Wednesday, June 30, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 23: The Italian Job

Previous entires can be found in the directory.

Chapter 20: Volterra

Alice's driving style gets severely cramped by the traffic going into Volterra; it's a walled off city – literally a tourist trap! I'll be here all week – there's only one way in. She tries to comfort a stressed-out Bella, but isn't exactly mellow herself. At then end of the last chapter we learned that their elaborate plan essentially consists of getting Bella into Edward's field of vision before he sees Alice or gets killed by anyone or anything else. That plan, such as it is, starts to fall apart immediately. (Sudden imposition of a new threat and subsequent plot? Check. Poorly thought-out plan that immediately starts to fail? Check. Are we reading Twilight again?) As they wind through the traffic, they come to a road block; people are getting out and walking. Obviously in the bright sunlight that's not a possibility for Alice, so she starts to prepare Bella for going solo. “You're going to have to run,” Alice says. “Just keep asking for the Palazzo dei Priori, and running in the direction they tell you. Don't get lost.” I'm not entirely sure I'm confident investing Bella with this kind of responsibility.

There's a darkly symbolic moment where a woman's scarf is blown off of her head by a gust of wind, and she tries in vain to retrieve it as it blows away. Impressively, Bella doesn't say something like, “it made me think Edward might already be out of my reach.” As they approach the road block, Alice abruptly veers around the security guard directing traffic, coming to a stop in front of the entrance to the city and another guard. Bella notes that Alice has angled the car in such a way as to leave herself in the available shadow. Still, she's visible enough that when the guard crankily approaches the car he sees her and is like SCHWING.

Alice grabs something from her bag as the guard starts telling her only buses are allowed in. (He somehow instinctively knows to speak to them in English; was it the deliberate sense of entitlement that tipped him off?)

“It's a private tour,” Alice said, flashing an alluring smile.

She reaches out the window into the sunlight, and Bella flinches instinctively, but Alice is wearing an “elbow-length tan glove.” Very classy, but what is with the Cullens and flesh-tones? You know in a page or two we'll see Edward in a tan mock-turtleneck – they're the cornerstone of his wardrobe. Wear a little black, guys! Flaunt what you got!

See what I'm saying?

Anyway she grabs the guy's hand, pulls it into the car, the blood rushes to his dick so fast there is an audible pop. But don't worry, she just shoves a wad of cash into his hand. A comically enormous wad of cash:

His face was dazed as he retrieved his hand and stared at the thick roll of money he now held. The outside bill was a thousand dollar bill.

Okay, how much money would that really have taken? I get that foreigners don't necessarily have a grip on the value of American money, so you might have to overcompensate a little with your bribe, but c'mon. Dude would have let them through for a quarter and a flash of that – wait for it – smile.

“Is this a joke?” he mumbled.
Alice's smile was blinding. “Only if you think it's funny.”

The guard lets them through, and Alice races through the narrow streets, pedestrians literally diving out of her way to avoid being run over. So much for the rule about vampires staying inconspicuous – you know, the whole justification for the threat that prompted this trip. I guess “rich cunt in a Porsche” can excuse away the reckless driving (in the deleted chapters from Twilight we saw how Alice and Jasper revert to asshole mode as a way of obscuring their weirdness) but not the glittery skin Edward's about to show off.

I do actually think the central premise of Edward's gambit makes no sense. When I walk through Faneuil Hall in Boston, I see people impersonating statues with gold- and silver-painted skin. I see dudes hammering nails into their noses. Are we sure the citizens of Volterra aren't going to think Edward is just a busker? They reach the entrance to the square, so Alice stops the car. She says the Volturi are everywhere, but nevertheless sends Bella off running toward certain doom. Nice.

Once she's out in the open air, a bunch of cinematic-sounding shit happens. The wind blows her hair all over the place. She catches faint glimpses of leering tourists, a kid with fake plastic vampire teeth. Bella stops just short of saying, “It was almost as if I was running in slow motion, dramatic music swelling around me.” There might as well be a sticky-note on this paged marked “ATTN Chris Weitz.”

There are too many tourists for Bella to move very quickly (story of my life). Bella feels defeated, but keeps shoving her way through, crying and hoping Alice will be able to escape back to Jasper. (Wouldn't Alice know if Bella was going to be successful or not? Even if Alice didn't have a vision before Bella took off running, shouldn't Alice have just pretended she had a vision of Bella succeeding to bolster her confidence? That's how JK Rowling would have done it.) She eventually comes to a fountain and runs through it to save time and to make for another cinematic moment. You'd think a scene in which a character is running would move, you know, quickly, but it takes three pages to get across the damn square. The bell tolls again and again, but Edward must be dithering because Bella doesn't hear anyone screaming about the diamond-man.

Finally she comes upon a family standing at the entrance to an alleyway; Edward is behind them. The description of him that follows is oddly like the nameless narrator's description of Marlow at the beginning of Heart of Darkness: his eyes are closed, his palms are held outward, his expression is peaceful. “And this also,” Edward says suddenly, “has been one of the dark places of the earth.” Okay, not really.

He has also taken his shirt off, in keeping with New Moon's thematic density. By my count this book has had four running themes:

1. Romeo & Juliet
2. Misunderstanding
3. Cliff Imagery
4. Shirtlessness

The family at the mouth of the alley is just starting to notice Edward when Bella screams past them and collides with him at full speed. Good, I'm sure they'll just turn around now and head back to the festival! Bella realizes how much she loves Edward, which was not something I was aware she'd forgotten; she says something about what he'd said in the forest meaning nothing. For a second I thought she'd finally gotten wise to Edward's “I'm just not that into you” ruse, but it turns out she's really saying she loves him too much to care that he hates her. She's prepared to follow him around, pathetic and obsessed, until she dies. Cool.

There's a really silly moment where Edward thinks he has died and is in some kind of afterlife. “Carlisle was right,” he says, looking at Bella in his arms. That seems like a pretty insane leap to make before you realize that maybe the news you got third-hand might have been inaccurate. And it gets worse. Astoundingly, he proceeds to quote Romeo & Juliet, apparently unaware of the irony both in this scene and IN THE SCENE HE IS FUCKING QUOTING. “Death, that has sucked the honey of thy breath, hath had no power on thy beauty," he says. I see what you are trying to do there, S. Meyer! Edward is so Romeo right now! But seriously, does he not remember what happens next in the play? (And is this scene supposed to read as romantic? I didn't think our lovers would have such a cruelly ironic reunion. Is this not supposed to be that?) He also kind of insults Bella.

“You smell just exactly the same as always,” he went on. “So maybe this is hell.”

Hey! What are you saying about the way she smells, dude? Bella doesn't really notice, because she's going, “Wake the fuck up motherfucker so we can get the fuck out of here!” Edward finally understands what's happening, and he throws Bella against a wall and fucks her right there. I mean, he throws her against the wall and stands protectively in front of her, because two guys in dark cloaks are approaching. Edward greets them pleasantly. Always with the exchange of niceties, these vampires!

We gradually learn that the two Volturi are Felix and Demetri – suitably vague foreign names. Felix is kind of a dick, and Demetri seems kind of nice. It seems like mostly they are trying to move the conversation away from the alleyway, out of the sun and away from onlookers, which is not unreasonable; Bella watches the nearby family as they get the attention of the (human) guards and a small crowd gathers to watch the exchange in the alley. Demetri says Aro, one of the Vampire Popes, just wants to chat with Edward again. It actually doesn't even seem that ominous, but they want to bring Bella which is a dealbreaker for Edward. It gets tense, and then Alice reappears and joins the standoff. Why didn't she bail? Get out while you still can, Alice! For a minute though, it looks like Alice's presence is going to be enough to ensure a peaceful resolution. Then we meet yet another new villain. Great.

A little, hooded figure shows up, and Bella first takes her for a boy, but her face is too pretty. “The wide-eyed, full-lipped face would make a Botticelli angel look like a gargoyle,” Bella says. Okay. This “androgynous” child is called Jane. I know this is Dakota Fanning's character, but right now I'm picturing her as like, a miniature David Bowie. For whatever reason, when Jane tells everyone to come along they just do it, Alice leading the way.

As they walk, Edward and Alice chat, though it seems like they are just talking out loud as a pretense while Edward gleans the necessary information from Alice's mind. Do you think being able to know about everything that happened is worth Edward having to endure the nonstop parade of pornography that is probably his sister's stream-of-consciousness under normal circumstances? Anyway, it does allow Alice a great line.

“In summary, she did jump off a cliff, but she wasn't trying to kill herself.”

They come around a bend in the path, and suddenly Jane has seemingly disappeared into a brick wall. I thought we were headed for a Diagon Alley situation, but it turns out everyone is just jumping into an open manhole, I got excited for nothing. Alice goes down first ("as always"-Alice, you're welcome) and Edward drops Bella down to her. Edward, Demetri and Felix follow, and Bella hears the manhole cover slide closed “with metallic finality.” Metallic Finality is my new band name.

