Thursday, May 27, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 13: Five Wolf Moon

I've been reading New Moon, by Stephenie Meyer. Previous entries can be found in the directory. Recently: Enemies List

Chapter 10: The Meadow

Jacob stays sick and doesn’t call, and Bella’s conspiracy theorist instincts kick in. She’s getting reassurances through Billy and other third parties, but she doesn’t believe them. Obviously she’s going to be right about this, and a little part of me dies every time the conspiracy turns out to be true in any book or movie or TV show.

I loathe all conspiracy theorists—from the “9/11 was an Inside Job” fucks to the birthers to certain strains of Teabaggers. In watching Mad Men recently I think I’ve traced my loathing back to my father’s own dismissal of conspiracy theorists around the Kennedy assassination. My father was six when JFK was shot, and has been interested in the event and the man himself ever since; he’s even taken a few trips to Dallas. And he never paid a lot of heed to conspiracy theories around that event, the mother of all conspiracy-theory-birthing events.

Perhaps as a result, I have no patience for people who talk about the Bilderberg Group, etc. Seeing the world as a vast succession of conspiracies is a coward’s way of explaining his or her own weakness in the face of global events. I’m comfortable with my own weakness—I don’t see it as the result of shadowy secret forces keeping me down. That is the way they see it; eventually with these conspiracy theorists it always comes back to a personal place. The Bilderberg group is why I’m not rich and famous and powerful. (That isn’t to say the world isn’t full of people with lots of money and disproportionate advantage, but those people are out in the open. They don’t have secret meetings on the second Thursday of every month or something.) This is not to mention the fact that believing that you have information that millions of other people don’t (the especially dumb ones unironically use the word “sheeple”) takes a very special kind of arrogance.

Anyway, I hate it when the conspiracy turns out to be true, as it always does in works of fiction, because these moments, however small, reaffirm the beliefs for the believers. Stupid as that may sound, it's true. It’s the same logic that led to Bush Administration officials citing 24-like "ticking time-bomb" scenarios as justifying torture and other advanced interrogation whatever-euphemism-you-likes, apparently not realizing they were citing a work of fiction.

The first time Bella calls and gets no answer, she drives to La Push and no one is home at the Black's. She gets Charlie to call Harry Clearwater for the scoop, but it turns out Harry is having health problems and Charlie gets distracted with that. Eventually he gets off the phone and tells Bella that Jacob has mono.

“Kissing too many dudes.”-Quil Ateara

Bella looks up the symptoms to mono (Bella finds “a medical site” online and types it into the “search box.” See how you can be vague in an unobtrusive way, S. Meyer? More of this, please!) and doesn’t buy it. Still, she gives Billy and Jacob a week before she calls them again. Away from Jacob, all of Bella’s nightmares and anxieties and psychosomatic chest pains come back.

I wasn’t handling alone well.

I’m not handling that sentence well. I feel like I’m getting that stomach virus from the last chapter. After a week (obviously Bella tries a few times during the week against her own promise; she’s an addictive personality) Bella finally gets someone on the phone. Billy tells her that Jacob is okay now, and he went with some friends to Port Angeles for the day. Bella is like whaaaat. She realizes that her week away from Jacob was worse for her than it was for him, and her whole perspective is shaken. All this time she thought she was the cock-tease with all the cards, but it turns out Jacob had a hold on Bella’s cock, too. Is pussy-tease a word yet? It is now, I guess. “I felt the blood run out of my face,” Bella says.

Charlie comes down the stairs and finds Bella still holding the phone in her hand. He’s supposed to go fishing today, but when he realizes what’s up it occurs to him he should probably be on suicide watch instead. Bella tries to get rid of him, promising she’ll call Jessica so they can study for a calculus test. He seems especially concerned with keeping her out of the woods; there's a missing hiker now which is probably related to the giant bear. Obviously once Charlie leaves Bella resolves to go hiking alone, continuing the search for the meadow; Bella never passes up a chance to possibly die.

She sets off and immediately starts talking about how creepy the forest is. Hasn't Bella ever heard of Show Don't Tell? "The sense of unease grew stronger," Bella says. That's cheating, S. Meyer!

And then she finds The Meadow. She literally just stumbles in. That was easy! Bella says it "happened with an abruptness that disoriented me." Is that a little meta-wink from our author or am I crazy?

Speaking of crazy, this whole idea was stupid, and Bella almost immediately regrets it. She takes a minute to appreciate the perfection of the place, noting that it is so round and symmetrical it is "as if someone had intentionally created the flawless circle." I'm getting echoes of Edward's weird Intelligent Design speech from Twilight here, but this one is brief. Any possible Garden of Eden parallels are thankfully never made explicit.

But Bella's Subconcious Edward Father Spirit Patronus Ghost (SEFSPG) doesn't show up, and Bella is overcome with anguish, curling up into a ball on the ground. Oh, please. You knew this was a long shot, honey. I'm losing my patience for Bella's theatrics. She is in need of an anonymous fuck, someone who can make her forget about Edward for a few hours or even minutes-- just enough to realize he's not all there is. Almost as if he hears my thoughts, Laurent suddenly steps into the clearing.

What? I mean, okay, I guess that's fair. A minor character from Twilight is back! It probably wouldn't bother me if this whole meadow subplot had been earned in the first place, but it was a totally mechanical plot development with no real justification. Separate, these two plot points (The Meadow and Laurent returning) might be acceptable, but together they seem especially contrived.

Laurent is not here to fuck, though. He seems to have found Bella by accident-- they're both surprised to see each other.

"This is a credulity-straining coincidence!" Laurent exclaimed.

Bella is surprised by how unchanged he looks, but then remembers he's immortal. "It was very silly and human to expect some kind of change," Bella says. You catch that? Human? I like how Bella very casually slips back into Twilight rhetoric when the vampires reappear. I see what you did there, S. Meyer.

It's a bit of a set-up though, because Bella thinks about how when she thought of Laurent in the past (she thought of Laurent in the past?) she'd pictured him with gold eyes, like the Cullens, since when we last heard of him he was headed to Denali to live with Honorary Cullen Tanya and her family of fellow "vegetarians." I didn't realize he'd gone there to live, but Laurent confirms as much and implies that he's been fucking at least one of them. But the thing is, his eyes are still red. Which means he's been eating humans. Diets are hard, we all know it.

And clearly Laurent intends to eat (or maybe fuck and then eat) Bella, but as usual with Laurent the conversation is weirdly casual and friendly. He inquires after the Cullens and seems surprised they've left Bella behind. "Weren't you sort of a pet of theirs?" he asks. Bella says "his eyes were innoncent of any intended offense," but when your eyes are DEEP RED how can they seem like anything other than "almost comically hostile?"

Laurent asks if the Cullens come around here anymore, and the SEFSPG finally does show up, telling Bella to lie. She tries, but Laurent doesn't buy it. Eventually he brings up Victoria. Remember her? Not really, right? Well, she's mad at Bella. And Laurent says she "won't be happy about this." "About what?" Bella asks.

He looked back at me and smiled-- the expression made him look like a black-haired angel.
"About me killing you," he answered in a seductive purr.

Only Bella would hear that as seductive. Also, angels can't have black hair under ordinary circumstances?

Laurent is supposed to be French, oui? If so, why does he speak in a near-constant stream of English idioms?

"She thought it more appropriate to kill you than Edward-fair turnabout, mate for mate. She asked me to get the lay of the land for her, so to speak."

Laurent tells Bella she should be happy, because he will kill her quickly and painlessly, whereas Victoria had some Eli Roth shit planned. Bella tries to threaten him with Cullen vengeance, but they both know it's bullshit. If Edward found out Bella was dead he'd just off himself and it would be up to Alice to avenge them both.

"Beg," my hallucination begged.

This is like in Twilight when Edward sobbed sobs. Buy a thesaurus! Laurent goes in for the kill, and kind of endearingly, Bella's almost-last thought is "Edward, I love you." Speaking of Edward, when he left and promised it would be like he never existed so that Bella would be safe, did he forget that vampires outside his family existed? Like, for instance, the ones he'd just fought a few months ago? Did he forget that he was leaving Bella in a region with an extremely favorable vampire climate, through which vampires passed all the time? Did he not realize that despite the minor threat posed by Jasper once the best thing he could do to protect Bella (aside from turning her into a vampire) was stick around and protect her from the evil vampires who show up all the time?

EVERYONE IN THIS BOOK IS SUCH A DUMB ASSHOLE! I need Alice back. But then a huge creature comes out of the woods, and S. Meyer kind of misuses a semi-colon:

Then I saw it; a huge black shape eased out of the trees, quiet as a shadow, and stalked deliberately toward the vampire.

I'm not necessarily saying it should be a colon; it should probably be neither. Bella thinks the creature is the super bear, but upon closer inspection it's a giant wolf. And upon even closer inspection, there are four more wolves coming out of the woods. Laurent seems terrified, and Bella doesn't understand why. One of the wolves is only a few feet away from our heroine, and it looks at her and she starts thinking of Jacob for some reason. That's silly, Bella! Why would a huge wolf make you think of Jacob? Laurent flees, the wolves give chase, and Bella collapses alone in the clearing.

Bella can't move for quite a while-- her totally understandable and realistic (for once!) reaction to mortal terror is a bright spot in this chapter (I mean, not a bright spot for Bella, but you know). However, almost immediately she gets down to deeply analyzing what just happened. This is really neither the time nor the place, Bella!

...the wolves should have given Laurent a wide [made] no sense that they would pursue him. I doubted his icy marble skin would smell anything like food. Why would they pass up something warm-blooded and weak like me to chase after Laurent?

Aw, Bella is dissapointed. "Why didn't they want to fuck me to death?" Mind you she's still supposedly on the ground in a blind panic. "My mind couldn't move past the fear," she said only a few lines ago. Move your ass Bella! Get out of the woods!

She finally does move her ass, and getting out turns out to be an ordeal. (Kind of like this chapter am I right?) I do like the (too brief) description of Bella's escape: she's shaking so hard she has to put the compass on the ground to read it, she's falling down and getting scraped up, little noises make her scream so hard she's hurting her own ears. She finds her truck and locks herself in and has another breakdown. I feel like we should be keeping a tally of all the times Bella loses her shit in this book. Our girl is a mess!

She gets home, but it's late and Charlie is pissed. When he sees her all covered in sap and leaves she has to tell the truth (except for the part about the vampires). She tells him she saw the bear which was really five wolves, and he calls in her report to the police station.

Then Charlie asks Bella if she'd told him Jacob was going to be out of town today-- he sounds suspicious. I wonder if Bella's matted hair and sap-covered body is making him think she and Jacob spent the day having sex in the woods. You gotta admit, that's sort of what it looks like. Well, okay, not really. Turns out Charlie saw Jacob on the reservation today, arguing with someone.

Bella decides Jacob must have confronted Embry, and that must be why he's ignoring her. Okay, that's fine Bella. Think that if you want. But uh, don't you have more important things to worry about, though? Upstairs it finally (breaking) dawns on her: Laurent and Victoria are going to come after her now!

It occurs to me that Victoria's (alleged) motivation makes no sense-- Edward wasn't even the one who killed James! In the book it is sort of vaguely implied that Emmett and Jasper did the honors, no? So shouldn't Victoria be after Alice and Rosalie? In the film, Alice delivered the death blow to James, so should Jasper be the target?

But whatever, I guess I shouldn't think about it too much! The chapter at least ends with another great sentence, as the whole "I'm definitely going to die" thing occurs to Bella:

I pressed my fist against my mouth to keep from screaming.

