Thursday, July 29, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 4: Windowstill

I've been reading Eclipse by S. Meyer. Part 3, the first half of this chapter, is here.

Chapter 2 (cont'd): Evasion

Edward and Bella leave the tense scene with Charlie, and Bella says she'd like to go visit the rest of the Cullens. She implies that maybe Edward is pushing for the Florida trip because he knew about the big party happening this weekend down La Push way. Mr. Cullen denies the accusation, but maintains that Bella is not allowed to go there. Of course. Edward holds Bella down, right when she's finally coming up for air. (When I can, I try to keep my metaphors as close to sounding like a blowjob in a hot tub as possible.) Bella likens the experience (Edward's treatment of her, not a blowjob in a hot tub) to being treated as a “misbehaving child,” which is exactly what it is like. It should really trouble her that this is coming from her boyfriend. That said, I don't think he's wrong: Bella's odds of getting raped and/or killed on the Rez are probably as good as in Port Angeles, the rape capital of the Northwest. It continues to weird me out that Port Angeles embraces the publicity garnered from Twilight, but it's a recession out there, so whatever. Desperate times call for desperate cashing in on your reputation as a place where fictional heroines almost get raped.

We flash forward a few hours to Edward driving Bella home. She tells him not to go inside just yet (you are welcome) and he promises to come later (you are more welcome still). Inside, Charlie asks if Bella had “a nice time.”

He seemed ill at ease. I looked for hidden meanings in his words before I answered.

Let me read between the lines for you, Bella: he's asking if you have a good time banging Edward senseless earlier. But obviously that's not what she did. Bella says she spent the night hanging out with Alice and Jasper; they played chess. Here, S. Meyer comes the closest she has ever come to the inspired creative whimsy of say, Harry Potter:

Edward and Alice playing chess was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen. They'd sat there nearly motionless, staring at the board, while Alice forsaw the moves he would make and he picked the moves she would make in return out of her head. They played most of the game in their minds; I think they'd each moved two pawns when Alice suddenly flicked her king over and surrendered. It took all of three minutes.

See, now this is the kind of compelling exploration of siblings who can see the future and read minds I want to see! Too bad it took two books to get there! I'd also still like to know what they do about having sex in Chez Cullen. Is there some kind of concrete bunker Alice and Jasper can retreat to to block everyone else out?

Speaking of sex, I'd like to officially welcome the actual word “sex” to the Twilight books. Because in the next scene Charlie tries to have “the talk” with Bella. It's moderately awkward (though S. Meyer could have really gotten some squirm out of it if she wanted to, and she didn't) but more notable for simultaneously shattering and perpetuating the weird sexlessness of these books.

Bella's desire for Edward has never really had a sexual component. It's no small wonder that she uses so much statue and painting imagery; she treats the dude like a LITERAL work of art. To paraphrase Kevin Malone: no one wants to bang a painting. I'm not saying I want Bella to say:

I took in the smooth marble span of his forehead and wanted it inside me.

But so far kissing has been the HEIGHT of sexual passion! The whole thing about Edward trying to maintain his self control doesn't explain the curious absence of any desire on Bella's part. Girl is 18, shouldn't she be rubbing up against every hard surface? After a while the sexlessness starts to feel like an intentional aspect of world-building, like Forks is this town where no one thinks about sex, no guy ever gets a hard-on, no one ever masturbates, and babies are literally flown in via stork. Your soul mate is someone who holds your hand and closed-mouth kisses you and cuddles with you in bed every night but never tries to slip his hand down your pajama pants even once. And I guess I could accept that world, if that seemed like that's what S. Meyer was trying to do. But it isn't.

There was that conversation toward the end of Twilight when Edward and Bella talked about sex without ever saying the word, using “marriage” as a kind of terrifyingly Freudian euphemism. There was Quil Ateara. The sexual undertones appear here and there, almost seeming to pop up where S. Meyer doesn't have the time or reflexes to Whack-A-Mole them back down. But again, that can't be what's really happening.

Now Charlie is explicitly talking about sexual intercourse, so one would hope this picture would clear up a little – we would start to get an idea of this series's perspective on sex. But Bella is basically only mortified by the whole exchange. When Charlie tells her “there are a lot of important things you need to know when you... well, when you're physically involved with –” Bella cuts him off yelling “Oh please, please no!”

She says she already got the overview from Renee years ago, but Charlie points out that she didn't have a boyfriend then. “I don't think the essentials have changed that much,” Bella says. (Somehow Bella strikes me as someone who would be an unimaginative sexual partner.) She and Charlie spend a while longer mumbling and looking away from each other, and Charlie doesn't seem to believe Bella when she says Edward is “old fashioned.” Finally she just says the v-word. No, not that one.

“I am, and I have no immediate plans to change that status.”

Charlie doesn't ask the obvious question: why not? He brings up Jacob again as she flees upstairs, and Bella starts thinking about that instead of the conversation that just occurred. It's nice that she has this distraction so she doesn't have to ask herself why not either. Sex is, for the most part, apparently still too icky to contemplate for S. Meyer and Bella.

But anyway, that happened.

So Bella wanders around her room all antsy; Edward won't be coming back until Charlie has gone to bed. She thinks about calling Renee, thinks about rubbing one out (kidding), thinks about calling Angela, and then realizes she wants to go see Jacob. She decides she can get there and back before Edward notices and bolts out of the house; naturally Charlie doesn't mind she's leaving so late when he hears where she's going. Dude is so Team Jacob, he would let Bella get away with anything as long as Jacob was coming too.

“Hey dad Jacob and I are going to Seattle to join the murder gang,” I said, pulling on my jacket.
“Have a nice time, Bells.”

But she gets out to her truck in the dark and this happens.

“Gah!” I gasped in shock when I saw that I was not alone in the cab.

Edward is sitting there, holding some piece of Bella's engine. Guess he does know his way around a car after all!

“Alice called,” he murmured.

Double-crossed by Alice! Given that this situation involves Jacob it's hard to feel betrayed (by Alice) on Bella's behalf. Still, taking apart her car, Edward? Passive aggressive much? At least he realizes he's being a dick: he tells Bella her car will be operational in the morning if she doesn't want him to give her a ride. Stand back guys: Edward is becoming self-aware.

Alice maybe did not intend to screw Bella over anyway – she panicked when Bella's future disappeared a few minutes ago. Apparently Carlisle and Edward have been speculating as to why Alice's visions are obscured by the wolves. “Carlisle theorizes that it's because their lives are so ruled by their transformations. It's more an involuntary reaction than a decision. Utterly unpredictable, and it changes everything about them,” Edward says. Okay, but we've only seen two or maybe three involuntary transformations. The rest of the time it seems pretty deliberate! As Jacob and the gang get better with the self control, wouldn't Alice's visions also improve? It's totally fine that S. Meyer wants to have a bunch of strange rules and exceptions to those rules on which to build her story; that's what Inception does too. But her explanations are so flimsy, and always voiced by characters as maybes: this could be what is going on, but we're not really sure. Nobody's really sure, least of all S. Meyer.

Bella goes back to her room frustrated, and slams her window shut in the most suggestively symbolic gesture we have seen yet. The store is CLOSED, Edward. You're not getting any (cuddling, but still) tonight. But then she hesitates, sighs, and opens the window “as wide as it would go.”

You know what? I'm not even going to touch that one.

As it happens, I forecasted the conversation between Charlie and Bella back in March. My fan fiction is here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 3: I Shall Be Released

I'm reading Eclipse by S. Meyer. Part 1 can be found here, and part 2 is here.

Chapter 2: Evasion

At school Bella walks around reveling in her liberation. She's “a free woman,” and she's getting a contact high from her fellow seniors to boot. Graduation is coming up on us, then. I thought we were going to draw this out, Scheherazade-style. But no! It's really happening. “Signs of it were everywhere,” Bella says, and it turns out she means that literally, because the next sentence is “Posters crowded together on the cafeteria walls.” Okay then.