On the walk, Bella occasionally feels Edward press his face into her hair, like he's trying to get what he can while he can. She thinks he just feels guilty about everything, but says “I didn't care what his motivation was.” She's happy to get sexual attention no matter what reason the guy has. Again, very healthy stuff. Being held against Edward's body in the cold, underground tunnel with still-wet clothes is making Bella shiver, but when Edward tries to release his grasp she won't let him. I don't know Bella. Maybe you should trust your body on this one.

Monday, June 28, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 22: Up In The Air

Previous entires can be found in the directory.

Chapter 19: Race

Alice and Bella make their flight “with seconds to spare” which is definitely something they let you do on a cross-country flight to New York City. Hey, when those full-body scanners start being used everywhere, will that be the end of air travel for vampires? Will they be able to glamour their way past the TSA employees? Have we ever gotten confirmation that these vampires actually can glamour people? (Remember Edward turning the full penetrating force of his liquid topaz eyes on Bella in Twilight?) In the next few chapters, Alice simply uses her hotness to get her way with various humans, so that might be S. Meyer's simplified take.

Bella is jittery and impatient as the flight attendants go about their business before takeoff. “Why the fuck didn't I bring Jasper so I could put this bitch to bed?” Alice asks in exasperation. She takes the phone off the back of the seat before they've even finished climbing, not giving a fuck about a dirty look from the stewardess (S. Meyer's term) nor the fifteen bucks a minute the call costs.

“I'm rich, bitch!”- Alice Cullen

Speak of the telekinetic Valium-dispensing devil, Alice calls Jasper to fill him in. Bella tries to tune out the conversation, but she overhears Alice trying to persuade Jasper not to come, telling him it wouldn't be any use. Then this happens:

“One way or another, I'll get out...And I love you.” [paragraph break sic:]
She hung up, and leaned back in her seat with her eyes closed. “I hate lying to him.”

Bella wants to know why Alice is calling off reinforcements, and her complicated reasons for doing so make for one of the most compelling parts of this book so far. The first reason, the one she gave Jasper, was that seeing any member of his family before seeing Bella might set Edward off and make him act more swiftly. Bella raises the obvious question: if Edward spotted Jasper (or whoever) in Volterra, wouldn't he read Jasper's (or whoever's) mind and see that Bella was alive? “If you had died, I would still try to stop him,” Alice says. “And I would be thinking 'she's alive, she's alive' as hard as I could. He knows that.”

But the more honest reason why Alice called Jasper off is that she is worried that he would try to fight the Volturi, were Edward killed. “I can't lose Jasper like that,” she says.

I realized why her eyes begged for my understanding. She was protecting Jasper, at our expense, and maybe at Edward's, too. I understood, and I did not think badly of her.

Alice goes on to explain that she was lying to Jasper when she promised she would get out no matter what. “It's not something I can guarantee – not by a long shot,” she says with a “grim smile.” So she's trying to protect him while fully aware that she might not live to see him again anyway. She's willing to sacrifice herself for her brother's relationship, but won't put her relationship at risk. I'm singling this out because it is a morally complex situation that is, for once, explicated as a morally complex situation. Just a few pages ago, Alice mentioned that Edward was planning a killing spree in Volterra, and said killing spree was only acknowledged as a threat to Edward and not, you know, a threat to the people he would kill. In other words, for the most part, S. Meyer still has a kind of terrifying Roland Emmerich-ian worldview. So I'll take little bits of progress where I can, however transitory they may be.

Bella starts asking about the Volturi, and Alice gives her a couple of vague details – they are the biggest “family” of vampires in the world. The second biggest, as it turns out, are the Cullens. So maybe there is a kind of America vs. Europe angle to this thing; the Voluturi is part Vatican, part Royal Family. I was just watching True Blood season 2 and I really enjoyed the whole “Church of the Sun” storyline, which involved an anti-vampire mega-church (sort of in the Ted Hagee mold) and grew into a kind of sweeping broad-stroke condemnation of George W. Bush's America. Which, you know, was unexpected. The first season of True Blood was an allegory for the plight of gays and lesbians, sure, but it was primarily a show about people having sex in fast motion. True Blood ain't literature; it is explicit about its symbolism to a degree only rivaled by Twilight, and compared to Alan Ball's last show (Six Feet Under) it's pretty trashy and ridiculous. But it's got a good message, one of tolerance and anti-extremism (and high speed sex), and I can appreciate the fact that a show like True Blood will even get through to the really thick people out there. I similarly adore all of the admittedly heavy-handed stuff about “Pure Bloods” in Harry Potter. It should come as no surprise that I totally lionize the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Anyway, the Volturi, like the Cullens, have extra powers. “Like Edward and I, Aro and Marcus are... talented.” That's “Edward and me,” Alice. It's not something I would normally point out (since I make this mistake all the time) but S. Meyer makes fleeting stabs at giving Alice antiquated diction, so you know, don't bring the stuff unless you can do the thing, so to speak. We don't hear exactly what they can do, but Alice says it makes what she can do “look like a parlor trick.” I/me confusion aside, I think S. Meyer does a pretty good job at making Alice seem like someone who has yet to shake off a few affectations from (I would guess) the 1920s. Better than Edward "gentle cadences" Cullen, anyway.

The Volturi are socially stratified – there's the core members, the guard, and then some hangers-on. It's probably not that important; for those of us on Team Alice, the most important thing is that Alice spends like ten minutes whispering in Bella's ear about the Volturi. Sweet nothings, more or less.

The Volturi are big on enforcing the rules, or rather, the one rule: Don't Talk About Vampire Club. They are particularly proud of the fact that they have controlled Volterra in secret for something like three thousand years. What good is political power if no one knows about it? If a vampire knocks down a tree in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound? But Edward's plan will make them very angry. Bella notes that she has no trouble saying his name - “Maybe it's because I wasn't really planning on living much longer without seeing him. Or at all, if we were too late.” She expresses as much enthusiasm for death to Alice, who obviously kind of flips out.

“Knock it off, you crazy bitch, or we're turning around in New York and going back to Forks.”

She tells Bella she's going to drag her self-pitying ass back to Charlie whether Edward lives or dies. I'm beginning to think a (nonsexual, if it needs to be) relationship with Alice is probably the best thing this girl has going for her right now. But Alice tells our narrator to shut up so she can concentrate, and proceeds to essentially go into a trance. She goes totally still ("like a stone sculture," Bella says. I thought we agreed you would shut up, Bella) and remains that way for a few hours. As the plane begins to descend toward New York, Bella can't bring herself to interrupt Alice - who stays in a trance even as the plane roughly lands. I feel like the more we see of Alice's power, the more it somehow manages to simultaneously make more and less sense. Finally Bella shakes her, and Alice really has very little to report. Edward is getting closer, thinking about how he is going to ask the Volturi for death. ...And!? What the hell else was Alice doing all that time?

"Shhhhh. Don't tell Bella about all of the Valium, she'll be such a bitch about it."

Bella talks a lot about thinking in this chapter, and as with all of Bella's internal monologues, it sort of sucks to read. And eventually it stops making sense altogether:

I was grateful that I'd had so many months' practice with controlling my thoughts. Instead of dwelling on the terrifying possibilities that, no matter what Alice said, I did not intend to survive, I concentrated on lesser problems.

Huh? I read that four or five times before I realized it really was bad and I hadn't just finally gone crazy. Either it's a typo, and it should read "the terrifying POSSIBILITY that, no matter what Alice said..." which is a sort of convoluted expression of Bella's horror at her own current state of despair, or Bella is talking about "not surviving possibilities." Like, a possibility is something you can survive? There's also, while we're at it, a weird continuity error in this chapter. There's much ado about the man sitting next to Bella, who for a time seems to eavesdropping on their conversation. Bella gives him a look and says he "very conspicuously" puts headphones on. Later, after Alice goes into a trance, they put on a movie. "[M]y neighbor got headphones," Bella says. A different set of headphones?

Bella sweats the smaller stuff for a while, realizing that Charlie is probably very angry and her relationship with Jacob is probably permanently fucked. She's also still operating under the insane assumption that Edward doesn't like her anyway, so even if they save him he'll just be like "Okay, thanks. Well, I'll call you sometime," and they'll part ways at the airport. "Maybe I didn't want to survive, no matter what happened." Oh good, very healthy.

Bella falls asleep and Alice starts talking to her a few hours later; it's one of those weird flights where they expect everyone to sleep, and Bella notes that Alice is talking a little too loudly (still pretty wasted, then). The Volturi have already heard Edward's request, and they are planning to turn him down, offering him a job instead. I guess The Volturi don't care much about the emotional states of their employees. I tried to get a job at a Borders once and I had to fill out like, a 30-page psychological profile. "Do you ever feel so angry you want to kill everyone?" and so on. I ended up working at a Korean Barbecue place instead.