I feel like S. Meyer is cock-teasing me now, nestling lines like this amongst the wreckage of the last few chapters. I keep saying it's getting better, and I keep being wrong. But we're all suffering through this together, and Alice has to come back sometime, right?

Special thanks to Renee for proof-reading this post. A week later, it is now free of egregious errors. Don't blog and train people at work at the same time, everybody!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

WRITING NEW MOON: Bella Swan Becomes A Film Critic

It turns out that some fan fiction doesn't just supplement or replace events in an existing book/show/film; it just takes the characters (or one of them) and puts them in an entirely new place and time. This opens up a lot of new possibilities. Probably too many. Not to keep making jokes about Bella masturbating, but why does she have to masturbate on multiple planes of reality? Can't she just masturbate in one? But whatever, this is the way the world works I guess. No use fighting it.

Let's assume for a minute that Bella Swan is basically the same person she is in these books, but she never met any vampires or werewolves. She's just a normal girl, who grew up and started blogging, and then got hired as a critic for Salon or something. This is what would have happened:

"Bella Swan Becomes A Film Critic"

Bella Swan stared at the blank computer screen, waiting for a flash of inspiration. She was drunk, but usually that helped. Somewhere, her cat moaned. It was probably hungry. She should get up and feed it. But wouldn’t that be a kind of resignation? No, she had to get few hundred words out first. She lit another cigarette.

The phone rang. Bella saw it was her editor calling. Fuck. She answered.
“Bella? It’s David.”
“Uh-huh. What’s up boss?”
“Are you drunk?”
“Nothing serious. So what is it?”
“Well Bella,” he had that hitch in his voice, like a reluctant scolding was coming. “I’m reading your most recent review.”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Well, okay, uh, let’s start with the first graph: ‘The new romantic comedy starring the beautiful blonde actress everyone loves is a love story. The girl meets the guy and they fall in love. Along the way, events happen; people say words to each other and there is a car chase or something.’”
“Right.” Bella sort of remembered writing that; she might have been high.
“Well, don’t you think that’s a bit vague?”
“I figured people would get a sense of what I was talking about.”
“You don’t ever mention the name of the film, the actors, or the director in your entire review. The closest you come to saying anything about the craft of making the film is in the third graph: ‘Some of the shots are filmed at interesting angles which is sort of disorienting.’ The rest of the time you just write vague plot summaries and talk about how you think you’ve seen these actors in other films.”
“Well, it’s weird isn’t it? Like, that the guy from Up In The Air is also The Fantastic Mr. Fox?”
“No Bella, it’s not that weird. Not weird enough to warrant 500 words. The kind of observations you make about movies are the kind of observations most people make at age seven.”
“I guess I’m not sure what your problem is,” Bella said, opening Twitter in a new tab.
“This is your review on Iron Man 2 from a few weeks ago: ‘The hero of the story wears a suit and there are a lot bright colors and patterns on the screen. It’s very soothing to let the images wash over you. At the end of the film there is a stand-off which is kind of tense and I tried to think about something else.’”
“Uh huh.”
“Bella, it’s your job to think about the movie. You write like you don’t pay any attention to the films you are watching, and like maybe you’ve only ever seen five or six movies in your life. You have utterly no ear for dialogue, your formatting is inconsistent and when you attempt to describe action, it’s so inept that I can’t picture any of it at all.”
“I just need a little more from you. We hired you because of the strength of your blog, which rarely happens anymore.”
“Tell me about it.”
“To be perfectly honest, you’re about four years too young to be a member of the blogging elite. You’ve probably always felt like you belonged to the preceding generation, but you just never got the education you needed until it was too late. There was a first class of bloggers and a bigger second one, but that’s probably it. The new media market is finally as fucked up as the rest of the economy, and you’re screwed. You should probably try and find a real job.”
“Are you saying I’m fired?” Bella was a little too drunk to care very much.
“No, you’re not. The truth is, your reviews provoke so much anger from our readers that the comment sections blow up whenever one is posted online. Ad revenue goes through the roof; our publisher loves you. You’re basically the second coming of Dana Stevens.”
“That’s an obscure and kind of cruel joke,” Bella observed.
“Normally I would say keep up the good work, but I won’t. Keep doing whatever you’re doing.”
“Usually I go to the movies on drugs or during a period of acute emotional turmoil in my life,” she explained.
“Whatever works.”
He hung up and the cat moaned again.

Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Monday, May 24, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 12: Bad Romance

Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 9: Third Wheel

Bella falls into a pattern with school and work and Jacob, which is great for us because she starts skipping over days and we can feel ourselves finally nearing some kind of plot development. Still, our girl is not doing so good:

I was like a lost moon—my planet destroyed in some cataclysmic, disaster movie scenario of desolation—that continued, nevertheless to circle in a tight little orbit around the empty space left behind, ignoring the laws of gravity.

Speaking of ignoring the laws of gravity, Bella’s rhetoric is reaching RIDICULOUS new heights, huh? A “cataclysmic, disaster movie scenario of desolation?” Are you fucking KIDDING ME with this, S. Meyer? Also, what kind of tenuous, bullshit metaphor is this motherfucker? That is not how moons work! “I was like a moon, a moon that didn’t behave like a moon at all.” If these are the rules, we can make up any metaphor we want!

It was like I’d been in a deadly car crash, my heart impaled on the antennae, but I just kept on living for some reason but my heart didn’t beat anymore.

I was like a puzzle with a missing piece, but the puzzle had just become a new, shittier picture rather than remaining incomplete; the image on the surface had changed.

I was like a dog who loved a bone, but it turned out the bone was a vampire.

Bella and Jacob have gone back to riding bikes, but as Bella’s skill has improved the potency of the hallucinations has declined. She’s thrown more energy into the denial and self-loathing filled search for The Meadow (which has basically no chance of summoning the Edward Spirit) while somewhat more logically racking her brain for more adrenaline-producing activities (which does). I wonder what Bella and Jacob could do to get their adrenaline levels up. I bet Jacob has a few ideas.

One day Bella shows up at Jacob’s and he gives her a box of conversation hearts (though probably not these ones) because it is Valentine’s Day. Bella has lost track of time (she’s totally the guy in this relationship) and is taken aback by the date. “I feel like a schmuck,” she says. Before Bella was reminding me of an old Jewish man—now she’s reminding me of a specific one.

Maybe Bella ought to behave a little more like Larry David, not just talk like him, and compulsively avoid people for a while. At least Jacob. He creepily insists she be his Valentine, jokingly saying it requires her to be his “slave for life.” Bella expresses dismay at the way lines “get blurred a lot” around Jacob. It makes me uncomfortable that S. Meyer is setting us up to blame Bella for leading Jacob on if he makes any unwanted sexual advances. S. Meyer has the rape morality of a police officer in 1961.

“She was asking for it.”-S. Meyer

Jacob asks if she wants to ride (bikes) on Friday, and Bella sees an opportunity for some distance.

I saw a chance and took it without taking time to think it
“I’m going to a movie Friday.”

There's a line break error there again; they occur with such a startling regularity I no longer regard them as errors so much as really misguided attempts at forcing a pause for emphasis. It’s still annoying—fix this one thing and this whole series would be 200 pages shorter—but I’m resigned to it by now.

Bella’s putting the cart before the horse a little bit, inventing a date with Mike before it really exists, but at this point I suppose she’s rightly confident in her ability to lead men around by the dick. Jacob looks all wounded, though, and she feels his pain like ET or something. So she invites Jacob along too—acts like she meant to all along—and tells him to bring Quil.

At school, Bella puts her plan into action, letting Mike think she’s asking him out for a brief tantalizing second before shattering his heart. She suggests another bloody action film—probably something directed by Neveldine and Taylor—and wants to get a group together to see it. Mike starts suggesting all the couples he knows, trying to salvage what at least looks like a double-date (at least he doesn’t just suggest Jessica like he’s angling for a threesome; with Alice out of town there’s nobody who would be up for it anyway), but Bella says she wants to bring her La Push friends.

Mike bristles at the idea of huge brown men coming along, but she tells him her time spent with Jacob is like “tutoring.” For some strange reason, Mike’s thoughts don’t go immediately where mine went—I wrote a note in the margins that reads, “Tutoring minorities… about my body”—and he is reassured.

He tries to convince Bella to see something other than whatever gorefest she’s picked out; he has another romantic comedy in mind. At my old BU job I worked with a lot of frat-guy types who unironically claimed their favorite movies were like, Pretty Woman and shit. They talked about how good The Bounty Hunter was. It strikes me as a lack-of-imagination problem more than anything. Mike references a film called Tomorrow and Forever, which is apparently S. Meyer’s idea of a realistic-sounding rom-com in the aughts. It’s more like a realistic-sounding Lubitsch rom-com from the 30s, but whatever, thanks for trying. “Rotten Tomatoes gave it a better review,” he says.

Rotten Tomatoes? Mike has access to an actual internet website? Clearly he exists in some kind of alternate-tech-universe, since we know Bella basically has oil lamps and rotary phones to work with. Mike is apparently not sophisticated enough, however, to understand that Rotten Tomatoes is a review aggregator, so it doesn’t actually give anything a review so much as summarize the critical landscape, but whatever, thanks for trying.

Through a series of unfortunate, boring events, Bella’s Coalition Of The Willing To Go To The Movies falls apart—Quil gets in a fight at school (“You should see the other guy!”-Quil Ateara), some of the girls excuse themselves from the trip on account of the fact that they think Bella is a bitch, and some other people get sick because a stomach virus is going around. In the end it’s Bella, Jacob, and Mike. Bella is like, “fuuuuuck.”

Jacob shows up first, and he has finally finished fixing up his car. He wants to drive them to the movies in it tonight as the “maiden voyage.” I’m not saying I don’t trust Jacob’s skills, but wouldn’t a better maiden voyage be like, around a cul-de-sac a few times? They’re going to take that bitch out on the highway?

Shit gets rape-y again really fast: Bella high-fives Jacob and he twists his fingers through hers, morphing it into a hand-hold. Shudder. Then Mike shows up, and Jacob recognizes him from way back in the day. This happens:

“The one who thought you were his girlfriend. Is he still confused?”
I raised one eyebrow. “Some people are hard to discourage.”
“Then again,” Jacob said thoughtfully, “sometimes persistence pays off.”

It reminds me of that Jeff Dunham interview from the NYT when he started talking about how he made fun of all groups and races except for white Christians because his audience was white and Christian and also he was white and Christian and then he suddenly breaks off and says “Oh boy, I'm walking into something here.” Jacob teeters on the precipice of shattering his own self-delusion but jumps back just in time.

Jacob and Mike are not quite openly hostile to each other, but Bella comes fairly close to telling them to just whip ‘em out, measure ‘em and get it over with. Bella asks Mike if it’s okay if Jacob drives—he just built the car “from scratch” and all. From scratch? It’s not like he hammered out the steel, Bella. Mike is repeatedly described as having a “sullen” or “disgusted” expression. Good. Fuck you, Mike. It’s actually kind of hard to dislike Mike when he is around someone as hateable as Jacob, but Mike earns my scorn despite the odds—he leans forward from the back seat and leans his chin on the shoulder of Bella’s seat, so their cheeks almost touch. Gross. Bella practically puts her head through the window jerking away so fast (or so I imagine).

