Friday, September 24, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 22: A Little Night Music

So I am going on vacation for a week. Check back later today for a post explaining what you will all be doing in my absence. No rest for the wicked. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 16 (cont'd): Epoch

Bella explains to Edward, in the middle of the post-graduation throng, that the army of vampires is coming for her ass, not his ass and his family's asses. His reaction is worse and more conspicuous than Alice's – he basically stands there in shocked, rage-filled silence while Charlie comes over and gives Bella a big congratulatory hug.

Okay, so telling Edward had been a bad idea. Alice was right to keep her thoughts clouded.

And she would have found some fun ways to do it, I bet.

“What's Alice thinking now?” I asked.
“She's writing one of those 'Sex Position A Day' calendars for Esme and Carlisle,” Edward said, grimacing.

Oh well. Charlie asks Bella where she wants to go for dinner - “The sky's the limit,” he says. In Forks? “I mean Applebee's, Chili's, shit, The Olive Garden, whatever you want.” They end up deciding to go to a place called The Lodge, which Bella describes as “the only thing close to a formal restaurant in town.” Yeah, I know plenty of places like that. I've been fired from plenty of places like that. Charlie invites Edward along, and this happens:

“No, thank you,” Edward said stiffly, his face hard and cold.
“Do you have plans with your parents?” Charlie asked, a frown in his voice. Edward was always more polite than Charlie deserved; the sudden hostility surprised him.

He still said thank you, jeez! What do you want? Edward leaves and Bella assures Charlie it isn't his fault.

“Are you two fighting again?”
“Nobody's fighting. Mind your own business.”
are my business.”

I have been feeling Charlie trying to earn my favor back ever since he congratulated Jacob for mouth-raping his daughter. That's when I decided to swear him off forever. But dammit, this shit is working. At the restaurant, Bella is frustrated by the too-slowly ticking clock. Charlie is way too busy socializing to eat at a speed Bella finds acceptable. Wait a minute, did Charlie just turn into my father? My dad has taught English in a small town for almost 30 years. He can't get in and out of a grocery story inside of an hour. The last time I was home and we went out to dinner it took him a half hour to sit at the damn table! So I know what Bella's saying. I mean, I wasn't impatient because I'd just discovered an army of vampires was out to kill specifically me, but still. I get it. She sits at the table and stresses out and picks at her food while Charlie chats. C'mon Dad!

Anyway, Bella goes out to the parking lot for a smoke (probably) and Edward slithers out of the woods like, I don't know, something that slithers. They hug and Bella apologizes for telling him too soon. He says he's got a better hold on his horses now. I'm glad that little shock didn't bring Edward 1.0 back – that guy was a prick. He promises to follow Bella and Charlie back to his place, which Bella tells him is unnecessary. I'm pretty sure the guy is going there anyway. Charlie comes out and drives Bella to Chez Cullen to help set up for the party, and on the way they talk. Bella's obviously dreading this whole affair.

“You were never one for the parties.”
“Wonder where I got that from,” I murmured.
Charlie chuckled. “Well, you look really nice. I wish I'd thought to get something. Sorry.”

Charlie starts knocking his parenting abilities, and Bella gets emotional enough to have to clear her throat and say “I'm really glad I came to live with you, Dad. It was the best idea I ever had.” Awkward rhyming aside: AWWWWW. This scene is like a rising tide, lifting both the Bella and Charlie boats. Bella was up higher than Charlie was already, obviously. So it's like, two boats at different levels on the Panama Canal, at the locks and channels. Is this analogy complicated enough yet? Alice is a spaceship flying overhead. And Jacob is that boat that takes you to Hades. Edward is a low-flying bird. Billy Black is a car because of his wheelchair.

“I'm sure I slipped up in a few places,” Charlie says. “I mean, look at you hand!” Oh, so NOW it dawns on him.

“If someone kisses you without your permission, you should be able to make your feelings clear without hurting yourself. You didn't keep your thumb inside your fist, did you?”

Charlie is on a roll, and he tells Bella that Jacob is “young,” and she should forgive him. Shit, maybe you're right Dad. I mean – Charlie. Bella admits that Jacob is her friend, but she “doesn't know what the right thing to do here is.” Charlie offers up some hard-earned, homespun wisdom:

Charlie nodded slowly. “Yeah. The right thing isn't always real obvious. Sometimes the right thing for one person is the wrong thing for someone else. So... good luck with that.”

Well played, Charlie. Why am I hearing him now as Will Ferrell's impersonation of George W. Bush? As they turn into the Cullen driveway, they are greeted with the sight of “thousands of twinkle lights” wrapped around the trees. “Twinkle” lights? Is that the technical term? “[Alice] doesn't do things halfway, does she?” Charlie asks “in awe.” (“You should see me FUCK.”-Alice Cullen)

Chapter 17: Alliance

Wouldn't it be nice if we could just take this chapter to relax and celebrate? This would be the place to do it – all our our narrative threads have collected into a single band, so why not ignore them and do something different for once? I'm imagining a series of set pieces: Jasper interacts with Mike Newton, Rosalie talks to Jessica. It's a golden opportunity for funny or cute or charming moments, “The Masque of The Red Death” but without all the Red Death. But no, we're not going to do that. Bella is too much of a stress case to have any fun. Here and there Alice or Emmett makes us laugh, but if the title of this chapter is any indication, S. Meyer is too busy laying the groundwork for the rest of the book to do any character building. Both Bella and S. Meyer need to take a chill pill. Chances are Alice has a literal one Bella can take.

Edward greets Bella outside of his house and they have a sweet, if redundant, moment in which Edward says he won't let anything hurt her and she says she's not worried about herself and Edward is all like, “That is so Raven.” He leads her inside and she stares with disbelief. “The interior of the Cullens' home had been transformed into a nightclub – the kind that didn't often exist in real life, only on TV,” Bella says. SHOW DON'T TELL. Also, when has Bella seen a nightclub other than on TV? Also, how can something not exist “often” in real life and “only” exist on TV? But whatever, I guess the place looks great.

Edward shrugged. “Alice will be Alice.”

Let's print that on a t-shirt, you guys. Speak of the saving grace, she shouts to Edward from behind a big speaker. Sadly, she is not strapped to a bass guitar.

“I need your advice. She gestured toward a towering stack of CDs. “Should we give them familiar and comforting? Or -” she gestured to a different pile - “educate their taste in music?”
“Keep it comforting,” Edward recommended. “You can only lead a horse to water.”
Alice nodded seriously and started throwing the educational CDs into a box.

So does that mean this party is going to be a bunch of Nickelback and shit? Is Alice putting away her Grateful Dead bootlegs right now? Edward's advice is solid – our wedding playlist ended up being far too weird for my extended family and we resorted to a Motown compilation or something – but at any other time it is undeniably fun to play some weird shit for your friends who only listen to Katy Perry or whatever and watch them stare at you like your head is on backwards. I'm with Edward in sacrificing art for the art of the party, but I'm with him begrudgingly.

Bella notes that Alice has changed into a “sequined tank top and red leather pants.” A sequined tank top and red leather pants. A sequined tank top and red leather pants. Okay, Alice is dressing a little bit like my grandmother, author of How To Be Hot At 60. But still, I feel like she can pull this off; I'm wondering if this outfit made it into the Eclipse movie or if Ashley Greene vetoed it. Wait, who am I kidding? Someone tells AG she's going to wear paint and a Sobe bottle and she says “I'm game.”

Bella says Alice's “pale skin reacted oddly to the pulsing red and purple lights, and in staring at her she immediately feels (...aroused, in love, sexually confused?) “underdressed.” Isn't she in a sweater? That's more like over-dressed for this, no? Go get four strips of leather and some staples, Bella. See what you can get out of that.

“You're perfect,” Edward disagreed.
“You'll do,” Alice amended.

YA BURNT, Bella. It turns out there is little for our narrator to do, Alice has the party locked down. So she goes with Edward to tell Carlisle and Jasper about the deal with the blouse-thief and the vampire army (our new Broken Social Scene-style indie-rock collective's name). Turns out Jasper struck out with the other vampires he appealed to for help. So I guess the Cullens don't have many friends out there. Then the doorbell rings, a bunch of extraneous characters walk in the door, and the Cullens all immediately strike a pose.

Jessica et al. are in awe of Alice's decorations, but Bella very quickly becomes the party's center of attention. “Maybe because the Cullens looked just slightly wrong under Alice's party lights,” Bella muses. When you get down to it, this chapter very subtly suggests the lonely life of a vampire. Everybody's all freaked out by you because you're too sexy, your “friends” won't even come help you fight off an army. Shit. Bella witnesses Emmett grin across a table at Mike Newton “the red lights gleaming off his teeth,” which makes Mike take an “automatic step back.” Funny, but also a little sad. Maybe Emmett and Mike could have been friends! Bella eventually realizes that Alice might have the rest of her family acting and looking a little creepy on purpose to force the spotlight onto her, and notes that the “edginess” caused by the Cullen's presence adds “a thrill to the atmosphere.”

“Everyone here is incredibly horny,” Jasper whispered.
“All part of the plan,” Alice smiled. “Let me know when it peaks.”

Pretty soon the place is full of high school kids bumping and grinding. Bella follows Alice as she works the crowd and mingles. “Alice was almost purring,” Bella says. “No one here would forget this night.”

