me!
  • Edward’s eyes aren’t “liquid topaz” anymore—his eyes are harder, “like the liquid gold had frozen solid.” If Edward is leaving I hope he’s taking the eye metaphors with him. We get another one in a page or so: “His eyes were like topaz—hard and clear and very deep.” Why is this written like it’s the first time we’ve ever heard about the topaz?
  • Edward delivers the crushing blow when he tells her, “Bella, I don’t want you to come with me,” somehow emphasizing the subtext. “You…don’t…want me?” Bella says. Don’t you just want to give her a hug? Where’s Esme when you need her?

Bella kind of goes numb for a while, and Edward gives a big speech about how he’s sick of being human.

“Don’t.” My voice was just a whisper now; awareness was beginning to seep through me, trickling like acid through my veins. “Don’t do this.”

I really wouldn’t be able to break up with Bella! That would have totally broken my resolve! But Edward is a stronger man than I. He does eventually break out of the super-cold mode for a second to plead with Bella to take care of herself, and she promises that she will. He says he’ll make a promise in return. “I promise this will be the last time you’ll see me. I won’t come back.” That doesn’t seem like a fair promise-for-promise exchange. Don’t act like you’re doing us a favor, Edward! “It’ll be as if I never existed,” he says.

I know what you’re thinking: what this really needs is a patronizing coup de grace—that would really complete the asshole package. Edward delivers:

“Don’t worry, you’re human. Your memory is no more than a sieve.”

Hey Edward, didn’t you say you were going to leave or something? For one of my seminar papers this year (you know, the thing I should be writing right now) I’ve been looking at rates of “don’t know” responses in public opinion pills. Clyde and Lolagene Coombs found that among the usual expected lack of information, apathy, and similar factors that contribute to levels of “don’t know” responses, rates are also just correlated with time. Longer surveys wear people down, and don’t know responses go up as survey length does.

There may be something of that going on here, because the worst moment for Bella seems to come when Edward says, “We won’t bother you again,” and Bella realizes that Alice is gone too.

“Alice is gone?” My voice was blank with disbelief.

It might just be correlated with time, but I hope not. Bella gets dizzy, and Edward bails, but not before pecking her on the forehead. Thanks, Edward. I’m sure that made the girl feel so great! Don’t let the forest hit you in the ass on the way out!

Bella tries to follow him, but soon she’s just walking through the woods in a daze. “Love, life, meaning…over,” she muses. She walks for hours, trips over something, and then just stays down. It’s dark out. She gets the feeling a lot of time has passed, but she can’t tell because there’s no moonlight.

A new moon. I shivered, though I wasn’t cold.

I know, Bella. The symbolism knocks me out. Not really though. More like symbolis-meh, you know?

Eventually Bella starts hearing people call her name, but she doesn’t answer. She realizes she probably should, but she can’t summon the energy. She falls asleep and wakes up again when it starts raining.

She hears an animal-like “snuffling sound” nearby. Bella again notes that she should probably do something, but she doesn’t give a fuck. She is so beyond giving a fuck. A dude shows up with a propane lantern (retro!) and tries to get her attention. He’s like, “I’m Sam Uley,” and Bella is like, “Fuck off.”

But then Sam mentions Charlie and Bella snaps out of it. She ends up allowing the dude to pick her up and carry her home. “Some part of me knew this should upset me…but there was nothing left in me to be upset.” Bella totally gets off on all this misery, and I am right there with her. Sam brings her back to where a big crowd of people have gathered; Charlie put quite the search party together. There’s a sweet moment when he runs up to Sam and carries Bella into the house, even though he can’t quite manage it gracefully. He wraps her in blankets and puts her on the couch. There’s a doctor there, but uh, it’s not Carlisle. Forks has more than one doctor?

Bella pretends to have gotten lost in the woods, but she’s sort of very obviously having a nervous collapse. It seems like most of the males in Forks are in her living room—even Mike Newton. It’s got to be embarrassing to have so public a breakdown, but if Mike Newton is anything like me it will just make Bella seem hotter. Maybe I’m weird. Well, I definitely am.

Bella overhears in the swirling, hushed conversation going on around her that the Cullen family has come up with a public alibi for their exit: Dr. Cullen got a job offer in LA. Bella is like, well obviously they are not going there, but she seems to be forgetting that just a few months ago the Cullens came up with the brilliant strategy of making it seem like she was running to Phoenix so that it wouldn’t seem like she was going to Phoenix so that she actually could go to Phoenix. I wouldn’t eliminate that LA possibility just yet. The search party leaves and Charlie answers a bunch of worried phone calls while Bella zones out on the couch. Eventually she hears a tense conversation between Charlie and Billy Black—it turns out they are having celebratory bonfires on the Reservation.

At this Bella gives us a weird paragraph of backstory about how the Quileutes hate the Cullens. We’re still doing summary this late in the game? Page 81? I was enjoying wallowing in your misery, Bella. Don’t interrupt!

Charlie obviously wants to know why Edward dumped his daughter several miles into the forest, but Bella explains that she tried to follow him. It turns out Edward forged a note in Bella’s handwriting explaining that they’d gone for a walk in the woods that afternoon. So Edward knew she’d probably wander off all devastated, and would, you know, probably require a search party, but he didn’t care enough other than to leave a clue for Charlie? What a dick!

And Edward isn’t even done with his dick moves—Bella goes to her room and all the pictures of him in her album are gone. Her birthday CD is gone. Every artifact she could associate with him is gone. Fuuuuuuck.

Whoever edited this video is a fucking CHAMPION. I was looking for the original 2Gether video and I found it. Same wavelength, whoever you are.

The whole “give me back my stuff” thing is a particularly callow way to end a relationship. This, as most of the other stuff, is kind of a subtle perversion of normal break-up tropes, and I can appreciate the sitcom-level cleverness of it. Obviously it doesn’t remind Bella of an episode of Seinfeld or something, though. She collapses onto the floor.

I hoped that I was fainting, but to my disappointment I didn’t lose consciousness. The waves of pain that had only lapped at me before now reared high up and washed over my head, pulling me under.
I did not resurface.

Like I said, I kind of enjoy Bella’s misery. Not that I want to see her suffer—I think it’s more like how some white people probably felt watching Precious or something. I have a feeling I won’t be so jazzed after a few hundred pages of this, though. And that’s exactly what we’re about to get.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

BLOGGING TWILIGHT, The Deleted Scenes pt. 1: Some Things Are Better Left Undead

We’re really never going to run out of stuff to talk about here—the Twilight Universe seems to be expanding rapidly. I got into this thinking I was dealing with four books and four movies. Now it’s five movies, a novella, a graphic novel, and deleted and altered content from all four books that S. Meyer has made available online (I’ve also taken it upon myself to follow the careers of the actors made famous from the Twilight films, but that’s on me more than anyone.) There’s also something called Midnight Sun, which is basically S. Meyer’s Cardenio. So this week, I took it upon myself to read two of the deleted chapters from Twilight—it turns out we’re not done talking about it after all. Previous entries can be found in the sidebar-- Blogging New Moon can be found in the directory.

“Shopping With Alice”

So this is an alternate version of the 20th chapter—in the book we get Bella’s fractured-narrative, mostly past-perfect tense account of the drive from Forks to Phoenix. This one is much more linear, and a lot lighter. Bella’s misery at separation from Edward and the experience of a long and stressful drive have made her look like a meth addict, something even Bella seems to find darkly amusing as Alice drags her through a shopping mall in LA (en route to Phoenix). I also like the way we get a much fuller picture of the kind of lives the Cullens lead most of the time—they have multiple false identities and apparently adopt a “rich asshole” persona when they want people to stay out of their way. And it works! It’s hard to believe that Jasper has the self confidence to stride into a hotel like he owns the place, but maybe that’s because I’m working with his new personality as required by the plot of New Moon. (What if the receptionist got a paper cut?)

There are also some interesting details, like the way Alice has to stay in the shadows when she’s walking into a mall, and some interesting (and mild) social commentary, like the way salespeople seem to ignore Alice and Bella as a couple of weird lesbian drug addicts until Alice pulls out her credit card and they suddenly get all subservient. We also learn that Alice has a keen eye for the size of other women’s bodies (hmmmm), has a sharp memory, and is a particularly decisive shopper. Alice also seems to only buy very light clothing—so despite the fact that they are ice cold, vampires apparently avoid being warm when possible.