Prom is coming up, but Bella's forced an “ironclad promise” out of Edward that she doesn't have to go again. Good for you, Bella. This is an unusual amount of agency coming from our heroine (“a free woman?”), but so far Eclipse hasn't exactly remained faithful to New Moon anyway. I guess we should roll with it.

At the lunch table Angela is sharing her anxiety over the mailing of graduation announcements. “She had her light brown hair pulled back into a sloppy ponytail instead of her usual smooth hairdo, and there was a slightly frantic look about her eyes.” So what you're saying is, she and Alice just banged under the bleachers and she's worried her boyfriend (Ben, apparently) will find out, right?

Speaking of Alice: somewhere along the way my crazy, drug-addled, hard-partying moral-relativist projection of her started to converge with her real character in the text. I guess I was on to something? She's the comic relief throughout the next few scenes, first “scrutinizing” Bella's outfit at the lunch table, “Probably planning another makeover.” Then, when Bella brings up her un-grounding, Angela proposes a celebration and this happens:

“What should we do?” Alice mused, her face lighting up at the possibilities. Alice's ideas were usually a little grandiose for me, and I could see it in her eyes now – the tendency to take things too far kicking into action. “It'll be tough to get an 8-ball and a male stripper on such short notice but I think I can make it happen with one phone call.”

Okay so I added the last line. But I'm not that far off base! Bella tells Alice to stay calm, to which she replies “Free is free, right?” (someone's got a new catchphrase). “I still have boundaries,” Bella says. “Like the continental U.S., for example.”

Angela and Ben laughed, but Alice grimaced in real disappointment.

What? Did I write this? This is more of S. Meyer just re-shaping her characters with reckless abandon – consider that the last time we heard about Alice being interested in parties was 450-something pages ago, and the last time we heard about makeovers was even further back than that – but I'm okay with this particular development.

And then Alice has an acid flashback, or possibly a vision. Who even knows any more? Anything is possible! What happens is Bella gets distracted thinking about her last image of Jacob, his face crumpled in pain, and suddenly snaps out of it when Angela is shouting Alice's name in a panic. Alice is sitting there with a “vacant look in her eyes.” There's a mostly irritating Peter Travers interview with Ashley Greene in which she demonstrates the Alice Cullen junkie-stare; she doesn't say whether or not it comes from personal experience.

Bella is startled by the sight of her; “I felt the blood slither from my face,” she says. That's a pretty good line. Edward kicks Alice under the table and they laugh it off.

“I'm just stoned,” Alice trilled.

Just kidding.

"I just came," Alice trilled.

Still kidding. For the rest of the day, Bella has the strange feeling that Edward is avoiding being alone with her; he doesn't seem to want to share whatever was in Alice's vision. Alice keeps giving him sideways glares; it's unclear whether she's urging him to tell Bella or just panicked. In a kind of nominally funny scene, Edward abruptly strikes up a conversation with Mike Newton in the school parking lot and offers to fix his car.

“Perhaps it's the cables?” Edward offered.
“Maybe. I really don't know anything about cars,” Mike admitted.

And apparently S. Meyer doesn't either. Perhaps it's the cables? But again, it falls upon Alice to really bring the jokes. In the car, she inexplicably launches into an extended monologue, “babbling at top speed” like Lucky in Waiting For Godot, speaking in whole paragraphs. Either S. Meyer is revising her characters again, or there really is supposed to be a subtextual suggestion that Alice is high. This is about halfway through, as Alice starts criticizing Edward's mechanic skills:

“Though I suppose, for Mike's car, you'll do. It's only within the finer tunings of a good Italian sports car that you're out of your depth. And speaking of Italy and sports cars that I stole there, you still owe me a yellow Porsche.”

Is Alice going to get all of the bon mots to herself? (What's the plural of bon mot? Bons mot?) Edward drops Alice off, and she takes all of the air out of the room with her. They drive back to Bella's house in silence, and then Edward relaxes on the bed (enjoy that image) while Bella boots up her computer. It's interesting that in the film adaptation of New Moon, Bella has a fancy MacBook. That's not very "old soul" of her, you know? (It's not that interesting actually, everyone has a Mac on every TV show and every movie. It's one of the more pervasive, effective and terrifying ad campaigns of our time.) Her anxious drumming on the desk finally tips Edward off to the fact that something is amiss, so he gets himself up (you're welcome) and they make out for a while. Seriously, a good long while. There's basically a full page description of the make-out session. Hands are run through hair, lips move together. Edward slides his hand down Bella's back. Tips of tongues trace lips. If you need a minute to recover, that's fine. We will wait.

Bella reads an e-mail from her mother and gets to missing her. If Bella's weird inverted relationship with her mother wasn't clear enough, you've got this:

You have to let them go their own way eventually, I reminded myself. You have to let them have their own life...

I see what you're doing there, S. Meyer. Bella thinks about her own mother's early marriage; Renee always told Bella she had no regrets but nonetheless insists that waiting to get married is the right idea. “Mature people went to college and started careers before they got deeply involved in a relationship,” Bella recalls. Well, all of that is true, sure. But Bella isn't planning on doing any of that! She's not planning a career, she's not even planning on becoming mature when you really get down to it! I'm not saying Edward's insistence on marriage makes sense, but Bella's opposition is even more ideologically incoherent.

Bella e-mails her mom back – we get a block-quote in fake DOS script to re-enforce the idea that Bella's computer is shitty – and gets a little joke in when Renee asks about Jacob: “he spends most of his time with a pack of his friends down at La Push these days.” Always the wit, that Bella.

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” -Bella Wilde

When she looks up from the computer Edward has found her mangled car stereo from New Moon, like S. Meyer is trying to convince us she actually does remember writing the last book after all. Edward also brings up the plane tickets Carlisle and Esme bought her – remember those? They're about to expire. (This feels less like a planned plot development and more like S. Meyer, like Bella, had forgotten about them.) He proposes they fly out – together – to see Renee this weekend. Bella is immediately tempted; she misses her mother and sees a good PR opportunity in showing off her healthy(ish) relationship with Edward – the last two times her mother saw Bella were after James put her in the hospital and after Edward's fake-break-up put her into a psychological coma. But she realizes Charlie will lose his mind: Edward and Bella traveling together? Edward and Bella on a plane? Edward and Bella fucking in the plane's bathroom? You can see how a father's thoughts would spiral out of control.

Bella switches gears and finally brings up the vision Alice had earlier, and Edward tells her that Alice has been seeing Jasper in a strange place, which is freaking her out. She's afraid her man is going to screw around on her! That's an angle on Alice's powers I hadn't thought about before. But it has nothing to do with Bella, apparently, so she chastises herself for letting her imagination run wild (“Just like a woman, getting all hysterical and shit”-S. Meyer).

Bella makes Charlie dinner, and Charlie says it's been slow down at the station. He apparently spent a good portion of the day on the phone with Billy. Those two are kind of cute, no? Maybe this series will end with them moving in together. In a platonic way. Probably. He says Billy is throwing a party this weekend at La Push; recall that the prom is also this weekend and so is Edward's proposed (this guy is proposing all over the place!) trip to Florida. Busy weekend! Bella doesn't really respond to the invitation to La Push, but Edward comes in and brings up the plane tickets again, in front of Charlie, going over Bella's head. Both Swans are appalled.

Edward's gambit pays off, though, because Charlie's anger at the idea of Edward banging his daughter in an airlocked compartment (probably) ends up directing Bella's rage in her father's direction for the moment. She threatens to move out again, he threatens to ground her again. These two don't have many tactics, huh? There's a weird beat where Bella says Renee is “as much [her] parental authority” as Charlie, and her father gives her “a withering look.” She latches on to that, and threatens to tell her mom about his implication. I will say, this strikes me as a fairly realistic divorced father/daughter exchange, not that the market isn't plenty saturated with fairly realistic divorced father/daughter exchanges.