Bella’s mildly impressed with Jacob when Mike asks if he can put music on and Jacob explains that Bella doesn’t like music. She never told him that, but he seems to have picked up on her avoidance of all things potentially romantic. It’s weird for me to think about Bella getting bothered by the lyrics to music, because it’s hard for me to remember that people think about lyrics very much at all. I haven’t given lyrics much thought (beyond lines I find particularly clever) since I was 14 trying to deconstruct “Adam’s Song.” I haven’t the faintest idea what most of my favorite songs are about, which is probably because of two reasons.

A) The current trend in indie-rock seems to be a push back from lyrics with any significant, obvious meaning. There’s an emphasis on harmonies and a backlash leftover from emo and the hyper-verbose-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness of that movement. (And yet they always seemed so dumb, those lyricists. My friend Ryan and I used to always joke about how that Dashboard Confessional song “Vindicated” was like the second coming of Alanis Morisette’s “Ironic”—a song built around a word the songwriter mistakenly believes is a big, fancy word in the first place and nonetheless fails to fully understand in the second place.)
B) It’s impossible to understand what the lyrics are in Grizzly Bear and Radiohead songs anyway, and the best parts of Dirty Projectors songs aren’t even words so much as generic vowel sounds.

Mike can’t believe that Bella doesn’t like music, and out of context it does sound weird. My wife was recently talking to a guy who claimed to not like music, which she interpreted as a new kind of hipster affectation. “I’m too hip to like ANYTHING.”

Bella finds it hysterical when Jacob gives her money to buy his ticket; he’s too young to get his own. She asks if she’ll get in trouble with Billy. “No, I told him you were planning to corrupt my youthful innocence,” he says. I had to stop for a second there—Jacob told Billy WHAT? Why would I not be surprised if Jacob was keeping his father up to date on his quest to get into Bella’s pants? I’m not saying Billy Black is a bad father, but when it came time to teach Jacob about the birds and the bees he just put a porno in the VCR.

Do you think S. Meyer has seen a movie before, by the way? The ones she imagines are all so bland that it almost seems like she’s mocking film as a medium in general. (I read once that S. Meyer has never seen an R-rated movie, but that has to be bullshit, right?) Bella tells us about people getting blown up and impaled, but then for a while she just watches “the colors and movements on the screen.” Bella would make a great film critic, huh?

Mike and Jacob spend a good portion of the film with their arms on Bella’s hand rests, both with their palms up, “like steel bear traps,” Bella says. Both of these guys have such a terrible strategy! “I’ll just annoy this girl’s clothes off!” Jacob has the edge in the “creepiest” competition for being more manifestly self-deluded; Mike just seems dumb.

And the Jacob situation gets worse. Mike gets sick in the middle of the movie and Jacob and Bella follow him out. Jacob has to check on him in the bathroom. Not a fun gig. Once when I was sixteen I was in Vegas and an old woman asked me to check on her husband in the bathroom and make sure he was still alive. Hard to forget stuff like that.

Bella and Jacob have to wait for a while, and the ensuing conversation sums up the central, troubling theme of vaguely sexual misunderstanding that has characterized this section of the book. When Bella sits by Jacob he puts his arm around her. She shrugs it off and he grabs her by the hand, then locks his other hand around her wrist to hold her in place. “Where did he get the confidence from?” Bella wonders. I don’t think “confidence” is the right word, but “rapedacity” isn’t a word at all. It would be perfect if it were, though.

Jacob asks Bella if she likes him, she says she does, more than Mike, more than anyone she knows.

“But that’s all,” he said, and it wasn’t a question.

Run-on sentence aside, that is what is galling about Jacob: he knows she doesn’t like him in a romantic way, but then he tells her that he’s “prepared to be annoyingly persistent.” He’s just going to WEAR HER DOWN. Very sexy. Bella is not improving the situation either; Jacob says he has “loads of time” (Ron Weasley over here) and this happens:

I sighed. “You shouldn’t waste it on me,” I said, though I wanted him to.

He says he can live with their current, sexually frustrating situation but when Bella tries to pull her hand away he doesn’t let her. Then she basically admits she likes holding his hand anyway.

“This doesn’t really bother you, does it?” he demanded, squeezing my fingers. [Shudder]
“No,” I sighed. Truthfully, it felt nice.

UGH all around. This whole situation is fraught with stupidity and I just want all of them to shut the fuck up and go home. Luckily, I basically get my wish. Mike comes out and they leave, and on the way home Jacob and Bella can’t really talk so Bella dives inward again.

It was so wrong to encourage Jacob. Pure selfishness. It didn’t matter that I’d tried to make my position clear.

If she was totally honest with herself, Bella would admit that she can blur lines with the best of them. But instead she goes into a weird extended metaphor that sounds kind of like that self-help program Ruth joined briefly on Six Feet Under.

I was an empty shell. Like a vacant house—condemned—for months I’d been utterly uninhabitable. Now I was a little improved. The front room was in better repair.

Does she mean her boobs? Am I not getting it?

He deserved better than that—better than a one-room, falling down fixer-upper.

You’re losing me, Bella! Is it a one-room house or is the front room in better repair? (And what is “better repair?”) It can’t be both, can it? Can a one room house have a front room?

No amount of investment on his part could put me back in working order.

Bella’s personal housing bubble has burst, Edward took out the last sub-prime mortgage she had, and now her heart is foreclosed and she needs a bailout or a voucher from HUD or something. Get it? Do we need to dig this metaphor any deeper?

After they drop Mike at home, Jacob starts to feel sick too, but before he goes he really self-consciously makes a non-rape-y overture to Bella. “I won’t ever let you down,” he says. “I would never, ever hurt you.” Bella is touched—and at one point a smile breaks across Jacob’s face “the way the sunrise set the clouds on fire.” That’s a simile with a metaphor nestled inside it, by the way. In case you’re keeping score.

He leaves and Bella finds herself wishing they were related, “so that I would have some legitimate claim on him that still left me free of any blame now.” Jacob and Bella would be the kind of really affectionate siblings who freak everybody else out.

At some point Bella just starts talking in straight Rod Stewart lyrics.

“One thing I truly knew—knew it in the pit of my stomach, in the center of my bones, knew it from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, knew it deep in my empty chest—was how love gave someone the power to break you.

We start to crawl out of the abyss of bad writings and worse feelings, though. Bella sums up the last 20 pages or so of bullshit in two sentences:

He was my best friend. I would always love him, and it would never, ever be enough.

And then we get the best sentence of the last hundred pages or so:

I went inside to sit by the phone and bite my nails.

That sentence really cheered me up. We also get a great Charlie moment—when Bella comes in he’s watching the game, sitting on the floor a foot from the screen, he’s so excited by whatever he’s watching. Charlie is the best.

Bella had asked Jacob to call when he got home, and she panics when it takes too long. She calls and gets Billy on the line; Jacob is home but too sick to talk. Billy discourages Bella from visiting when she offers (“We had to have a can of Campell’s around her somewhere,” Bella muses in an odd bit of product placement) but all of her concerns about Jacob go away when she starts vomiting uncontrollably.

In a way, it’s like she’s purging away all of the awfulness of the last few chapters; it’s a cathartic stomach virus, at least for me. She spends the following day lying on the bathroom floor, but eventually Charlie gets word that Mike has recovered. Hours later, Bella is on her feet. She calls to check up on Jacob, and he answers, but he sounds like shit and feels like it too. He thinks whatever he has is worse than the stomach virus, and he reinforces Billy’s visitation ban.

What does Jacob have? The world’s worst case of blue balls? Or something wolf? I mean, something worse?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 11: Falcon Can't Hear The Falconer

Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 8: Adrenaline

On a remote back road, Jacob walks Bella through the steps of operating the motorcycle. It’s not indicated how long he’s been going over it, but Bella seems pretty on top of things.

“I bet she’s on top of things a lot. Like dicks.”-Quil Ateara

There’s a lot of Jacob telling her not to use the footbrake, so obviously at some point she’s going to use it. Chekov once said that if you have a footbrake on the wall in the first act, someone has to step on it in the third.

Bella’s a little nervous, but she doesn’t feel like she should be—“I’d already lived through the worst thing possible,” she says. I’m pretty sure she means getting dumped by Edward, but shouldn’t she mean almost being beaten to death by James in the last book? Get your shit in perspective, Bella. It takes several pages of directions—it’s like a Cormac McCarthy novel for a second—but finally Bella is about to take off. Guess whose disembodied voice comes back?

“This is reckless and childish and idiotic, Bella,” the velvet voice fumed.

SO HOT. Bella lets go of some important piece of machinery and ends up on the ground with the bike on top of her. She realizes it must not be déjà-vu that triggers the Edward Patronus but rather “some combination of adrenaline and danger.” Trial and error: works every time. Bella is a like a scientist in the field of her own fucked-up subconscious.

This whole “discovery” scene is sort of comic, I think. I don’t know how seriously we can possibly take Bella acting like such a nutcase. But it also seems like we’re getting important information. With lines like “Maybe I’d found a way to generate the hallucinations,” it’s hard to know where the jokes end and the plot points begin. Bella gets on the bike again, and has a nice little bon mot to boot:

It took several good tries, and even more poor tries, before the engine caught and roared to life under me.

What a wit you are sometimes, Bella!

“At twilight, nature is not without loveliness, though perhaps its chief use is to illustrate quotations from the vampires.”-Bella Wilde

Ghost Edward starts in again: “Do you want to kill yourself, then?” he asks. Ghost Edward is such a nag! Quit harshing on Bella and Jacob’s mellow, square! There’s a kind of Death of a Salesman moment where Edward says “Go home to Charlie” and Jacob tells her to ease off the clutch and she replies “I will” to both. But not really, because she’s going home to Charlie like, eventually, not right now, and so that's not what Edward asked. It’s a stretch. But I like that S. Meyer is trying to get creative with the staging a little bit. And by “getting creative” I mean “imitating Arthur Miller.”

Bella takes off, and enjoys the flying sensation, but she comes to a turn and panics, slamming down on the footbrake. The bike wobbles beneath her and she reacts too suddenly, bringing it to the ground and crashing into a tree. I made exactly the same mistake on a skateboard one time, trying to impress my friends like an idiot and zooming down a huge hill. I didn’t realize that if I tried to stop by stepping on the ground my foot would just fly out behind me and send me head over heels across the pavement.

Jacob rushes to Bella’s side and asks, kind of hilariously, “Are you alive?” Bella hops up enthusiastically and wants to try again, but Jacob explains that she is bleeding profusely from the head.

“Oh, I’m so sorry Jacob.” I pushed hard against the gash, as if I could force the blood back inside my head.
“Why would you apologize for bleeding?”

That’s a weird echo of Bella’s earlier attempt to apologize to Edward for bleeding, but at this point I think it’s just suggesting that Bella is ridiculous, not trying to drive home the connections between Edward and Jacob. Yet.

Jacob takes off his shirt for the first of, I assume, many times so that Bella can hold it to her head while he gets the bikes back to the truck. He wants to straight to the hospital, but Bella talks him into driving her home so she can clean up first. She wants to make up a new story about how she got hurt so they won’t get in trouble. Should we start counting the domestic abuse imagery? I’m already uncomfortable.

“She uh, fell down some stairs.”-Jacob Black

On the circuitous route to the hospital, Bella philosophizes more. These diatribes are starting to have a kind of insane, ranting quality—like S. Meyer’s been reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra. “And then to discover the key to the hallucinations!” is an actual sentence up in this bitch. Also like Nietzsche, some of it sounds like it was badly translated from another language:

The feel of the wind in my face, the speed and the freedom… it reminded me of a past life, flying through the thick forest without a road, piggyback while HE ran—I stopped thinking right there, letting the memory break off in the sudden agony. I flinched.