We were just talking about comedic interludes between dramatic moments—and having Alice unable to resist the temptation to shop even while on the run is kind of funny. It’s also great that this irony is really unacknowledged by Bella in the narration. This is acknowledged by S. Meyer to be a rough draft, so maybe that’s unintentional. (I therefore didn’t really look for formatting problems and ignored the fact that at one point Rosalie seems to named “Carol.”)

The comedy continues when they check into the hotel—Bella falls asleep and slides off the couch, hitting her head on the table. One time my brother did that when we were kids—actually we were wrestling and he bounced off a bed and hit his temple on the corner of a nightstand—and he cut his temple in such a way that blood started like, shooting out. It was actually kind of terrifying. But this time it’s funny. Jasper thinks so too, but that’s because there’s no blood, and no paper cuts. There’s also a very adorable moment when Bella is overwhelmed by the kindness Alice and Jasper are showing her—just because they get the hotel staff to bring her a toothbrush and stuff. It’s a great little character moment, cut apparently in the service of moving the plot along. But what plot? A book doesn’t have to be sleek like a 90-minute movie. Twilight is largely plotless, and the late introduction of a plot is kind of jarring. The inclusion of stuff like this would have softened the impact.

This version of the chapter also has the advantage of setting up the friendship between Bella and Alice. In New Moon we sort of just have to take Bella’s word for it—again, a bunch of past-perfect establishment—so it’s nice to see how it could have formed organically in the text.

It’s a good read, and I sort of wished S. Meyer had left it in. I see the appeal of switching up the narrative every now and then from a writing standpoint, but not from a reading one. When you think of the way the last hundred pages or so rocket through the action you kind of want it slowed down a little bit. Then again, I’m currently making notes for the first of several of Bella’s long interior monologues in New Moon, so be careful what you wish for I guess.

“Prom Remix”

I complained before about the lack of brand names and detail in the epilogue and prom scene on behalf of the fashion conscious among us, and obviously I regret that now. Once again a whole scene here became a past-perfect flashback in the book. It’s actually very similar to the way the Twilight and Harry Potter film adaptations save time by overlapping the dialogue from one scene in the book with a visual montage of something else. Different mediums, but essentially the same trick.

It’s another comedic scene, and again Jasper seems capable of doing things he is no longer capable of in New Moon. Rosalie obviously was a different character at some point in the writing process—a friendly, female mechanic, apparently. This chapter also uses the phrase “haute couture.” So there’s that.

Basically Alice and Rosalie get Bella real dressed up and stuff her into a corset (there’s an actual reference to cleavage—which is kind of surprising) and then everyone acts shocked that she looks so pretty. Shouldn’t it bother Bella that Edward pretends not to recognize her and then proceeds to talk about how beautiful she looks?

Jokes from New Moon show up originally here. It’s good to know that S. Meyer reuses jokes she didn’t get a chance to use the first time around—I have about 15 unused episodes of Rock and Sock and Robot that I go back and reconstitute every time I run out of ideas. Esme shows up to take pictures of Edward and Bella all dressed up, and Bella makes that crack about him not showing up on the film from Chapter 1 of New Moon.

The whole thing with Tyler being a dumbass is still here, and of course the central premise of Bella not understanding that she is going to prom. Again, we have a little more time, and there is less hinting that Bella thought anything else (a vampire induction ceremony, say) was happening. There’s really no reference to the fight about becoming a vampire, except for a brief moment where Alice & Rosalie seem to be contemplating vamping Bella to make her prettier for the prom. (Or something? I’m actually not clear on what is happening in that moment.) The point is Bella’s realization that she is being taken to prom seems far less ridiculous here than in the book.

There’s more comedy—where the other deleted chapter gave us “wacky Alice foibles,” this one gives us “wacky Charlie foibles.” He lusts after Edward’s “special occasion car,” an Aston Martin Vanquish, which is such a ridiculous car name it must be real. Edward makes dinner for Bella at her house, and the chapter (and presumably the book) ends as they drive away. I like the prom scene a lot though, so I can’t really endorse this as a replacement epilogue.

These were both pretty good though, and I have to give S. Meyer credit for being above board, posting all of this stuff online. Obviously I have to avoid most of her website until I get through the rest of the series, spoilers and all that. Plus it probably colors my experience in a certain way, and I think I said something about resolving to remain true to my own subjective experience a while ago. Maybe I didn’t say it here, maybe I said it in the shower. But the point is I look forward to checking out the rest of this stuff eventually. What did you think?

Sunday, April 25, 2010


From time to time here at the Twilight Blog, we'll be checking in on the careers of the young actors who have had careers launched (or not quite launched yet) by The Twilight Saga. Previous entries can be found in the sidebar.

So last night I saw The Runaways, starring Ms. Bella Swan herself, Kristen Stewart. This, it should be noted, is my first post on my new netbook, and my fingers are still adjusting to the keys. So there may be more spelling mistakes than usual. But fukc it. Rocxk and Rolll right?

So, The Runaways was pretty good! It hit my rock and roll nerve center, if there is such a thing. On my way out of the theater, I kind of wanted to break shit. I think that is a good thing. The biggest problem for people seeing this movie, I think, is can you actually see it? Is it playing in your city? I had to go to the Coolidge Corner theater in Boston, which is a place I usually don't go, because I seem to accumulate AMC gift certificates at a suprisingly rapid pace. And it was playing at the AMC last week, but I guess it got knocked out by The Back Up Plan. That doesn't feel like justice to me.

So the film is a very rock-biopic type movie. The Runaways had a kind of strange career trajectory, but once they start in with the heavy drug abuse and the jealousy-over-Cherie-centric coverage, you can kind of see where it is going. That's been happening a lot lately, though. Shutter Island was nothing particularly new, but it was still good. People have been griping about the comic-book movie conventions employed by Kick-Ass, but Kick-Ass was awesome. I really didn't understand the hate spewed at Kick-Ass by movie critics. It sort of felt like everyone was just falling in line behind Manohla "what's under that skirt?" Dargis. I know that's a really reductive and probably untrue thing to say about critics, but Matthew Vaughn has been outspoken and semi-profane in his lack of interest in the moral implications of Kick-Ass, and sometimes when directors do that you sort of feel like the critics just come after them. The same thing happens to Jason Reitman every time. That's because he's kind of a dick, and he makes a pie chart of all the questions interviewers ask him-- I guess to point out that being interested in movies is stupid? Or that journalism is stupid? Does Jason Reitman think we should just have one big newspaper and be done with it? Does he feel the same way about movies? I'm not sure. Jason Reitman is kind of an asshole. But that doesn't mean he makes bad movies!

My wife pointed out, on the way out of the theater last night, that the controversy over Kick-Ass is especially galling when you see Dakota Fanning doing drugs and smoking and also swearing and doing very heavy petting in The Runaways. Nobody is freaking out about that! Maybe that's because The Runaways is playing in art houses across the country and Kick-Ass is national and because Kick-Ass was inexplicably marketed on TV to young audiences. It might just be a scale thing. That's not to say that I necessarily object to any of it-- I don't think people should get upset about either film. I was a little uncomfortable in the middle of The Runaways though, because the camera really leers at Dakota Fanning sometimes. And she is like fifteen or sixteen. It was gross.

Kristen Stewart is pretty goddamn great as Joan Jett. She pulls off the semi-androgynous thing very well. She actually learned and plays all of the songs, not that they are very difficult, but give the girl a lot of credit for that anyway. I'm fairly sure she was actually singing most of the time too, and occasionally her voice approaches Joan Jett's to a kind of startling degree. A lot of that is casting, obviously. But Kristen Stewart gets to do a lot here, so much more that the Twilight films, and it is fun to see the other tricks she has up her (leather, dejected) sleeve. I also now know what she sounds like shouting "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" so that's good to have in my mind for fan fiction and that sort of thing.