Speaking of divorced dads, I learned a lot from (the admittedly fictional) Leo McGarry (RIP John Spencer). One of his better lessons was that you should never grant the premise of a line of questioning if you don't like where it's going. Charlie slips up, because when Bella says she'll tell Renee about his withering look, he says “You better not.” He granted the premise that she'd even be seeing Renee, you know? Don't concede her point, Charlie!

Bella declares she is going out, which takes Charlie and Edward by surprise. Bella's acting out all over the place! Freedom! If only these books had started here, I'd be able to be happy without reservation. But so many of these changes are coming at the expense of character consistency, it's hard to be enthusiastic.

It's either that, or S. Meyer never wrote characters well enough in the first place, so by definition they can't be consistent or inconsistent. But that's a little too depressing to really consider.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 2: Amores Perros

Chapter 1: Ultimatum

Eclipse starts out with a letter from Jacob, replete with fake-handwriting font and ink splatter clip-art. It's very realistic looking (sarcasm). Every line on the first page is crossed out – we're looking at Jacob's false starts. Why do I not buy Jacob putting so much thought into a letter? I'm not saying Mr. Black is stupid, but he once tried to put his M&Ms in alphabetical order. He once tripped over a cordless phone. Once I stood next to him and I could hear the ocean. Anyway, Jacob has rejected lines like “What part of 'mortal enemies is too complicated for you to...” and finally settles on “Yeah, I miss you, too. A lot. Doesn't change anything. Sorry.” That's the whole letter. Brevity is the soul of what, again?

And it turns out this letter, with all that crossed-out shit on it, is in Bella's possession. So either Jacob is extraordinarily passive-aggressive or they really don't like wasting paper on the Reservation. Bella's reading the letter and sulking because Jacob isn't her friend anymore. “Behind each angry beginning lurked a vast pool of hurt,” she says. It seems like we're picking up more or less immediately after New Moon ended then, vast pools of hurt sort of being New Moon's wheelhouse; also Bella is still grounded, Edward is still talking about making their love legit in the eyes of the state of Washington, and Jacob is still mad. Okay.

Bella is interrupted from her sulking session by a burning smell, which turns out to be Charlie trying to cook; he's microwaving a sealed jar of spaghetti sauce. This is S. Meyer's way of re-introducing Bella's dad as “bumbling,” by the way. Like the beginning of New Moon, we get some of that awkwardly worked-in exposition: Bella mentions Edward by name, then as “my boyfriend” just in case there are some stragglers picking the story up now. Edward and Bella are dating, okay? Check. Bella bristles at her own use of the word boyfriend, complaining that “words like destiny and fate sounded hokey when you used them in casual conversation.” Yet in nearly the same breath she shudders at the thought that Edward would rather the word be “fiancee.” I'm not quite sure how to square that. Okay, Bella is 18 years old, which is “too young to get married.” But it's “too young to get married” because it's “too young to lock yourself in to a relationship for eternity,” which is still (literally) what Bella is trying to do. The eternal commitment is the thing! Bella's mom isn't opposed to marriage for political reasons, you know? She wants Bella to fuck a lot of guys is all!

As it happens, Charlie has a similar thing in mind. Bella describes the parameters of her punishment – which are actually not very strict! – Edward can visit every day from seven to nine-thirty. This is in addition to school and in addition to the eight hours or so he secretly spends in Bella's bedroom every night doing god knows what (Literally. I have no idea what they could be doing. They're not having sex, at least). But Charlie has made her dinner in order to tell her he's un-grounding her anyway. That was easy! Bella's getting out of jail like Avon Barksdale (if that isn't a rap lyric already, it needs to be). He's got a condition, though. But it's more of a request than a demand:

“Bella, this is more of a request than a demand, okay? You're free. But I'm hoping you'll use that freedom... judiciously.”

He wants her to spend more time with her friends. She's quick to point out that she spends plenty of time with Alice, who apparently is not subject to Charlie's time constraints. “She came and went as she pleased,” Bella says. “Charlie was putty in her capable hands.” Aren't we all? Charlie starts name dropping other kids from Forks High – people I'd forgotten existed – and Bella goes off on a little narrative tangent about high school politics using surprisingly Bushian terms (referring to social groupings as “good vs. evil,” talking about an “anti-Bella agenda”). Apparently Bella's friend Angela (who is apparently like, her good friend now) sits “dutifully” beside Alice at lunch every day and even looks “comfortable” there now. She's Canada in the War on Terror. “It was difficult not to be charmed by the Cullens – once one gave them the chance to be charming,” Bella says. So Angela and Alice must be fucking, right?

Bella argues that she spends time with those friends at school, which is all she's been allowed to do lately anyway, and Charlie finally makes it clear that he's talking about Jacob. Bella hesitates, realizing that she can't tell him about Jacob's ancient grudge against vampires, but ends up giving Charlie a better reason anyway: Jacob wants to be more than friends. Charlie, not grasping the fact that Jacob is willing to be “more than friends” by force, doesn't seem to think it's a bad idea. But this is left unresolved, Charlie isn't strict enough to mandate anything specific. We're just establishing some tension here; Charlie is Team Jacob, okay. It's fundamentally bogus tension, of course, so it's sort of irritating to watch Bella/S. Meyer leap through increasingly narrow rhetorical hoops in order to justify it. I love Jacob (as a friend), I can't bear to hurt him (as a friend), I miss him (as a friend). It's almost like we're expected to ignore those parentheticals, like we're supposed to see this the way Jacob does.

Charlie and Bella start talking college; Bella ignored most of her college-application duties during her deep depression, but Charlie tosses her a thick envelope that came in the mail. It's already open.

“I was curious.”
“I'm shocked, Sheriff. That's a federal crime.”

Charlie is the Sheriff now? Did he get a promotion when we weren't looking? Or is Bella just going for the cheap alliteration? Turns out she's been accepted to the University of Alaska Southeast (there are multiple Universities of Alaska?), and when they get on to the subject of Edward's post-graduate plans, speak of the vampire, he shows up. My god, we went seventeen pages without Edward? S. Meyer is testing our patience. Bella launches into another ridiculous description of her betrothed-to-be-betrothed, literally praising “the smooth marble span of his forehead.” So fucking hot. She drinks him in – poor Bella needs to get laid so bad – and this happens:

“It was a face any model in the world would trade his soul for. Of course, that might be exactly the asking price: one soul.”

What is happening to Bella that she is suddenly buying all the snake (and wolf and vampire) oil everyone is selling? She doesn't challenge the 'mortal enemies' assertion about vampires and werewolves, she buys into Edward's ridiculous soul-loss premise – it only seems like one person has lost her soul here, if you know what I mean (Bella is betraying her former self is what I mean).

They lock hands, and then Edward smells Bella's wrist. “Enjoying the bouquet while resisting the wine, as he once put it,” Bella says. That is the normal way men show their affection – showing their appreciation for the deliciousness of their lover's blood. I'm enjoying the vomit while vomiting the vomit over here.

Edward has come bearing college applications. It becomes increasingly clear that Edward is doing this in part to try to persuade Bella away from becoming a vampire right after high school. He wants her to see college, too. It's suggested he's been bribing various outlets of higher education (including Dartmouth, you're welcome Dartmouth) to accept Bella's late application. Edward's whole thing about wanting Bella to have human experiences doesn't really hold up here, though he invokes it. You have to admit – the “college experiences” most people think about are not what Edward would have in mind! “You might enjoy a semester or two of college. There are lot of human experiences you haven't had,” he says. What could he possibly mean?