A flight attendant (S. Meyer uses "flight attendent" when she wants to indicate a male, and "stewardess" when referring to a female. That could be the cornerstone of a Gender Studies paper on this book) comes over and whispers at them if they want a pillow, which Bella takes as a passive-aggressive "shut the fuck up." But Alice turns and beams at him, "her smile shockingly lovely," and he stumbles off in a daze. "I still got it," Alice mumbles.

(I realize that there once was a time when I tried to indicate when I was adding my own dialog to this book - I even used to cite page numbers. I think it's a little more fun to leave it a mystery, which is what she said.)

S. Meyer maybe senses the support beams of our credulity creaking (how's that for a metaphor?) so Alice and Bella have a more in-depth conversation about how Alice's power works. Some things just come to her on their own, but when she really concentrates on events in the near future, she can see them more clearly. She's also better at seeing the future for vampires than humans. (Does that mean Edward is better at reading vampire thoughts? The living situation in the Cullen house must be worse for him than I even thought. When he leaves the rest of his family their sex lives must get out of control.)

Turns out Bella is pushing the questions about Alice's powers because of Alice's former prediction that Bella herself would be a vampire. Alice seems really disappointed about that, and this happens:

"Actually, Bella..." She hesitated, and then seemed to make a choice. "Honestly, I think it's all gotten beyond ridiculous. I'm debating whether to just change you myself."

Now we're talking. Bella gets exuberant again, begging Alice to bite her right then and there. She's afraid if she doesn't, she'll change her mind. "No," she says. "I don't think I will." Alice has had enough of The Man (Edward) keeping her sister down. Hell yes, Alice.

Of course, this is Twilight, so any step Alice makes toward feminine empowerment is undone moments later. Bella starts thinking about how great it will be when she is a sexy vampire.

If Alice made good on her promise - and if she didn't kill me - then Edward could run after his distractions all he wanted, and I could follow.

So, "I'll just turn into an obsessive stalker," in other words. It gets worse.

I wouldn't let him be distracted. Maybe, when I was beautiful and strong, he wouldn't want distractions.

Such a positive message for young girls! One day, the perfect guy will come along. And if you can be transformed, by magic, into someone pretty, then he will like you! I mean, he might like you sort of as an ugly human, but he'll like you so much more when you are paranormal-sexy. Let's take the self-esteem issues created by models on magazine covers and amplify them by a thousand percent. Now it is LITERALLY UNATTAINABLE, FICTIONAL BEAUTY we should aspire to!

At some point they switch flights in New York; they have to run for the flight so they can't even get a Cinnabon or anything. Alice starts coming in for a harsh landing, rocking back and forth in her seat. Bella sleeps for a while and Alice wakes her with the news that the Volturi have given Edward their refusal. Edward is contemplating suicide missions. Alice says Edward planned for a while on going hunting:

"In the city," she explained. "It got very close. He changed his mind at the last minute."
"He wouldn't want to disappoint Carlisle," I mumbled. Not at the end.

RIGHT, that's what's important about this. Not that he decided to and then almost actually did kill a bunch of innocent people. One of the more appealing aspects of The Wire was the way ruthless gangsters were nonetheless appalled at the idea of hurting anyone who wasn't "in the game." Omar never put his gun on no civillian, you know? One of the most appalling aspects of this book is the way all of those considerations are completely ignored.

"Who are those normal people, anyway? They're not important to this story! It's about THESE TWO people who love each other, not any other people who may or may not love each other. What are you even talking about, 'morally reprehensible?' What does that mean?"-S. Meyer

ANYWAY, Edward has decided to walk out into the sun in front of a bunch of civilians. Because he is so distraught and suicidal, he's going to wait until tomorrow at noon. Okay. So our rescuers have a little time. But the plane touches down, and now they've got to get to Volterra, and fast.

[Alice] eyed me speculatively. "How strongly are you opposed to grand theft auto?"

In the sitcom version of this, that would totally become Alice's catch phrase. She's already engaged in some serious evidence tampering in Twilight, and I hope Alice's propensity for petty crimes continues into future books.

"How strongly are you opposed to breaking and entering?"-Alice, in Eclipse
"How strongly are you opposed to the production and distribution of narcotics?"-Alice, in Breaking Dawn
"How strongly are you opposed to first-degree murder?"-Alice, in Bree Tanner

Outside the airport, Alice picks Bella up in a bright yellow Porsche. "Sheesh, Alice," Bella says. "Could you pick a more conspicuous car to steal?" We've been chronicling S. Meyer's struggles with the definition of the word "sarcastic," and we could have celebrated a victory here if Bella's tone was indicated as sarcastic by the author. Because this is sarcasm, for once! But alas, no mention of the word. Better luck next time.

They zoom out of the airport; Alice weaves around cars like a fucking gangster and laughs off the idea of getting caught.

"Thug life"

She's still scanning the future, and starts complaining about seeing big crowds of people. She asks Bella what the date is, and it turns out it is some kind of Volterran holiday. Alice says it's "ironic," because this is the date on which Volterrans celebrate the day, thousands of years ago, when St. Marcus chased all of the vampires out of their city. Of course, St. Marcus is just Marcus, one of the Volturi leaders (they have a triumvirate thing going on, so there's three popes in the Vampire Vatican) and the whole thing is some kind of myth the Volturi made up for kicks and giggles, since the place is lousy with vampires. These dudes are weird. Alice comments on as much:

"And vampires don't trouble Volterra, so they must work." Her smile was sardonic.

No, no, no, no, no! S. Meyer, That is sarcastic! Virtually everything you have referred to so far as "sarcastic" was "sardonic" (which I think Kim pointed out very astutely a few weeks ago) and now you finally find the right word for your failed attempts at sarcasm just as you've finally succeeded! Could this get any worse? When Bella says, a line later, "I was realizing what she meant when she'd said ironic," it somehow makes it SO MUCH WORSE.

And then they get to Volterra, and finally, everyone has to shut the fuck up and let there be some action for once. When you find yourself longing for an action scene as described by S. Meyer, you know you're in trouble.

Friday, June 25, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 21: Smooth Move, Wolflax

Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 18: The Funeral

Jacob is at the door, and his face is "smooth" and "masklike." He's in total asshole mode, trembling with rage. Charlie probably didn't take his gun to Harry's funeral, right? Maybe Bella should grab it. "Hostility rolled off of him in waves," Bella says. Embry and Jared are waiting in the car, trying to look as intimidating as is possible in a Volkswagen. Jacob makes sure Bella is alone and comes in.

His jaw set, and he marched - there was no other way to describe the way he moved - up the sidewalk and shrugged past me into the house.

Is it me or would S. Meyer's descriptions seem less silly if she didn't rhetorically insist there was no other way to have written them? (Probably quite a few words would be better: stalked, stomped, strode forcefully.) Also, he marches, but then shrugs past her? What does marching and shrugging look like, exactly? He marches and shrugs into the living room and S. Meyer tries to use the word "sarcastic" properly again:

"Slumber party?" he asked, his tone sarcastic.

Sorry, better luck next time. Jacob's tone isn't done, either. He makes a face like he smells something "unpleasant," and this happens:

"Where's your 'friend'?" I could hear the quotation marks in his tone.

I don't think anyone was going to call you on that, Bella. That said, I kind of like this weird, light-meta gesture. But Jacob's got a problem with the way Alice smells? Who doesn't like the smell of whisky, cigarettes, incense and amoral decisions?

Jacob and Bella bitch back and forth at each other for a while; it's kind of fun. My only problem is it seems like Jacob knows Alice is the Cullen in town long before he should: he asks who the visitor is and is told a page after his "slumber party" joke. Last he knew, recall, it was Carlisle's car on the street, and when he called last night he hung up before he could get any more information. Did he think Bella and Dr. Cullen had a sleepover? That would be no fun; who wants to talk about Jesus all night?

"Have you heard the good news?"-Carlisle Cullen
"Shut up." -Bella Swan, Zac Little, Various

Jacob has come to essentially say that the wolf pack can't guard Forks proper when a Cullen is in town; they have to stay on their own land. He also wants to know if the rest of the family is returning now. Bella is intentionally rude and vague, which is good. I am totally in favor of Jacob being verbally abused. I just wish Bella was a little more imaginative: she literally tells him to "run along now." Still, she starts crying when he does run along, frustrated by the seeming irreparable damage done to their relationship by Alice's visit. But he comes back, and they have a briefly adorable make-up scene.

"Did it again, didn't I?"
"Did what?" I asked, my voice cracking.
"Broke my promise. Sorry."
"S'okay," I mumbled. "I started it this time."