So did I. I took the liberty of using Google to translate this passage into Traditional Chinese and then back again to see if it got any better.

Feel the wind in my face, speed and freedom ... it reminds me of a past life, the shuttle is not in a dense forest road, when he ran carrying, I'll be there to stop thinking and memory disruption sudden pain. I am back.

Nope. Bella’s story ends up being that she fell in Jacob’s shed and hit her head on a hammer—after changing at her house they depart for the hospital. Bella observes that Jacob is still shirtless. If Jacob walks into that hospital with no shirt on and Bella is all bloodied up and one of the doctors doesn’t AT LEAST give the police a heads up, I am going to be pissed. It really completes the “Episode of COPS” tableau though, huh?

It’s cold in the car, but Jacob is perfectly comfortable, stripped to the waist though he is. So Edward is freezing cold and Jacob is burning hot, huh? I wonder who would be more unpleasant to have sex with?

Bella remarks that Jacob’s skin is really pretty, but I kind of feel like S. Meyer is trying to convince us that she isn’t racist. On pages 192-4 we get another set of arbitrary breaks between paragraphs. What the fuck is going on with this? Bella does a lot of time-jumping, but only occasionally is it accompanied by a break.

More inexplicable stuff happens:

I had to have seven stitches to close the cut on my forehead. After the sting of the local anesthetic, there was no pain in the procedure. Jacob held my hand while Dr. Snow was sewing, and I tried not to think about why that was ironic.

Why WHAT was ironic? I really don’t get it. Is it ironic that Jacob is holding her hand? If so, why? Is it because the doctor’s name is Snow, and Dr. Cullen is literally cold? Am I overthinking it?

Bella is still having nightmares, still feeling like she’s got a hole in her chest, but it’s not as bad. She and Jacob start riding (the bikes) on the reg, and Bella mentions Charlie’s eyes narrowing in suspicion when she has to tell him about a second “tripping” incident. Thank god someone is finally noticing! She worries that Charlie is going to shut down her trips to La Push, though she’s not worried about no longer seeing Jacob so much as no longer getting to hallucinate. “My velvet voiced delusion has yelled at me for almost five minutes” today, Bella says. What the hell could Edward have said for five straight minutes?

“Bella! Don’t ride that bike! Stop it! Eat more vegetables! Stay in school! Don’t do drugs! Uh, hey, you still haven’t gotten off the bike!”

But Charlie is reassured (for some reason) when Bella tells him the injury occurred hiking. He has a hard time at first believing she actually went hiking, which is fair, because she didn’t. “Mike Newton was bound to rub off on me sometime,” Bella says. Okay, that’s not exactly the line, but do you see how my way is better? Bella promises Charlie she’ll be more careful while “surreptitiously crossing my fingers under the table.” WHAT? Jacob and Bella have been argue-flirting for several chapters about real age—Bella gets ten extra years because she can cook and pays the bills for Charlie, Jacob gets fifteen because of his mechanical skills, etc.—and I think Bella should be docked like, a hundred years for that little move. I don’t even know any five-year-olds who do that seriously!

Nonetheless, Jacob and Bella decide to cool it on the bikes for a while. Faced with a dead-end on the adrenaline rush front, Bella essentially reverts to her earlier hypothesis about what generates the hallucinations for no reason whatsoever and decides they should go on a hiking trip to find Edward’s secret sex meadow from the first book. Why would you do that? Bella was just all excited that she’d definitively cracked the hallucination code (adrenaline and danger), and now we’re suddenly forgetting about that, going after the déjà-vu that didn’t work before? It feels really mechanical; you can hear the plot gears grinding. So what if Bella’s motivations don’t make any sense? We’ve got to get her to the meadow at some point for some reason!

It’s possible to read this as Bella deceiving herself on purpose, elaborately justifying this change in plans based on outdated assumptions out of desperation, but that’s tenuous. I feel like these last few chapters have been the worst so far. The only interesting thing about this stupid, character-consistency-sacrificing section is the fact that this three-paragraph piece of exposition comes in the middle of a scene of dialogue, and it ends when Jacob says “What are you thinking so hard about?” He snaps Bella out of it, and snaps us out of it too. It’s an interesting way to let dialogue intrude on monologue. Normally we think of exposition as outside of the unity of space and time in a novel; when a character is filling us in on backstory we don’t conceive of it as happening in real time, but here it does.

I had fun taking a few sentences in this chapter out of context; as Bella and Jacob prepare for their hiking trip they seem to be speaking entirely in unconscious double-entendres.

  • As always, Jacob was game for anything I wanted. No matter how strange it was.
  • “I would have figured you for a trail kind of girl.”
  • I didn’t playfully shake it off, as I might have otherwise.
  • It really looked like he knew what he was doing.
  • I’d been waiting for him to bring it up again, but it didn’t look like that was going to happen.
There is also lots to complain about. Jacob agrees to look for the meadow with Bella like this:

“We could use a compass and a grid pattern,” Jacob said with confident helpfulness.

Confident helpfulness? That is a very specific inflection! What does that sound like, exactly?

As Bella and Jacob prepare for the trip, Billy jokes with them about encountering the rumored giant bear, saying “Maybe you should bring a jar of honey, just in case.” Jacob says he hopes Bella’s new hiking boots are fast, and she replies “I only have to be faster than you.” Can we fit a few more bear clichés into this conversation, please?

On their first day out they fail at finding the meadow but succeed at being assholes. Bella remarks that the forest doesn’t seem as dark “with my personal sun along.” It made me realize that if I were in a poetry workshop with Bella I would fucking hate her guts.

Bella asks about Embry at the whole Sam situation and Jacob tells her it’s basically the same as before. He gets all moody, but puts his arm around Bella’s shoulder. She feels too bad to push him away. Jacob is a creep, exploiting his own sadness to get some like this. He doesn’t do much to improve his standing in my eyes, telling Bella that bears don’t like the taste of people anyway: “Of course, you might be an exception. I bet you’d taste good.” Hey, where have we heard a sentiment like that before? Also, shut up Jacob!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

WRITING NEW MOON: Jacob Black Pretends To Be Gay

From time to time, I've decided to hone my Fan Fiction skills for my eventual foray into the ever-popular, ever-horny Twilight Online Fan Fiction Community. I hope by the time I finish blogging this whole series people will still be writing fan fiction. How many masturbatory fantasies can Bella have within the timeline of this series? She only has so much time to masturbate between classes! So here's one, which essentially serves as an alternate version of chapter seven in New Moon, which we just talked about.

Previous entries can be found in the directory.

"Jacob Black Pretends To Be Gay"

“This is a stupid plan,” Quil said. “You are fucking stupid.”
“No, no. It’s brilliant.” Jacob paced back and forth across the shed.
“You know where this is going to end, right? It’s going to end with you kissing a guy.”
“It is going to end with me having sex with Bella, is how it is going to end. And then we’re going to get married, and we’re going to start a family.”
Quil leaned against Jacob's car. “Why does your mind always go there right away? Shouldn’t you say like, ‘we’ll have sex, and then she’ll get addicted to the taste of my cum, and then our sex life will get so wild and imaginative that they will have to rewrite the Kama Sutra based on our innovations’?”
“Why do you say things like that?” Jacob said.
“Uh, because I am a guy and I am straight and when I like a girl I don’t immediately start thinking about going steady and fucking giving her my fucking varsity jacket and knocking her up and getting married growing old together, dude,” Quil said. He thought about that for a minute. “Maybe you are gay, like for real. Your fantasies are really gay."
“I’m not,” Jacob said. “Believe me, I’m not.”
“But you’re about to tell Bella that you are.”
“Yes, because then like, we can go shopping together, and Bella will need my help in the changing room, and that sort of thing.”
And that sort of thing? I can’t think of any other scenario, and even then the best you are going to see is some bra or some panties. No offense, but Bella is not the thong type.”
“Yeah, because she is classy.” Jacob said defensively.
“Because she is a prude. Otherwise you totally would have at least gotten a handjob by now.” Quil made a gesture illustrating the act for some reason.
“I told you I almost did.” Jacob mumbled.
“Right, you were in the garage and Bella’s hand brushed your cock when she was reaching for a soda. That does not count. And I’m not kidding—can you think of another time where Bella thinking you were gay would lead to anything good?”
“Slumber parties,” Jacob said simply.
“What?” Quil said.
“I was thinking we could have slumber parties, and like, watch romantic comedies together. And have pillow fights and one thing would… lead to another.”
“Dude, are you like, writing like, a porn movie for pedophiles or something? What would it lead to? A debate about whether Matthew McConaughey is sexy or not?”
“I thought maybe eventually Bella would want to practice… you know, stuff, and she could on me, because it would be safe.”
“That is never going to happen. You are fucking insane.”
“We’ll see I guess,” Jacob said threateningly.
“Yeah, we really will.”


Bella Swan really didn’t know what the fuck she was doing here. She’d driven up the narrow forest path a few feet at a time, stopping occasionally to steady her nerves with a slug of amber liquid from the bottle of Jack she’d stolen from Charlie’s liquor cabinet. The Cullen house was still there, and when she saw it Bella felt like an idiot for ever feeling different. It wasn’t like she’d dreamt up the whole last fucking year of her life. Of course Edward and his family were real. She wasn’t on drugs. Not yet, anyway.

All this time she’d likened Edward to a drug—they were each other’s own brand of heroin. Now Jacob was like, her Quaaludes or something, or her maybe her methadone, weaning her from one addiction and pushing her on to the next. And Bella was getting addicted, and that was not fair to Jacob. She needed something else, something to protect her from the hole in her chest at night that wouldn't hurt anyone else. This bourbon is doing a pretty good fucking job, Bella thought. That was the ticket. What she needed was a real addiction, not another tenuous metaphor. She knew exactly where to go, what she had to do. It was lucky she'd come out here after all. She opened the truck door and almost fell on her face. The ground got there so fucking fast! Holy shit!

The door to the Cullen house was unlocked, and Bella let herself in. It looked like they’d taken a few of their belongings and left the rest behind. Alice probably would have seen this, right? Alice would have left Bella something. She climbed the stairs to Alice and Jasper's bedroom. That was a bit of a misnomer, actually they didn’t have a bed; in the center of the room was a leather swing attached with chains to the ceiling, facing a full-length mirror. Bella had never asked what it was for, but she’d had a pretty good idea. Sitting there on the swing was a suitcase with a note. It read, simply:

Everything in moderation, bitch.-Alice

Inside was a kilo of cocaine.


Jacob paced around in his shed. Where the heck was Bella? He’d kicked out Quil an hour ago, expecting her any minute. He was getting worried. He sat down on the floor to steady his nerves, but soon he could the familiar roar of Bella’s truck. He jumped up, excited, but then he realized he was a little too excited and should probably wait a minute before he went outside. Think of Quil, he thought. That worked.

HOLY SHIT HOW DID THIS TRUCK GET SO FAST? Bella thought, brushing the flakes of blood from her nose. WHERE THE FUCK AM I EVEN? WHERE THE FUCK IS JACOB’S HOUSE? All of these fucking Indian houses looked the same everyone was so fucking poor and shit these motherfuckers should grow some pot on their land and sell it or something Bella would totally buy that shit she bet it would be good weed because Indians knew how to fucking plant shit they even taught the settlers and everything right? She was out of the car before she really understood how and Jacob was coming out from behind the house glowing like he was a FUCKING ANGEL.