Pretty soon Jacob is going to show up and we're all going to have to start thinking about the vampire army again and about whether or not imprinting is something we should bring to the attention of ATF, but for now let's just enjoy these few positive, non-plot-related images. There ought to be more – I want to see Emmett do more than smile and we all want to see Alice do more than mingle. (“I gotta get out of these red leather pants sooner or later,”-Alice Cullen) We've earned it at this point. But whatever, S. Meyer is determined to stay the heavily-plotted course. What's weird is Eclipse is actually just as languidly paced as Twilight – it's taken forever for these plot threads to collect – but Twilight wasn't building to very much. Eclipse is always relentlessly building, but at a maddeningly slow speed. Twilight was a long walk in a park, Eclipse is The Big Dig. You get the sense that all of this construction still isn't necessarily going to amount to much of anything. If we can't hang out and enjoy the party, can we at least get to the vampire army and be done with it soon? No?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 21: On And Ever Onward

Now that I've finished calling S. Meyer morally bankrupt and evil, let me say that the next chapter is fucking great. It is by turns funny, tense, and heartwarming in ways that feel relatively organic. Alice still carries half of the weight, but other characters step up too. It's great stuff. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 16: Epoch

We skip ahead to the morning of graduation. S. Meyer rather perfectly captures (!) the way these sort of landmarks sneak up on you: graduation has been lingering in the background of this story for a while, and now it has not-at-all-gradually arrived. I didn't realize she was doing it until now, but S. Meyer really got it right, and the long and maddening chapter with Jacob ends up being worthwhile at least in terms of being a distraction-device. Because in life, graduation is this far away thing you're always thinking about, and by thinking about it you manage to keep it at a distance. As soon as you let your guard down and forget about it, it's there. It happened to me twice, and it happens to Bella and by extension the reader – on a semi-meta-textual level – here. I promise to never use the term “semi-meta-textual” again (I'll also never start another sentence with “Because in life...”) but did it feel like that to anyone else?

I guess I didn't really expect Bella's graduation to come until the end of this series, or at the very least the end of this book. To wait would be cliché, but it's one of those clichés we expect and permit. How many seasons of Friends end with a wedding? I know it's not all ten seasons, but it feels like it. Ending on a milestone, any milestone, is a cliché, but it isn't one we've gotten over – it's a major American storytelling trope to this day. I just started watching the sixth season of The Office, and Jim & Pam's wedding happens in the fourth episode. It struck me as progressive and daring, but of course the previous season ends with Pam getting pregnant. So maybe it's a wash. The point is, I'm giving S. Meyer even more credit here: Bella is graduating from high school, and we've still got a book and a half to go! Where are we going from here?

So it's the morning of graduation, and Bella has nothing to wear. Above lamentations of cliché aside, isn't it fun to see Bella having normal teenage problems? Nothing to wear! Bella being someone who abhors teenage life, her very presence ends up making a situation like this seem mildly subversive – I hope there is a chapter in Breaking Dawn where she gets stuck in an elevator or something. Am I confusing Bella with Daria now? I guess if Edward had his wits about him he would have told Bella that getting married right out of high school is, in this day and age, a kind of bold and original gesture. I doubt she'd have bought that though. So Bella's got clothes spread all over her room, looking for a perfect top to go with her khaki skirt (Well there's your problem, Bella). She thinks about the red blouse that was stolen and realizes it would be perfect.

“Stupid, thieving, annoying vampire!” I growled.
“What did I do?” Alice demanded.

Alice is chilling in Bella's window, the best as always. This is one of her better entrances.

“Knock, knock,” she added with a grin.

And then Bella throws Alice on the bed and kisses her. No, truth be told the steam is kind of running out of the Team Alice movement. Alice is too good for Bella. And her thing for racist murderers is kind of an intriguing new angle. I bet Alice writes a lot of letters to Federal prisoners. Anyway, Alice says she's just “passing through” and throws a box on Bella's bed. She brought her an outfit! True love.

“Admit it,” Alice said. “I'm a lifesaver.”

I admit it. Also a booksaver. Alice says it feels nice to “see” something correctly. “I've been fucking up left and right lately,” she says. Alice's inability to see key aspects of the future are making her feel “normal,” she says. “She cringed in horror of the word,” Bella tells us. That ugly phrase aside, it's nice to see a (too brief) glimpse of the pro-vampire argument. Edward and Rosalie are so envious of humans, but Alice is horrified by the idea of being one. Why isn't Alice a bigger part of the debate over Bella's mortality? I guess Bella's case is strong enough without her. Anyway, Alice mentions the thief and the army in Seattle, and Bella has a rush of intuition. There's a funny moment (which is maybe supposed to be tense) where Bella is trying to tell Alice that the blouse-thief and the vampire army are related (what a ridiculous collection of words that is) but Alice can't get past talking about the clothes.

“It's the same,” I whispered.
“What is?” she demanded. “You don't have anything like this. For crying out loud, you only have one skirt!”
“No, Alice! Forget the clothes, listen!”
“You don't like it?” Alice's face clouded with disappointment.

Bella says the thief was probably a member of the army, trying to test his or her ability to get around Alice's vision. And the need for Bella's scent suddenly has very ominous implications.

Alice wasn't accustomed to being taken by surprise.

That or she figured she had to get really high to get through graduation – Bella says Alice stands perfectly still for “two minutes straight.” Two whole minutes?

“You're right,” she said in a hollow tone.

Buzzkill, dude. Bella feels a perverse sense of relief when she realizes she's the target of these vague machinations, not the Cullens. Charlie knocks on Bella's door and asks if she's ready to go, and Alice realizes that Edward is on his way and bails; she wants to keep the news from him until after graduation so he doesn't freak out. Probably a good idea. Bella puts on Alice's outfit, which sadly doesn't include leather or chains or lace, and grabs her yellow graduation robes. Yellow? And I thought I had it bad.

Edward shows up and rides with Charlie and Bella – in the police cruiser. There's a funny visual gag as Bella looks back and forth from Charlie to Edward, who both seem to be deriving dark amusement from Edward's seat in the back of the squad car.

At the school, Charlie has a sweet moment with Bella. He tells her she's not his little girl anymore, choking up at the end. Awwww. You are still not forgiven, Charlie. As Bella lines up for graduation, she has a rambling conversation, or rather witnesses a monologue, from Jessica. It's nothing special – it had no other effect on me other than the thought “Oh, good, Anna Kendrick will have a scene in the Eclipse movie.” You can almost feel S. Meyer crossing extraneous characters off a list. Edward goes off to stand in alphabetical order, and Bella feels terrible when she sees that Alice isn't there. “What poor timing on my part,” she says. Like Alice gives a fuck about graduation?

Bella herself writes off her classmates as she witnesses the graduation ceremony – I can't say I disapprove of her wandering, withering eye here; graduation ceremonies are kind of stupid. She notes the “trite nonsense” issuing forth from the mouth of the valedictorian and later describes the daze-inducing process of stumbling across the platform to receive her degree. I paid so little attention at my high school graduation I can't even remember if the person voted “most likely to trip at graduation” actually tripped or not. (I was voted “most unique,” for the record. Not that there are degrees of unique – one either is or isn't. When I brought this issue up to my friend Ryan, who worked on the yearbook, he told me it didn't matter. He also rejected several of my proposed yearbook photos.) All in all, I'm happy S. Meyer doesn't try to make graduation sound particularly momentous or moving. High school sucks – the best part is darkly enjoying how much it sucks. Which is what is happening here. I kind of feel like S. Meyer and I could be friends.

Alice does abruptly show up to get her degree, and you guessed it: Bella says she “danced across the stage” to take hers. What do you think Alice is wearing under her yellow gown? Or is the “going to graduation naked” thing too passe? Alice has a look of “deep concentration” on her face as she crosses the stage, and this is while dancing – I'm getting a kind of “Michael Jackson in 'Billie Jean'” vibe. Edward follows her, looking confused. He should be – how is did this guy pass? Social promotion probably, right? Bella's name is eventually called and she hears “hooting” she realizes is not only Charlie but Jacob. Those guys are working overtime to earn my favor back. Bella says she can “just make out the top of Billy's head beside Jake's elbow.” How many handicapped jokes is Bella going to do before someone stops her? I feel like if there was an armless character in this book Bella would make constant references to “giving him a hand.”

And that was it.

Bella stands amongst her fellow graduates and fails to hear the cue to throw her mortarboard up in the air. She just tosses it on the ground instead. You're kind of awesome sometimes, Bella. She looks around for Alice and can't find her anywhere (“I promised Mike Newton that if he didn't lose his virginity by graduation I'd, well, you know...”-Alice Cullen). Edward comes over and gives her a hug, says she seems nervous. She blurts out a question about Alice – I knew there was no way she'd manage to keep it in for very long (you're welcome). She asks him if he's worrying about her, and then asks what she was doing to keep him out of her thoughts.

His eyes flashed down to my face, and narrowed in suspicion. “She was translating the Battle Hymn of the Republic into Arabic, actually.”

Well, الحمد الله! Alice speaks Arabic? Also: The Battle Hymn of the Republic? As in, the Abolitionist song? YA BURNT Jasper.