AWWWW. But it doesn't last long. Bella asks why they can't all just get along in peace: "You'll still be my friend, even though I love Alice, too?" She loves her, she really loves her! (As it turns out, the last chapter we read, "Visitor" is the jumping off point for a lot of Alice/Bella lesbian slash-fiction.) But Jacob is like, blah blah blah sworn enemies blah blah blah. They hug, and Bella silently laments her "nasty catch-22" (but not her propensity for redundancies). She wants Alice to stay forever ("I was going to die - metaphorically - when she left me," Bella says. I think we all knew you were speaking metaphorically, Bella. The fact that you feel you need to clarify is more worrisome than anything else!) but she doesn't want to lose Jacob. Not that Jacob does much to earn our sympathy; Bella innocently asks why it has to be this way, and he basically says if in the same room with Alice he couldn't help but kill her. Oh, you poor thing with your uncontrollable killer instinct! Let me get my world's smallest violin case, in which I conceal the world's smallest rifle!

And then Jacob sows the seeds of his biggest fuck up yet. He abruptly decides to put the moves on Bella, who freaks out so hard she can't even summon her standby Romeo & Juliet motif.

True love was forever lost. The prince was never coming back to kiss me awake from my enchanted sleep. I was not a princess, after all. So what was the fairy tale protocol for other kisses? The mundane kind that didn't break any spells?

Bella, what the hell are you talking about? For a second there, I thought Edward was the prince, but then you switched horses in midstream. But you weren't on a horse, after all, you were just being crazy. Hey, did what I just said make any sense? No? What's the fairy tale protocol for shutting the fuck up?

Jacob's face comes slowly toward Bella like an approaching meteor, but the phone rings and interrupts them. A blue-balled and frustrated Jacob grabs the phone and his expression is such that Bella assumes it is Alice on the line and reaches for the receiver. Jacob ignores her. It's her fucking phone, asshole!

"He's not here," Jacob said, and the words were menacing.
There was some very short reply, a request for more information it seemed, because he added unwillingly, "He's at the funeral."

Jacob hangs up and says it was Carlisle. Bella is already angry, but it gets a lot worse. Jacob senses something and abruptly tries to flee the house. Fire? Bella gives chase, and when he stops short in the entryway they crash into each other and end up tangled on the floor like a cartoon or something. At least Jacob didn't like, run in place for a while and then leave a dust cloud behind him as he zoomed out of frame. Bella sees Alice (the cause of Jacob's fear, the pussy) standing frozen in the driveway, looking panicked. Bella runs to her, but all Alice manages to choke out is "Edward." Her bleak expression is suggestive enough that Bella faints.

She comes to on the couch; Jacob is swearing a lot. The words he uses are left to our imagination (a lot of "cunt" and "whore" directed at Alice, which is what she asks Jasper to call her anyway) but Bella feels "vague disapproval" at Jacob's language. Don't be such a fucking schoolmarm, Bella! Bigger things are (probably) happening right now! Alice is trying to get her to focus, saying they don't have a lot of time. Bella asks what happened.

"I don't know," she suddenly wailed. "What is he thinking!?"

Acting: This is Ashley Greene's "we are so fucked!" face.

She pulls out a phone. "Her fingers dialed the numbers so fast they were a blur," Bella says. Is it me, or is this a stupid time to emphasize vampire speed? They can dial phones SO FAST! Wow! Alice ends up on the line with Rosalie when she can't get ahold of Carlisle, says something about being on a plane soon, and then hears something that causes her to start yelling at Rosalie a lot. "Fuck you, bitch!" Alice screams (I'm paraphrasing), and hangs up the phone. Good. I don't even know what Rosalie did yet, but she deserves to get hung up on.

So, it takes everyone a long time to get on the same page, since Bella and Jacob don't really understand what just transpired and Alice doesn't know about the phone call Jacob just answered. But when Alice hears about it, she explains that it wasn't Dr. Cullen who rang. He is still out hunting. It was Edward on the line. "He thinks you're dead," she says.

Rosalie told Edward about Alice's vision - the other Cullens are still operating under the assumption that Bella committed suicide. (So Alice hasn't called them to check in for the last few days? Don't you think that would be like, a really important thing to share?) Do you see where this is going yet? Bella seems to think Edward being mistaken in this way is no big deal, and that it will be sorted out next time he calls.

"Bella," Alice whispered. "Edward won't call again. He believed her."
"I. Don't. Understand." My mouth framed each word in silence.

OH. SNAP. Alice says Edward is going to Italy, which is not a euphemism for something, he is literally on his way there right now. Bella flashes back to when Edward explained how he would kill himself, if need be: by provoking the Volturi. Hey, Bella, do you remember the other part of that conversation where Edward mocked Romeo for being rash and stupid? DOES EDWARD REMEMBER IT? OY. VEY.

I suppose it only makes sense that in a story built on blunders of an ever increasing magnitude, sooner or later we would get one monstrous fuck-up, a boner for the ages, in which Alice, Jacob, Bella, and Edward all share the blame (though I mostly blame Jacob). And it only makes sense that said ultimate boner would reflect the Romeo & Juliet motif by copying Romeo & Juliet exactly. Are we really going to let S. Meyer get away with taking this post-modern awareness of Romeo & Juliet all the way up to the water's edge, only to ditch it when it becomes inconvenient? When is Alice going to turn to Bella and Jacob and say, "We're all a bunch of fucking morons!"

It takes a long time to explain the stakes of the next phase of this book. Bella asks Alice what she needs to do.

"Bella, I - I don't think I can ask you to..." she trailed off in indecision. "It will literally take five pages to explain."

Edward has decided to go to Volterra, the Vampire Vatican City, to ask to die. Thing is, Alice things they will say no - the head Volturi guys used to be tight with Carlisle back in the day. So Edward's back-up plan will be to cause some kind of mass disruption of the peace in Volterra, where a bunch of muggles live, forcing the Volturi's hand - they will shut him down right quick if he threatens their secret. First rule of Vampire Club is you do not talk about Vampire Club. Alice says even if that happens, they won't necessarily make it in time (Really though? They're getting ready to leave thirty seconds after Edward called! Was he already in Spain or something?) to save him. Their only shot is if Edward gives in to his "more theatrical tendencies" and plans some kind of elaborate stunt, buying them a few more hours. Right, because that is how people who are actually suicidal behave; Edward is so distraught over Bella's death that he's going to take a few hours to plan a really awesome show and go out with a bang.

(Bella, it should be noted, is still laboring under the assumption that Edward left her because he really lost interest. "But he left! What difference does it make now? He knew I would die sometime!" Alice replies that she doesn't think Edward ever planned to outlive her by very long, which is pretty dark, but Bella appears either not to hear her or not to think at all about the implications of it.)

Alice also says there's a pretty good chance that all three of them will get iced by the Volturi, but that doesn't really faze Bella. She hastily scribbles a note to Charlie - Edward's in trouble, I'll be back in a few days - which will do nothing to stop him from calling in the National Guard or raining Agent Orange down on Forks as soon as he gets home, but whatever.

As she hurriedly packs a bag, Bella has a strong feeling of déjà vu - here she is, fleeing Forks again. Here we are, having a fully-formed plot dropped in our laps 2/3 of the way through the book again.

Jacob, who is apparently still here, (and hasn't apologized yet!) tries to get Bella to stay. It's a pretty weak argument - "Hey, he was no good to you anyway. So let him kill himself and forget about it" - and he seems to know it. So he settles for arguing with Alice for a while. They hurl lame insults at each other - "dog," "leech." C'mon Alice, you can do better than that. I'm going to pretend that instead of "dog," you said "cum bucket." I will give Alice points for trying to terrify Jacob for no reason whatsoever when he points out it is not safe to bring Bella to Vampire Vatican.

"Yes. You're right, cum bucket." Alice was snarling, too. "The Volturi are the very essence of our kind - they're the reason your hair stands on end when you smell me. They are the substance of your nightmares."

Bella interrupts the fight, Alice runs to the car and starts impatiently revving the engine. Jacob tearfully pleads with Bella one last time to stay, and she tearfully kicks him to the curb. But not before kissing his hand. Bella is a gentleman. (Actually, she kisses his hand after pulling it away from her hair, effectively reversing one of Jacob's moves on him.) As they screech away, Bella looks to where Jacob has sprinted into the forest and sees a chunk of a shoe. Jacob ruined another pair of sneakers? That guy is fucking up everything!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

WRITING NEW MOON: Billy & Charlie Watch The Game

I love fan fiction, and I think it can be used to fill in gaps left in works of fiction. That's why authors leave gaps, right? So that we will write and publish our own stories about their characters? That isn't why?

Previous entries can be found in the directory.