“Holy shit,” Bella said. “I feel so alive, can we ride those fucking motorcycles yet?”
“What? No, Bella they’re not ready. Are you okay?”
“Okay? Jacob, I am so much more than fucking OKAY. I am fucking GOLD. I am SOLID GOLD, motherfucker, okay? Let’s go fuck some shit up. Let’s go trash Sam Uley’s house, because FUCK HIM, man, am I right? FUCK SAM ULEY! Yeah hahaha!”
“Actually Bella, I uh, I really need to talk to you,” Jacob said.
“Okay okay okay okay we can talk. That’s great, Jake, that is great. I like to talk. I talk like, all of the time. I think a talk would be amazing where should we talk?”
“In my shed,” Jacob said, still looking at her curiously. “Are you hungry?”
“Oh, god no. I am not hungry at ALL. I don’t ever even want to eat again. I could really use a smoke though do you have a cigarette?”
“Uh, no Bella, I don’t smoke.”
“I thought you fuckers grew tobacco or some shit? You don’t even have a peace pipe we can smoke?”
“Bella, that is racist. Are you trying to upset me?”
“No, Jake, no no no no no no no no no. Of course not. Let’s go to the shed.”

On the walk over, which felt like it took a FUCKING HOUR Bella’s legs felt so weird she thought about her friend Jacob. He was hot she realized definitely pretty hot. She’d been so cruel to him using his attraction to her to keep him around just so she could forget about Edward. Edward what an asshole that guy was where was he even? Fuck him and fuck being mean to Jacob seriously fuck it. Maybe she should just fuck Jake and get it over with he deserved it she had been such a tease and he was hot so whatever. Bella concluded that it would be a great idea to fuck Jake and she decided to do it. She was trying to get her shirt off but she couldn’t find the buttons anywhere when he started talking.

“Bella, I have been having these… strange feelings lately.”
“Uh huh.”
“And well, I guess being around you made those feelings more complicated.”
Bella was pretty sure she knew where this was going she gave up on her shirt and switched to her pants. She would have been able to take them off but her hands were shaking. Why am I so…why shaking? She thought. Maybe she should…say…something…to Jake… before he went through all this… she should just tell him to fuck…
“Bella, I’m gay,” Jacob said, trying to look as serious as possible.
Bella’s hands dropped to her sides, then touched her waist, then rose to her face, then she looked away for a second and muttered a curse word.
“Bella?” Jacob looked at her curiously again. What was going on with her today?
Bella burst out laughing.
Jacob wasn’t even really gay, and still, he was offended. “Bella!” he admonished.
Bella tried to say something, but blood was gushing out of her nose now and so she just made gargling sounds.
“Bella I am trying to be serious,” he said. "Whoa, are you bleeding?"
Bella collapsed in another fit of giggles and blacked out.

Monday, May 17, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 10: I Am A Fugitive From A Werewolf Gang

I've been reading New Moon, by S. Meyer. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 7: Repetition

After school, Bella gets a stupid idea and drives to the Cullen house. She says even she doesn’t know “what the hell” she’s doing there (Bella is almost swearing!? We’re approaching a level of believability with this fucking dialogue!) but at least she gets to channel Tom Waits again for a second:

The nothingness of my dream gnawed on my nerves, a dog worrying a bone.

And she’s full of rag water and bitters and Blue Ruin, and she spills out over the side to anyone who will listen, and she’s seen it all through the yellow windows of the evening train.

Bella’s trying to suss out what could have triggered Edward’s disembodied father-spirit back in Port Rape, and her working theory is déjà-vu. Plus, she’s a little worried about the cyclical feeling she got in school today and she kind of wants to verify that Chez Cullen ever existed in the first place. It does, although the vegetation surrounding it has over-grown to a ridiculous-sounding extent—it’s been four months and Bella has to hack her way through the growth like she’s uncovering Inca ruins in the rainforest. The sight alone freaks her out enough that she doesn’t linger—she flees back to La Push and Jacob. Bella is aware of the fact that Jacob is her new numbness, her new form of distraction, but she doesn’t care—she needs her “fix.” I’m glad we at least have continuity of misguided drug metaphors in this series. Maybe Bella should just try actual drugs, huh? At least that way she won’t bring Jacob down with her. Not that I am necessarily opposed to Jacob getting blue balls.

When Bella gets to La Push she and Jacob have this weird thing where they check to make sure they still like each other. Bella, wet blanket that she is, fears that she’s no fun to be around. Jacob is worried she’s just using him to get her bikes fixed. I had a friend named Tyler who was like this—he always told me I didn’t have to hang out with him like I was doing it out of pity. Tyler came from a kind of strange family—he and his mother moved away eventually to run away from his father—but probably more importantly we were about six years old. Bella and Jacob seem REALLY YOUNG in these chapters, so much so that I feel weird about making sex jokes every 200 words (not that I am going to stop). In a few pages Jacob pulls some sodas out of a paper bag in his shed and it made me feel a thousand years old. So young, these two!

(The night Christi and I went to see The Runaways we were at a bar beforehand and this couple next to us was having a meal and drinking sodas, and I was really confused and disturbed by that. Two late-twenty-somethings drinking soda? Were they alcoholics or am I?)

They both reaffirm that they like each other as friends. To prove her dedication, Bella proposes that next time they hang out they should do something “nonmechanical.”

“Like what?” Jacob said.
“Like practice blowjobs,” I replied.

Whoops, we just entered Jacob’s imagination for a second. She actually says they should do homework at her place.

“We’ll have to start being responsible occasionally, or Billy and Charlie aren’t going to be so easy going about this.” I made a gesture indicating the two of us as a single entity. He liked that—he beamed.

Hmm, what gesture, do you think?

They make a deal to be responsible and do homework twice a week, and then there is a weird break on pages 164-165 with three stars (* * *) separating the paragraphs. It’s weird because we only jump ahead to Bella getting home that night, so there’s no huge gap in time. Furthermore, on page 168 there is another break, one paragraph is double-spaced apart from the next, and there are no stars. I don’t know why the formatting is inconsistent; that sort of thing really bugs me. If I had to guess I would say it’s because the transition on page 164-165 occurs, obviously, between pages, so without the stars you wouldn't necessarily see the break. The one on 168 happens in the middle of the page; it’s much more visually conspicuous. Why not have the stars there anyway, for the sake of consistency, though? Plus, pages 164 through 168 blow through an entire week without any breaks at all! So why bother? Maybe we’ll change fonts for no reason in a few pages.

Bella goes to work, and Mike makes an awkward pass at her.

“It’s too bad that you had to leave the movie early last week.”
I was a little confused by his train of thought. I shrugged. “I’m just a wimp, I guess.”
“What I mean is, you should go to a better movie, something you’d enjoy,” he explained.
“Oh,” I muttered, still confused.
“Like maybe this Friday. With me. We could go see something that isn’t scary at all.”
I bit my lip.

Smooth, Mike. Bella puts it off because she has plans with Jacob already, but notably she doesn’t heartlessly shut him down, which would have been awesome.

“Mike, I wouldn't fuck you with Jacob’s dick.”-Bella Swan

Bella also manages to get Mike to rhetorically downgrade this (still hypothetical) movie trip from “date” to “date as friends,” which is an impressive little interpersonal communication moment. The whole situation reminds Bella of her first few weeks in Forks, when every swinging dick in town was hitting her in the face, but now everything feels like an echo—“an empty echo devoid of the interest it used to have.” Um, you said it.

Jacob and Bella hang out for a few days, sometimes fixing bikes, sometimes doing homework, sometimes banging on the hood of Jacob’s car. Except not so much on that last one. Sunday morning Jacob calls and announces that the bikes are finished, and Bella rushes over. She’s excited enough to disturb Charlie a little—as she jumps in her car he yells something Bella interprets as “Where’s the fire?” though she’s not completely sure. Is that supposed to be what he really said, or was it “What the fuck?”

Jacob is pumped up and mischievous about the bikes, and they load them into Bella’s truck and drive out of town—apparently Jacob knows the perfect back-road.

“I figured you guys were the back-road type.”-Quil Ateara

On the edge of the reservation, as they drive along the coast, Bella spots four dudes standing on the edge of a precipice (are we counting thematic echoes yet?) and, to her horror, one of them jumps off.

Somewhat irrationally, she slams on the brakes and tries to get out of the car. Jacob is like, “what?” and Bella is like “What the fucking fuck is wrong with you?” because he starts laughing.

How could he be so calloused, so cold-blooded?

Calloused? Not callous? I’m not really sure which one is right, but it turns out the guys are just cliff diving for fun. Bella immediately veers from horror to begging Jacob to go cliff diving with her right now. He tells her to wait for a warmer day, but I feel like Jacob should have at least pretended to entertain the notion for a while. It’s not like she has a bathing suit on under her clothes, so… hey, why am I trying to give Jacob advice? We all know nothing is going to come of this, and no one is going to come because of this.

Turns out the jumpers are Sam Uley and his friends—Jacob seems wary of them and Bella picks up on it. Sam et al. are kind of a gang, but like a gang in a musical or something. They go around enforcing the rules, probably while wearing denim jackets, and Jacob doesn’t like their self-righteous attitude. They call themselves “protectors.” Okay, that would piss me off too. Apparently they have recently received a lot of praise for running a meth dealer off the Rez. Meth dealer? Whoa, shit just got real.

“Mommy, what is meth?”—someone’s kid, because of this
“Just say ‘No’ to drugs.”—Sam Uley
“Everything in moderation.”—Alice Cullen

The La Push tribal council apparently meets with Sam & The Gang on the reg, and that is part of why Jacob is angry, too. I realize that I have no idea how governing on a Native American Reservation works; it sounds like they have ditched the chief system for a council, which seems like a good idea—decentralized power and all that. Is that a normal, modern innovation among Native American communities? Jacob explains that if there was a chief, blood-line-wise it would be his father, but it doesn't sound like he wants that; it's just a vague tributary to the river of his discontent. This information comes after a lot of prodding on Bella’s part, by the way. For a long time Jacob only seems able to say that Sam’s and the Protectors are a bunch of “tough guys.” I’m not saying Jacob is inarticulate, but at the Black’s house the Algonquin Roundtable is more like a TV dinner tray.

Eventually Jacob admits that it seems like Sam Uley is trying to recruit him for the gang—Embry disappeared mysteriously from school for a week and now he rolls with Uley and the La Push Kidz and is distant from Jacob and Quil. Jacob likens it to a cult, and he seems genuinely scared that he will be next. Where is Elena Kagan when you need her, huh?

Even Billy is no help to Jacob, and Bella thinks he’s about to cry. Aw, poor kid! Bella hugs him, which even I might have done in the same situation. Bella expresses disbelief that she could have this kind of connection with Jacob, physical and emotional. “I didn’t normally relate to people so easily,” she says. “Not human beings.” Wow, maybe you’re normal after all, Bella! Or, maybe Jacob is not human either, and maybe you will eat your words and it will turn out that you are just a maladjusted, antisocial monsterfucker! It could go either way!

Jacob cheers up at Bella’s embrace and starts touching her hair. Of course, he has to fuck up this moment. Keep digging that hole, Jacob.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 9: Don't Call It A Comeback

Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 6: Friends

Jacob and Bella hang out in Jacob’s shed—Bella notes that Billy wouldn’t be able to get out there and find out about the motorcycles because of the “uneven ground” separating them from the house. Wow, Bella is kind of a bitch! The man is handicapped! Show some respect!