“Bella, I want you to get really drunk and throw up your stomach lining a few times. I want you to have one-night stands you can't remember. I want you to join a sorority. I want you to take up smoking. I want you to blow a professor for a better grade. I want you to take a semester abroad so you can fuck Europeans. I want you to go to a toga party. I want you to experiment with homosexuality. I want you to go to Cancun. I want you do cocaine off a stripper's ass. I want you to live your life.”- Edward Cullen

It's very important to try this before you become a vampire.

Theology classes and a capella groups are the same whether you're a human or a vampire, Edward! Even the bribing thing doesn't really square with his morality, does it? (“It's really important to me that you attend a corrupt, bloated Ivy League school with a bunch of asshole legacies.”-Edward Cullen) I guess we should be happy that Edward even thinks women should go to college, right?

Charlie asks where Edward's been accepted and he rattles off a list: Syracuse, Dartmouth, Harvard, and the University of Alaska Southeast. Charlie is impressed, and implies that Carlisle wouldn't be happy if Edward ditched the Ivy League for Alaska. Edward says Carlisle is down with whatever. But, uh, obviously Charlie isn't, right? Edward has just set himself up to piss Charlie off when he inevitably decides against Harvard, the better to fuck your daughter, you know what I mean? Bad strategery over here.

Upon being informed of Bella's parole, Edward remarks that Alice would love a shopping partner in the city.

“We'll have some drinks, go into some dressing rooms, see what happens.”-Alice Cullen

But Charlie bristles at “the city.” Apparently there has been an outbreak of gang violence in Seattle. Gang violence in Seattle? Edward takes an immediate interest in the newspaper story Charlie is referring to, and when Charlie leaves the room to watch TV, Edward explains that the rash of murders is probably a renegade vampire.

“You'd be surprised, Bella, at how often my kind are the source behind the horrors in your human news.”

Human news? In S. Meyer's world, vampires are doctors and the leaders of small Italian villages. They're very much a part of our world. There isn't a wizard/muggle dynamic happening. The news is your news too, Edward. Clearly! The violence in Seattle bears the hallmarks of a newborn (as in, newly made) vampire, and Edward laments that “no one seems to be taking responsibility for the neophyte.” What is this? The profoundly selfish Cullens, who casually walked past mass-slaughter in Volterra, who didn't seem to get involved in World War II despite their powers, who nonetheless preach about Jesus and are trying to escape eternal damnation, are finally developing a real moral compass? NOPE.

He took a deep breath. “Well, it's not our problem. We wouldn't even pay attention to the situation if it wasn't going on so close to home.”

Bella starts fearing that she will become a ruthless, uncontrollable murderer when she transforms. She sees the names in the newspaper and can't shake them. “It was different from considering murder in the abstract, reading those names.” So I guess it was abstract when dozens of people in Volterra got murdered and Bella cursed her tears for obscuring her vision of Edward? THIS BOOK IS SO CONSISTENT. Did all of New Moon not even happen? Is it getting ret-conned?

Edward and Bella start talking about Jacob, and Edward forbids her from seeing him. Trying to change the subject rapidly, he starts teasing Bella about the fact that she's reading Wuthering Heights again. I thought we were going with Robert Frost poems for this book? Are we going to have MULTIPLE literary motifs? Oh boy.

A discussion of the book itself follows. I mean Wuthering Heights, not Eclipse. Although some of Edward's insights could apply to both:

“The characters are ghastly people who ruin each others' lives.”

Bella, or maybe S. Meyer, explains that their love is what redeems these characters: “Nothing can keep them apart – not her selfishness, or his evil, or even death, in the end...” I see what you're doing there, S. Meyer. Edward does too, in part, immediately deciding to compare himself to Heathcliff so he can feel bad. Never misses a chance to self-loathe, this guy.

Bella again demands to see Jacob. Edward again refuses. He tells her it isn't safe, and he's right. And Bella thinks of scarred-up Emily and knows he's right. But she still wants to. That's our Bella! Our Bella doesn't listen to the dogma being fed to her by the sexist men all around her. Our Bella goes out and gets herself fucked to death of her own accord! Equality!

Bella tries to reason with Edward. “Jacob is in pain,” she says. He wraps his arms around her to comfort her, but gets more and more “rigid” as she talks. SYMBOLISM. “His hands were in fists now, the tendons standing out,” she says. What a wonderfully charged situation, eh? Edward is still grateful for everything Jacob did to protect Bella while he was in absentia, but knows Jacob is easily capable of murder/rape, which he is also capable of himself. Jacob is filled with disgust at the idea of Bella as a vampire, but still wants to fuck her. Bella knows both men could easily murder/rape her, but wants to keep both of them happy. What to do, what to do?

Suicide, probably. Right? All of them should kill themselves. Yeah, that would fix it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 1: Two Paths Are Diverging Up In This Bitch

With third books come great expectations. Know what Charles Dickens's third book was? Nicholas Nickleby. Clearly, S. Meyer has a lot to live up to. I've been writing this blog for six months now, and I've got high hopes. This better be good. At the very least, some people better fuck.


Finally, an epigraph I can get behind: Eclipse, the third book in a series that has so far seen fit to quote The Bible and Romeo & Juliet, opens with Robert Frost's bleak little poem, "Fire and Ice." It's about time S. Meyer delved a little deeper into the freshman English curriculum, huh?

[I've retained S. Meyer's center-alignment, even though I think it's wrong.]

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

I've always enjoyed this poem; the first time I read it was also the first time I realized that Robert Frost was not just some twinkly-eyed old New England relic writing couplets about birch trees, a Shel Silverstein for the outdoorsy set. Dude is dark. That's a conclusion everybody comes to about Robert Frost sooner or later, as a consequence of aging and being able to read deeper more than anything, but for me that point on the timeline coincided with reading this poem.

And maybe there's an insufficient gravitas problem with S. Meyer using Frost, but as much was also true of employing Shakespeare last time. To criticize this appropriation is an obvious tack to take - how dare she, etc. - but we'll leave the obvious angles for the obvious people. I'm willing to be enthusiastic about this. Talk about a perfect fit, am I right? Obviously S. Meyer didn't write the Edward/Jacob cold/hot dynamic in order to fit into this poem; Q. Tarantino might pick the opening song before he writes his movies (so the story goes) but for the rest of us this ancillary stuff comes whenever it comes. I usually re-title these posts three or four times before I post them; In my experience, five seconds before you hit publish you always think of the perfect Interpol song title. So to speak.

But it is really quite well suited to our current situation. She could have easily gone with "The Road Not Taken," too; Bella's paths are diverging like a motherfucker. But "Fire and Ice" is more fitting, and short enough that the kids can keep up and (more importantly) get the point. There is literally a mural in a parking garage in Portsmouth, NH that unironically celebrates the fact that good fences make good neighbors. This poem is pretty easy to grasp: there are bad moons rising. Same is true for the book: Bella Swan is stuck between Jacob and Edward - both of whom could potentially fuck her to death. Is S. Meyer intending this poem to be a sexual metaphor? Bella's world could end with fire-dick or with ice-dick? Maybe not, but it works.

"Doesn't sound half-bad! Sign me up for both!"-Alice Cullen

So obviously, this book is going to continue to amp up the Edward/Jacob non-question. Is there anyone out there who thinks Bella is going to choose Jacob? She hasn't gone so far as to say "I'm definitely never going to choose Jacob," but she almost has.

Meanwhile, we've also got the Volturi and Victoria. So I guess the poem isn't a perfect fit. If it was, it would end thusly:

I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Or maybe a council of ancient vampires
Would be nice,
If indeed I had to perish thrice.
And if I had to die a fourth,
A red-head would be an acceptable
Way to go.

One would think that of all the threats facing Bella, Victoria's at-bat should come first; Chekov once said that if there's a Victoria on the wall in the first book she needs to kill someone or be killed in the third.