"Charlie & Billy Watch The Game"

“Charlie,” Billy grinned as he opened the door. “Good to see you still wearing men's clothes.”
“Says the guy in the gay pancho,” Charlie smiled, dropping a six-pack roughly into Billy's lap.
“Game's already on,” Billy said, gesturing toward the TV. “Did a cat get stuck in a tree or something?”
“Hey, don't knock the job.”
“That's what she said.”
Charlie snorted. “Besides, you're thinking of firemen.”
“You're not a fireman? That's right, they don't let homos live in the fire house,” Billy said, opening a beer and handing one to Charlie. “Don't ask, don't tell.”
“That's not what Don't Ask Don't Tell means, retard.” Charlie said, taking a slug of beer.
“What does it mean, then?” said Billy accusingly.
“It means like, if you're gay you can be in the army, but you can't do any gay stuff.” Charlie was pretty sure that was right.
“Oh right. The army. You white men have so many different ways to wear gay uniforms, sometimes I get mixed up. Speaking of which, when are you and the Village People getting back together?”
“Pretty sure there was a Native American in the Village People, too.” Charlie sipped his beer to punctuate his point.
“Not a Quileute.”
“No, you're right. I don't think there's ever been a Quileute who made any money." Charlie gestured around Billy's small house, spilling some beer as he did. "Aren't you guys communists? You would have gotten some of that money! Shit, maybe I should call Sam Uley. He and I could start a band. Help you out.”
“What, you wouldn't want to start a band with me?”
“Cripples can't play rock and roll, dumbass.”
“There was that drummer with one arm.” Billy countered.
“Def Leppard. You're right, they were pretty good. For a bunch of homos.”
On the TV, a ref made a bad call. So Charlie and Billy spent the next few minutes swearing, and farting.
“You know how I know you're gay?” Billy asked.
“Because you like having sex with men.”
“That doesn't make me gay,” Charlie grinned. “You see a lot of good looking women in this town? A man's gotta take what he can get.”
“That's true.”
“That Carlisle Cullen is a handsome man. And he was a gentle lover.”
Billy snorted.
“You know how I know you're gay?” Charlie asked him.
“Because you own the Titanic soundtrack.”
“I told you, I like the instrumental stuff.” Billy shuffled defensively in his chair.
“Bullshit. You have a crush on Celine Dion.”
“And that makes me gay?”
“Yep. No straight man would want to hit that.”
“Don't say 'hit that.' It doesn't befit a man of your age. You're not one of Bella's classmates.”
“Bella and her friends don't talk about that stuff,” Charlie said, looking serious.
“Yeah right. You really think your daughter isn't fucking my son?”
“She better not be!” Charlie's face got a little red.
“I know,” Billy said. “If he takes after his old man, his member would be way too big for her. My name was almost Walks With Three Legs, you know.”
Charlie laughed. “You're lucky I've had enough beer to think that's funny. Otherwise I'd have to kick your wheelchair-bound ass.”
“You've only had one,” Billy countered.
“It's Saturday,” Charlie snorted. “I've been drinking since noon.”
“And you drove over here, officer? Oh boy.”
Charlie ignored him. “Speaking of which, I'm ready for another. Can I just toss this empty over there or are you going to shed a single tear for your Mother Earth Spirit?”
“Fuck you, brother. Do we all look the same to you?”
“Well, only way I can pick you out of a lineup is the wheelchair.”
“Only way I can pick you out of a lineup is the gay mustache. You look like Tom Selleck's gay brother, Tom Suckdick.”
“You look like Tanto's gay brother... Gay Tanto.”
Billy and Charlie sat in silence for a while. The home team scored a goal, so they decided to have another beer.
“You don't really think Bella's having sex with Jacob, is she?” Charlie said quietly.
“Oh yeah,” Billy replied casually.
“Shit,” Charlie said. “I thought for sure she was a lesbian.”
“Wishful thinking, buddy.” Billy sighed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 20: Alice, At Last

Okay everybody. We have slogged through the last ten chapters or so enduring werewolves, disconcerting domestic-abuse imagery, and the horrors of Bella's “unconscious mind.” Some of you might have questioned whether or not it was worth it. Well guess what? It was, it definitely was. Because ALICE IS BACK! ALICE IS BACK! HALLELUJAH, ALICE IS BACK! Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 17: Visitor

When the lights come up and Bella gets her bearings, Alice is standing there in the middle of the hallway, looking “hot as fuck” (Bella's words, not mine. Okay, they're mine). Naturally, Bella goes a little apeshit. “I locked my arms around her, gasping to inhale as much of her scent as possible.” Clearly some of the sexual tension from the car has transferred over, and rightly so. But more than anything it reminds me of this:

Alice is, naturally, a little taken aback.

“Bella?” There was a strange mingling of relief and confusion in her voice.

Bella starts sobbing. Alice carries her into the living room and sits Bella on her lap like a baby. “She rubbed my back in a gentle rhythm, waiting for me to get control of myself,” Bella says. I'm glad that our heroine's ridiculous emotional state has finally become a punchline, but it's a give and take. This sort of thing is back with a vengeance:

It was like curling up into a cool stone, but a stone that was contoured comfortingly to the shape of my body.

It would probably not be fun to have sex with Alice, come to think of it. It's not surprising that the boring stone metaphors follow the Cullens everywhere they go, but it is a little weird that some of S. Meyer's syntactical tics (that I thought we'd long ago overcome) have also returned. What is the deal with this bizarre construction?

Alice sighed. “I'd forgotten how exuberant you are,” she said, and her tone was disapproving.

What's wrong with “she said, her tone disapproving”? Is it a matter of clarity? How dumb does S. Meyer think we are? This happened all the time in Twilight, and might have actually happened a few times in this book. I'm certainly not going to go back and check! Good riddance, last ten chapters! Anyway, Alice's tone is disapproving, and she's straining away from Bella as much as possible, at which point our heroine realizes Alice is trying not to eat her.

She was thirsty. And I smelled appetizing.

And yet in a page or two something will happen that is totally inconsistent with this moment. But who cares? Alice! She tells Bella it isn't her fault – she was in a rush today. “Speaking of which,” Alice says, “would you like to explain to me how you're alive?” Bella, who for weeks has been LITERALLY incapable of putting two and two together, figures out immediately that Alice saw her on the cliff. I'm not complaining that Bella is suddenly operating at normal human intelligence levels again so much as I am still complaining about what a dipshit she was for the last few chapters. Did she sustain a head injury on the motorcycle a few weeks ago?

“You saw me fall.”
“No, she disagreed, her eyes narrowing. “I saw you jump.”

Right. Why would Bella say “fall?” We will eventually realize that Alice thinks Bella was trying to kill herself, and Bella will try to explain the truth, but under both interpretations of the events, Bella jumped. It's a question of motive, not action. It's also another misunderstanding, by the way, though this one is a little more believable than most of the last 500 misunderstandings. (Yes, I am currently claiming that a plot development involving a vampire with imperfect visions of the future is "believable.") Bella gets distracted listening to the sound of Alice's voice (understandable) and forgets to set her straight for a while; Alice talks as though she always sort of expected Bella to try and kill herself, which doesn't seem like the nicest thing to say to a friend, even if it is really, really true. Edward, we hear, forbid Alice from keeping tabs on Bella, but the vision of the cliff jump came to her involuntarily. (I'm perfectly okay with the inconsistencies in Alice's power, which is something a lot of people object to. Isn't the whole idea supposed to be that it is inconsistent? Or does Alice just give me the literary equivalent of beer goggles?)

Apparently Alice saw Bella fall, and without even really thinking about it, got on a a plane “thinking maybe I could help Charlie somehow.” WHOA. Alice sensed that Charlie needed her so she came running. I know I can't really simultaneously pull for Alice to hook up with Bella and her father, I just haven't decided which way to go with it.

Bella finally speaks up and tries to convince Alice that she wasn't killing herself, but Alice isn't buying it. I'm not either, really. She saw the storm coming and decided to jump anyway. When the current got her she all but gave up immediately. Maybe it wasn't a 100% suicidal act, but there's still plenty of worrisome, cry-for-help behavior going on here! Bella mentions Jacob saving her, which confuses Alice; she didn't see that part. She frowns “in perplexity” (just how I like my women: frowning in perplexity) and starts sniffing Bella.

“Don't be ridiculous, she muttered, sniffing at me some more.

Alice tells Bella she smells awful, which you'd think would have been a factor a few seconds ago when Alice was so tempted by Bella's smell, but whatever! This chapter has a very tenuous grip on coherence, but Alice is in it!

Bella explains that Jacob is a werewolf (apparently the source of the smell); she's not really in the business of keeping anyone's secrets anymore, huh? When you narrow your social circle down to almost solely monsters masquerading as humans, your day-to-day considerations change a lot. Alice is only vaguely aware of werewolves; she was not with the Cullens when the treaty was made. For the most part, she also seems only vaguely aware that Bella is talking to her. Bella asks her if she was around for the treaty twice before she answers, which is either really sloppy writing or really great writing, I haven't decided. But Bella keeps mentioning how distracted Alice seems.

“I took a lot of valium before takeoff,” Alice murmured.

Actually, Alice is still worried about not "seeing" Jacob. I'd be dwelling on that too – Bella is getting pretty needy and I'm sure Alice had to leave a great orgy or coke party to get back to Forks. And then to find out there's not even going to be any sympathy sex with Charlie for her trouble? What a drag.