Michael Shannon is in the movie too, and he is also pretty goddamn great. You probably know him as the only reason you kept watching Revolutionary Road, because he blew the doors off the place in that one. He is similarly insane here, and I hope we never run out crazy people for Michael Shannon to play.

Maeby from Arrested Development is in this movie too, but I think her only line is "Cherry Bomb!"

It's a very indie-looking movie-- sort of cheap looking, the occasionally weird angle-- but the period details (when they actually need them) are fine. I don't usually notice that sort of thing anyway, but I've finally started watching Mad Men, so I'm a little more attuned. Speaking of which, Mad Men makes being a hippie or a free spirit look so stupid and disgusting, and I feel like The Runaways sort of re-balanced my moral center. I forgot that I love rock and roll. But I do! Being square is fucking bullshit!

I think the takeaway from The Runaways (see what I did there?) is that we should all be grateful that Kristen Stewart is leveraging Twilight to do cool shit, and not star in a bunch of romantic comedies or Nicholas Sparks-ian romantic tragedies (Robert Pattinson) or slasher movies (Ashley Greene and Jackson Rathbone). I'm in Kristen Stewart's corner.

Friday, April 23, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 3: What Dreams May Come

I've just started reading New Moon, by Stephenie Meyer. Entries about Twilight, the first book can be found in sidebar. Previous entries for New Moon can be found in the directory (now with pull-quotes).

Chapter 2: Stitches

So that stuff about the “six suddenly ravenous vampires,” alliterative though it was, bothered me a little. I think the problem was I immediately started doing vampire math: there are seven members of the Cullen family, and six of them are ravenous. So I just assumed Edward was the one she was leaving out. But we know that Alice was able to be around Bella when she was bleeding to death in Phoenix (and we will see shortly that she mostly keeps her head on straight in this fiasco). But neither of them seem to be the vampire Bella had in mind, because the first sentence of the next chapter is: “Carlisle was the only one who stayed calm.” So make that “four feverishly ravenous vampires,” one calm vampire, one Edward and one Alice. I know that doesn’t stand out on the page as much, but it has the advantage of being true at least.

The next sentence is the Big Love Season 1 poster of sentences: “Centuries of experience in the emergency room were evident in his quiet, authoritative voice.”

There’s only one thing wrong with these pictures! Centuries of experience! I mean, I don’t think they had ERs in the 1600s, but whatever! I like it anyway!

Oh, horror, horror, horror!

Banquo, awake and call thou 911!

The room clears of extraneous Cullens—Emmett and Rosalie drag the still-crazy Jasper outside and Esme excuses herself because of all the blood. Alice tries to help Carlisle as he and Edward carry Bella to the kitchen table. (She runs for Carlisle’s doctor bag and is back before they get in the room—if the Cullens move around their house at super-speed all the time, do they ever smash into each other in the hallways?) Edward is pissed off, and basically stands around doing nothing and seething, trying to nobly resist the urge to kill Bella (glass fucking houses, am I right?) until Alice and Carlisle finally persuade him to leave and go find Jasper. Bella is simultaneously in shock and humiliated—one of those understandably inexplicable reactions most people have to situations like this one (okay, situations not exactly like this one).

Carlisle numbs up Bella’s arm and starts taking the glass shards out of the gash. Bella notices Alice smile apologetically and slip out of the room too, leaving her alone with Carlisle. Bella is amazed at his Buddha-like calm and ability to resist the blood even Alice couldn’t stand to be around. “Clearly, this was much more difficult than he made it seem.” It’s almost like Bella is disappointed that he can resist killing her so easily! You don’t want to kill me? Why not? My blood is so sexy! Bella’s developing a weird complex.

She continues to fail to understand why Carlisle doesn’t just murder people and be done with it. “It didn’t make sense to me—the years of struggle and self-denial he must have spent to get to the point where he could endure this so easily.” Um, what kind of vampire is Bella going to become if all this moral stuff doesn’t make any sense to her? It would be kind of awesome if someone finally vamps Bella and she turns into a psycho killer and the Cullens have to kill her at the end of these books. Okay, that’s probably not going to happen. Don’t tell me if I’m right. But wouldn’t it be cool if I was right? I hope Mike Newton gets it first.

So Bella asks a lot of questions and Carlisle gives a lot of answers. For a while he’s pretty reasonable. He enjoys when his “enhanced abilities”—sometimes even his sense of smell—can help save a person who otherwise would have died. He finishes pulling the glass out and starts stitching Bella up. She tells him he tries “very hard to make up for something that was never [his] fault.” Carlisle didn’t choose this lifestyle, after all. Whoops, that’s an unintentional parallel to the gay community! Or like, the David Fisher gay community, at least!

“I don’t know that I’m making up for anything,” he disagreed lightly. “Like everything in life, I just had to decide to do with what I was given.”

Okay. Given by whom, you might be asking. That’s right: Carlisle is about to get religious on us. He starts talking about his proto-Pat Robertson father as he puts all of the bloody gauze in a crystal bowl and sets it on fire. Interesting imagery going on here.

“So I didn’t agree with my father’s particular brand of faith. But never, in the nearly four hundred years now since I was born, have I ever seen anything to make me doubt whether God exists in some form or the other.”

Note the capital-g “God.” Also, huh? Bella is just as shocked as we are that the conversation has taken such a turn, and we get a paragraph of Bella’s religious history. It’s pretty stereotypical—almost deliberately so. Bella is the standard non-denominational teen of the aughts. Charlie calls himself a Lutheran, “but Sundays he worshiped by the river with a fishing pole in his hand” (Bella was channeling Tom Waits for a second there). Renee tries out churches like some people try fad diets. It feels like we’re being set up for a religious conversion here. Secular girl finds God through the vampires? I worry about where this is going.

Carlisle goes on to say that “by all accounts we’re damned regardless. But I hope, maybe foolishly, that we’ll get some measure of credit for trying.” By all accounts? By what accounts? Maybe I haven’t read the Bible enough, but I can’t think of a single section that even touches on the eventual fate of vampires. Even in the Talmud! Also, uh, aren’t you guys fucking immortal? The afterlife is not so much a concern for you, right?

Bella says she doesn’t think it’s foolish to hope for heavenly rewards for vampires in the hereafter. Well, that makes one of us, Bella! Apparently even the other Cullens don’t agree—“Edward is with me up to a point,” Carlisle says. Which means Alice IS an atheist! I was right!

So where is the schism between Carlisle and Edward? Edward believes in God, heaven, and hell. But not for vampires. (And not because they are immortal and therefore it’s beside the point.) “You see,” Carlisle explains, “he thinks we’ve lost our souls.”

Hey, Edward—you’re a nice guy and all, but that is maybe the dumbest fucking thing I have ever heard. I mean, okay, there is a rich history of semi-batshit religious philosophy you can use to back up your ideas about the existence in the first place of souls, but your notion in the second place that becoming a vampire somehow gets rid of your soul is totally made up! It’s based on nothing! Bella should just say that she believes becoming a vampire gives you an EXTRA SOUL, so you can go to heaven TWICE, because such an opinion is just as valid as Edward’s.

Still, Bella is like, well, fuck, no wonder he doesn’t want to make me a vampire. Carlisle says he has to believe there is “something more” for someone like Edward. Being a nearly invincible super-powered vampire for all time isn’t good enough for you? You also need heaven? If you give a mouse a cookie, huh?

There’s some weird punctuation going on as Carlisle articulates the new wrinkle in our Central Philosophical Issue.

“But if I believed as he does…” He looked down at me with unfathomable eyes. “If you believed as he did. Could you take away his soul?”

It’s also a weird echo of the “would you want me to kill myself?” argument from the last chapter, but it makes even less sense. Edward is apparently some kind of scientist in the field of souls. Soulologist. Souloist. Ha.

Then Carlisle tells a weird story about how Edward’s mom told him to save Edward as they were both dying of the Spanish Influenza (it wiped out his whole family). We learn that his mom was named Elizabeth Masen and Edward once had green eyes. (It’s a three page story, and there’s very little to take away from it!) Carlisle didn’t exactly know how to make Edward a vampire, so he sort of had to improvise. This is after a few decades with the Volturi, right? Nobody ever brought it up, at a cocktail party or something? The moral of the story is that despite Edward’s stupid ideas about souls, Carlisle doesn’t regret saving him.