I'm beginning to question the logic of these glimpses into the future we get at the start of each new installment. Much like visiting a psychic, we get a bunch of vague sentiments that only make sense when they make sense - when they fit somewhere. In New Moon's preface we got a glimpse of Bella running through Volterra, and it only became clear what we had read when Alice, 400 pages later, explained to Bella that she was going to have to run through the streets of Volterra. These flash-forwards have no function in terms of dramatic irony - we don't get enough information for that. And since these books are not exactly aggressively plotted it's hard to even remember what was in the preface by the time you get to the climax. The only reason I remember New Moon's epigraph is because I just watched the movie, which flashes ahead to the Volterra sequence at the start of the film. There, it works. You get all of those red robes which stand in immediate contrast to the blue-and-green cinematic incarnation of Forks, it's slow-motion and devoid of sound, it visually transitions into the opening dream sequence - those are tricks a book can't really pull. The movie also cuts out a significant portion of extraneous bullshit, giving it a little more forward momentum. Momentum toward what exactly is still an open question.

Anyway, the preface describes Bella and some unidentified male (Edward or Jacob) faced by some numerous enemy. Jacob or Edward is outnumbered, and Jacob's or Edward's family will be of no help; they are off fighting someone else somewhere else. Bella is wondering if she'll ever know "the outcome of the other fight," but she probably won't; there are "black eyes" nearby that are "wild with the fierce craving" for her death. Someone is always wild with the fierce craving for Bella's death, so that's nothing new. And then a wolf howls.

So okay, probably Edward then. And his family is fighting someone - perhaps the wolves. Perhaps not. As we get into the first few chapters we'll be able to gauge whether any of it really matters. I'm guessing no.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Lesbian Erotica

Sometimes you think you want something, but when you get it, it turns out you didn't actually want it. I'm pretty sure Joni Mitchell wrote a song about that. Though I doubt she was talking about Alice/Bella lesbian slash-fiction, which is what I am talking about.

At this point, for every conceivable combination of characters from Twilight there is at least one short story out there in which they fuck. Edward and Bella, Jasper and Bella, Charlie and Jasper, Billy and Sam Uley - believe me, that shit is out there. But the "Edward fucks Bella" fiction seems to really only be rivaled in breadth and scope by the "Alice fucks Bella" fiction. I've really only taken a cursory glance at this stuff - because again, you think you want something but you really, really don't - but there is a lot of it. In some, Bella and Alice lock eyes in the Forks cafeteria and go down on each other in the locker room before Edward gets a chance to introduce himself. In others, they fool around after Bella and Edward have gotten together, and it gets complicated until it's resolved by a threesome. In still others, Bella and Alice are bisexual, non-vampire architects (not kidding at all) who fuck each other on a regular basis and then meet dudes named Edward and Jasper at a sex party and have a four-way.

But the most notable and ambitious piece of Bella/Alice fuckfic uses New Moon as a jumping-off point. It's called "The Edge," and was written by someone named Janine. Get this: it's thirty-six chapters long. It is literally a full length novel. Essentially, way back in Phoenix, Alice confesses her bisexuality to Bella, and over the course of the next few months a gradual attraction starts to build between them. One night they kiss and subsequently try to stay away from each other. The night of Bella's birthday the paper cut thing happens, Alice rushes Bella outside, and they have a weird half-sexual-half-violent confrontation in the woods. The Cullens leave and presumably the same events from most of New Moon occur. Alice comes back when she thinks Bella is dead, she isn't, and they fuck.

Bella released a ragged breath as Alice’s breasts were revealed to her, the sight of the soft, rose capped mounds sending an electric tingle throughout her body. They were even more amazing than Bella had imagined, and given the perfection of everything else on Alice she had imagined them to be spectacular.

Yep. To some extent, I guess sex scenes will always sound silly. It's kind of an impossible task to use words that don't sound ridiculous to describe any sexual act. I'm a mature guy, okay? I'm not a prude at all. But visual art forms definitely have a leg up in this regard.

And then Alice turned her head to the side and took one of Bella’s nipples into her mouth, sucking on it as if her life depended on it.

There's probably some kind of parable about a genie granting someone an ill-advised wish that would apply here, don't you think? Don't get me wrong; I'm happy Bella finally gets off:

Bella’s breath caught in her throat, her fingers stiffening in Alice’s hair, and her hips jerked up. Then she was trembling as pleasure ripped through her body, her mind exploding in a sea of colour and lights. Her hips bucked, her pleasure fTlooding Alice’s lips which were still pressed against her center, licking and sucking, even as Bella’s body quaked.

But I'd rather not read about it. Anyway, eventually the Cullens all return and Bella and Alice's relationship has to be reckoned with on many levels. Bella comes out to Charlie, who reacts admirably. Edward, Bella, Jasper and Alice try to basically start a poly-amorous relationship which rather realistically crumbles. Edward leaves town while Jasper genuinely tries to share Alice for a while; it gets messy, feelings are hurt. Also at some point Victoria comes back, and Jacob has a mildly homophobic aversion to Bella that may or may not actually get resolved. I haven't read the whole thing (thirty-six fucking chapters!) and I skimmed some long sex sections.

For the most part the writing is sub-Meyer. Tenses shift erratically, punctuation is inconsistent, and Alice is referred to as "the raven-haired beauty" literally hundreds of times. But it is written in a kind of free-floating, limited-omniscient third person which feels intuitive and interesting; we drift from what Alice is thinking to Bella to Charlie to Rosalie or whoever and back again as serves the story.

Is it crazy to say that I believed the love between Bella and Alice in this fan-fiction more than I believe the love between Bella and Edward in the books? This is not the influence of the Joey Tribbiani part of my brain showing. Here, Bella and Alice talk. They talk constantly, and not just about the state of their relationship. They talk about dumb shit, as lovers do. They are physically attentive in sexual and nonsexual ways. They are beset by genuine emotional turmoil: the complications generated by their previously-standing relationships, the complications generated by being a gay couple in a small town. And they are anchored in their suffering by their love for each other, not made worse off by it.

Give it a read if you are feeling bold; feel free to share your thoughts here whenever and if ever you do. This is a blog that recognizes possibly misguided ambition, and no matter what else it is, "The Edge" is a work of great and strange ambition. I may have been wrong about wanting to see a bunch of hot sex actually described in The Twilight Saga, but I'm glad to see that I am not alone in thinking Alice and Bella would actually make a good couple.


Bridges Too Far: RPF

For the most part, fandom is a healthy enough thing. Young people be obsessin'! That's the way it is. But sometimes things go too far. See Regretsy's Twilight section for many of those overlong bridges, so to speak.

There's also something called RPF, or "Real Person Fiction." So instead of writing about Alice Cullen fucking someone, you actually go so far as to write about Ashley Greene fucking someone. According to Small Screen Scoop, Ashley Greene is number 7 on the list of most RPFed celebrities. Allow me to go on record (am I on record now? okay) and say I find this terrifying. I understand that we experience celebrities through such a vast, multifaceted media prism that they might as well be fictional characters, but they still aren't. With very few exceptions, celebrities are actual human beings like you and me. Some of them are probably robots, but not that many.

Surprisingly, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart did not make the top ten. I guess a significant proportion of the fan population distinguishes between EdCullz and RPattz. The relative box office failure of Remember Me confirms as much. Maybe this is not so for Greene? She only has one major role with which she is associated, Stewart has several, and Pattinson has two (Call it the Cedric Diggory Effect). Summer from Summer's Moon is not iconic enough of a role. I know that even on this blog I am occasionally (and deliberately) guilty of conflating the actress in the film adaptations with the character in the books, and then furthermore conflating the character in the books with my own invented character; we're getting in so deep that if one of my invented characters die they will probably end up in Limbo and they'll miss the kick. (The internet is going to be full of incoherent Inception references for the rest of the summer, I'm just doing my part.)