Alice eventually sobers up (or Bella just kills her buzz) enough to chew Bella out for associating with werewolves, which is exactly what I called for a few weeks ago. Bella is too happy to bother objecting to the tongue-lashing (heh), though she rises to the defense of the wolves to say they've protected her from Victoria. Alice, obviously, is like “Stop. Rewind that!” and makes Bella tell her the story from the beginning. Bella gives her the abridged version of the last fourteen chapters; when she gets to the part about Victoria, Alice's eyes narrow to “two slits,” and Bella gets freaked out by how badass she looks.

It was strange to see her look dangerous – like a vampire.

Am I the only person who honestly felt like Alice and Bella were going to start making out? If anything turns Bella on, it's danger. But if Bella had any plans to seduce Alice, she drops them when she realizes Charlie will be home soon. Alice starts talking like she shouldn't have come, and Bella says what we're all thinking.

“Don't go, Alice,” I whispered.

Alice agrees to stay the night, and tells Bella she looks “like hell.”

“I drowned today,” I reminded her.
“It goes deeper than that. You're a mess.”

They commiserate over the stupidity of Edward's decision - “What did you think you were going to find?” Bella asks. “Did you expect to find me skipping around and whistling show tunes?” - and Alice agrees with Bella's implication that Edward is a dumb asshole. So forget about him, ladies! You have each other, and that's all you need! You don't need Jacob either – he calls to make sure Bella didn't get ripped to shreds by Victoria in an ambush, which is nice, but then hangs up on her almost as soon as she answers.

Alice squeezed my hand. “They aren't excited I'm here.”
“Not especially. But it's none of their business anyway.”
Alice put her arm around me. “So what do we do now?”

I can think of a few things. (Alice is really physically attentive, huh? I'm not imagining all of this sexual subtext.) Alice wants to talk to Carlisle, but Bella begs her not to leave any time soon. I'm so used to hating all of Bella's decisions that it's weird to be completely on her side. So much has changed!

“You can stay here – Charlie would love that.”
“I have a house, Bella.”
I nodded, disappointed but resigned. She hesitated, studying me.
“Well, I need to go get a suitcase of clothes, at the very least.”
I threw my arms around her.

STOP PLAYING WITH MY MIND, S. MEYER! Who wrote this chapter?

Alice needs to get clothes (“Pick out something sexy”-Bella) and hunt, so we all have to part with her briefly. “Can you stay out of trouble for one hour?” Alice asks.

Then, before I could answer, she held up one finger and closed her eyes. Her face went smooth and blank for a few seconds.

She sees the future, folks! Tip your waitresses! Alice will (hopefully) be here all week. She kisses Bella on the cheek and leaves. Bella takes a shower (self-consciously sniffing herself for whatever disgusted Alice so much, which is exactly what I would do), makes up a bed for Alice on the couch (“Alice wouldn't need it, but Charlie would need to see it,” Bella says, and I had to remind myself it was because Alice was a vampire and not because they'd be fucking all night) and has dinner. Bella still has some time left before Alice will be back, but when she goes into the living room to wait, Alice is already there. She doesn't disappoint, this one. Jacob keeps saying he'll show up and then he doesn't. Alice comes back early. Are you taking notes, Bella?

I sat down next to her and leaned my head on her shoulder. She put her cold arms around me and sighed.
“Bella. What
are we going to do with you?”

(I realize that the passages I'm quoting give the impression that Bella and Alice spend the entire chapter kissing and hugging, but I'm actually not exaggerating it that much.) Alice tells Bella that Edward doesn't know she's here, and Bella realizes (again, it's weird that Bella is realizing things) that the only way that could be true is if Edward is not with the Cullens. “He checks in every few months.” Meanwhile, Jasper didn't come because he didn't think Alice should interfere.

“We promised....” she trailed off, and then her tone changed. “And you think Charlie won't mind my being here?”

Those four periods are S. Meyer's, not mine. I counted a few times. I kind of wish Bella would press Alice on that first thought ("I wish Bella would press Alice in general,"-Quil Ateara). What kind of weird deal did Alice strike with Jasper? Other than the open relationship deal? Charlie gets home, too stunned to even notice Bella until she hugs him in the driveway. I don't know if Harry's death was supposed to make us feel more sympathy for Charlie than Harry himself, but that is sort of how it works. “I'm really going to miss him,” he says. Aw, I want to hug Charlie too! Alice comes out and greets him, and Charlie asks after Carlisle. Everybody realizes that Charlie is trying to find out if Edward is in town, so he can kick his ass. Team Charlie.

Alice went back to the couch, and I followed her. This time, she was the one to pull me against her shoulder.

We find out that even Dr. Cullen himself doesn't know about Alice's return; he's out on a hunting trip. Alice promises not to tell Edward about it at all. (That would be kind of hard, what with the mind-reading, right?) Bella falls asleep in Alice's arms, and when she wakes up in the morning she overhears Charlie and Alice talking in the kitchen; he seems to be making her breakfast.

“That thing you did where you flipped around and bent backwards on top of me– how did you do that?” Charlie was asking.
“Yoga classes, my friend,” Alice replied.

Okay, I'm kidding. They are actually talking about Bella's Blue Period, the months directly proceeding Edward's departure. Charlie is incredibly articulate for several pages, which actually strikes me as a pretty great character note and not an inconsistency. He acts like this gruff, dumb guy, but it turns out he's very perceptive and has basically known exactly what Bella was thinking at all times for the past six months.

It turns out Bella was a lot more horrorshow than we even knew – she essentially went catatonic for the first week, and Charlie flew Renee in to drag her to Florida. When her parents started packing her bags, Bella lost it and started throwing shit everywhere and screaming. “Then she finally started crying,” Charlie says. (At which point Renee apparently left? Nice parenting, Renee. “Well, she's not catatonic. My work is done here.”)

Charlie has picked up on every affectation that Jacob noticed earlier; Bella avoids music (he found a bunch of CDs broken in the trash, which really bothered me as an image. Don't hurt CDs!) and TV and anything that would remind her of Edward. He says she would only answer direct questions for weeks and lost touch with all of her friends. “It was night of the living dead around here.”

He talks about the changes Bella went through when she started hanging out with Jacob. “I know she used to think of him as a friend, but I think maybe it's something more now, or headed in that direction, anyway.” Nothing gets past this dude, huh? It's kind of a great reveal; we're seeing this side of Charlie that we might have already assumed existed, but now it is being confirmed. He praises Jacob for a while, saying he's “old for his years” which is kind of an unusual turn of phrase, but maybe it's a regional thing. Charlie also can't seem to resist making fun of Billy when the opportunity presents itself. “He's a good looking kid, too – takes after his mom's side.” YA BURNT, Billy. I want to read some Billy/Charlie Apatowian bromance fan fic.

“Hey, Chief Swan – when are you and the rest of the Village People getting back together?” Billy asked.
“Hey, Billy, you look like Tanto's gay brother, Dicksucko,” Charlie shot back.

Charlie says he's not sure Bella will get over it. “She's always been such a constant little thing.”

“She's one of a kind,” Alice agreed in a dry voice.

YA BURNT ALSO, Bella. Alice must know that Bella is listening, right? Our heroine mentions shuddering and sighing at various points while listening to their conversation, which would probably not escape Alice's notice. There's some silence during which they are apparently eating, ("I wondered where Alice was hiding the food," Bella says) and Charlie finally asks Alice if Edward is coming back. "The last time I spoke with him, he was in South America," Alice says. That seems like maybe too much information to give Charlie. Yep, you know that boy you assumed was just a normal high school kid? He's living on his own in South America right now, like all normal kids sometimes do. Charlie seems too relieved to be suspicious.

Bella pretends to wake up, and Charlie leaves to help prepare Harry's funeral. Alice and Bella apparently spend the entire day talking. Alice tells Bella about what the rest of the Cullens have been up to:
  • Carlisle is working nights in Ithica and teaching part time at Cornell. That is a sitcom right there, isn't it? Adjunct Vampire Professor. Oh shit, I just found my new band name.
  • Esme is apparently restoring a seventeenth century house, “a historical monument.” Okay, so now we know one thing about Esme: she likes to restore houses. Are you even allowed to restore a historical monument? Esme is also apparently very good at ingratiating herself with with local government, I guess.
  • Jasper is studying philosophy at Cornell, because obviously he is. There isn't even a punchline to that one; it already is a punchline. ("Could Jasper BE anymore angsty?"- Jacob Bing)
  • Rosalie and Emmett were in Europe. Those two are globetrotters these days, huh? They kind of remind me of my aunt Ruth in that way. If they start telling Bella to wash her hair more, they will be exactly like her.
Meanwhile, Alice has gone on a reconnaissance mission to discover her true identity, which she found.

“My name was Mary Alice Brandon,” she told me quietly. “I had a little sister named Cynthia. Her daughter – my niece – is still alive in Biloxi.”

It's kind of weird that Alice would have picked a name for herself that was in her actual name, the one she had no memory of, but whatever. Maybe everyone was named Alice back then? Alice found her own gravestone, too – her death date was the same day as her admission to the insane asylum. It's a great, gothic little detail, and I wish we could get a little more of this story.