Friday, September 17, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE pt. 20: Shape-Shifting Toward Bethlehem

When we last left our villains, Jacob had confessed to Bella that he loved her and wanted to be with her. Tell us something we don't know, Jacob. Actually, don't bother, and just kill yourself instead. Okay? Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 15: Wager

Bella stands there dumbfounded. Jacob grins like an idiot. Fuck this guy. Seriously. Bella turns to leave, but Jacob grabs her shoulders and spins her around. Strike one. Jacob asks if she wants him “to go away and never see [her] again.” Obviously she says no, she doesn't want that.

Jacob grinned again. “See.”

No, I don't see. (“You don't want me to go away forever or die, therefore you must want to be with me romantically.”-Jacob Black) Bella tries to explain that she wants him around for different reasons than he wants her around. Seems like a pretty easy concept to explain, right? Jacob doesn't get it. (“There are two kinds of people in this world: people who have no interest in me, and people who want to fuck me.”-Jacob Black) Not that Bella really helps him out with her clarification.

“You're family. I love you, but I'm not in love with you.”

Nothing says unambiguous rejection like a bland and meaningless phrase from romantic comedies! Jacob runs his fingers across Bella's check. Strike two. Bella tells him to back off. He says no.

“You decide, Bella. You can have me the way I am – bad behavior included – or not at all.”

NOT AT ALL. NOT AT ALL! I'll be your friend, as long as I can molest you whenever I want! Sure, good deal! Jacob says he recently decided that he's “not giving up.” He recently decided that? What was he doing before? If that was giving up, what does trying look like? Do I want to know?

“There really is something irresistible about a lost cause.”

You know who feels the same way? Rapists! Serial killers! Fucking Klan members! Bella says Edward is her “whole life” and Jacob draws an analogy that makes him sound like an unplanned pregnancy.

“Not anymore. Maybe he was [your whole life] once, but he left. And now he's just going to have to deal with the consequence of that choice – me.”

In some ways I guess Jacob has a point – Bella should have metaphorically aborted him when she had the chance. But it's bothersome that Jacob says Edward is the one who has to deal with him, like Bella's feelings don't register. Jacob's behavior throughout this chapter exhibits that attitude – I've argued before that Bella Swan is not a passive cipher like some critics contest, but Jacob sees her that way. That said, you know, there's bigger shit going on; all of this like a getting a mosquito bite while someone is stabbing you.

Jacob takes Bella's chin in his hands (I was going to call strike three but this is like a foul tip, prolonging the inevitable) and swears a weird oath:

“Until your heart stops beating, Bella,” he said. “I'll be here – fighting.”

Bella says her “heartbeats are numbered” - like the irony was lost on Jacob before. Was the irony lost on Jacob before? I guess it probably was. Anyway, suddenly “resolution” forms in Jacob's eyes. Fuck.

“N –” I started to object, but it was too late.
His lips crushed into mine, stopping my protest. He kissed me angrily, roughly, his other hand gripping tight around the back of my neck, making escape impossible.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! STRIKE FUCKING THREE MOTHERFUCKER! This is an unquestionably horrifying moment, but S. Meyer inexplicably seems to be trying to make it sexy:

His mouth was soft, despite the anger, his lips molding to mine in a warm, unfamiliar way.

Talk about your silver-linings on mushroom-clouds. Speaking of which, will someone drop a nuclear bomb on La Push?

I grabbed at his face, trying to push it away, failing again...His lips forced mine open, and I could feel his hot breath in my mouth.

You are a fucking dead man, Jacob. Remember that scene in Pulp Fiction when Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames escape from Zed's basement and Ving Rhames says he's going to have one of his guys go to work on Zed with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch? I'm not a generally violent person, but Quentin Tarantino really knows how to access the revenge fantasy section of my lizard brain. And I really want him to do something about Jacob right now.

Bella's on it, though; she breaks away and punches Jacob in the face. YES. Unfortunately, she ends up breaking her hand against his jaw. Why can't you give us even a moment of catharsis, S. Meyer? Bella refuses his offer of help and starts walking away, moaning in pain. “As soon as I got away from him, Alice would see me. She'd send somebody to pick me up,” she says. And then Alice will double back and tear Jacob's head from his neck like she does James in the Twilight movie! Bella herself tells Jacob she hopes Edward “snaps his neck” as he follows her.

“I hate you, Jacob Black.”
“That's good. Hate is a passionate emotion.”
“I'll give you passionate,” I muttered under my breath. “Murder, the ultimate crime of passion.”

I love that rapier wit! (Insert joke about Jacob being a rape-ier twit.) Jacob says it must have been better than “kissing a rock.” “Not even remotely close,” she says.

“You're just mad. I don't have any experience with this kind of thing, but I thought it was pretty incredible myself.”

A rapist is born. Could this get any more gross? Yes, it can get more gross. Jacob makes another plea to be her man. “I never left,” he says.

“Just think about it, Bella.”
“No,” I said stubbornly.
“You will. Tonight. And I'll be thinking about you while you're thinking about me.”

There is not a violent death violent enough for Jacob to die. There's a great episode of Sports Night where Natalie, a female TV producer, gets flashed in a locker room by a football star. Jeremy Goodwin (played by the great Joshua Malina) confronts the guy after, and the prick says something about the look on her face “when she got a load of me.” This happens:

Patrick: I'm six-four, 230 pounds. Bench press three bills, run a four-forty. What, you want to dance with me, junior?
Jeremy: You touch her again, I'm gonna have you killed. You understand what I'm saying? I'm going to pay someone fifty dollars to have you killed.

Jeremy Goodwin is my hero. Sports Night is great show by the way, has everyone seen it? You really need to see it.

ANYWAY, there is really no limit to Jacob's self-delusion. What's amazing is not how easily he deludes himself but the lightning speed with which he erects new justifications every time Bella tells him to fuck off and die. He now says he thinks Bella is being “overly defensive.” He would say something about the lady protesting too much if he wasn't a functionally illiterate brute.

At some point Bella gets in Jacob's car and accepts a ride home – I don't understand why she would do such a thing unless she was planning to grab the steering wheel and jerk them both into traffic like Cameron Diaz in Vanilla Sky. It's maddening to realize this won't actually be the final nail in the coffin of Bella and Jacob's twisted relationship. S. Meyer still has a book and a half of nails to hammer into our eyes.

Jacob follows Bella into her house – Charlie is there as Bella storms past. He asks what happened, and Jacob says she broke her hand hitting him.

“Why did she hit you?”
“Because I kissed her,” Jacob said, unashamed.
“Good for you, kid,” Charlie congratulated him.

Well. I suppose my goodwill for Charlie had to run out some time. Nothing gold can stay. Kill your idols.

I've never been happier to read about Edward, by the way. Bella calls him – he's already in the car by the time he picks up the phone. He's in a cheery mood, Edward 2.0 and all. But he doesn't know what happened.

“I punched Jacob,” I admitted.
“Good,” Edward said bleakly.

I've never been happier to see Edward say something bleakly! This is like when the cavalry comes in Birth Of A Nation and you try to ignore the Klan robes they're wearing. Edward makes an oblique threat of violence toward Jacob and Bella is like yeah, kill that motherfucker (I'm paraphrasing) and that finally clues Edward into the fact that shit has gotten real. She tells him Jacob kissed her and hears him audibly accelerate. Charlie suggests Jacob bail.

“I think I'll hang out here, if you don't mind.”
“Your funeral,” Charlie mumbled.

I wish! Also: nice try Charlie, but you still suck. It's going to take a lot of endearing shit to make up for that enthusiastic reaction to the news that your daughter got molested. I guess we should be glad he didn't react like Titus Andronicus, but still!

Edward says he's around the corner “darkly,” just paragraphs after saying something “bleakly” but whatever, there is no time to nitpick that stuff. There's killing that needs to be done! Edward racks up thousands of points in this chapter: as soon as he gets to the door he examines Bella's hand. Very smooth, no?

“I think you're right about the break,” he said. “I'm proud of you. You must have put some force behind this.”

Edward kisses her hand and then turns and reduces Jacob to a pile of liquified organs and bone fragments in seconds. Kidding, he's going to be classy about this too. Dammit. Jacob and Edward have a brief standoff in the hallway – Charlie tries to discourage violence while Bella openly calls for it. I like this, Bella! She and Edward leave, but Jacob follows them out of the house. “I'm not going to kill you now, because it would upset Bella,” Edward says. Bella protests that assumption. YES. He threatens Jacob some more and it is awesome; if Jacob kisses Bella again Edward will break his jaw. Jacob suggests that Bella might want him to kiss her because of course he would think that. Edward says in that case he wouldn't mind.

“You might want to wait for her to say it, rather than trust you interpretation of body language – but it's your face.”

YESSSS. Then it degenerates into “I'm going to fight hard for her,” and “I'm going to fight HARDER” and “I'm going to be so hard” and “I'm going to be so much HARDER” one-upmanship. Whatever, Edward is still a badass. He and Bella drive back to the Cullen garage, where they have a truly funny exchange with Rosalie and Emmett (!?). Rosalie is under Emmett's Jeep, apparently fixing it, but lest you think that emasculates Emmett at all he's holding up the car for her with one hand. Bella gets a line for the ages when Emmett notices her hand and asks if she fell again.

I glared at him fiercely. “No Emmett. I punched a werewolf in the face.”
Emmett blinked, the burst into a roar of laughter.