Taylor Lautner is number one (natch), but the real dark horse is Dakota Fanning, ahead of Ashley Greene at #6. I don't even want to know what people are doing with Dakota Fanning RPF. I don't even want to know about any of it, for that matter. Stop this, okay? Shut it down. S it D.

Monday, July 19, 2010

New Moon, A Review In (Mostly) Pictures

First and foremost: this is much better than Twilight, which is a relief. Clearly Summit loosened the purse strings, or rather, finally had a purse with strings they could loosen after the first movie cleaned up at the box office. New Moon does not look like a music video from the 1990s. It looks like a music video from the aughts. And that's progress.

Having actually read the book before seeing the movie this time, I was much more aware of whether or not the visual depictions of events from the book matched my expectations. For the most part I was happy.

Perfect. But then there was ghost Edward. I get that you can't just have his voice, but my god, that was awful. When Bella is riding the motorcycle past the multiple Edward ghosts that keep popping up like traffic cones? Oy gevalt!

Oy gevalt. The movie seems to graft a lot of extra action onto the story, like they were even more worried about having too many long scenes of dialog this time around. That strikes me as wrong-headed - the fans want long scenes of dialog, right? It's a confusing choice, since for the most part this movie seemed acutely aware of What The Fans Want:

But there is so much extra action! People keep fighting for no reason! Maybe the action was for my demographic (or rather, the demographic I should be a part of): the boyfriends in the audience.

Speaking of stuff for the boyfriends in the audience, Alice looked much better in this movie. She's still not at actual Ashley Greene levels of attractiveness, but I support this:

Very Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Speaking of support, I have something to say about her boobs. Apparently the makers of this film decided to take all of the stone metaphors describing vampire skin and make them LITERAL. As is, vampires are made out of rocks, and their faces crack.
Okay, that's fine. But why are Alice's boobs jiggling so much at the birthday party? That doesn't seem possible!
Again, not complaining, but huh? The central, misunderstanding-filled Edward/Bella conflict is way simplified, which makes it much less insufferable. So, more sufferable. The break-up scene is a little stilted, mostly because Robert Pattinson can only do an American accent when in "anguished whisper" mode, but it is a model scene for how you should block shots. Film school 101:

Also, I laughed at this:

And this:
And this:
In the aftermath of the break-up, by the way, Bella doesn't seem sufficiently insane to me as she wanders through the woods. Maybe a Snorri-Cam would have been too much, but I don't really buy Bella's misery until about here:

Kristen Stewart still looks very pretty (Kristen Stewart is really, excessively pretty! I didn't really notice until now) but this is miserable enough. As for the great meta-gesture of the novel, the October/November/December sequence was just okay. I mean, I see what you did there, Chris Weitz

but that just isn't good enough for me. I wanted to see those titles hitting me with the same abrupt bleakness of the book. I wanted the word OCTOBER to punch me in the face.

But it didn't. And the Lykke Li song that scores the sequence sounds too equally divided between sad and inspirational. (Speaking of that song, you can download a cool remix here; it's track 2 of the mix. Free music: one of the many things this blog does for you. Okay, technically Stereogum is doing it for you.)

Most of the book's plot weirdness is solved by virtue of the fact that everything is condensed and simplified; plot points that took days in the book unfold over the course of a single evening/scene. I can see how ardent book fans might go into a rage over this, but I wasn't particularly attached to anything. Plus, clearly Chris Weitz is throwing bones to the super fans:

Melissa Rosenberg has as good a knack for condensing events down as the Harry Potter screenwriters, which maybe isn't saying much. This movie would still probably be mostly incomprehensible to an outsider. It's hard to say. Weird as stuff like Victoria essentially causing Harry Clearwater's heart attack might seem strange to those of us intimately familiar with the original material, it makes sense within the internal logic of the film.

Sometimes the logic of the film trumps the logic of the book with shockingly elegant simplicity: in the film, Edward seems to think Victoria would want to come after him, not Bella. That's a reasonable assumption to make, though it is never articulated in the book! With it, the whole nonsensical explanation of Edward's justification for leaving Bella alone in Forks would hold up to scrutiny, you know? Oh well.

I also appreciated that, on a technical level, this movie tried to accomplish what it could with in-camera effects. The sequence/montage with Bella and Jacob in the shed is an especially good example of getting the job done with camera moves alone. Michel Gondry would be proud. It's obviously a cost-cutting measure, given that this movie is also populated by CGI wolves, but I appreciate it anyway. Vampire speed is often conveyed by clever cutting rather than corny fast motion, which is a relief, though the rest of the time it is still very silly looking. It might be the accompanying laser sound effect, though. What was that?

The supporting cast continues to KILL IT. This guy is still the best:

And Anna Kendrick, Michael Welch and Justin Chon continue to get way more mileage out of the precious few seconds of screen time they are given. And Michael Sheen is indeed maybe not as good as Christoph Waltz might have been, but he was still very good.

I was struck by Taylor Lautner's performance more than anyone else, though. Dude is a natural! I'm glad he decided not to go to college; I don't want any more ideas in his head. As it is, he has the exact number of ideas needed to play a charming lug. Jacob isn't nearly as rape-y here as he is in the book, so that might have helped. Ashley Greene, it must be said, did a fine job at mostly being a fine piece of ass who has to occasionally explain plot details. I was upset that the homoerotic subtext was left on the cutting room floor, except for Alice's face here:

Very pleased. In addition to the above TWSSs, this movie affords many opportunities for group sex.

There's plenty more to say about this movie. The need for a lot of narration (this being a book primarily taking place in Bella's brain - "Her mind is the scene of the crime" should be this movie's tagline) is solved by Bella pathologically writing e-mails to some fake address she has given Alice (it looks like I tried to look but I stare at computer screens from the 1980s all day and am functionally blind apparently). If you're going to give Bella a MacBook and bring technology into this thing, that's fine. But wouldn't she have Alice's real e-mail address? There's also the Emily thing. There's the fact that Dakota Fanning is in this movie, although not really. I kind of remember this movie being marketed around Dakota Fanning; it should have occurred to me that she was Jane and would therefore have what amounts to a cameo (Why does she say "pain" when she brain-attacks Edward? Is she casting a spell? Was she contractually obligated to have more lines?) but it didn't. The point is, there is more to say.

So share your thoughts here, but go vote in the New Moon Awards if you haven't already!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Some Concluding Thoughts On New Moon

"...And?"-Alice Cullen

Well, okay. So that was New Moon. Not a lot really ended up happening when all was said and done. Two incredibly inconsequential characters are dead. Jacob is a wolf, and he is mad, but he still loves Bella. The Volturi exist, but they are actually nice people; the Cullens don't like them, but they are probably not going to give our heroes any trouble for a while (read: not for at least one book) anyway. Edward has made his intentions clear: he wants to make an honest woman out of Bella. Well, okay.

It helps when you look at New Moon as a picaresque novel. If I had to lay out the episodic arcs of the book I would say they are
  1. Bella's birthday party->Edward and The Cullens leave
  2. Bella's misery-coma-> burgeoning friendship with Jacob
  3. Sam Uley mystery->getting to know the wolfpack
  4. Alice's return-> the Italy trip
  5. The vote and the marriage proposal
And Bella is an anti-hero if there ever was one. She's such an anti-hero that sometimes you really want her to just die and go away forever. She misleads Jacob, she misleads herself, and when she's not too busy burying herself in her own misery she's too obsessed with Edward to care that dozens of people around her are being murdered by the Volturi.