Speaking of not getting a lot of the story, Bella's day with Alice apparently stops there. It took all day to give Bella that much information? She mentions sleeping on the couch with Alice again, and then we cut to Charlie coming down the stairs the next morning. It seems like S. Meyer can't imagine how Bella and Alice would spend a whole day together. (Discussion question: what do YOU think they did?) Charlie leaves for the funeral the next morning, and Bella decides to do chores while Alice keeps her company. Not a very good host, Bella! Also, Bella is not going to the funeral?

Alice asks after all of the Forks kids, or as she calls them, "my old conquests." Not that Bella can tell her much about what they've been up to. "Her face stayed casual and emotionless, but I sensed her disapproval when she realized how little I could tell her," Bella says.

"Nah, I don't give a fuck."- Alice Cullen

The doorbell rings, and Alice looks a little freaked out; she doesn't know who it is. She guesses it is Jacob Black & Friends.

I stared at her, putting it together. "You can't see werwolves?"
She grimaced. "So it would seem. Also, who the fuck else would it be?"

What a twist! What a convenient way to get around inconsistencies in Alice's power! "Well, there must have been a werewolf there." Suck it, haters! Alice leaves then, because she doesn't want to have to kill a bunch of teenage boys. Why not, Alice? This book would be so much better if she just walked out there and ended these fuckers. Jacob screws everything up.

Friday, June 18, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 19: Would Juliet Have Banged Paris? Would She At Least Have Given Him A BJ?

So last time we left off with a cliffhanger, involving a literal cliff, which was itself a metaphor for Bella's current position, dangling on a precipice of the choice between Jacob and Edward. I know, the mind boggles. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 16: Paris

I might have jumped the gun a bit, declaring Bella dead and all. Because her head breaks the surface of the water just as she resigns herself to death. Whoops, I bet you feel stupid, Bella! It actually turns out that the rock that slammed into her was Jacob's rock hard - wait for it - arm, and now he's screaming at her to breathe and pounding on her back. Calm, Jacob! The last thing Bella needs is to get mauled by a wolf and then drown. Water gushes out of her mouth by the seeming gallon.

"So you're saying she can swallow a lot."-Quil Ateara

Bella's so out of it, she doesn't even realize she is on land - she's shocked to hear Sam Uley talking to Jacob, asking how long she's been unconscious. Jacob's voice is "wild with anxiety" (just like how I like my women, thanks Kira) at first, then it's "not as wild as before," but then it's "still frantic." But Bella soon regains the power of speech, so Jacob doesn't have to hog all of the inconsistent adjective-phrases. Jacob picks her up "like an empty box" and starts carrying her back to his place. (Feel free to insert your own Quil Ateara one-liner about empty boxes if you want.) As they leave, Jacob tells Sam to "go back to the hospital," and a dazed Bella notices what appears to be a flame flickering out on the water.

Bella describes the soreness in her throat, which is totally making my throat hurt in sympathy. An attempt at throat-clearing feels "like stabbing a knife down there." I'd TWSS that, but my throat hurts too much, which is what she said.

Jacob only very briefly explains how he found and saved Bella. "I was searching for you," he says. Uh, okay. He followed her tire tracks to the beach and heard her scream. It's a good thing he was back in La Push already! Was he back in La Push already? It eventually turns out that the wolf pack chased Victoria to the ocean in like, Canada, and apparently vampires are really good swimmers, so they were worried she would double back to the states. Luckily she didn't. OR DID SHE?

But Bella doesn't pick up on that quite yet - she focuses on what Jacob said about the hospital. Harry Clearwater, Charlie's oft-mentioned but never really depicted friend, has had a heart attack.

"Is Harry going to be okay?"
Jacob's eyes tightened again. "It doesn't look so great right now. He's really a minor character, and killing someone off would be a relatively interesting thing to do in terms of plot development, plus Harry's health problems have been alluded to earlier. So in short, the prognosis is bad."

Bella starts feeling guilty about her stunt, and she's still weak and soaking wet. Yet Jacob doesn't take this opportunity to take advantage of her, which is kind of shocking. He doesn't even offer to help her out of her wet clothes! She actually just keeps them on, which doesn't seem safe. I'm not thinking with Jacob's dick here; she's probably going to catch a cold! They end up just sitting down and falling asleep on Jacob's couch, and Bella dreams a series of boring images, the last of which is an actress in a play standing on a balcony and talking to herself.

"Oh, misguided Romeo & Juliet motif, wherefore art thou a misguided Romeo & Juliet motif? Would recurring imagery from any other play be as stupid?" -Shakespeare

Bella wakes up and launches into a profoundly stupid speech in which she basically rewrites the entire plot of Romeo & Juliet until it resembles her life exactly. “What would [Juliet] have done if Romeo had left her, not because he was banished but because he'd lost interest?” Well, then it wouldn't be Romeo & Juliet, Bella! It would be your life! This is not how extended metaphors are supposed to work! Then she wonders about Paris, Juliet's Native American friend. “The story didn't say much about Paris. He was just a stick figure – a placeholder, a threat, a deadline to force her hand.” Well, fuck. Romeo & Juliet is a PLAY, not a STORY. It doesn't “say much” about ANY of the characters, because it doesn't have a proper narrator to speak of.

What if Paris had been Juliet's friend? Her very best friend? What if he was the only one she could confide in about the whole devastating thing with Romeo?

What if, indeed!

Hey, what if Simba and Mufasa hadn't been a father lion and his cub, but actually a vampire and a werewolf? And what if there had been a girl with a big Scar who had been friends with another girl named Bella?

What if the Titanic had not actually been a boat, but had been a small town in Washington?

What if An American Werewolf In London had taken place in America?

Bella concludes that Juliet would have “tried to settle into the scraps of life that were left behind.” Sounds fun! Bella reevaluates her obsession with recklessness in the light of actual potential death and feels like an asshole.

Harry's heart attack had pushed everything into perspective for me. Perspective that I didn't want to see, because – if I admitted to the truth of it – it would mean that I would have to change my ways.

Ugh, I know Bella. The perspective that you don't want to see is the worst kind of perspective. It's a good thing perspective isn't really something you “see” anyway, is it? Bella sits next to the still-sleeping Jacob on the couch, and possibly rubs one out.

Images from my ill-considered afternoon stunt rolled through my head while I tried to come.

Just kidding.

Images from my ill-considered afternoon stunt rolled through my head while I tried to come up with something pleasant to think about... the feel of the air as I fell, the blackness of the water, the thrashing of the current...Edward's face...I lingered there for a long time.

See, that last line is actually what I was talking about, but sometimes other opportunities present themselves (which is what she said). Billy comes home and tells them Harry is dead. Well, yeah. Charlie is still at the hospital with Harry's wife, and everyone is really sad for a while. Billy goes off to his room and sits silently, which is actually kind of an affecting image, despite the fact that Harry's death isn't inherently very weighty. Jacob drives Bella home in the truck, keeping his arm around her for warmth.

Bella starts thinking about “staking a claim” on Jacob, which sounds like she's actually going to kiss him or something. I'm so used to adding in sexual subtext that it's weird for it to actually be here. She's also planning on making it clear to him that he is the scraps of her life she is settling for, which seems like a stupid and mean thing to say.

I would have to commit to this – commit as much of me as there was left, every one of the broken pieces. It was the only way to be fair to him. Would I? Could I?

Whoa, what are we talking about here? “Commit as much of me as there was left?” There's a weird moment where they hug and Bella considers putting the moves on him. Seriously.

If I turned my face to the side – if I pressed my lips against his bare shoulder...I knew without any doubt exactly what would follow. It would be very easy. There would be no need for explanations tonight.

Damn, girl! It's hard to believe this is really happening! Bella agonizes over the decision, and somewhat inconsistently, she hears her master's voice again.

And then, as clearly as if I were in immediate danger, Edward's velvet voice whispered in my ear.
“Just blow him,” he told me.

Okay, actually, he says “Be happy.” Still, the fact that it happens distracts Bella enough that Jacob notices and the moment is ruined. Oh well. Then Jacob starts freaking out.

“OH!” The breath whooshed out of Jacob like someone had punched him in the gut. “Holy crap!”

He smells a vampire nearby, but as they start pulling away in a panic Bella sees a car: Carlisle's Mercedes. Holy crap indeed! Jacob keeps zooming down the street and won't stop the car, but finally Bella gets him to understand it's one or more Cullens back there, not Victoria. And of course, he gets pissy. He tells her to drive herself to the house. “I can't go back. Treaty or no treaty, that's my enemy in there.” He leaves like his old asshole self, his face realigned into Sam's Jacob Face of harsh lines and meanness, and Bella feels bad for about five seconds before gunning it back to her place.

On the way in, she realizes that the flame she saw in the water was probably actually Victoria's hair. Why are you remembering this now? There is something very important happening RIGHT THIS SECOND, and you're dwelling on a weird thing you saw hours ago? WHO IS IN THE HOUSE!? Carlisle? Edward? It's like S. Meyer is trying to have her cliffhanger and eat her big reveal, too!