It's frustrating that scenes like this come grouped with the maddening and misguided and morally malformed shit like Jacob's Rape Kiss. Does it make sense to say that the Rape Kiss itself is not the real problem? The Rape Kiss itself is not the real problem. Were it that Jacob was turning into the villain of this book, the whole thing would be fine. I mean, it wouldn't be fine, it would be horrible, but it would horrible solely within the fictional universe of this book, and not, you know, the world. I could focus my rage entirely on the fictional character of Jacob, as such would have been S. Meyer's intention. But that is not what is happening, and that is not S. Meyer's intention. We are still supposed to empathize with Jacob, for reasons passing understanding. He is a deluded molester, but Bella will continue to agonize over her feelings for him. He will probably do something heroic in the end, and we will be meant to forgive him for his trespasses, and maybe we really will. He is not the villain. Stephenie Meyer is.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt.19: Hey, We All Gotta Keep Warm

Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 14 (cont'd): Declaration

At home, Edward tells Bella that he's leaving tomorrow afternoon on another hunting trip with Rosalie, Carlisle, and Esme. That leaves Bella with Alice, Jasper, and Emmett. Why do I feel like Alice could come up with something better to do with those guys than just hang out with Bella?

“Bella, we're going to go into the other room for a while – you can watch a movie or something, okay?” Alice smiled weakly, then gave me a stern look. “Just don't open that door, no matter what it sounds like is happening to me.”
As she walked away I heard her whisper to Jasper: “The safe word is 'Bella.'”

(I've been working on a theory that Alice and Jasper are cooler because they were not created by Carlisle, that somehow his moral preacher-blood is the source of all our problems. If that is the case, getting vamped by Edward would be even worse, like how toxins get more effective as they travel up the food chain.)

Bella decides she'd rather spend that time on the Reservation with Jacob though, because she is a fucking moron.

“Spend a few hours with the three coolest characters in this book
or the
temperamental rapist? Hmm, tough call.”

Edward agrees rather easily, but Bella still feels guilty about it. Get with the times, Bella! Edward 2.0 understands how you feel. Edward 2.0 calls your mom on her birthday. Edward 2.0 is your new bicycle. Bella wants to know why Edward is hunting again so soon – his eyes are “still a deep gold.” Turns out they're hunting big game, because it makes them stronger. Well, that's just about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. If you drink a bear's blood, you'll be strong like a bear! Is this a video game all of the sudden? Human blood makes you the strongest, obviously (not obviously – it should be WHALE BLOOD or something ridiculous. DINOSAUR BLOOD!), and Jasper is apparently thinking about “cheating” so he'll be at 100%. He's afraid to bring it up to Carlisle, though. No word on what Alice thinks (“Oh, it would be so hot. Please do it, baby. Can I watch?”-Alice Cullen). Newborns themselves are strong because they are feeding off of their own human blood. Oh, okay, that makes so much sense.

Bella thinks about the advantage posed by eating a human and briefly considers coming out in favor of it. Then her conscience finally catches up with her, having been left somewhere in the dust a few hundred pages ago (maybe she lost it at the airport when she ditched Alice in Book One?) and she feels terrible for being “willing to have a stranger die to protect him.” On the list of things Bella SHOULD feel guilty about, this one is actually way below a bunch of other stuff – we all care about our loved ones more than strangers, however moral or immoral that may be. But whatever, I'll take guilt wherever I can get it. Me and the dozens of victims you abandoned in Volterra are going to be revelling in your sleepless night tonight, Bella! Sweet non-dreams!

Bella's been putting off studying for finals, so she and Edward have a cram session. Why does it matter if Bella does well in school, at this point? Also, if she gets vamped just after graduation, does that mean she never has to go back to school? Can she permanently play like, Edward's aunt? I mean, I know that's weird, but if it got her out of repeating high school for infinity it would be worth it, no?

Bella takes a break and calls Jacob; Edward sits there and patiently plays with her hair. What he should be doing is going down on her right now! I don't want to tell him how to do his job, but that seems pretty obvious. Can we have a frank discussion about the fact that Edward hasn't even fingerbanged Bella yet? What is up with that? She's a goddamn senior in high school! Girl needs to get fingerbanged. Whatever happened to Mike Newton?

Next day, Edward drives Bella to the DMZ after she's finished finals. Jacob is sitting in his car and honking like an asshole, and Edward is bothered by whatever he's thinking. Oh great. Bella heads to Jacob's car and looks back at Edward, trying to shake the idea that he is really upset. It must be something really bad if it's got Edward 2.0 down. Bella wishes Edward would come over and shake Jacob's hand, that everyone would just get along. In case you didn't understand the metaphorical significance of that maddeningly transparent moment when Bella tried to force the magnets together, she brings it up again.

It was as if I had those two stubborn magnets in my hands again, and I was holding them together, trying to force nature to reverse herself.

You're right that is exactly what it is like! S. Meyer is really getting her money's worth out of that metaphor. Bella's relationship with Jacob and Edward is like her relationship with the magnets is like her relationship with Edward and Jacob – it goes both ways! (“Did someone ask for me?”-Alice Cullen) Also: don't anthropomorphize nature, Bella. Also: I wish I had a magnet that could suck all of the extra commas out of this book.

Jacob is exhausted and miserable looking, his hair is all overgrown and sticking out all over the place. He looks like me, basically. Not a good look, Jacob. He's tired because Sam Uley has them running double shifts (wolves have shifts?) because he's all suspicious about whoever broke into Bella's house (that is my best guess as to what he is suspicious about – it is very vaguely worded, and I mean more than normal). They go to Jacob's house and sit down on the couch – Bella thinks it's weird that Billy isn't around. “I thought of Billy as a nearly permanent fixture there,” she says. Because he's handicapped, Bella!? Jesus you can be insensitive. Turns out Billy's been spending a lot of time with Harry Clearwater's widow. Good for Billy, at least someone other than Alice is getting laid around here.

Jacob is still bitchy about Bella's coming transformation, but suddenly Bella doesn't seem to think it's going to happen very soon. She's about to indicate as much to Jacob, but he falls asleep and starts snoring. Instead Bella goes spelunking in her subconscious mind again. Oh, great. Vampire transformation has become a metaphor for Bella's virginity, by the way:

Edward was right – I wasn't ready yet.
And I didn't want to be practical. I wanted Edward to be the one.

Uh-huh. And then:

It was hard to define, even to myself, why it mattered.

She wants Edward to pop her mortal cherry, so to speak. When you put it another way, it's a kind of nifty and gothic conceit: she wants her love to be the one to kill her. But S. Meyer is not interested in taking it that way, really.

Even more embarrassing, something I would never say aloud, I wanted his venom to poison my system.

Bella, I've got a much easier way to get some of Edward's “venom” into your system. It doesn't involve any biting, just swallowing. (“Some people like biting!”-Alice Cullen) Also: talk about a healthy attitude toward (metaphorical) sex! POISONING HER SYSTEM! She knows Edward is going to insist on marriage if he's going to be “the one” to “poison” her, of course. We've got to bring this metaphor full circle. S. Meyer's metaphors are nothing if not aggressively circular. (What's so weird about this virginity metaphor is that Bella also wants to lose her LITERAL virginity to Edward. “I want you to have both my literal and figurative virginity.” That's love right there.) Bella thinks about how awful it would be to have to tell her mother and friends she was getting married. (Why even tell them? Vegas, dumbass!) Bella drifts into her Anne of Green Gables fantasy again, she and Edward on a porch swing. Wait a minute, how many dream levels are we at so far? If porch swing Bella kills herself she'll get stuck in limbo, right? Where's the kick?

Oh, here it is: Jacob rolls over and almost crushes Bella on the couch. HOT, and also symbolic! Bella wakes Jacob up in her struggle to break free, and Jacob's all pissed that he fell asleep. Bella tells him to get some rest – she'll just head home. He insists instead that they take a walk. On the way out, Bella notes that it's cold and a storm seems to be approaching. ALSO SYMBOLIC. Shit, what's going to happen? This is serious.

“I wanted to talk to you,” Jacob says. Bella can't tell if he's blushing or not “with his dark skin” and all. Oy gevalt.

“I'm in love with you Bella,” Jacob said in a strong, sure voice. “Bella, I love you. And I want you to pick me instead of him.”

Right. Wait, that was the big announcement?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

WRITING ECLIPSE: Edward and Alice Plan A Graduation Party

“Alice, are you going to pick through CDs all day? Do you really think people will be paying attention to the music?” Edward asked.
“I'm going to make them,” Alice said. “Jasper is 'borrowing' a PA system as we speak.”
Edward sighed and went back to cutting sections of scotch tape.
“I feel a certain responsibility to these people, Edward.” Alice said. “This party is my last shot. I like to make a good final impression.”
“People are just going to want to dance. Don't overthink it.”
“Be happy I'm not playing the song I recorded with Jasper. That's real music.”
“Alice, you just screamed in Latin while 'California Gurls' played in reverse. That hardly qualifies as music.”
“Because I used 'California Gurls'?” Alice joked.
Edward laughed, even though he kind of liked that song. And now it was stuck in his head. Perfect. He looked around, already frustrated. “I had some red crepe paper earlier. Where did you put it?”
“Oh, I used it for the orgy room.” Alice said nonchalantly.
“The orgy room?” Edward stared at her in disbelief. “Where is the orgy room?”
“My room, naturally.”
“And, er... why do we need an orgy room?”
“I've already got the masks and whips and condoms laid out, you don't need to worry about it at all.”
“I'm not concerned with the logistics, Alice,” Edward hissed. He paused and tried to contain his temper. He had certainly known his sister would have some strange ideas for this party. Really, he knew he should count his blessings that she'd been thoughtful enough to restrict potential orgies to one room. “I don't think an orgy room would be appropriate for this occasion.”
"No fair." Alice pouted.
“I'm not saying you can't independently organize a...spontaneous orgy,” Edward sighed. “I just don't want it to be a part of the party's infrastructure. Can you leave that for the night of?”
Alice paused, staring far away for a moment. “Yes, that will work.” She licked her lips unconsciously.
Edward tried to block the deluge of images and ideas coming from his sister's brain. Alice shivered delicately and went back to work.