Come to think of it, New Moon itself is kind of anti-heroic. This is a book built on self-absorption, misunderstanding and willful deception. It contains startling and crass domestic abuse imagery and displays a peculiar disregard for the lives of the ordinary people not directly involved in its plot machinations. It builds to an anticlimactic climax that leads to a cowardly gesture of appalling proportions being committed by our main characters. In the denouement, Edward still clings to his arrogant and insane soul-theology and can't stop trying to convince Bella that he was more miserable than she was. (Didn't you want to jump into that conversation and tell them that we had it worst of all? We had to endure both of you!) And then he insists on getting married, for reasons passing understanding.

Is it supposed to feel like this? Are we supposed to hate Bella? Edward? If not, what is it supposed to feel like? This book progresses by way of numerous misunderstandings, some of which we seem to be intended by the author to understand. We're meant to see all of the cards, so to speak. We are supposed to know that Bella did not kill herself. But are we supposed to not know that Jacob is a werewolf? Are we supposed to think he is really killing people? It takes Bella such a long time to understand everything that it's hard to believe we are supposed to be right there with her. Give us a little credit, S. Meyer. And when I say us, I don't just mean "adults who should know better anyway." Eleven year olds are on top of these mysteries.

I didn't much enjoy reading this book; I liked Twilight a lot more. And the sloppy writing and grammatical errors that held Twilight back persist here, making them even less excusable. Bella even slips into the present tense once in this book, which is unforgivable in like, a high school creative writing class. There's also that chapter where S. Meyer copies and pastes a whole page of text from the first book into the second. Are you kidding me?

There was plenty that I liked. The blank pages after Edward leaves are great and very effective. The Volterra chapters are compelling, even if they ultimately don't pay off. Alice gets to do way more, as does Charlie. Both of them continue to be great. But this time, the bad outweighs the good.

When we finished Twilight I was cautiously optimistic. Going into Eclipse, my outlook is not so sunny. Get it, because eclipse? Sorry.

Next week: The New Moon Awards, New Moon the film, and a very special post about the fact that even though you think you want to read about Bella and Alice having sex, it turns out that you really don't.

Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting for these past three months (exactly three months, by the way). You made it endurable. You are like my wolfpack, except none of us abuse our spouses.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

BLOGGING NEW MOON, pt. 27: Don't Think Twice, It's Twilight

Last time, Edward shared with Bella his vision for their future: she would get old and gross and decrepit while he stayed young and hot, and they would live happily for seventy years or so until Bella died and Edward committed suicide. Thusly, Bella's precious soul could pass on to Jesus untarnished by vampiredom. Great plan, right?

Naturally, Bella utilized the power of democracy to shut that down, going to the Cullen family who voted in near-unanimous opposition to Edward. At which point the supposedly appealing Edward stormed out in a rage and smashed something in his living room. Of course, this guy came of age at a time when fascists ruled most of Europe, so it's hard to blame him for picking up a few bad ideas. I'm just kidding, we should blame him as much as we can. What an asshole! Previous entries can be found in the sidebar.

Chapter 24: Vote (cont'd):

Bella, admirably calm like she's taking lessons from Oksana Grigorieva or something, turns to Alice and asks where she wants to bite her and get this vampire-transformation started. Alice looks a little shocked that Bella is being so forward, and Edward bursts back in ready to cut a bitch. Someone get the tape recorder! This turned into a Mexican Standoff really fast, but I guess that's the thing about Mexican Standoffs. They're never planned.

Alice says she doesn't think she's ready to vamp Bella – she wouldn't be able to resist the urge to eat her (you're welcome). Bella doesn't back down and tells her to try anyway. Edward starts snarling, Alice cowers. Don't you threaten Alice! Where is Jasper? Then Edward literally grabs Bella's face and hold her mouth closed. Oy, gevalt! (Is anyone still Team Edward at this point?) Bella turns to Carlisle, who is like “I'll vamp you no problem.” Unfortunately Edward points out that if she never comes home to Charlie, her father's present state of post-Italy trip rage will probably lead to a showdown with ATF at the Cullen compound. Dammit Edward, that's a good point! Everyone backs down. Edward manages to get Carlisle to agree to hold off until after graduation to allow for a more organic break from Charlie, and the idea of abandoning her father gets Bella thinking twice. Ugh, don't think twice, Bella! This is going to take fucking forever, isn't it? I'm sick of waiting all ready.

Instead, Bella and Edward go back to her bedroom, and Edward gets nice again. Like comically, 1930s rom-com nice. He literally asks Bella what she wants more than anything in the world. She says him.

He shook his head impatiently. “Something you don't already have.”
I wasn't sure where he was trying to lead me.

Miraculously though, she lands on what he was getting at on her next wish: to have Edward be the one who changes her. Why so sentimental, Bella? A vampire is a vampire is a vampire. It's not like we're dealing with weird maker/makee relationships like in True Blood; the Twilight vampire myth is unadorned with such messy complications. That would be too interesting. Edward tries to use Bella's desire as a bargaining chip, asking if she'd give him a few years in exchange for his services as a biter. So much for a principled stance in defense of Bella's soul, huh? That conviction evaporated pretty fast. Unless Edward is just stalling, which I would not put past him.

Edward wants five years, Bella will only agree to one. Don't even concede that much, Bella! But Edward drops the time angle and then drops a real bomb on us.

“If you want me to be the one – then you'll just have to meet one condition.”
“Condition?” My voice went flat. “What condition?”
His eyes were cautious – he spoke slowly. “Marry me first.”

Whaaaaaat. Bella thinks he's joking, which is an understandable response. They are talking about becoming immortal vampires, after all; where we're going, we don't need marriage certificates! Edward really needs to bring the state of Washington in on this (paranormal!) relationship? Is that even possible? I'm saying, does Edward have a birth certificate? Our man is serious, though. “I'm nearly a hundred and ten,” he says. “It's time I settled down.” Ha ha ha, Edward. Also: GROSS. I'll give him this bon mot without reservation though:

“Look, marriage isn't exactly high on my list of priorities, you know? It was sort of the kiss of death for Renee and Charlie.”
“Interesting choice of words.”

Ya burnt, Bella! This whole situation is a little (a lot) ridiculous; like most of the scenarios in New Moon, nobody looks very good. Bella's thinking guiltily about Renee and her ardent disbelief in young marriage, but our narrator is about to sever ties with her mortal life completely; conceivably when she becomes a vampire she won't have any contact with Renee (or Charlie) anyway. She would never have to know about the marriage! The idea of getting married just fundamentally weirds Bella out. Well, she should get over it. You love Edward and want to be with him forever, right Bella? The fact that she's worried What Would The Community Think or something is bogus (and a little out of step with her character!). On the other hand, this is such a weird procedural requirement coming from Edward, for whom the question of monogamy and loyalty is without question. They are in a committed relationship and don't plan on adhering to normal human social standards in any other regard. What more do you need? This, apparently. Bella tries to go back and bargain off a few years, but Edward sticks to his guns. The argument gets heated enough to wake Charlie (should we be worried that the most charged exchanges between these two are always arguments?), and Edward hides.

Bella and Charlie haven't talked yet, and Bella realizes she forgot to ask Alice for a cover story for the Italian Job. He starts asking what happened, and she blurts out an obscured version of the truth, explaining that Alice told Rosalie that Bella jumped off a cliff, and word got to Edward that it was a suicide attempt, and she had to go to LA (where the Cullens allegedly were) to explain in person, and gradually Charlie looks more and more like he's going to have a heart attack. His face gets more descriptive phrases (“frozen,” “hot with fury,” “flushed”) in a page than Jacob's face got in most previous chapters. “He was no younger than Harry...” Bella says, suddenly concerned she's going to kill her father. This seems like a weird time to make Harry's death into a punchline, huh? Charlie tells her to stay away from Edward Cullen or he'll kick her out of the house.

“Fine,” I said curtly.
Charlie rocked back into his heels. “Oh.” He scrambled for a second, exhaling loudly in surprise. “I thought you were going to be difficult.”
“I am.” I stared straight into his eyes. “I meant, 'Fine, I'll move out.'”