Speaking of our resident Souloist, he reappears to take Bella home. Alice takes her to change clothes first—her shirt is covered in blood. “I’ll get you something less macabre to wear,” Alice says. Vocab points for Alice! Upstairs, Bella tries to get a read on the severity of the situation, and Alice tells her Jasper is embarrassed. Bella wants him to know she’s not mad at all. Diplomacy points for Bella! Edward is all weird and dead-eyed and dead-voiced when they return. Alice makes sure Bella takes her presents—points to Alice for not being upset that her party got ruined. Nobody is happy, of course; when she and Edward get in the truck Bella rips the bow off her new stereo and throws it on the ground. Ouch.

Bella tries to apologize for bleeding, and Edward gets angry. He launches into this speech about how if she’d been dating Mike Newton none of this would have happened. Bella’s like, fucking Mike fucking Newton? “Mike Newton would be a hell of a lot healthier for you to with,” Edward says. Bella counters that she’d rather die.

“Don’t be melodramatic, please.”
“Well, fuck you,” I replied.

Okay, well, that’s what she should have said. The melodramatic pot is calling the melodramatic kettle melodramatic, you know? Edward doesn’t want to stay the night (melodramatic much?) So Bella invokes her birthday. They kiss, and it seems to cheer him up. She goes in the front door, and he sneaks to her room. After Bella talks to Charlie, she goes to the bathroom where she keeps her special pajamas for nights when Edward is around. Don’t get too excited—it’s nothing you’d see on Ashley Greene, say—just a “matching tank top and cotton pants.” Boring. If Alice slept, she’d go to bed in something involving straps and lace. And handcuffs, obviously. Bella goes to her room where Edward is waiting:

“Hi,” he said. His voice was sad. His eyes were wallowing.

Is this what you thought of, too?

She opens her presents: Carlisle and Esme bought her vouchers for plane tickets so she and Edward could visit Renee in Jacksonville. How is that going to be feasible? Bella points out that Edward will have to stay inside all day, it’s so sunny—he says he doesn’t mind. I think Renee probably will though, right?

Then she opens the present from Edward (and presumably Alice). It’s an unmarked CD; Edward puts it on.

I listened, speechless and wide-eyed. I knew he was waiting for my reaction, but I couldn’t talk. Tears welled up, and I reached to wipe them away before they could spill over.

Edward made a CD of his piano compositions! Awwwww! Good to see Alice found a use for her four-track recorder she bought back in the late 70s to make Yoko Ono-style field recordings. Bella’s arm starts hurting, and Edward shoots off super-fast to get her some painkillers.

People keep predicting Charlie’s death in this chapter—Edward wanted Bella to change out of her blood covered shirt a few pages ago because he’s worried she’ll “give Charlie a heart attack.” Now, Bella doesn’t want Edward to leave her bedroom for the Tylenol—“Charlie wasn’t exactly aware that Edward frequently stayed over. In fact, he would have had a stroke if that fact were brought to his attention.” Why does everyone think this dude is so fragile? He’d be pissed if you and Edward were actually fucking, but if he found out you just cuddled every night he’d probably just be confused.

Charlie doesn’t catch Edward anyway; he leaves and returns with pills and a glass of water so fast that the door he left open hasn’t swung back and closed yet. I get that vampires are fast, but they can also make water come out of a faucet at super speed too?

Edward seems distracted—he tells Bella he’s been thinking about “right and wrong.” Uh-oh. You know you’re in trouble when this motherfucker starts getting all moral. Bella tries to take his mind off it—they start making out and Bella pushes it further. “I was clearly beginning to cross his cautious lines.” So what does that mean exactly? Are clothes coming off? Details, Bella! “His body was cold through the thin quilt, but I crushed myself against him eagerly. Dry humping! We’re getting somewhere! Bella possibly has an orgasm:

I collapsed back into my pillow, gasping, my head spinning. Something tugged at my memory, elusive, on the edges.

Is Bella flashing back to some prior sexual experience? Has it been that long since she’s gotten off? She tries to get Edward to start up again, but he’s having self-control (read: erection) problems. “Which is tempting you more, my blood or my body?” Bella asks. That’s literally the most overtly sexual line we’ve seen so far. Bella puts her sore arm against Edward’s cold, ice pack body and tries to sleep—but then she realizes what was tugging at her memory before.

Last spring, when he’d had to leave me to throw James off my trail, Edward had kissed me goodbye, not knowing when—or if—we would see each other again. This kiss had that same almost painful edge for some reason I couldn’t imagine. I shuddered into unconsciousness, as if I were already having a nightmare.

Okay, so probably not an orgasm.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We Need To Talk About How I Was Right About That Editors Song From The New Moon Soundtrack

I don’t have a copy of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road anymore—I read my brother’s copy and for once actually returned it. In my family we have a pretty flexible relationship with “borrowing.” Sometime in the middle of last year my sister loaned my wife her copy of Twilight and she read it and told me I should read it, and then I decided I should blog about it too, and then it obviously took me until March of this year to finish it. And I still have it. I’ve bought at least 3 copies of Sam Harris’s book Letter To A Christian Nation, because I keep loaning my copy to people and never trying to get them back.

So it’s weird that I didn’t just keep my brother’s copy of The Road, but not really. Who wants to think about that book after you’ve read it? It’s like, get away from me The Road! It wasn’t so gruesome that I couldn’t finish it—(although Johnny Got His Gun was! After a while I just couldn’t pick that book up anymore)—but it was clearly gruesome enough that I didn’t want to ever think about it again.

But obviously I thought about it when I heard that Editors song “No Sound But The Wind,” because it is basically “The Road: The Song,” carrying the fire being an especially important part of The Road, rhetorically speaking. (That’s kind of McCarthy’s thing, isn’t it? Bell’s dream at the end of No Country For Old Men is a weird thematic echo of this.) So it’s weird on the face of it that this song, so clearly about another book-to-film adaptation that was also released in 2009, is on the New Moon soundtrack. But the plot, as it turns out, thickens!

There’s an article on some kind of British website called, in which the Editors defend themselves against charges of “selling out” by putting a song on the New Moon soundtrack.

Let me say, by the way, that I am glad hipsterdom has progressed in America to the point where we don’t just get mad and yell “sell out!” when someone does something like put a song on a soundtrack to a franchise popular among the tweens. When I heard that Grizzly Bear was going to be on the New Moon soundtrack, my first thought was: Awesome, I hope they make a lot of money from this! And I sort of felt like everyone else felt the same way. Or maybe I am just getting old, and I don’t hear hipster backlash anymore? Is it like a dog whistle? Have I aged out of the frequency?

Anyway, putting a song on the New Moon soundtrack doesn’t make you a sell out. And yet:

But the singer [Tom Smith] said he was initially unsure about the project because the director [Chris Weitz] asked him to change some of the lyrics in the song, which was originally inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel, The Road.

I was right! Wait a second—he changed some of the lyrics? That kind of does make you a sell out, doesn’t it?

“But I went back and I thought about the lyrics and I recorded it slightly differently and I actually think the lyrics flow better now than they ever did and it will now be on the film.”

Keep fucking that chicken, buddy.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We Need To Talk About The Fact That One Of The Songs On The New Moon Soundtrack Is In The Wrong Movie

So I've been listening to the New Moon Soundtrack. Do you ever get the feeling that you've just written the first line of your obituary? That just happened to me.

So yeah New Moon: The Soundtrack. One thing I forgot to mention when I reviewed Twilight is the fact that the closing credits are the best part of the movie-- and not in like a "thank god it's over" kind of way either-- it's just a particularly compelling sequence in a generally compelling movie (in which the love-watching and hate-watching elements are particular difficult to separate, but still). A big part of that is the Radiohead song "15 Step," which sounds perversely perfect for the close of the film, and I was unapologetically thrilled by that whole little sequence. It felt like the material was rising to the quality of the music, and its placement at the end of the film was a rising tide that lifted most of the rest of the boats (the editing boat sank and the makeup boat caught fire) and made me like the movie better overall.