For a while they toiled silently. There was no need for Edward to check with Alice regarding any of his decorative decisions – she'd already pre-approved them weeks ago. Edward smiled to himself. He'd forgotten how much fun it was to pass the hours with his sister. Before Bella had come along they'd spent more time together, and as much as Edward missed it he also had to admit they'd been running out of activities. They used to go to comedy clubs, but eventually got banned from most of the local ones thanks to Alice's bad habit of laughing uproariously before the comedian could get to the punch line. They used to go to the movies once a week, but Alice would always lean over and ask Edward for clarification on plot twists that hadn't happened yet. It was more than a little irritating. Maybe it was good that Bella had come along and changed his world.

“How much cocaine do we need?” Alice asked, snapping Edward out of his reverie.
“Cocaine, Alice?”
“I've got plenty of weed, some X, and even some crystal meth if anyone wants some, but I'm not sure how much cocaine to buy,” she said.
“None!” Edward snapped angrily.
“Oh,” Alice looked hurt and confused. “You think this crowd would prefer crack?”

Monday, September 13, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 18: Get Your War On

Last time we heard Jasper's over-long but otherwise entertaining origin story, which had an endearing and cute happy ending FOR FUCKING ONCE. Alice and Jasper (Jalice? Alsper?) pretty much won my heart already, but now there's really no going back. For the first time in what feels like a century, I'm feeling hope! And yet, instead of hearing more about the compelling characters in this book, we're heading back to spend some time with the assholes. I feel like as this story goes on we're going to come to appreciate chapter 13 more and more. That's a bad sign. With New Moon we didn't peak until chapter 17, and it can be argued that the best section of Twilight comes at the very end. This is a disturbing pattern. Previous entries can be found in the directory (updated 9/13).

Chapter 13 (con't): Newborn

Edward wraps up Alice and Jasper's back-story, since we were growing to a point about the present murder spree in Seattle a few HOURS ago and he's trying to get us back on-topic: When Jasper met Alice she had already “seen” meeting him and subsequently finding the Cullens. So the two of them just showed up on the doorstep one day. Edward, who was away on a hunting trip, says it “scared the hell out of” the rest of his family.

“Jasper shows up, covered in battle scars, towing this little freak” – he nudged Alice playfully – “who greets them all by name, knows everything about them, and wants to know which room she can move into.”
Alice and Jasper laughed in harmony, soprano and bass.
“When I got home, all my things were in the garage,” Edward continued.
Alice shrugged. “Your room had the best view.”

Okay, I'm picturing Jasper with this ridiculous James Earl Jones laugh for some reason, but otherwise it's kind of nice to see someone other than Alice having a damn chuckle for once, especially Edward “said darkly” Cullen, the Pope (Benedict to Morrissey's John Paul) of Mope. I know vampires have to avoid the sun, but lighten up, guys, get it? Sorry. But it's nice, isn't it?

One of the reasons I really loved reading Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince was that it seemed like we got to spend a lot of extra downtime with the characters we'd grown to love so much – Slughorn's parties and all that. These moments with the whole Cullen family kicking it are too few and too far between. That's part of what drives the impulse for fan-fiction; I'd wager a guess that the metric tonnage of Twilight fan-fic outweighs Harry Potter fan-fic, simply because the former leaves so much to be desired. Shit, I've almost totally given up writing MY fan-fiction as separate posts – at this point I've gone so far that I'm writing it into my fucking recaps, so great is the urge to add some depth and shading to this book.

“An army,” Alice whispered. “Why didn't you tell me?”

Having just knocked the depth and shading, it's interesting to note the little character beats we get in this scene – I'd go so far as to say it is well done. Alice speaking in a whisper tends to signal insecurity, in the above quote and later. Bella and Edward moan and mutter and hiss all the time, but Alice is usually chirping and wind-chiming and fluting and all that. Here she's on the defense; she hasn't seen any of this coming and naturally feels like shit about it.

Edward starts articulating a theory that the newborn army has been created to attack the Cullen family, and Carlisle expresses disbelief and denial while the more cynical and world-weary Jasper seems to accept it immediately. For the rest of the chapter Jasper is forcing Carlisle to deal with the truth (because obviously Edward's theory is correct). Alice says she's been seeing flickers of plans for (what she now knows is) the army - “not enough to make sense of.” She thinks whoever is in charge is being indecisive. Edward thinks someone is consciously exploiting the holes in Alice's vision.

“Who would know that?” Alice whispered.

Again with the hurt whispering. Someone give her a hug! Esme where you at? Edward and Rosalie (who breaks into the conversation suddenly, maybe S. Meyer was bored) suspect the Volturi; Edward says Aro feels vaguely threatened by their clan, he saw it in his thoughts back in Italy. Well, thanks for keeping that to yourself, dipshit! Regardless of who is pulling the strings, Jasper says they're going to have to get ready for some KILLING. He's slipping into that again awful quickly, huh?

This chapter has vaguely Bush-sympathizing themes. “No one hated violence more than Carlisle,” Bella says (Not MLK? Gandhi?), but Carlisle's peace-loving, pie-in-the-sky ways are actually to his detriment. He's pained and indecisive here, while Jasper is the fucking DECIDER. And Mr. Whitlock has effectively seized control of the Cullen family in the space of one chapter. I imagine Alice getting this little Lady Macbeth twinkle in her eyes about now.

Carlisle tells Jasper he's going to have to train everyone; Jasper says they need to call in re-enforcements. Dr. Cullen tentatively suggests Tanya's gang – the oft-mentioned but never-present family from Denali (my dad had a friend who always made reference to his wife but never brought her around; we all started to suspect she was fictional until he did finally bring her around. Turns out she was just hot and he was trying to keep that locked down) – and Jasper immediately puts a phone in Carlisle's hand, telling him he has to ask NOW. Booyah! Go Jasper! Damn, this shit works. He might as well be standing on top of a pile of rubble with a megaphone right now. Rock, flag and eagle!

Let's just hope the rest of this plot doesn't mirror George Bush's presidency: in two weeks Jasper will bring everyone's attention to another army of vampires a few states away, and the Cullens will be like “what do these vampires have to do with anything?” And Jasper will be like “I have intelligence that these vampires pose an even greater threat to us, and were probably involved with the vampire army in Seattle anyway.” And everyone will go along with it for a while and the Cullens will find themselves spreading their resources too thin, trying to manage two different vampire wars at once. And they'll bomb the living shit out of Seattle and Moab or wherever, killing literally thousands of innocents, and after a few years they will not even be able to remember why they invaded Moab in the first place, because the anger they all felt when they discovered Jasper had been lying about his “intelligence” and supposed “Weapons of Vampire Destruction” will have long sense dissipated too – in some ways the time will have flown by, and in others their protracted double-war will seem infinite, like it never began and will never end. And it will be and have been too easy to give in to that inertia. When Alice and Jasper withdraw from power and go essentially into hiding, leaving Jacob and the wolf-pack in charge, everyone will feel a brief moment of hope that the wars will finally end, only to succumb to that fucking inertia again before long. Eventually it will get exhausting to watch the body count rise in the paper, so everyone will stop reading the paper until the paper goes back to reporting about whatever vampire celebrity just got busted by the Volturi. So when almost two years later Jacob Black announces that combat troops are finally being withdrawn from Moab, everyone will breath a sigh of relief and feel a surge of guilt that they hadn't been thinking about it much lately. And then people will keep dying in Moab anyway, nothing having been learned or gained.

I seriously doubt that will happen, though.

Anyway, the Cullens get refused by Tanya's clan, because as you may recall, the late Laurent spent some time up there before he met his end via the wolf-pack. Tanya has a sister named Irina, and it turns out Laurent was hitting that shit. In a perfect world, Laurent would be played by JB Smoove. In a perfect world, JB Smoove would play everyone.

“God damn Laurent and his wandering dick!” Edward exclaimed.

What's weird is that Edward seems to glean this information from Carlisle's thoughts and share it with the rest of his family – you'd think their vampire-hearing would allow them to catch both sides of the conversation, but whatever. Jasper doesn't like having to face an even fight. “We'd have the upper hand in skill, but not in numbers,” he says. Bella realizes this war could have casualties, and she looks at the faces of her “family” wondering who might die. Probably Rosalie, right? It'll be Rosalie.

Chapter 14: Declaration

A day or so later, Bella is sitting with Alice and Edward in the cafeteria, and Alice is maintaining that the party must go on – approaching vampire army or not.

“Say whatever you like about me,” Alice answered. “The party is still on.”
“You have pretty eyes!” I shouted. “You said to say whatever I like about you.”