Hey, I just thought of something: What if Juliet had come home one day and there was a vampire in her house? What would she do?

P.S. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, of Superbad and Kick-Ass fame, has called for Emma Roberts to kill herself. In jest, but still, this gesture must be recognized. He is on our side in this.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 18: Bella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down

It seems like a lot of our thematic chickens are coming home to roost, so to speak. Last time we got a culmination of sorts on the “domestic abuse imagery” front, and now we've reached the peak of the literal and figurative cliffs mentioned throughout the book. We're standing on the edge of this theme, ready to take the plunge (I don't really know where I'm going with this). Plus, next time we'll get the weirdest Romeo & Juliet-based extended metaphor ever written. So there's that. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

I'm irrationally proud of this week (and last week's) title. Just wanted to mention that.

Chapter 15: Pressure

It's spring break again; I forgot Bella even went to a school! But school's out for a week, so that's one less ball she has to juggle (that's what she said after he recovered from testicular cancer). Not that she (or S. Meyer) was really juggling it to begin with; I'm really envious of Bella's life that way. In high school I felt like academics dominated my life. I couldn't believe the amount of free time afforded by college, and for a while I couldn't get anything done in the face of such opportunity. I sort of feel the same way now, now that college is over. Of course in most ways I am not envious of Bella's life at all. For one thing she's spending her spring break alone, wandering around La Push because Jacob is hunting Victoria.

Last spring break I'd been hunted by a vampire, too. I hoped this wasn't some kind of tradition forming.

That's a little meta-wink for us, isn't it? Too bad it's nestled into one of the most awkward sentences we've encountered so far. Even “I hoped this wouldn't be a reoccurring occurrence” would have been better.

Jacob turns up occasionally, and he and Bella walk along the beach and hold hands. I've defended our heroine before against accusations of being a passive cipher, but one could see where people would get that idea. Really, it seems less like Bella is supposed to barely exist and more like she's letting Jacob have his (admittedly chaste) way with her because it is easier than doing anything else. “His hand felt nice as it warmed mine, and I didn't protest,” she says. Bella's justifications are getting really flimsy these days, huh? Buy an electric blanket, bitch! Also, Bella being an old soul extends to her having cold hands all the time? Is she always complaining at Billy to turn up the thermostat? Does she have arthritis and diabetes, too?

One day at Newton's Mike finally decides to try and earn my favor, calling Bella on her bullshit when she denies that she and Jacob are an item:

Mike's eyes narrowed shrewdly. “Don't kid yourself, Bella. The guy's head over heels for you.”
“I know,” I sighed. “Life is complicated.”
“And girls are cruel,” Mike said under his breath.

I never thought Mike Newton would win me over, but there it is. It doesn't hurt that Jacob and more recently Sam Uley have been out-creeping him by leaps and bounds. Tyler is still on my shit list, if he even still exists.

We drift fluidly through a couple of days; this time S. Meyer doesn't experiment with the formatting so it works quite nicely. It's like reading a montage! One night, Sam and Emily join Billy, Charlie, Jacob and Bella (they're like a weird, incestuous, two-dad family now) for dinner, and Emily bakes a cake “that would have won over a harder man than Charlie.” I love Charlie so much I'm delighted even when he's buried in the predicate like that, some kind of double-reverse indirect object. Emily, meanwhile, is really quite the docile little Betty Draper, huh? If she goes nuts at some point in Eclipse and crashes Sam's car or cheats on him with that meth dealer, all will be forgiven. And to Sam's credit, he doesn't rip anyone's face off at dinner. So good for him?

After dinner, Jacob and Bella go off alone and sit in Jacob's car. We learn that werewolves run a temperature of about 109 (rendered awkwardly as “one-oh-nine”) and Jacob talks about how he could stand in a snowstorm, shirtless as he is now, and be perfectly fine. Wait, Jacob was shirtless at dinner?

TWSS Alert: This happens when Bella continues to ask Jacob about being a wolf. (Why is this conversation happening? How many werewolf facts do we need to force out in these weird, static, expository scenes? Apparently two scenes worth!)

“...And being so big – that's part of it?”

And later, when Jacob talks about his initial struggles:

“That was hard, before.”

Jacob talks about his misgivings; it's basically the same speech we've heard Edward give before, though he gets points for mentioning Sam as the kind of “nightmare” he doesn't want to be.

“Sam lost control of his temper for just one second... and [Emily] was standing too close.”

For those of you who doubted my domestic abuse argument: there's your exhibit A. It also turns out that Jacob is descended from several other werewolves and Quil is in the same bloodline (they're second cousins), so he'll be a wolf any day now. But on the bright side, he can run really fast. To be fair, these scenes of exposition are easier to read than to summarize; it doesn't feel as awkward as I can't help but make it sound. You can only do so much Showing – when you're trying to build a mythology from the ground up sometimes you just have to Tell.

Jacob starts asking about the vampires, and Bella explains the circumstances that led to James's death. When she tells him about Edward sucking the venom out of her hand Jacob starts twitching with rage. You're going to get jealous that Edward got to suck a wound on her hand, Jacob?

You can almost see S. Meyer free-associating her way through this chapter – Bella tells Jacob to calm down and he repeats it: “Calm.” Who did you think of? Immediately Jacob starts asking about the other powers the Cullens have, and Bella tells him about Jasper! I feel like I'm inside S. Meyer's mind!

Bella starts talking about Alice, and it gets her depressed – she can't seem to breathe. See? SOUL MATES. Okay, maybe it's because she talks about Alice's visions, and then remembers Alice's vision that she would become a vampire herself one day, and then realizes that will never happen, but I don't think that's what is really going on, you know?

Bella starts holding her chest and Jacob asks why she does it. She explains feeling like she's breaking into pieces and then is surprised by the fact that she told him about it so easily.

“We're a pretty messed-up pair, aren't we?” Jacob said. “Neither one of us can old our shapes together right.”

I see what you did there, Jacob!

A couple more days go by, and Bella spends some awkward time with Billy and worries a lot. There's Victoria and the threat she poses to Charlie and Jacob, plus the fact that she's “getting deeper and deeper with Jacob without ever having consciously decided to progress in that direction.” Funny how that happens, isn't it? You fail to act and fail to act and shit just collapses all around you.

At this point Bella is walking on the beach, and she gets so overwhelmed that she lies on the ground and curls up into a ball. Sometimes I feel like I'm reading The Bell Jar over here. Will someone take Bella to the hospital, please? Jacob finds her like that and promises to spend the following day with her. When he's trying to think of an activity (other than sex) his eyes fall on the cliffs, and he decides that tomorrow they will finally jump.

Bella wakes up the next morning pumped for her “date” with Jacob and Edward's Imaginary Angry Daddy Spirit. It's sad that this is the closest she'll get to a threesome. But when she shows up on the Rez, Billy is alone in the house, “eating cold cereal.” As opposed to hot cereal? The pack got a lead on Victoria, so Jacob had to go. Bella bites her lip. She ends up wandering down to the beach alone, remarking that the forest seems oddly vacant.

I didn't see any animals – no birds, no squirrels. I couldn't hear any birds, either.

Yep, that's pretty vacant. No birds, or squirrels, or birds! Nothing! Bella realizes it's probably because there's a big-ass storm brewing. You know what that means: something bad. Bella looks out at the angry, churning waves, and decides to jump off the cliff anyway. Well, I guess we all knew she was going to commit suicide sooner or later. Cue Elliott Smith, or maybe old Cat Power, on the soundtrack.

She's excited by the notion that this will be “one of the stupidest, most reckless” things she's ever done, and when she can't find the path to the lower cliff she says “fuck it” and climbs to the top. When she reaches the edge of the precipice, Edward's voice starts bitching and moaning. “It was only when he was disapproving like this that I could hear the true memory of his voice,” she says. Hey Bella – do you ever think about why that is? He tries to convince her not to jump, but she does, screaming with exhilaration as she falls. She lands in the water successfully (as in, not landing on any rocks or breaking her bones as she hits the water – that surface tension is a motherfucker) but gets caught by the revved-up current and immediately loses track of what is up and what is down. Not that she tries very hard to figure it out! She basically gives up right away! Edward reappears and urges her to fight against the current, but she decides not to. As always, she's all quips and one-liners in the face of certain death; she's relieved that her life isn't flashing before her eyes and asks (rhetorically) “Who wants to see a rerun anyway?” Very funny, Bella. Now swim! Or not, or whatever. She takes pleasure in Edward's anguished screams of “No! Bella, no!” which is a deeply weird little moment.

Happiness. It made the whole dying thing pretty bearable.

Something she thinks is a rock hits her in the chest and all the air goes out of her lungs. Her last thought is of Edward. And then she dies.

It's weird that there is so much book left, since our narrator just drowned and everything. I wonder who will take the narration in the next chapter! I'm hoping it's Quil. RIP, Bella.