Jacob is telling Bella about his two best friends just as they arrive. The two boys stop short when they see Jacob with a girl, which I take is a rare occurrence. Introductions are made; they are called Quil and Embry—Quil is burly and Bella admires his “well developed chest” while he admires hers. It turns out they know about her already—Jacob must have her name carved into his bedroom wall or something—and the two of them can barely contain their hysteria the entire time Bella is there. They get distracted momentarily when they hear about this bikes, of course. This echoes the boys of Forks High staring at Rosalie’s BMW when they should have been staring at Rosalie. In S. Meyer’s world, boys are more interested in mufflers than… you know what? I’m not going to finish that joke.

It’s hard to tell how far S. Meyer intends to take the sexual humor in this scene. Bella mentions getting “riding lessons” from Jacob and Embry grins and whispers something Bella doesn’t hear. It certainly seems like he is making a reference to Jacob’s dick, but you never really know with this book. Bella has to leave, but she asks if she can come tomorrow.

“I’m sure you’ll come tomorrow.”-Quil Ateara

Jacob asks if they are boring her. “Naw,” Bella says. Naw? Jacob is obviusly rubbing off on Bella. (You’re welcome.) She leaves and hears Jacob telling his friends to stay away tomorrow. She giggles. Shouldn’t she be sort of concerned that it sounds like Jacob is planning on fucking her tomorrow?

She goes home and gets dinner ready by the time Charlie arrives, and briefly freaks him out with her good mood. He asks if she had a good time with Jacob and she replies in the affirmative. He asks her what they did and she tells him about everything except the motorcycles. “The interrogation had to stop when Charlie began chewing,” Bella says. Interrogation? He asked you exactly TWO questions. Bella tries to avoid going to bed for the rest of the night, fearing the nightmares, but eventually Charlie gets up from where they are both sitting in the living room and turns the lights off on her. Such a Charlie move!

She goes to bed terrified of what she will dream about, but ends up sleeping soundlessly and waking up freaked out about how well-rested she feels.

“Good. You’ll need the energy.”-Quil Ateara

At breakfast Bella tells Charlie about how she’s going to hang out with Jacob and he mentions that Harry Clearwater is coming up from the Reservation to watch a sporting event of some kind. Bella suggests they invite Billy, so she and Jacob can be alone. “That’s a great idea,” Charlie says. Nice parenting, Charlie.

“See you later, Bells. Use a rubber, or at least make sure Jacob pulls out in time.”-Charlie Swan
“If you guys are going to do ecstasy and fuck in the woods be sure to drink plenty of water.”-Charlie Swan

When Bella gets to Jacob’s house it’s raining and he runs out to collect her with an umbrella. Such a gentleman! Bella becomes aware of the fact that she is smiling without conscious effort now. Hey, me too! It’s funny how Bella stops having to force herself through life at the precise moment that we have to stop forcing ourselves through this book! What the hell was wrong with those last few chapters?

Jacob starts talking about how expensive this repair job may be, and Bella seems insufficiently worried. “I’m talking about maybe more than a hundred dollars here,” he says. I’m as broke as anyone and I laughed at that; Jacob is like a five year old. That is very cheap when it comes to automobile repair! Bella flashes her checkbook—literally, that isn’t a euphemism for anything—and she’s like “money ain’t a thang, bitch.” I bet she got a couple of nice raises out of Mike Newton, since I’m sure he’s gotten plenty out of her.

So they go off in search of parts and Bella continues to be shocked at how happy she is, at how Jacob is such a relentlessly happy presence:

Like an earthbound sun, whenever someone was in his gravitational pull, Jacob warmed them.

Okay, but that is not really how suns work. The warming part is not really conditional on the gravity part, but whatever. In the car they talk about Jacob’s friends more. He notes that Quil seems to like her, and Bella says she’s too old for him. Jacob takes issues with that, and Bella realizes “we weren’t talking about Quil anymore.” This segues into a lot of banter about how to really measure age, and they flirt a lot. Back in the shed, Bella admires Jacob’s skill with his hands as he sorts through their parts.

“You know what they say about skilled hands…”-Bella "Cougartown" Swan

Eventually Billy starts calling for them—he’s back, apparently—but they are like “fuck you, cripple.” Then they hear Charlie and they rush out of the shed so no one who can actually walk will find the bikes. Jacob holds Bella’s hand to guide her through the dark, and when they find Charlie et al. on the porch Jacob doesn’t let go right away. Charlie seems to notice.

Turns out there are a bunch of people at the Black’s house, and they have a little cookout. Bella doesn’t really talk, she just sits there and enjoys the laughter and good feelings like someone’s grandma. On the way home, Charlie asks if she’s going to see Jacob soon. She says tomorrow. He is still happy, which is weird.

“Wear something low cut.”-Charlie Swan

At home Bella grows anxious. “I was sure I wouldn’t get away with two peaceful nights of sleep in a row,” she says. Ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy, Bella?

Sure enough she wakes up the next morning screaming, but this time the dream was a little different—that Sam Uley dude was in Bella’s usual little Pinter play, glaring silently in the forest.

When I didn’t look directly at him, his shape seemed to shiver and change in my peripheral vision.

Something tells me that is going to be relevant somehow! Like maybe this book will include people who change shapes or something! Oh, and Bella can dream the future now? Is that going to be developed further or is it just a cheap foreshadowing device?

In school that day it occurs to Bella that everyone is ignoring her—she’s been shut down for so long that even her teachers don’t acknowledge her existence. But she’s lucid now, so she starts paying attention, observing how people have changed. She muses bitchily for quite a while about Lauren’s ugly new haircut (it is seriously a full, vindictive paragraph about how she must have gotten scalped or something, and it is great) before actually joining the conversation at lunch, an act which ends up being like, a cataclysmic event. Lauren is making fun of Angela for believing in the stories going around about a giant bear in the woods, but Bella rises to her defense. She mentions that some hikers had spotted the bear too, but no one really listens to the substance of her words so much as they freak out that she is speaking at all. Mike and Angela seem happy, Jessica and Lauren seem pissed. But who the fuck are these people, even? The kids at Forks High are so inconsequential it’s hard to give a shit.

Bella talks to Angela on the way out of the cafeteria and realizes this is the one-year anniversary of her arrival in Forks. Back then most of the town was fascinated by her, and now most of them could care less. I promise to never reference the Monomyth/Hero’s Journey again, but New Moon does function as a “Refusal of the Call” story, which is the standard sequel trope in the Spiderman movies, the old Superman ones, and basically everything written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Edward walks away from his responsibility, and everything goes to hell around Bella in a direct parallel to the events of Twilight. It’s different in that elements of the Hero’s Journey are being divided between Bella and Edward; of course Bella is the one who has to endure the consequences while Edward goes off and has fun. Dick.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 8: Look Back in Anger

So Kira has brought a major controversy involving Ashley Greene and the Twilight films to my attention; read all about it here. Maybe by the time we actually get our thoughts it order this situation will be resolved, but obviously I am in Greene's corner basically no matter what. She could ask for 11 billion dollars to appear in Breaking Dawn 2 and I would be like "that is reasonable." It is a good thing I don't work for Summit Entertainment.

Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 5: Cheater

When this chapter begins, Bella is already at work, which is strange. The first Twilight book had such aggressive unity of space and time that there was even a scene where Edward gives Bella directions and then they get in a car and then they drive to a place and then they get out of the car and walk into the place. It was like Gus Van Sant wrote it or something. Now S. Meyer is leaving out whole fiscal quarters, and it is really difficult to get one’s bearings.

Bella has been unable to return to her nihilist zombie state, so profound was the imaginary almost-rape in Port Angeles. She is once again suffering from what amounts to a hangover—everything seems “oddly close and loud today” as a couple of hikers jabber about seeing huge bears in the woods nearby. One of the hikers apparently has an “orange beard that didn’t match his dark brown hair.” I have seen a lot of people like that, and I am always annoyed by it. Why do they keep the beard when that happens? Their heads look like Neapolitan ice cream!

Bella also talks about the other hiker’s face, which has been wind-abused into “an impressive leathery crust.” It’s a detail that seems literally only included so that Bella can refer to him as “Leather-face” two paragraphs later. Good effort, S. Meyer. I didn’t laugh, but I kind of started to smile a little bit.

Bella leaves work early, but doesn’t want to go home to her empty house. She’s been having nightmares lately—always the same nightmare, in fact—and waking up screaming. In the dream there are no monsters or jump scares or anything: Bella wanders through the woods looking for something, can’t find it, can’t remember what she was looking for in the first place, and then realizes that there is nothing to be searching for in the first place. This sounds like the kind of post-grad anxiety dream I’m going to start having soon.

Bella’s just driving aimlessly around Forks, which is a very real small town thing to do. Driving laps around town was a favorite pastime of a lot of dudes in my hometown. Most of them were named Jared, as I recall. She’s fighting back daymare versions of her bad dreams, holding her arm around her chest trying to keep her body together. Eventually Bella realizes that she should probably not be driving in this state, so she pulls over to have a breakdown.

She starts thinking about Edward’s promise to seem like he’d never existed, and she realizes what a bunch of fucking bullshit that was. “He could steal my pictures and reclaim his gifts, but that didn’t put things back the way they’d been before I met him.” Yeah! Fuck you, Edward!

Bella says her insides have changed, but I don’t think she means literally. This is not some kind of virginity metaphor. Edward has left a physical impression on her body. Even her outward appearance has changed as a result of the break-up; her face is sallow and white, she’s got dark circles under her eyes—hey, she kind of looks like a vampire! “I might even pass for a vampire now,” Bella says. Yeah, we got there already S. Meyer.

“I think, as sort of a grand and aggressive gesture to make up for a few recent lapses in parenting and as a way to work out my anger over a recent frustrating situation involving a photo shoot for Cocoa-Cola and also because the general emotional environment in my home is cracking me up a little bit, I am going to take this gun and shoot my neighbor’s pigeons.”-Betty Draper

Bella decides that since Edward’s promise is impossible, that frees her from having to keep up her end of the bargain, i.e. keeping herself safe. So she decides to be a badass rock and roll troublemaker.

Well, she’s not going to go that far. I’m kind of irritated that Bella decides to be reckless in response to Edward’s failure to keep his promise. First of all, you didn’t want him to keep that promise in the first place, and second of all you should want to be reckless because it is COOL, Bella!

Who cared if I was reckless and stupid? There was no reason to avoid recklessness, no reason why I shouldn’t get to be stupid.

I think Justin Theroux is a cool guy—he was on Six Feet Under and Mullholland Dr—but I just saw Iron Man 2, which he wrote, and that dude cannot get a point across in a scene of dialogue. Bella’s line reminded me, because it expresses the same idea twice in a row. That’s like what every scene of exposition in Iron Man 2 is like, except it is ten times in a row, and I just wanted to die every time someone started talking. Which is too bad, because Robert Downey Jr. is great at talking. But I really just wanted everyone to shut the fuck up and fight.

“I need suits, Mickey Rourke. I brought you here to help me make suits, and now you are not making suits, these are something else which are not suits. This thing has a head, which means it is not a suit, and I asked you for suits. I thought we agreed that we would be making suits here, and that is not what you are doing.”-what the dialogue in Iron Man 2 felt like

Bella’s still sitting on the side of the road, and it occurs to her that she is blocking someone’s driveway. She looks around her before she pulls away.