Alice likes to party – life imitates art for Ashley Greene. But Bella says a party is “hardly appropriate.” This conversation could literally be taking place between Greene and Kristen Stewart, really. “Graduation is what's going on right now, and a party is so appropriate it's almost passe,” Alice says. Alice perfected her teen girl impersonation in the 90s and she hasn't revised it since.

Bella pries some specifics out of Edward and Alice: Carlisle is tracking down some old friends, doing some recruiting. Jasper is doing the same, seeking out Peter and his wife Charlotte. Redshirts, in other words. Jasper is even considering getting in touch with Maria, so great is the need for extraneous characters for S. Meyer to kill off.

Alice shuddered delicately.

Ordinarily I'd object to such a bizarre turn-of-phrase, but with Alice it works. I can imagine what that would look like. I'd say Emmett and Alice are S. Meyer's greatest successes, character-wise. Their internal universes are coherent – even though neither of them has much in the way of a back-story. Huh. What does that say about S. Meyer's writing?

The plan is to launch Operation Enduring Vampires in one week, and Bella suggests she be vamped now in order to help. Edward almost has an aneurism, but Alice very calmly tells Bella that as a newborn she wouldn't have the self-control necessary to be of any use. Bella realizes Alice is right and drops it immediately. Was that so hard, Edward? You don't have to lose your shit every time this comes up! He whispers “Not because you're afraid” in Bella's ear like he's trying to take credit for Alice's little moment, the fuckward. Maybe Edward, like the rest of us, is realizing his sister is a better match for Bella anyway.

“Oh,” Alice said, and a blank look crossed her face. Then her expression because surly. “I hate last minute cancellations.”

She sees the future, folks! Renee cannot attend the graduation party, and Bella, who did not even know her mother had been invited, is relieved. What? You don't want to see your mother, Bella!? Ungrateful bagascia! I don't think Bella deserves Alice. I mean, Jasper might be a racist with a totalitarian streak, but he would never disrespect his mother like that.

By the way, it's Bella Swan's birthday today. I mean, it obviously isn't really, because she is not a real person, but people are celebrating it anyway. So that's happening.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 17: The Union Forever

Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 12 (cont'd): Time

Edward shows up and Bella tells him about the article she just read – he makes it sound like the Cullens have been monitoring the situation closely (finally!) but the fact that the police are considering a serial killer is news to him. So, not that closely. He explains that Alice can't seem to see anything; she's afraid she's losing her power. Edward thinks it's more like they are trapped in a feedback loop: “We keep waiting for Alice to see something so we can go...and she doesn't see anything because we won't really go until she does.” That's a kind of clever conceit. I know people complain about the inconsistency with Alice's power, but it's essentially the same situation as Inception – the exceptions to the rules drive the plot action in interesting enough ways that S. Meyer and C. Nolan can get away with it. (Similarly: people complain about the exposition-heavy lines Ariadne has to issue throughout Inception, and out of context some of her them do seem ridiculous, but the end justifies the means. Inception is an incredibly complicated movie that is incredibly easy to understand. That's a tough thing to pull off.)

Edward suggests they skip school today – he wants to talk to Jasper. Bella re-introduces Alice's man in narration, noting that she'd always assumed he was “on the fringe” of the family because the only thing keeping him there was Alice. “He would follow Alice anywhere,” Bella says, but the Cullen's lifestyle does not seem to be his "first choice." When exactly Alice and Jasper came to the Cullen family is unclear – that's a back-story I'd like to read: Alice and Jasper as roving killers in the 50s and 60s! Badass! Bella realizes she knows very little about Jasper, and that Edward has been reluctant to say anything in the past. “I'd always been too intimidated by the tall, blonde vampire who looked like a brooding movie star to ask him outright.” That's a sentence for the S. Meyer Clunky Description Hall of Fame (opening 2016 in Forks, WA) right there.

They get to the Cullen manse where the family is again in various stress poses. When I write it that way it sounds like an interrogation technique out of the Army Field Manual. Carlisle, Esme, and Jasper are watching TV with the volume turned so low Bella can't hear it; Alice is sitting at the bottom of the stairs with her face in her hands. That's why the TV volume is down: Alice is hungover.

“Did you see that they're considering a serial killer now?” [Edward] asked.
Carlisle sighed. “They've had two specialists debating that possibility on CNN all morning.”
“Can you two keep it THE FUCK down please?” Alice groaned.

They're watching CNN instead of reading the paper? Well, there's your problem. Edward doesn't want to let it go on any longer; Emmett agrees. As Carlisle tries to argue with them (so he's the difficult one) Edward turns to Jasper and says “I didn't think of that. I see. You're right, that has to be it. Well, that changes everything.” Get it? Because he reads thoughts? Everyone turns to Jasper, but he indicates that he needs to tell a lengthy story before he can say whatever it was he was thinking. Emmett sighs and walks away, the rest of us think about doing the same thing. Except Alice - walking would take like, way too much fucking effort right now.

“How much do you know about me, Bella?” Jasper asked.
“Can we dim these fucking lights?” Alice moaned.

Jasper pulls up the sleeve of his “ivory sweater” and Bella eventually sees a bite scar much like the one on her hand. As he pushes the sleeve back, Bella sees that his arm is covered in scars. (“Where are all of Edward's vampire scars? Oh, that's right he doesn't have any because you're dating a PUSSY.”-Alice Cullen)

Chapter 13: Newborn

Bella stares in awe at Jasper's “subtly ravaged skin.” (Just how I like my women: subtly ravaged.) “You should see his dick,” Alice says.

“I didn't have quite the same...upbringing as my adopted siblings here. My beginning was something else entirely.” [Jasper's] voice turned hard as he finished.

I'm trying to sort out that “hard” and “finished” into a TWSS, but I just can't make it happen. Jasper says there are much more violent parts of the vampire world, that some vampire sects wage war for territory. Jasper has a bad habit of employing multiple paragraphs to explain very simple concepts.

“You see, there are places in this world that are more desirable to us than others. Places where we can be less restrained, and still avoid detection.
“Picture, for instance, a map of the western hemisphere. Picture on it every human life as a small red dot. The thicker the red, the more easily we – well, those who exist this way – can feed without attracting notice.”

Uh-huh. One would think that New York City would be a sectarian-vampire-violence hotbed, but apparently these vampires prefer Central America. Mostly because it makes S. Meyer's weird civil war parallel work better (not that it works very well). It's “constant war” in the South, Jasper says.

“But what are they fighting for?” I asked.
Jasper smiled “Remember the map with the red dots?”

The one from 50 words ago? Yes, we remember the fucking map with the fucking red dots. “They fight for control of the thickest red,” Jasper says. I can't believe it took two pages to explain that. And we've got 19 more pages to back-story to go!

There was a vampire named Benito who basically took over all of Mexico and Texas in a few weeks. He has a Mexican name so we can remember he is the Mexican vampire. It's nice how S. Meyer is thinking about us with these names (at least it's not "El Draculo"). Benito and his Chinese side-kick Ping Pong were so powerful because they'd created an army of newborn vampires. Newborns are very strong, but so volatile that Benito had to keep making new soldiers because of all the friendly-fire deaths. So it was Vietnam, basically. Other vampire generals followed Benito's lead. “All hell broke loose,” Jasper says. “And I mean that more literally than you can possibly imagine.” But still not literally, right? Because I feel like we can literally imagine hell breaking loose, Jasper. Hole in the earth, demons running amok – what do you think is wrong with our imaginations, dude? Eventually the Volturi showed up, killed Benito and Ping Pong, and then spent the better part of a year killing all the vampires in the South. When armies started to rise again, recruiters were more cautious.

“That's how you were changed.” My realization was a whisper.

Jasper confirms it. “When I was human, I lived in Houston, Texas. I was almost seventeen years old when I joined the Confederate Army in 1861.” HOLD UP. Dude is a Confederate? Alice, I thought you had better standards than that (“I've been with a lot of black men to compensate”-Alice Cullen). Jasper rose quickly through the ranks, in part because of his “charisma.” Still, I'm not sure if you want to brag about helping to lead the team that LOST. “I was one of the best at losing the Civil War.”

One night Jasper was tasked with “evacuating the women and children” (If Gus Haynes were here and a real person he'd point out that you evacuate cities, not people. Women and children evacuating has an entirely different meaning, one that probably would not have been Jasper's responsibility) from his city, and on the way out of Galveston he met “the three most beautiful women” he'd ever seen. (“Ahem”-Alice Cullen) In the movie version I hope this scene is scored with “Corrina, Corrina.”

The women turn out to be recruiters, basically, and they size up Jasper. By now this story has devolved into normal narration with an extra set of quotation marks.

“'Oh, yes,' Nettie quickly agreed, leaning toward me again.”

Quite the raconteur, that Jasper. Two of the vampires leave – they are too tempted to eat Jasper to be sure they can convert him – and he introduces himself to the remaining (lead) vampire, Maria. Jasper's last name is Whitlock, by the way! Why does he go by Hale now? “Whitlock” is infinitely more dusty and grizzled. The only name more dusty and grizzled than “Jasper Whitlock” is “Clint Eastwood,” and that one is already taken. Jasper gets vamped and joins up with Maria's army. Bella senses that he is editing out the pain of transformation as well as other key details for her sake.