That said, the Twilight Soundtrack is AWFUL. Linkin Park? No. Muse? No. Collective Soul? Ugh. Paramore? Kill me. Robert Pattinson? I'm dead already, just stop it.

If you've heard that last one (you have) it's really like, Robert Pattinson doing his Robert Johnson impersonation or something. Who knew this young British white guy could sing like an old black man? His contributions are actually a few of the strongest tracks! That is how bad this album is! The strongest track is the Iron & Wine one, which I hear was Kristen Stewart's suggestion. Who told me that? Was it one of you? Or was it the seven part documentary I watched on the Twilight DVD? Did I just type that out loud?

But, uh, anyway, where I was going with this is, the New Moon soundtrack has an impressive pedigree. St. Vincent & Bon Iver? Yes. Grizzly Bear? Fuck yes. Thom Yorke? Lykke Li? What the hell is happening?! And as a whole, the album is very good! I have listened to it a lot! I've listened to that Anya Marina song more than I'd like to admit! Muse is still around, but whatever, that is what the skip button is for! I'll let New Moon get away with one miss. It is the inverse of the Iron & Wine on the last one.

I have one small problem though, which is something I discussed with my brother and sister over Christmas, and have only remembered now. The Editors song on this album, called "No Sound But The Wind," is definitely about the wrong book/film adaptation. Can you guess which one? If you've read it or seen it, it should spring to mind immediately, because it is unquestionably what this song is about.

Wrong soundtrack, guys! What is going on with this?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

WRITING NEW MOON: Alice Gets Caught

And now we have the textual representation of my equivocation w/r/t with whom Alice should be having sex. We learned that in the dead-space between Twilight and New Moon Alice helped Bella shower. I could have gone a lot of ways with this. That's what she said.

Previous entries can be found in the directory.

"Alice Gets Caught"

Bella Swan woke up feeling like shit. Her fucking walking cast had twisted around in the night, and moving it back hurt like hell. This fucking cast itches like a motherfucker, Bella thought. She’d already lost a pencil and a key in there trying to scratch, and now she couldn’t be sure where they even were. One came back every now and again to stick into some sore spot of flesh like the shrapnel in Harry Clearwater’s leg from the war. Bella’s teachers had given up on chiding her for her profane outbursts in the middle of class whenever one did.

She was exhausted. For a quick second she forgot her new routine and looked for Edward in his chair, but he was gone. He knew better than to stick around in the mornings now. Bella got ready for school with a different vampire these days. Where was she?
“Alice?” Bella called.
From downstairs she heard a sudden crashing and fumbling. Someone got up from the couch. Alice came dancing up the stairs, wiping her mouth and pulling her shirt back on.
“Sorry Bella, honey, I was just…talking to your dad. Ready for your shower?”


Alice didn’t know how shit had gotten so out of hand. She’d been spending a lot of time talking with Charlie in the mornings—she always arrived too early—and a few days ago they’d just started fucking. It had happened so fast, she didn’t have a lot of time to think about the consequences. She was terrified Bella would find out, but she was also totally unwilling to stop. It was a complicated situation. To make matters worse, she’d taken to mentally re-living her sessions with Charlie and looking into the future to see what they’d try tomorrow while helping his daughter shower. It felt kind of perverse, but it was free time Alice had every day to get lost in thought; Bella took long showers. And she had to compartmentalize this shit—she didn’t dare think about Charlie around Jasper. What if she’d said the wrong name…it was too scary to think about.

Focus, Alice thought. Bella was getting in the shower-she was running out of time to think. She would worry about the consequences later, enjoy it while she could.

Alice’s task was simple enough: she stood by the shower and held Bella’s walking cast away from the water. She occasionally had to reach in and support Bella by her other hip if she started to lose her balance, but even a girl as clumsy as Bella got better at standing on one foot with enough practice. Alice had to pay even less attention lately. She looked ahead to tomorrow’s session. Charlie had decided to try out a few new moves; one looked especially interesting.

Alice snapped out of her reverie—Bella was lying on the floor of the bathtub. “Shit,” Alice said, standing her back up and toweling off her cast gracefully before the water could set in. “I’m sorry Bella, I got distracted.”
“No, I’m sorry. Fuck, you’re so wet now.”
Alice giggled.


Getting dressed alone would be a struggle, but Bella had decided to limit the amount of time Alice saw her naked. Today, in the shower, she’d seen this look in Alice’s eye, and she looked…aroused. Bella was flattered, but just a little uncomfortable. Luckily Alice didn’t seem offended when Bella dismissed her—she said she’d finish talking to Charlie. Bella smiled in spite of herself. She was so happy they were getting along; they were actually talking in Charlie’s bedroom!

Bella finished getting dressed and called for Alice.
“I’m coming!” Alice nearly screamed from the other room.
Bella shrugged and went downstairs to wait. It was a good thing they’d started so early, because Bella ended up waiting for another 45 minutes. Jeez, she’s my friend Charlie, Bella thought, feeling a surge of jealousy. Were they talking about her? What could they be talking about?

Alice finally came gracefully down the stairs—moving a little more slowly than normal, like she was sore. Bella hoped she hadn’t hurt herself springing into action in the shower earlier.

Surprisingly, Edward was in the driveway this morning. He usually waited in the school parking lot. Bella smiled, but then she frowned. Edward looked angry.

Still, he smiled back at her warmly. “Good morning Bella.” When he turned to his sister his expression grew cold again. “Alice,” he practically growled.


Fuck, Alice thought. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. What the fuck was this? Had he been reading her mind? Fuck! Alice knew she was fucked, and not in a good way for once. In the parking lot, Edward got out swiftly and opened Bella’s door. “If you don’t mind going on ahead,” he said, unleashing the full force of his eyes on the girl, “I’d like a private word with my sister.”

Bella mumbled something so low even Alice couldn’t hear it, and limped away toward school.

“How dare you…even consider it?” Edward demanded when Bella was out of sight.
“What?” Alice tried to look innocent.
“In the shower today. I saw what you were thinking.” His eyes were dark.
“You were reading my mind while I helped Bella shower!?” Alice said, appalled.
Edward cracked a crooked smile. “I watch the girl sleep Alice, what would you expect?” His expression was black again. “I was very much looking forward to seeing what you would be seeing, but instead I saw you…making love to Charlie!”
“Making love, Edward?” Alice mocked. “Are you eight years old or something? I was fucking Charlie.”
“You were thinking about it, you mean. But you really can’t!” His face was urgent, earnest.
Alice realized what was happening. “Right. I was fantasizing. You were seeing my fantasy. Of course I would never act on that.”
“Even thinking about it is a sin, Alice.”
She sighed in relief. “You know I have a thing for uniforms.”
“I do. And as much as that has helped us in the past-”
“Like Woodstock,” she reminded him.
“And Woodstock ’99.”
“Ugh, don’t remind me. The point is, you’re with Jasper now. You have to keep those impure thoughts out of your head.”
“Look who’s talking! You were going to spy on Bella in the shower!”
“That’s different. I love Bella.”
“And I love Charlie’s cock!” Alice blurted. Fuck. “I mean, I love thinking about it, and having fantasies. Not re-living memories of it in the shower and thinking about what I’m going to do to it tomorrow. None of that. I am just thinking, is all. And that is what you are seeing.”
Edward looked confused.
Fuck, Alice thought. I’m rambling. Shut the fuck up Alice! Shut the fuck up! “Okay, I see how that is different now. And how it is wrong and all.”
“I’m glad we had this—” Edward started.
But Alice’s face had gone smooth and blank. Charlie had arrived at the Police station and come up with a new idea for tomorrow.
“Handcuffs, Alice? Gross!” Edward interrupted her vision.
“Stay out of my head!” Alice said.
“Stop being such a pervert!” Edward retorted.
“Fuck you,” Alice hissed. The sound was all silver, a wind chime.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 2: Do The Panic

Now we begin New Moon in earnest. To those of you who have helped promote this blog in the past, this is probably where you should send people. Long, semi-insane interpretations of S. Meyer's interpretations of Shakespeare tend to be off-putting, so let's pretend that last post never happened. If you are new here, welcome! This is the blog where we over-analyze and discuss the works of S. Meyer at length-- I'm sure you've been looking for something like this for a long time. If any of you, like Kira, are reading along with me, please let me know whenever we came to similar conclusions. It's nice to know I am not always crazy.