Where is Bella getting all of this chutzpah all of a sudden? I'm not complaining, but what happened to “constant verge of a nervous breakdown” Bella? (I almost wrote “Barbie” just then. Wouldn't Constant Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown Barbie be kind of an awesome toy?) I realize that the last time Bella really argued forcefully like this was the last few pages of Twilight, and that realization in turn makes me realize that the exact same argument over Bella's mortality was happening back then, five hundred and sixty pages ago. Give or take a marriage proposal, nothing has really changed at all. This whole book was just a wheel spinning in place.

Anyway, Bella's threat is enough to calm Charlie down – she tells him he can certainly ground her, but she and Edward are a “package deal.” He leaves, and Edward reappears. He's apologetic about causing trouble with Charlie, but Bella is like “ain't no thing.”

“If Charlie kicks me out, then there's no need for a graduation deadline, is there?”

Edward starts talking soul nonsense again, and our New Gutsy Bella throws it back in his face. She points out that in Volterra when Edward first saw Bella he thought he was in some kind of afterlife. He thought he was in hell, sure, but you need a soul to go to hell, right? Boom. Sucks to get a taste of your own incoherent ideology medicine, huh Edward?

He's “speechless,” and Bella adds that if he stays, “I don't need heaven.” And then there is a nice little echo of the last line of Twilight:

“Forever,” he vowed, still a little staggered.
“That's all I'm asking for,” I said, and stretched up on my toes so that I could press my lips to his.

Epilogue: Treaty

Almost everything goes back to normal, which we know because Bella says, “Almost everything was back to normal.” Carlisle has returned to work at the hospital, Edward and Alice have re-enrolled in school, and Bella is getting started on college applications. College applications are the worst, huh? It's got to make not being a vampire yet even worse. Though Bella alludes to the fact that Edward once went to Harvard, so maybe being a vampire means filling out college applications all the time. Maybe Bella should wait a few years so she can be an aimless, 20-something blogger-vampire. That would be much better.

Bits and pieces of the writing are not so bad here:

Charlie was not happy with me, or speaking to Edward.

S. Meyer always teases us with marginally more varied sentence construction and fewer tacky, over-adorned phrases at the end of these books, as if to show us What Might Have Been in some version of the multiverse in which she tries harder.

Bella starts thinking of Jacob, who is apparently ignoring her phone calls, and that gets her started on the fairy tale motif again. “I wasn't sure what to do about this leftover, unresolved character,” Bella says. “What was his happily ever after?” Wait, who is talking here? Our narrator or our author? Work out your problems on the page much?

One day Edward is driving Bella home from work and she starts complaining about the way Jacob's been shrugging her off. Edward says maybe it is better that way - “we are what we are,” he says. He doesn't want it to come to blows with Jacob. Abruptly, this comes back:

Abruptly, I remembered what had happened to Paris when Romeo came back. The stage directions were simple: They fight, Paris falls.

Uh-huh. Well, it figures we'd have to reckon with this one last time. I see what you did there, but this is still kind of stupid. Those small instances of better writing are more few and far between here than they were at the end of Twilight, which doesn't bode well for us.

“Well,” I said, and took a deep breath, shaking my head to dispel the words in my head.

I know how you feel Bella. I'm shaking my head to dispel the words in my head as well. She looks up at Edward and talks about how her heart always beats like mad when she looks at him (see a doctor, Bella) but this time, something in his face makes it beat even faster than “its usual besotted pace.” As they pull up to Bella house, she sees her motorcycle sitting in the driveway, which is not the kind of place you want your secret motorcycle to be.

Clearly, Jacob is screwing her (you're welcome) over, and Bella starts crying tears of rage. When Edward informs her that Jacob is still here, waiting, she runs out of the car ready to kick his ass. Edward restrains her.

“Let me go! I'm going to murder him! Traitor!

I like angry Bella! Jacob is waiting in the woods all hard (you are more welcome) and bitter-faced. Bella remarks that “Somehow, impossibly, he was still growing” (you are the most welcome). They have a standoff in the woods, made marginally interesting by the fact that Jacob seems reluctant to speak, so Edward just says the thoughts he is hearing aloud. Bella accuses Jacob of trying to kill Charlie via heart attack, again invoking Harry Clearwater, and this happens:

“He didn't want to hurt anyone – he just wanted to get you grounded so that you wouldn't be allowed to spend time with me,” Edward murmured, explaining the thoughts that Jacob wouldn't say.

Yeah we figured, S. Meyer. Bella tells him she's already grounded, which is why she hasn't visited, and Jacob is all taken aback. He thought Edward was keeping her off his dick, I mean, La Push. That's not an incorrect thing to assume, right? I mean, if she weren't grounded, Edward still wouldn't let her near a bunch of perpetually shirtless, volatile boys with a history of domestic abuse. And he would right to do so, irritatingly patriarchal though it would seem.

Maybe not though: Edward takes a minute to thank Jacob for protecting Bella in his absence. It's a total Being The Bigger Man moment, and it almost redeems his outburst in the last chapter. But not quite. Edward says something about how he owes Jacob a favor, will give him anything he has the power to give, and Jacob's thoughts immediately flash to something that Edward refuses. Blowjob? From Bella, I mean, not Edward.

Jacob has come to remind Edward about the specific wording of the treaty – the treaty has specific wording? The Volturi could learn from the werewolves! - namely that the whole thing becomes void if one of the Cullens bites a human in the Greater Forks area.

Bite, not kill,” he emphasized.

Bella sees what he's getting at and is like, “fuck you.” But she ends up confirming Jacob's fears about her desire to get vamped, and so he flips out. Edward puts himself between the two of them, which makes it worse. And then Charlie starts screaming from the porch.

“BELLA!” Charlie's roar echoed from the direction of the house. “YOU GET IN THIS HOUSE THIS INSTANT!”

Charlie. Dude is great. It has the maybe unintentional effect of making this tense standoff between wolves and vampires seem kind of silly – little kids playing a game in the woods until the illusion gets shattered by parents calling them inside. It suddenly gets harder to take anyone seriously. Before the meeting breaks up, Edward and Jacob talk about Victoria, who seems to have fled now that the Cullens are back. Okay, fine. See you next book, Victoria.

Jacob's final bow is sort of interesting, actually. Bella asks if they are still friends, and he basically says no. But he mouths “miss you” and Bella reaches out to him, despite the fact that he's a few yards away. He does the same thing, but when she steps toward him Edward holds her back. She protests, but it is sort of unclear if Edward is trying to keep her away from Jacob or get her back to the (still yelling) Charlie without delay. I like that ambiguity – the Jacob/Edward tension is being queued up as the conflict for the next book and we still don't really know what Edward is going to do. As they leave through the woods, Bella watches Jacob, whose “dark scowl” crumples in pain just as he goes out of sight. He doesn't keep up the tough guy show quite long enough. Wow, S. Meyer, I'm impressed!

We don't get an ending at all, though. As Bella walks toward the house, she recaps her problems. Her best friend considers her an enemy, Victoria wants her dead. The Volturi want her to become a vampire, the werewolves don't. And she forgets about all of them as she sees Charlie's “purple face” on the porch (I'm sure the rest of his body is there too). “I'm here,” Edward says, and here's the last line:

I squared my shoulders and walked forward to meet my fate, with my destiny solidly at my side.

I'm pretty sure you don't need that comma there, and the punctuation-free simplicity of the previous book's final sentence was what really got me jazzed. This is just acceptable. The epilogue serves almost entirely to set up the next book – other than Victoria and Jacob the other plot threads were already resolved. I can imagine that if I'd finished this book before Eclipse came out I'd be more frustrated than anything. Luckily for us, we're getting started on book three next week.

So that's New Moon! Thoughts?