Sometimes, kismet happens.

Kismet, Bella? This is really happening? But wait, look at the next sentence:

Coincidence? Or was it meant to be?

This is like a standardized test question or something. Remember how teachers always told you to infer the meaning of word you didn’t know from the context? This is that logic working in reverse. S. Meyer gives extra context so she can put a big word in. It only reads as clunky and redundant to us, not the intended audience for this book, so I guess I shouldn’t complain. It’s definitely not the same situation as the reckless and stupid example above. But why kismet? Why give kids a vocabulary word they will never need?

The writing always seems to get worse when Bella dives into her head like this, but I’m wondering if that’s just because it is relatively new, style-wise. Twilight had some of this inner-depth-plumbing, but not nearly as much. Instead it had heavily adverbed scenes of dialogue, and by now we’ve built up a tolerance for that. We haven’t got there with the internal monologue stuff, so it stands out.

So the kismet turns out to be a couple of old motorcycles by the side of the road. Charlie, like most fathers (or most fathers from the 50s) has a healthy fear of his daughter taking a ride on a motorcycle. Bella thinks back to the bloody accidents he’s described and she is like “DO WANT.”

So she goes to the house at the end of the driveway and some boy answers, a freshman she recognizes. He’s like “Whoa, Bella Swan?” It reminded me of how in middle school my friends and I would occasionally see in the high school parking lot this older girl we perceived as super-hot. I say perceived because I can’t really remember what she looked like—she wasn’t around long. But I do remember that she was really pale and had huge boobs and had kind of strange-looking eyes. (Hey, wait a minute…) Anyway, pale hot girl eventually started dating my neighbor, and one day she showed up at my house looking for his. It was really weird and off-putting to see her in that context. When I was younger my house and my school felt like totally separate spheres. Worlds collided.

The boy tells Bella she can just take the bikes—she only wants one but he tells her she might need both for parts—because apparently they don’t really work. He wants to know what she’s going to do about fixing them, which leads to a conversation about some local asshole who runs an overpriced autobody shop, which leads to Bella musing about how she’d never had to go there because Jacob did such a good job with her truck, which reminds her that Jacob can fix things!

Took you a long time to make that leap, Bella! S. Meyer does do a cool thing with the writing there, where Bella’s narration—which you think is just filling you in on backstory—turns out to literally be her stream-of-consciousness at that moment in the doorway. She reaches the conclusion about Jacob at the same time we do. It’s reminiscent of C. Palahniuk’s better days in that it is gimmicky, but in an unobtrusive way. In S. Meyer’s case it strikes me as more intuitive than anything. The boy helps Bella put the bikes on her truck and she heads for La Push.

He waved as I pulled away, still smiling. Friendly kid.

Bella is an old soul, isn’t she? An old Jewish man’s soul. So Bella goes and sees Jacob and for the next few pages S. Meyer shows us all the different ways she can indicate Jacob’s ethnicity: he has “deep russet” skin here, “red-brown” a few pages later, and even later it’s just “brown.” She’s running out of adjectives really fast! How long before S. Meyer slips up and just calls him “colored,” do you think?

As she is wont to do, Bella notes how sexually mature Jacob looks now, his “tendons and veins” showing beneath is “red-brown” skin. Oy, Bella needs to get laid SO BAD. I’m beginning to think that the physical pain she is experiencing is not heartbreak so much as pent-up sexual energy.

Jacob is happy to see her, and she is strangely happy to see him—she’s taken aback by the joy she experiences in his presence. “Something clicked silently into place, like two corresponding puzzle pieces.” Did Ben Gibbard write this chapter? Billy Black is there and he is all smiles for once. He does not give Bella any knowing, noble-savage glares at all. Jacob says he’s just been working on his car, and Bella’s like, “Oh, can I see it?” The set up is weirdly porn-y. Jacob says they’ll have to go out back and Bella thinks “even better.” Gross. Jacob is a little boy, Bella. Keep your overactive imagination off of his dick. I can tell this book is not going to be very kind to Jacob’s balls.

Jacob shows off his car, a Volkswagen Rabbit he’s rebuilt. Bella tells him about the bikes and her plan to fix them up; she offers him money to help and he seems offended. Luckily there isn’t a Deflores/Beatrice situation going on. He wants to help, but out of the goodness of his heart. She offers a trade, then: he gets one of the bikes in exchange for his expertise, so that he can give her lessons once they are in working order. It’s a lopsided enough deal to overcome Jacob’s sense of chivalry.

“Swee-eet.” He made the word into two syllables.

Not “sa-weet”? I guess they do things differently on the Rez. Bella asks if Jacob is legal yet, but I think she means driving age, not age-of-consent. They realize they’ve missed each other’s birthdays, and Jacob says they will have to celebrate retrospectively sometime. “Sounds like a date,” Bella says, and Jacob’s eyes light up. Bella immediately realizes she’s being a cock-tease and makes a mental note to not do that anymore, but somehow I think that her brain will write that memo but forget to CC her vagina.

Bella is surprised by the surge of enthusiasm she has around Jacob. I mean, he’s not constantly pissed off and tensing his fists and generally being an asshole all the time, which is the full scope of Bella’s experience with male/female interpersonal relationships thus far. So this is totally mind-blowing for her, it’s like playing Dirty Projectors for a Nickleback fan.

He asks her when she’s going to bring the bikes down and Bella tells him they are in her truck, biting her lip in embarrassment. SHE BIT HER LIP! YES! I think Bella’s going to be okay, everybody!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 7: Love Calls You By Your Name

Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 4: Waking Up

It’s weird to see so much text on the page again! Apparently we’re out of the initial shock of Edward’s departure, which was so monumental as to alter the aesthetic core of this book for a few pages. The universe has re-aligned, for the physical book. Not so much for Bella.

At the start of this chapter an exasperated Charlie starts demanding that Bella go live with her mother in Florida. Bella is confused—like us, she’s tuning in halfway through this conversation. We’re still climbing out of the “form over content” forest, I guess. She wonders what she could have done wrong and alludes to four months of doing nothing but going to work and school, “after that first week, which neither of us mentioned.” So I guess there was a week of wild, grief-driven, furniture shredding psychosis that we missed, but not much else.

It turns out that all of that “not much else” is exactly what Charlie is objecting to. Bella hasn’t been taking it out and chopping it up, and Charlie wants her to raise a little hell. He says she’s been “lifeless.”

Now we start to get a sense of exactly why we were just hit with a series of blank pages: that’s how Bella’s existed for the last few months, outwardly at least. She’s been pretending to be okay, for Charlie’s sake, and now it occurs to her that it must not have been working. “Honey, you’re not the first person to go through this kind of thing, you know,” Charlie says. But she kind of is, right?

“Honey, you’re not the first person to fall in love with an undead vampire with a strict moral code who will barely allow himself to touch you because of the overwhelming desire to drink your blood, from whom you’ve begged for immortality and from whom you have been repeatedly rebuffed in requests for same, with whom you have nonetheless fallen irreparably in love and with whom you dream about spending literal eternity, and you’re not the first person to then have that vampire cruelly and theatrically dump you in the middle of the forest and then attempt to eliminate any evidence that he ever existed in the first place. Actually, never mind, you are the first person to do any of that.” -Charlie Swan

He starts bringing up his divorce, and you think he’s going to get sympathetic with her, but he basically says, “I didn’t take your mom walking out on me this hard, which was an actual divorce between people who had a child together, so I think there is literally something wrong with you that this is affecting you so much.” He wants her to see a shrink. Bella shoots that idea down, mentally noting that she couldn’t possibly tell her doctor the truth about the family of vampires who abandoned her. Patient-doctor confidentiality only goes so far.

Instead Bella proposes a trip out of town with a friend, and we get another little great Charlie moment that explains more about Bella’s current state in a few sentences than does the ten pages of emotion-exposition we will get at the end of this chapter:

“Look,” I said in a flat voice. “I’ll go out tonight, if you want. I’ll call Jess or Angela.”
“That’s not what I want,” he argued, frustrated. “I don’t think I can live through seeing you try harder. I’ve never seen anyone trying so hard. It hurts to watch.”

Bella really has been shut down for a few months—it doesn't appear to have been just for show, or if it was, Bella has included herself in the charade—we get repeated references to Bella feeling the first “spark of emotion” she’s felt in a while, once when Charlie explicitly mentions she needs to leave Forks to get better, and again when he makes reference to the fact that Edward hasn’t called or written in months. The explicit reference to Edward bothers Bella so much that she leaves for school to avoid further conversation, subsequently getting there so early she sits in her car and reads her calculus book for a while. Finally Bella is apparently studying something that is appropriate for her age level—some of the teachers at Forks High apparently have heads on their shoulders. Then this happens:

I forced myself to keep at it until the parking lot was full, and I ended up rushing to English. We were working on Animal Farm, an easy subject matter.

An easy subject matter? What the hell is that phrase? Also, Animal Farm? What the hell kind of 12th grade English class is this?

Eventually Bella meets up with Jessica and makes an awkward date. Bella's so nervous about having to talk to her that she lingers outside the classroom and ends up late to class. There was a lot of discussion going on in the comments about whether or not Bella's bizarre behavior was realistic in the last chapter. I can't really speak to that, but this compulsive avoidance of social interaction, this fear of asking people for anything, even something reasonable- this I totally have. I am Bella Swan, with respect to most social interaction.

Bella has to flatter Jessica a lot to get her to go to the movies; you get the sense that they haven't talked in a long time. There's more curious brand-name avoidance here: Bella alludes to seeing "that one with the female president," but Jessica tells her that one is out of theaters. "Well, there's that romantic comedy that's getting great reviews," Jessica says. That is definitely a thing that a normal person has said in a real conversation. I'm just kidding that's the most unrealistic line I think I have ever read! What's weird is Jessica mentions a (fictional) movie title one line later, a zombie flick called Dead End. So, why couldn't S. Meyer come up with something that sounded like a rom-com, too? It's important that Jessica mentions it because we need to understand that Bella is avoiding all depictions of romance in all forms of media; she was happy to be dealing with Animal Farm and Communism in English rather than Romeo and Juliet and true love. But to put it this way, with this awful line, just calls attention to the fact that S. Meyer is trying to drive this point home. We got it.

(S. Meyer spells "communism" with a lower-case c, by the way, which is wrong.)

Bella wants to see the zombie movie, so they agree to go to Port Angeles that night. Zombies, huh? I see where you are going with this one, S. Meyer.

I've been watching Mad Men a lot recently, and many of the episodes follow a certain formula. A character is having a particular emotional-repression problem, and that problem is reflected in something external, usually having to do with the world of advertising. So Don Draper's pitches always sound like they are half about whatever product he is selling and half about his life. There's an overwhelming sense of the weight that is causing these characters to act this way, and you never feel like true emotional health is even remotely possible. But then something big happens, and a character temporarily breaks out of his or her box. Betty Draper starts shooting a gun at her neighbor's pigeons. It is always exhilarating, but then everything returns to normal. This chapter of New Moon is structured in exactly the same way.

Bella goes home to get ready and avoids looking at something in a trash bag at the bottom of her closet: the stereo from Emmett et al., which Bella clawed out of her car with her bare hands. Hey, uh, shouldn't Edward have taken that? It's okay for his brothers and sisters to have seemed like they existed but not Edward himself? See how quickly the "it will be better if it's like I never existed" logic becomes impossible and breaks down? It just makes the whole CD and picture stealing gesture seem even more random and cruel. How is Edward so old and still so stupid? Is Edward a registered voter in Arizona?