Previous entries can be found in the directory.

One of the weird things about writing a sequel is that authors feel compelled to find some clever way of working information we’ve already learned into the first few pages of new text. In chapter 1, old details trickle in here and there—we have to learn that Edward is a vampire again, for instance—and it has a weird “curtain pulling back” effect.

Authors obviously don’t intend people to pick up in the middle of a series, so there is no real reason not to start at the beginning anyway. The summary bits in the first chapter ostensibly serve an audience that doesn’t really exist. Instead it functions like a wink to readers: hey, remember this? It seems unnatural and contrived for Bella to talk this way.

Chapter 1: Party

We start with an anxiety dream. Bella’s teeth don’t fall out, but that’s the essence of it. Has anyone ever really had the archetypal “teeth falling out” dream? I’ve been having one lately where I have one elongated, dented front tooth. I’m guessing it’s a “no dental insurance since 2007” anxiety dream, but maybe it just means I was a pirate in a past life. Or a beaver.

In the dream, Bella’s standing in a field looking at her (reanimated) dead grandmother. Edward starts wandering from the woods into the field, but Bella hears his voice first.

The voice I’d walk through fire for—or, less dramatically, slosh every day through the cold and endless rain for.

Weather in Forks is bad: check! Bella panics because her grandmother will see him sparkle when he steps into the sunlight—“Gran didn’t know I was in love (check) with a vampire (check)—nobody knew that (check)”—and when she looks over at her grandma the old woman looks equally panicked as Bella does. Hint hint.

Edward strides out anyway and Bella silently laments that his mind reading power doesn’t work on her (check). He puts his arm around Bella, who turns and looks shyly at her Grandmother. Gran has her arm sticking out at a funny angle, and we realize she’s not looking at her grandmother but herself, in a mirror. Edward whispers “happy birthday” to old-woman Bella and young-woman Bella wakes up.

It is Bella’s 18th birthday; she’s legal everybody! She’s in a bad mood (check) but what’s so bad about 18? Porn, cigarettes, voting—it’s a great year. Well, if Bella ever fucks Edward she’ll be guilty of statutory rape in some states, so there’s that. Edward will be 17 forever! He’s basically a Miley Cyrus song waiting to happen.

She goes to school, and Edward is waiting “like a marble (check) tribute to some forgotten god of pagan beauty.” Bella gets that “and he likes me, cunts!” standard ego boost that momentarily relieves her stress. Alice is there too, so we get a whole paragraph of backstory about how she and Edward are not really related but she is just as super-sexy as him because she is also a vampire.

I’m getting sick of the word “tawny” by the way—here used to describe Alice’s eyes while she waits excitedly with a present in hand. It makes me think of an eagle or something, which makes me think of Eagle Eye, which makes me think of Shia Labeouf. I don’t want Shia contaminating my Alice. Bella gets pissed off again at the present because apparently she requested none. Nevertheless Alice skips (check) toward her enthusiastically with her “pixie face (check) glowing under her spiky black hair (okay, you get it).”

Alice asks about how she liked her camera and scrapbook—because she already knew what her parents were going to give her, get it? She sees the future, folks! Tip your waitresses.

We hear about how Bella’s heart beats funny around Edward—by now you’d think she’d be suffering, health-wise, from all that. Then there’s this:

“So, as discussed, I am not allowed to wish you a happy birthday, is that correct?”
“Yes. That is correct.” I could never quite mimic the flow of his perfect, formal articulation. It was something that could only be picked up in an earlier century.

I’m not checking that one off the list because it’s bullshit! Recall that Edward was born in the 20th century, not the 16th. It’s not like he said, “Ere speak we further, thou hast forbid me from perforce expressing birthday wishes withal, be this correct?” And it’s not like Bella’s normal reply would be like, “Mos def, yo.” So let’s stop it with the earlier century, okay?

Edward remarks that most people enjoy getting presents, and Alice laughs—“the sound was all silver, a wind chime.” Don’t patronize Edward, Alice. “What’s the worst that could happen?” she says, but she should have foreseen that would be a stupid thing to ask. “Getting older,” Bella replies. Edward’s face tightens into “a hard line.” That’s our Edward! Always tightening into hard lines!

As a political science major with real misgivings about my apparent chosen trade, I’ve taken a lot of Lit courses. For some reason the theme this year in both my Shakespeare and “Literature and the Art of Film” classes seems to be “looking for phallic symbols in everything.” Did you know that basically every thing in Shakespeare, Middleton, Poe, James, Hitchcock and basically all German Expressionism is supposed to represent a penis? Macbeth’s dagger? Penis. Charlie’s cigar in Shadow of a Doubt? Penis. There’s also a lot of rape and incest imagery. I’m just saying this because Edward’s hard mouth is not supposed to represent a penis. There are no phallic symbols in New Moon. I just want to free you from thinking about that angle (that’s what she said). Rape and incest imagery I’m not sure about.

Alice and Bella have a minor fight when Alice insists on throwing a party tonight—she got Bella out of work and everything. Bella has a job? In this economy? Bella protests that she has to watch “the nineteen-sixties version” of Romeo and Juliet. (Why the vague year? No IMDb, S. Meyer?) This motif is back already? They are apparently doing R&J in Bella’s senior English class. What is going on with this curriculum? I’m writing a letter to Arnie Duncan about Forks High.

Bella maintains she has to watch the movie, and Alice snaps. (She likes to party.) “This can be easy, or this can be hard, Bella, but one way or the other—” DAMN. Is it getting hot in here or is it just Alice('s temper)?

Edward strikes a compromise—cooler heads prevail (get it?)—and they go to class. Alice “danced” off to hers, in case you were wondering.

Bella spends a while fixating on the sexual maturation of the boys in her school. Mike Newton is thinning out apparently, and Bella is again thankful Edward can’t read her thoughts. She’s still sulking about presents too, but she sort of has a good reason. She’s bothered by the fact that the Cullens are really rich, which is something we haven’t officially learned before. The cars and designer clothes have hinted as much, but Edward stole a car once, so you never know about these things. Cullen morality is a tricky thing. It obviously doesn’t extend so far as thinking as stealing is wrong, or, as it turns out, thinking that exploiting Alice’s power to play the stock market is wrong. As a poor child of a school teacher (like me) she’s uncomfortable around ostentatious wealth (like me). Good for her (us).

Edward has apparently been angling to pay her college tuition, something every father should do. Oh wait, I forgot, he’s not her dad! Still, I’d take the money, Bella.

“Sheeeeeit, I’ll take any motherfucker’s money if he giving it away!”
-Sen. Bella Davis

Edward’s compromise is that he’ll take Bella home to watch the movie and then forcibly return her to Chez Cullen for the bash. So they go home and settle in. In case you forgot the Prime Directive of Twilight, that sex equals death, Bella and Edward have a makeout session in which she gets a little too horny and Edward has to shut it down. Poor Bella. She’s the stereotypical guy in this relationship, always trying to grab at body parts and getting cock-blocked. It’s hard to blame Edward—most people over the age of a hundred have little in the way of a sex drive.

Bella describes the experience of cuddling with Edward: he’s ice cold and rock hard. He’s behind her, so it’s essentially like sitting against an ice pack.

“Did someone say six-pack?”-Charlie Swan
“Did someone say wolf pack?”-Jacob Black

Bella gets upset when Edward starts criticizing Romeo. “Romeo was one of my favorite fictional characters. Until I met Edward, I’d sort of had a thing for him.” Attracted to a fictional character? That’s ridic—oh, I see what you did there, S. Meyer.

Edward does a standard Lit. 101 takedown on Romeo: fickle (Rosaline), quick to violence, kills self and asks questions later, etc. But Edward sticks on the suicide thing and says he envies the ease with which the star-crossed lovers offed themselves. We are getting goth up in this bitch.