“She taught us to fight, and she taught us to be invisible to the humans. When we did well, we were rewarded...”
He paused, editing again.

So Maria was handing out BJs like they were going out of style, eh Jasper? “He was a soldier,” Alice shrugs. Jasper was the best soldier, and it's implied that he iced a lot of motherfuckers. “I was rewarded often,” he says (“Ahem”-Alice Cullen). Jasper's ability to control emotional climates was helpful with the newborns, and he eventually became Maria's partner-in-crime. “In some ways, I worshiped the ground she walked on,” he says. I conceive of “worshiping the ground someone walks on” as a binary condition. You either do or you don't. How do you worship someone “in some ways”? Jasper was a lapsed Catholic for her love.

Eventually (and I mean EVENTUALLY, Jasper says this takes place after decades, that is a lot of MURDERING) Jasper got tired of being a ruthless killer, and struck up a friendship with a newborn named Peter who went AWOL from Maria's army and came back years later (this story takes place across such a long fucking time-line, how long ago does S. Meyer think the Civil War was?) to tell Jasper about the civilized North, where he could be free. Peter put Jasper in touch with the vampire Harriet Tubman and he walked out on Maria “without a backward glance.” Well, that was easy. The vampire Abe Lincoln didn't have to issue any Vampire Emancipation Proclamations or anything!

He tells Bella that his emotion-manipulating power is a two-way street, that he'd been influenced by the hatred and violence that surrounded him for years. He had difficulty adjusting to life in the North (what passes for North is unclear – in a minute we'll hear about Alice, who theoretically would have been kicking around Red States at the time – it might be that the entire United States & Canada is the civilized “North” and the South is everywhere where people speak Spanish, which kind of makes me uncomfortable) where vampires coexisted peacefully. His ability to feel his victims' emotions intensified his guilty conscience. Mired in depression and sick from starving himself, he wandered into a diner only to be approached by Alice.

“It shocked me. I was not sure if she meant to attack... but she was smiling. And the emotions that were emanating from her were like nothing I'd ever felt before.”

Pure animal lust. But seriously, this story is kind of sweet. The punctuation can be hard to follow out of context, but Alice and Jasper quote each other:

“'You've kept me waiting a long time,' she said.” [Jasper said]
I didn't realize Alice had come to stand beside me again.
“And you ducked your head, like a good Southern gentleman, and said 'I'm sorry, ma'am.'” Alice laughed at the memory.


Jasper smiled down at her. “You held out your hand, and I took it without stopping to make sense of what I was doing. For the first time in almost a century, I felt hope.”

Edward and Bella are so fucking lame! They don't have shit on this! I'm flashing forward a hundred years to when vampire Bella and Edward are recounting their “how we met” tale to some other new vampire: “Uh, we went to the same high school, and I really wanted to kill her at first and eat her, but I didn't, and then we had a protracted, years-long fight about her mortality and virginity.” And that new vampire will be like, “shit.” And he or she will look around the room for some other vampire couple to re-inflate his or her confidence about this new life, please, someone tell me it gets better than this! But Alice and Jasper won't be there to help, because they will be too busy fucking.

Monday, September 6, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE pt. 16: I Will Bury You In Time

Previous entries can be found in the directory (updated 9/6).

Chapter 12: Time

Bella, Edward and Alice walk to the parking lot after school, and Alice tries to very gently inform Bella that the Cullens are throwing her a graduation party. “You're such a bitch I figured I'd tread lightly,” Alice laughs, her voice all silver and wind-chimey and shit. Alice wrings a lot of jokes out of her fortune-telling abilities; the Cullens are probably sick of her Tight Five but Bella's a fresh audience.

“By the way, I love my gift. You shouldn't have.”
“Alice, I didn't!”
“Oh, I know that. But you will.”

Ha ha ha. Tip your waitresses! (“So how you doin'? Where are ya from?”-Alice Cullen) Bella complains about getting such advance notice – now she'll have to dread the party for a few weeks. At which point Alice slaps her upside the head and says “You so crazy, Bella!” Graduation is in “exactly one week.”

Exactly one week!? Graduation isn't on the weekend? Also, how would Bella not know this? Doesn't she have any final assignments? A term paper? No, of course not. Forks High is the worst fucking school in America. They need this guy to save a few of the trouble kids with promise:

Mike Newton is basically Forks High's Namond Brice. But who will save him?

So okay, it's good that we're not going to drag this graduation thing out for too long. I admire the current trend of TV shows resisting the urge to make themselves into self-perpetuating mechanisms where the end of every episode is a reset button and nothing ever changes from season to season. I just finished Dexter season 4 (no spoilers) and it ends with a serious game-changing twist. Weeds has made a habit of doing that every year – ending each season with “where the hell could they go from here?” and then actually making good on that promise, radically altering the tone and content of the show from year to year. That impulse has even trickled down to network shows. I haven't caught up with The Office, but how awful would it be if Jim and Pam still hadn't gotten together? If The Office had come out in 1996 that would probably have been the case. It never happened for Tim Taylor and Wilson on Home Improvement after all of those years of “Will they or won't they?”

Bella's head spins – she's put off worrying about how to separate herself from her parents and her human life for so long that she doesn't have time to worry about it anymore, she just has to DO IT. She zones out with worry in the car while Alice jabbers away, but once they drop her (Alice) at home, Edward asks what's going on. It's generally implied that as Bella's “best friend” Alice is just as good at reading her as Edward, which makes her behavior in the car seem strange and insensitive. I'm interpreting it to mean that Alice is taking a day to not give a fuck about Bella's problems. (“Honestly, this whole family can be such a buzzkill, dude. Sometimes Jazz and I need to just lock the door, put on some some Grateful Dead bootlegs, smoke a few bowls and just shut out all those vibes.”-Alice Cullen) Bella tells Edward how she feels, and he immediately offers to delay the transformation. Bella (obviously) doesn't think that's a good idea. She enumerates the threats on her life: “Victoria, Jane, Caius, whoever was in my room, Venom, Sandman, Harry...”

Edward tells her that's all the more reason not to do it. How counter-intuitive! Does Edward write for Slate now? He says he wants her to have a choice. “We've all struggled, trying to reconcile ourselves with something we we had no control over,” he says. Isn't it easier to regret something you do have control over? If becoming immortal is such an agonizing decision (it isn't, but you know) wouldn't it be better if you felt like you had no choice? What is there to regret then? What is Edward struggling over? “I kind of wish I'd died of the flu at age seventeen.” He would wish that, wouldn't he? Bella will always have to take a backseat to Jesus. (“No regrets. God is dead.”-Alice's lower-back tattoo translated from Japanese)

Bella moves on – she can't remember what she'd been planning to buy Alice as a graduation gift. (So that wasn't just a joke?) S. Meyer continues to deftly avoid mentioning band names. Just kidding, she's deft like a virgin at an orgy.

“It looked like you were getting us both concert tickets -”
“That's right!” I was so relieved, I almost smiled. “The concert in Tacoma. I saw an ad in the paper last week, and I thought it would be something you'd like, since you said it was a good CD.”

I can only imagine what awful noise Edward and Bella are going to drag Alice to.

“Linkin Park and Nickelback with special guest Fred Durst? Oh, you shouldn't have. I mean, really. YOU LITERALLY SHOULDN'T HAVE.”-Alice Cullen

I can't wait for the concert scene. “The band played the title track from their album that we liked and I concentrated on the pulsing lightshow while they transitioned to another song that the audience reacted to because it was the single which played all the time on our favorite radio station.” It's going to be epic.

One of the most irritating things about New Moon was the way so many plot developments were driven by misunderstanding. One has to wonder why, or if, Bella and Edward are right together since they never seem to be on the same page. More misunderstandings come to the surface and are cleared up here, but there's always more! The rift between these two is like something out of a Roland Emmerich movie. There's what's (maybe) supposed to be a big reveal when Bella asks Edward why he's so reluctant to vamp her. She thinks he's afraid he won't like her after-the-fang (ex post fango?) but he confesses that rather he wants her to be a vampire SO BAD, it feels too “selfish.” Are you kidding me? Religion is the worst thing ever. “This feels good, so it must be bad.” Bella is nonetheless touched.

If he really wanted me, I could get through the rest...somehow. Selfish suddenly seemed like a beautiful word.

Bella's self-worth is too indexed to Edward's desires. And don't tell me Bella's going to get all Ayn Rand-y on us now. Maybe that would be good for her, actually.

Edward asks Bella why she doesn't want to marry him. This again? Haven't we been over why no one's motivation makes any sense whatsoever? Edward and Bella need to read this blog. They are both going to be immortal vampires living largely off the grid – you can't tell me that any of the Cullens are carrying around legit forms of ID. A marriage certificate is just begging for a joint investigation from the IRS and INS. And we all know what happens when multiple federal agencies get together. David Koresh knows what I'm talking about.

But that doesn't make Bella's reasoning any less petty and retarded:

“I'm not that girl, Edward. The one who gets married right out of high school like some small-town hick who got knocked up by her boyfriend. Do you know what people would think?”

Bella, you are LITERALLY getting super powers. If Mike Newton's mom looks at you sideways, you can come back to her store when she's closing up alone and mail one of her body parts to each continent!

Edward counters that he always was “that boy” and he tells a Froggie Went A-Courtin'-style tale of how he would have “endeavored to secure [her] hand” if he'd met her back in his day, and it gets Bella so hot she actually has a little historical fantasy.