(By the way, it occurred to me today that back in the breakup chapter, when Edward offers to mail all of the pictures to Renee on Bella's behalf, he probably took the envelope so that he could remove all of the pictures of himself from it first. Edward's dick moves know no bounds.)

Jessica picks Bella up; Bella makes a concentrated effort to form a smile on her face in the mirror before she goes outside. There's a lot of Dexter-style stuff in this chapter where Bella coaches herself on how to act like a normal person- when she needs to talk, the sort of questions she needs to ask- but she's not as good at it as Dexter. Also she doesn't kill Jessica at the end of the night.

In the car, whatever Jessica is listening to (obviously we don't get a band name) bothers Bella so she changes the station to rap. Jessica is appalled. She's basically like, "You listen to black music?" I like that Forks is so white the idea of a white person liking rap is unfathomable. They haven't even gotten to that mid-90s phase where white guys wore FUBU shirts all the time. Forks is so behind-the-times, that will happen in like 2015 or something. When they finally get high-speed internet and cell phone towers. And they finally find out that Barack Obama is the President. They make small talk; it turns out Eric, who vanished off the face of the earth at the end of Twilight, still exists. Good to know, I guess.

So the movie is playing early, so they "hit the twilight showing" and decide to eat later. Did you guys catch that? That was the name of the last book!

I listen to the /Filmcast every week, and the hosts of that show are extraordinarily concerned with the purity of the movie-going experience. They debate theater etiquette on a regular basis and are essentially terrified by the possibility that someone near them in a theater could be the kind of jerk who talks or takes phone calls during a film. They've told stories about being mortified by friends who talk over films or shout things in theaters; they've shared strategies on how to seem like a psychopath in the theater so that potential talkers will be too scared to set you off. Anyway, I just found myself thinking that one of those dudes would probably freak out at Bella or Jessica for the the way they behaves at the movies. They talk throughout the previews, and then when the film starts and there appears to be a depiction of a romantic couple on screen, Bella gets up and leaves, deciding to get popcorn. She comes back ten minutes later. "You missed everything," Jessica says. "Almost everyone is a zombie now." That's kind of funny, but shut up, Jessica!

Bella manages to enjoy the zombie action for a while, until the very end, when the symbolism of this whole chapter dawns on her.

The scene kept cutting between the horrified face of the heroine, and the dead, emotionless face of her pursuer, back and forth as it closed the distance.
And I realized which one resembled me the most.
I stood up.

So maybe this is a little more blunt than Mad Men. She walks out again, pretending afterward to have been too afraid. Bella notes the irony of the fact that all this time she's been trying to become a vampire, and she ended up a zombie. "It was depressing to realize I wasn't the heroine anymore, that my story was over," Bella says, which is itself also ironic, because we have another 450-something pages to go in this, which is only itself the second installment of her four-part story. Oh man, how long ago did I start this series? We're going to be doing this forever.

Leaving the theater, Bella realizes that Jessica is suddenly very tense and quiet, walking quickly and staring straight ahead. They are passing a sketchy-looking bar, on an unlit patch of road, and there are dudes hanging around outside. It's a place called One-Eyed Pete's, and Bella notes the sound of ice clinking coming from inside. I don't know if S. Meyer has actually walked past a real dive bar, but nobody's drinking anything with ice in there. I walk through Maverick Square every day, and what you hear is the sound of toothless yelling, the sound of stale beer being poured and vomited back out, and the sound of slow death. No ice. Ice clinking is a good sound.

I guess we should have seen the rape thing coming, huh? Why do people even go to Port Angeles if it is basically the rape capital of Washington? "Hey Jess, want to go see a movie in Port Rape?" "Sure that sounds like a good idea. I enjoy the cinema and also attempted rape." Jessica is a model of rape instincts in this situation, as it happens. Head down, keep moving, ignore the cat calls. Bella would do well to learn from her, because what happens next is, she basically tries to get raped on purpose. Betty, get your gun.

She is reminded of the last time she was surrounded by creepy men in Port Angeles, and starts walking toward them for some reason. Naturally Jessica starts to lose her shit. I don't really understand the geography of this scene- Bella walks toward the rapists, Jessica starts after her, but then stops, and Bella keeps going, but Jessica always seems to be within earshot and the rapists don't- how big is this street? It's hard to visualize. Bella is always walking toward them, or thinking about walking toward them, but she only ever seems to travel a few feet.

The guys are probably not rapists, and definitely not the same would-be rapists from before, but it still is a dangerous situation and Jessica is rightly panicked. She asks Bella is she is suicidal, and Bella answers that she is not, but then realizes it was a rhetorical question and the fact that she engaged with it as though it was a valid question in the first place is probably sending a bad signal about her state of mind. Bella steps forward again, and someone yells at her to cut the shit, but it's not Jessica. GUESS WHOSE DISEMBODIED VOICE IS BACK?

Well, I think it is Edward's voice, but Bella avoids saying his name, referring to him instead, always just using masculine pronouns in italics. It's making me think of that dream Bella had in Twilight where the pronoun/antecedent problems grew into a kind of awe-inspiring collection of nonsense.

The writing bottoms out here. I think we're past all of the meta stuff, so it doesn't make sense to suggest that all of the bad writing is supposed to reflect Bella's bad mood. Seriously, though this is some of the worst ever. Bella doesn't understand why she is hearing Edward's voice.

Option one: I was crazy. That was the layman's term for people who heard voices in their heads.

What the hell? I can't even start to break that down, it is so offensive to my sensibilities. That is the layman's term? Crazy? It keeps going.

Option two: my subconscious mind was giving me what it thought I wanted. This was wish fulfillment- a momentary relief from pain by embracing the incorrect idea that he cared whether I lived or died. Projecting what he would have said if A) he were here, and B) he would be in any way bothered by something bad happening to me.

Um, what is the actual difference between those two options? Bella also uses subconscious and unconscious interchangeably, irritatingly attaching the word "mind" after each most of the time. Bella's subconscious mind and unconscious mind are like new characters in this book, filling the void left by Edward and Alice. But Bella's unconscious mind is nowhere near as hot.

Bella has been avoiding thinking about Edward, and explains how she'd gone numb rather than experience pain. But this little moment has snapped her out of it, and she is trying to decide whether or not she wants to try and push it further.

There was a second of choice.

There was just a second of me vomiting because I hate that sentence so much. Bella decides to step forward again, and Edward yells at her some more and she loves it. She loves being reminded how paternalistic that dude was; it fills her with joy! But it turns out the guys aren't rapists, and Bella is disappointed because the voice goes away.

The threat that had pulled me across the street had evaporated. These were not the dangerous men I had remembered. They were probably nice guys. Safe. I lost interest.

That's our Bella, huh? If they aren't going to fuck her to death, deliberately or accidentally, Bella doesn't want any of it.

So she and Jessica go and eat (at McDonald's, a brand name that is mentioned several times; Bella even literally uses the phrase "golden arches," which is like WHAT) and Jessica rightly treats her like a crazy person. On the drive home, Jessica blares music and ignores her while Bella thinks everything over. This book has a lot of "thinking things over," so be prepared. Bella decides she was thrilled by the whole brush-with-rape thing because it made her realize she hasn't forgotten Edward; she's been worried that he was right about how he would slip from her mind.

Because there was one thing I had to believe in to be able to live- I had to know he existed. That was all. Everything else I could endure. So long as he existed.

That's also why Bella got all angry about leaving Forks at the beginning of this chapter: leaving Forks would make him seem even less real. I'm kind of pleased that S. Meyer was willing to wait so many pages to explain the significance of that earlier moment between Bella and Charlie, obvious though it might have been. It's also more Mad Men structuring- Bella comes home to Charlie and we are back where we started. Nicely done. It almost makes up for those last few pages. But it doesn't.

When Bella starts explaining, S. Meyer has a tendency to use a lot of italics, so it starts to look like maybe Bella's been reading a lot of Nietzsche. Also it feels like we're just getting started with the pronoun-with-no-clear-antecedent-indicating-Edward stuff. This happens as Charlie is standing, pissed off in the doorway, because he didn't know where Bella was:

"Hey, Dad," I said absentmindedly as I ducked around Charlie, heading for the stairs. I'd been thinking about him for too long, and I wanted to be upstairs before it caught up with me.

"Him" meaning Edward, all grammatical evidence to the contrary. Bella explains to Charlie that she went to the movies with Jessica, which is actually exactly what she told him earlier, and he calms down. She goes upstairs and we get a long description of how she is overcome with pain.

She describes it as a hole in her chest, with "unhealed gashes" that "continued to throb and bleed despite the passage of time." She gets so worked up that she has trouble breathing and even getting her blood to properly circulate. Bella's emotions have always held a lot of sway over her actual biological functions; that is a very weird talent to have. Some people are double-jointed, others do this. We are all unique snowflakes. Bella hugs her ribs to keep herself from falling apart. Aw, poor baby! Everyone needs to be nicer to Bella, okay?

Everyone needs to be nicer to Kristen Stewart, too. I just read about her interview in the new issue of Elle, which obviously I had to read about on the internet because I am not a subscriber. They basically asked her why she looks so sad and stressed out on the red carpet:

"People say that I'm miserable all the time. It's not that I'm miserable, it's just that somebody's yelling at me...I literally, sometimes, have to keep myself from crying...It's a physical reaction to the energy that's thrown at you."

And you know what? People in the comments at Huffington Post are being assholes about it! Shocking, I know! They're saying things like "don't act in movies, then." Right. Because people who act in movies have to sign off on totally insane TMZ freelancing motherfuckers chasing them down and screaming at them all day? Is that in the contract? It's bizarre to me that people don't immediately realize the problem is our sick celebrity culture; there are plenty of people out there who act in movies without being hunted down by paparazzi every waking hour, but occasionally a few unfortunate people seem to get picked out. And certain audiences out there want to see pictures of these people every time they leave the house (and sometimes just, you know, when they walk near a window) in magazines every week and on the internet every day until whatever happens to break the cycle. The celebrity in question goes insane. People get bored. Someone dies in a car crash. But you are right, commenters. Kristen Stewart should just get another job then. We should discourage all of the people who have normal reactions to this kind of thing from ever getting involved in this industry until the only actors we have left are terrifying, reality-TV show craving fame monster abominations. That will make it so much more fun to go to the movies.

One guy, who looks like a forty year old man, says she should rent our her forehead to advertisers. Thanks, asshole. Would you say that about one of your co-workers daughters?

I have this problem where when I say something in jest on the internet, people think I am being serious, and when I say something serious people think I am joking. I wear a wedding ring, because I am married, and people who have spotted it in videos have asked about it. I have answered them truthfully, saying that I am in fact married. Now, remember like a year ago when everyone was writing "25 Facts About Me" on Facebook? I wrote one, which was obviously full of lies. One of them was this:

14. I am unofficially considered the fifth Jonas Brother. By unofficially, I mean the only thing actually recognizing my status is a Court Order barring me from attending performances. But it does say "Fifth Jonas Brother," on the page.

A month or so ago I got an e-mail from someone asking if I was really married, because they had heard that I was but they also read on my Facebook page that it was a promise ring. What I'm saying is, I am often misunderstood.

So I just wanted to make it clear that when I talk about how awesome Kristen Stewart is I am not kidding at all. This girl is great, and she is doing interesting things with her career, and she deserves our support. And I think our support should mostly entail leaving her the hell alone.