Bella naturally freaks out, and Edward explains that back when Bella had her brush with death he’d started thinking about how he’d kill himself if things went south down South. It’s pretty hard to kill a vampire, after all, so you have to plan. Edward’s plan is not that complicated, though. He says he’d have gone to Italy and provoked the Volturi. The Volturwhatnow? That’s something we haven’t heard about yet! I bet it’s important!

The Volturi, it turns out, are the Royal Family/Vatican of the vampire world. They are super old, have super powers, and enforce the rules. The first rule of Vampire Club is the same as the first rule of Fight Club: don’t talk about it. But there aren’t any other rules. So Edward would have had to fly out to Vampire Vatican City and done something vampire-y in front of a normal human (there are normal humans in Vampire Vatican City, apparently). And then, you know, he’d have been ripped to pieces or something; Edward is super casual about all of it. (Happy birthday, Bella!)

Obviously this leads to an argument. Bella is horrified by the idea of Edward killing himself, even if she was dead. He asks her what she would do “if the situation were reversed.” Is he implying that she would definitely kill herself too? I’m not saying he’s wrong, but he’s a little cocky, no? She basically asks him the same exact question: if something happened to him, would he want her to off herself? (S. Meyer puts the emphasis on “off myself” When it seems like the emphasis should be on “would you want me to” or “would you want me to” because both questions have to do with Bella’s suicide. Edward is asking if she would want to die if he died, and Bella is asking if he would want her to die if he died, but it ends up reading like they haven’t heard each other. It’s confusingly worded, though it oddly mirrors they way their self-absorption is clouding their comprehension. It’s probably unintentional.) He realizes that he wouldn’t want her to die either. So in other words they’re both too obsessed with the idea of their own suffering to see it from the other’s point of view. Very healthy stuff going on.

Charlie comes home; we get the sense that Edward spends a lot of time with both of them now because Charlie is unsurprised when Edward passes on dinner. (What must he think, though? Either Edward has an eating disorder or he’s a snob who won’t eat the poor folk drivel they eat at the Swan residence.) Edward asks to take Bella over to his place for the evening, and Bella briefly hopes that Charlie will object, but there’s a ball game on so he basically kicks them out of the house. Another classic Charlie move. Charlie also asks after Alice.

“Hey, say hi to Alice for me. She hasn’t been over in a while.” Charlie’s mouth pulled down at one corner.
“It’s been three days, Dad,” I reminded him. Charlie was crazy about Alice. He’d become attached last spring when she’d helped me through my awkward convalescence; Charlie would be forever grateful to her for saving him from the horror of an almost-adult daughter who needed help showering.

Whoa. The Joey Tribbiani part of my brain just exploded. Alice and Bella have been SHOWERING TOGETHER?

"How you do[BOOM]"

On the one hand, this is a huge leap forward for Team Alice. On the other hand, now I find myself thinking that Charlie and Alice should get together! Charlie is too cool a guy to be alone, and we’ll see in a few pages that Alice really deserves better than Jasper. Alice deserves a real, mature man. And Charlie deserves some young pussy.

In the car on the way over, Edward tells Bella to not be a bitch tonight. “The last real birthday any of us had was Emmett in 1935. Cut us a little slack... They’re all very excited.” I thought Emmett got vamped immediately after being discovered as a victim of a bear attack. So they never knew him as a human! Did it happen on his birthday? The other thing is that everyone is going to be there—including Emmett and therefore Rosalie. Bella explains that most of Forks was under the impression that the elder three Cullens were away at college in Dartmouth (all of them? The town gossips in Forks must be having a field day wondering how many buildings Carlisle had to donate to pull that off, because you KNOW those kids didn’t have the grades) but in reality they had gone to Africa. That doesn’t seem like the most hospitable climate for vampires! This chapter has so many inconsistent new details!

Edward apparently wanted to buy Bella an Audi for her birthday, but she refused. He asks if there is anything he can get her.

The words came out in a whisper. “You know what I want.”

I like Bella’s strategy—she’s just going to bring this up in every conversation until he relents! Edward says “shut the fuck up” (paraphrasing) and Bella replies “Maybe Alice will give me what I want.” Yes, Bella! This is what I have been saying! Alice can give you (or maybe your dad, I haven’t decided) everything you want! Love, sex, companionship, trust, immortality—you are literally getting NONE of this from Edward! Who is he to you?

Chez Cullen is decked out like we’re in a Nancy Meyers movie or an episode of My Super Sweet Sixteen. I have to say this kind of girly decorating binge is really out of step with my idea of Alice’s character. I was thinking it would be like the parties you see in Blow, and maybe even Paul Reubens would be there, but no dice. Instead of bowls of cocaine we get bowls of pink roses lining the stairs outside. Japanese lanterns hang from the porch. Inside, every surface is covered with pink candles and “dozens of crystal bowls filled with hundreds of roses.” Where the hell did Alice order all of these flowers? The Cullens are so bad at staying inconspicuous! Oh, I’m sure the Forks flower shop gets orders for a few grand worth of roses like, all the time. I’m sure no one even noticed.

There was a table with a white cloth draped over it next to Edward’s grand piano, holding a pink birthday cake, more roses, a stack of glass plates, and a small pile of silver-wrapped presents.

HANG ON. A stack of glass plates? No one at this party eats food other than Bella! Inconsistency seems to be the theme of this chapter. At least we get a brief introductory moment when all of the Cullens behave as expected: Carlisle greets Bella charmingly, Esme hugs her maternally, Emmett grins at her brotherly (TWSS alert: Bella wonders “had Emmett always been so…big?”), and Jasper keeps his distance aloofly. Rosalie doesn’t even smile. Bitch.

Alice drags Bella to the present table. There’s a funny bit where Emmett suspiciously ducks out of the room and Bella opens her first present—a box so light it feels empty—which turns out to be an empty box. “Um…thanks,” Bella says, and even Rosalie momentarily cracks a smile, her icy heart thawing for a brief second. Bitch. Turns out it’s a new stereo for her truck, and Emmett is installing it so she can’t return it. “Alice was always one step ahead of me.”

The other day in my Shakespeare class we took a break from discussing penises to talk about the porter scene in Macbeth, a comedic interlude between Duncan’s murder and the discovery thereof. In some ways it serves as a palate cleanser so you don’t have two horrific scenes back-to-back, but why make it funny? It’s a peaks and valleys thing. Putting a moment of comedy before something dark and serious makes it all the more devastating if you can pull it off. But it’s tricky! If you get the balance wrong, subsequent violence and death also seems funny. I recently saw a production of The Changeling—a play that veers harshly from comedy to tragedy and back again—and the directors seemed to anticipate this problem and decided to play the whole tragedy as a comedy. Even murders garnered laughs from the audience.

It’s tough to say what’s happening here. All of the jokes are a prelude to something, but to some people it might all seem funny. The Cullen family pushes in to watch Bella open presents—even Jasper gets closer—and she suddenly gets a paper cut. Shit gets real. A paper cut, remember. Jasper loses it, and Edward, in a boneheaded move meant to protect Bella, sends her flying across the table (!) into the cake and glass plates so she gets cut up a lot worse. Smooth! Emmett and Edward wrestle Jasper back, but pretty soon everyone notices that Bella is bleeding all over the place and soon she’s staring up at “six suddenly ravenous vampires.”

One the one hand it’s a well earned cliffhanger—the aforementioned jokes build a false sense of security and then S. Meyer hits us with this crisis. On the other hand, it’s not really a false sense of security. It’s a contrived sense of danger. Are we really supposed to believe Jasper is this unstable? A paper cut? He was in the room with an even more profusely bleeding Bella long enough to dismember James in the last book, and they all go to public school, were kids bleed all the time! How could this have never happened around Jasper before? It seems unbelievable, in terms of the stakes (get it?) as we already understood them, for this to actually be dangerous.

It’s well written, but totally inconsistent character-wise, which undercuts the writing. It’s actually the opposite of S. Meyer’s usual situation. I think I like the devil I know better.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 1: Romeo & Juliet Are Assholes

Dostoevsky once said there are two different kinds of stories (1) A vampire goes on a journey, and (2) a werewolf comes to town. In her infinite wisdom Stephenie Meyer has given us both in one novel. Twilight has set up the stakes for New Moon: Bella Swan, a disaffected teenager in Forks WA, is in love with a vampire. She wants to become one too, but her paramour is an asshole, born before women could vote, who wants to maintain his patriarchal dominance over her and every other woman in his life. She sees becoming a vampire as the start of the life she was always meant to live; her lover has some very troubling ideas about God and the sanctity of life which do not allow him to see it her way. In a lot of ways, the story of The Twilight Saga is the story of Barack Obama, raging against the dying light of Reagan’s America and the backwards ideas about race, women’s rights, and government that still haunt this country today. Of course in most (really almost all) ways it is not the story of that at all. Mostly this installment is about werewolves and inefficient coping mechanisms. But whatever.


Once again, New Moon has an epigraph, and it’s from Romeo and Juliet. Already I’m pissed off; S. Meyer couldn’t reach a little deeper in the Shakespeare catalog? We’re really going with Shakespeare 101? You could at least pull out some Pyramus and Thisbe just as a little “of course I’m not going to be so obvious as to reference Romeo and Juliet” wink to your readers. But no.

Bella is supposed to be a senior in high school now, right? Don’t tell me the curriculum at Forks High is so backwards they are only getting to Romeo and Juliet now! They should be doing The Tempest, or maybe ditching The Bard altogether and getting into some Theater of the Absurd! That would be something wouldn’t it? You turn past the table of contents and you see this:

"Given the existence at uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua outside time without extension who from the heights of divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown but time will tell and suffers like the divine Miranda with those who for reasons unknown but time will tell are plunged in torment plunged in fire whose fire flames if that continues and who can doubt it will fire the firmament that is to say blast hell to heaven so blue still and calm so calm with a calm which even though intermittent is better than nothing but not so fast and considering what is more that as a result of the labors left unfinished..." -Waiting For Godot

But no. Romeo and Juliet. Okay, fine. It’s important to remember that Romeo and Juliet cuts both ways, like every other Shakespeare play. On the one hand it is the story of star-crossed lovers, on the other hand it’s a story about lust and bad luck. It’s just like how A Midsummer Night’s Dream is simultaneously about how magic is all around us and how magic is nowhere. I think people acknowledge the cross cutting themes in the latter play more than the former.

So that’s one thing we have to wonder about New Moon: like R&J, is there more than one correct way to read it? I don’t actually think there is more than one intended way to read it, and whether intended qualifies as correct is really a matter of opinion. But let’s unpack that a little.

When Edward basically says, “If I fuck you I might lose control and kill you,” it’s hard not to read that as an exaggerated stand-in for domestic abuse. Yet I don’t think this series is going to end with Bella finally getting out of her dangerous co-dependent relationship. Probably just the opposite. And S. Meyer doesn’t seem like she has such a bleak worldview that Bella getting trapped for all eternity in some kind of Sid & Nancy thing is supposed to be our last impression.

I’ve been puzzling over questions this for days, and I realized I was having trouble because I assumed if it wasn’t a metaphor for domestic abuse it had to be a metaphor for something else. It actually doesn’t. It might not be a metaphor for anything.

And it’s perfectly valid to read R&J as a perfect romance, to almost see the violence of the consequence of a love so pure in a world so imperfect. And I think that’s exactly what S. Meyer is thinking, if you look at where she truncated the quote.

The epigraph is from Act 2, Scene 6, right before the Friar marries Romeo and Juliet. Romeo sort of dismisses the Friar’s first line which essentially expresses the sentiment that since good things like this happen (marriage) we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff later on (presumably the Friar means bad luck in the stock market or illness, not double-suicide) and Romeo basically says “hey, as soon as you marry me to Juliet I can die and that’s totally fine.” The Friar sort of blanches at this and cautions him, and here’s the part New Moon reproduces:

“These violent delights have violent ends, And in their triumph die; like fire and powder, Which, as they kiss, consume.” (2.6.9-11)

S. Meyer’s quote stops there and ends with a period. In the text it ends with a colon, because the Friar isn’t done talking. He goes on to say

“Therefore love moderately; long love doth so; Too swift arrives the tardy as too slow.” (2.6.14-15)

Obviously there’s an argument to be made that Shakespeare is making fun of this kind of sentiment and that Romeo and Juliet did have the most pure form of love and that is why they died for it. The implication it has for our story is that the inevitable violence we’re probably going to see soon isn’t something that can be avoided… it’s the stars crossing for our lovers.

But why not keep the rest of the quote in there, even still? It probably doesn’t do anything for younger readers, right? They just see “Romeo and Juliet,” think “Edward and Bella,” and turn the page. But Stephenie Meyer is smarter than that. If that was all she wanted to do she’d just use this line:

“Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon.” (2.2.4)

or “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” and be done with it. Instead we get a section from R&J in which both possible interpretations of the play are included in a few lines, but half of those lines, the ones containing the second interpretation, in a sense, are cut out.

I know, I’m obsessing over the epigraph again, but these first decisions are important. Quentin Tarantino picks the opening music for his movies before he writes them. I thought of the first sentence in this post weeks ago.

(By the way I’m not going to make the obvious argument that New Moon is a lesser art or something and should therefore not deign to compare itself to Shakespeare; The Bard never wrote a phrase as great as “a real crying jag,” anyway.)

And it’s important here because I know what is going to happen, in part, in this book, and questions of authorial intent are going to be really important. Maybe I’m extending too much credit to S. Meyer in even looking for intent in an epigraph that might have been an afterthought, but I don’t think so.

So in suggesting to me that any parallels to moral quandaries living or dead are purely coincidental, this epigraph didn’t do much for me. It could be worse, I know:

“I’ll never let you go Jack, I’ll never let you go.”

But it couldn’t be much worse. In some ways I’m setting you all up here; someone already told me what the epigraph is for Eclipse (you spoiling motherfuckers) and it is awesome. I’m pumped for that fucking epigraph, because even if it is more surface-level literary analysis-as-usual, it’s great surface-level analysis-as-usual. But obviously we have a whole book to get through before we talk about that.

S. Meyer conceived the whole Twilight series after having a dream. Well, the other night I was up until 2am reading New Moon, and thinking about this epigraph, when I got up and wrote a word down on a piece of paper:


It’s the best word I can think of for experiencing a lot of this book. Some weird shit is coming. Early on in this book we get a theology lesson from Carlisle. Souls are discussed at length. And if you thought we were done with the star-crossed lovers you’re going to want to kill yourself pretty soon.


Once again we’re media res up in this shit. Bella is running through a “callous crowd” (did S. Meyer read some of Jewel’s poetry between books?) and racing against time or something. She’s running in order to save what she calls “infinitely more precious” than her own life. Unless things have really changed and this book revolves around some kind of McGuffin like a sorcerer’s stone, I’m pretty sure she’s talking about Edward. Or Jacob, I suppose.

I’m totally aware of the Team Edward/Team Jacob marketing campaign that accompanied the film of New Moon, but I’m interested to see if it is totally an invention of marketing, sort of like the fake mystery surrounding Snape in the run-up to the release of Deathly Hallows. What was that shit? Was anyone ever actually unsure how that was going to turn out? I’m suspicious that Team Edward/Team Jacob is the same thing, because I’m pretty sure Bella wasn’t joking about that “irrevocably in love” stuff.

Who is that handsome man?

So anyway, Bella is running, and she alludes to the fact that Alice told her she would probably die. Alice is in this place where Bella is, wherever that is, but the sun is out so she’s hiding somewhere in the shadows. Already we’ve got something to be happy about: Alice is here! If S. Meyer is in the novella writing business now, let me be the first (probably not the fist) to advocate for an Alice novella. And a Charlie novella. Plus then we can get a Twilight Origins: Alice movie someday. Twilight Origins: Charlie would probably be a little too depressing and adult for Summit Entertainment’s target demo.

Bella is in the same kind of death-wish mode she was in toward the end of the last book; she’s convinced that she hasn’t run fast enough for whatever it is she’s trying to do and seeks solace in the fact that she’ll be dead soon. “For in failing at this, I forfeited any desire to live.” That’s our Bella, huh? Always wishing she was dead. I’m happy to be back together with such optimistic characters. This book is going to be like getting a blowjob from a rainbow, isn’t it?