I saw myself in a long skirt and a high-necked lace blouse with my hair piled up on my head. I saw Edward looking dashing in a light suit with a bouquet or wildflowers in his hand, sitting beside me on a porch swing.

Shudder. Why is Edward holding flowers in this fantasy? Are they getting married while sitting on the porch swing? Bella snaps out of it and uses a line of reasoning I've tried before – if the Cullens are supposed to keep up with the times, shouldn't Edward drop it with the old-timey values? (Also, he ceased being human in 1918. Gatsby was written 7 years later. S. Meyer's grasp of the moral values of early 20th century America could use some tuning up. Does she think we all used oil lamps until WWII?) Edward is relieved that Bella isn't “more eager for immortality than just [him]” - I'm beginning to think insecurity is the only thing these two have in common. But he points out that Bella's current modern values are fleeting. “So why should the transitory customs of one local culture affect the decision so much?” EXACTLY, YOU MR. DARCY WANNABE MOTHERFUCKER. Marriage itself is a transitory custom! Fucking romantic love is a transitory custom!

A day or two later Bella picks up a newspaper. GASP. But don't worry, she doesn't suddenly give a fuck about Haiti, she's just looking for the ad for that Hoobastank/3 Doors Down concert. But her eye is caught by the headline (“Seattle Terrorized By Slayings”) of the most badly written fake newspaper article in the history of literature. Has S. Meyer ever read a newspaper? I mean, let's start with basic inverted-pyramid journalism 101.

I apologize in advance for anyone who is bored to death by the next section.
You will be missed, and I will pay for memorial services.

Your first sentence should get as much of the who/what/when as possible. At the very least that stuff should be in your first paragraph. SO:

It's been less than a decade since the city of Seattle was the hunting ground for the most prolific serial killer in U.S. History. Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, was convicted of the murders of 48 women.

OK. Is this a story about Gary Ridgway? It isn't? Well then what the fuck are we doing? We're going to start with the history lesson to prove you did some research? We need THIS GUY:

That's multiple Wire references in a single post. I think it's my brain's defense mechanism – start thinking about things that are particularly well written when I'm confronted with something particularly shitty. This “article” doesn't even get to the objective facts of the current case until the third paragraph. We learn that there have been at least 39 homicides so far. There's also an allusion to gang activity. But then we quickly devolve again into what reads like the Wikipedia page for “serial killers.”

From Jack the Ripper to Ted Bundy, the targets of serial killers are usually connected by similarities in age, gender, race, or a combination of the three.

I kept expecting to read “Webster's dictionary defines 'homicide' as...” The killings in Seattle, it is noted, seem to be completely random. And then S. Meyer seems to forget she was even trying to write a fake article, unless the by-line credits this article to “Bella's Swan's subconscious.” The resemblance is uncanny, otherwise.

The selection appears to be random. The motive seems to be killing for no other reason than to kill.
So why even consider the idea of a serial killer?

That last sentence is its own paragraph! What? Henry Mencken just rolled in his grave so hard he's technically buried in China now. Finally we get to some more information about the case – a real editor would slash the first eight paragraphs of this article, not that S. Meyer has a lot of experience with real editors – and our author tries to sneak a few too many details in. I know that a fake article is a great way to get some exposition out of the way fast, but we musn't be greedy. How would a reporter (and clearly a shitty one) know, for instance, that the crime scenes are “perfectly clean of evidence”? Why would the police release that kind of information? Later, a description of the ways victims have disappeared gets far too ridiculous:

30-year-old amateur boxer Robert Walsh entered a movie theater with a date; a few minutes into the movie the woman realized that he was not in his seat. His body was found only three hours later when firefighters were called to the scene of a burning trash Dumpster, twenty miles away.

So David Blaine is doing this, then? Is that the twist? Here's the kicker:

Only one conclusion is indisputable: something hideous is stalking Seattle.

That's right: the Pulitzer prize committee! “It took me three tries to read the last sentence,” Bella says. “Because it was the dumbest writing ever.”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 15: Werewolf Bar Mitzvah

Chapter 10 (cont'd): Scent

At Bella's house, our heroes lament their sorry lot.

“What a mess,” I mumbled.

That's what she said! Bella, I mean.

“It does feel that way, doesn't it? Like it's coming at us from all sides these days.” He sighed.

SHOW DON'T TELL, S. Meyer. Edward asks if Bella has anything she'd like to ask – he's alluding to the party at La Push. Bella says she figured he had enough to worry about as it is. “You don't have to ask my permission, Bella,” Edward says. She doesn't?

“Bella,” Edward said. “I told you that I was going to be reasonable and trust your judgment. I meant that. If you trust the werewolves, then I'm not going to worry about them.”
“Wow,” I said, as I had last night.

THAT'S ALSO WHAT SHE SAID. Bella says she wants to bring her motorcycle back to La Push for the next few weeks, as in her last few weeks of being human, after which she will insist that Jacob sell it and make some money. Edward seems disappointed, which Bella assumes is his inner father-spirit disapproving of motorcycles. That was the OLD Edward, Bella, get with the times! At the Cullen garage, she learns the truth – Edward has gone and got himself his own bike so they could ride together. Bella's powers of description totally abandon her looking at what we can only assume is either Edward's bike or an Anish Kapoor sculpture. Try to visualize this:

It was big and sleek and silver and – even totally motionless – it looked fast.


But Edward realizes the bikes are Bella's thing with Jacob, and immediately backs off. He says he'll give the bike to Jasper. “Perhaps it's time he discovered a new way to travel,” Edward says. “After all, Alice has her Porsche now.” Yeah, because those two need yet another thing that makes them cooler than Edward and Bella.

“More sexual chemistry”- The Atlantic

Edward brings out a few things he bought Bella – a helmet for her motorcycle, and “one object that was black and shapeless.” (There's probably another Anish Kapoor sculpture for this.) It turns out to be a riding jacket, but it takes Bella a RIDICULOUS amount of time to figure it out. (What is wrong with her brain? The head protection might be too little, too late Edward.) She puts on the helmet and jacket for him – this is the least sexy fashion show ever, you're supposed to do it with lingerie Edward – and she says she feels “bulky.”

He seemed to be struggling for the right word. “You”

Edward totally gets off on safety precautions. Someday when their marriage starts to lose the spark he's going to get Bella to dress up in a flight attendant uniform and show him what to do in the event of a crash. Creepy, but true.

And then he pulled the helmet off so that he could kiss me.

That's like a stupid, awkward, nightmare version of the last sentence from Twilight, “And he leaned down to press his cold lips once more to my throat.” That one I liked. This I hate.

Edward drives Bella to the La Push border to hand her off to Jacob, which Bella likens to custody trade-offs when she was a kid. Sure, this is like, the most perfect divorce parallel ever. Assuming your mom is a vampire and your dad is a werewolf and their divorce resulted in the drawing up of a highly specific treaty that necessitated hand-offs of children across what is essentially a real DMZ, of course.

Edward and Jacob have a little pissing contest where Edward kisses Bella goodbye really hard and then when she gets to Jacob he hugs her really hard and then she goes back to Edward who goes down on her for a long time and then she goes back to Jacob who totally bangs her senseless and then she goes back to Edward who has constructed a sex-contraption like George Clooney in Burn After Reading and... well, okay, some of that happens.

Chapter 11: Legends

SPOILER ALERT: This chapter is incredibly fucking boring. Bella attends the werewolf bonfire where Billy Black tells the longest, most pointless story anyone has ever told. Last weekend I had dinner with my wife's family and her step-grandfather recapped for us the plot of the movie Shooter starring Mark Whalberg, seemingly in real time and without the help of any proper nouns whatsoever (including the title; Shooter was everyone's best guess). It was more entertaining than this.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Around the bonfire, Bella takes in the wolfy milieu. Jacob and Paul have each consumed ten or so hot dogs and are jokingly fighting over the last. Jacob is dipping said hot dog into the flames with a bent wire hanger, which is too richly symbolic an image to delve into here. And they're not even really joking; when Jacob refuses to give Paul the damn hot dog the guy's hands ball up into fists! But whatever, hair-trigger tempers are the least of the pack's worries these days. Speaking of which, Quil greets Bella with a kiss on the cheek, a gesture she returns with three bullets in his chest. Just kidding, I can only wish.

The remainder of the Clearwater family is present for what turns out to be a tribal council meeting and new werewolf induction ceremony. Bella realizes that Sue Clearwater must have taken her husband's place on the board of directors. “Did that make her children automatic members of La Push's most secret society?” Bella wonders. Are there other, less secret secret societies around the Rez? Also, how many people are on this damn reservation? How secret can the werewolf thing be? They are meeting on top of a cliff with a huge bonfire!

Bella is in top form tonight. First she stares at Leah Clearwater, searching for some hint of the rage she must feel with Sam and Emily present. Failing that, she turns her withering glare on Jared's imprint victim Kim, who she immediately deems ugly.

She had a wide face, mostly cheekbones, with eyes too small to balance them out.

Hey, fuck you Bella. But then she watches the way Jared watches Kim. And it is definitely the way guys look at girls. Just kidding, it isn't that at all.

It was like a blind man seeing the sun for the first time. Like a collector finding an undiscovered Da Vinci, like a mother looking into the face of her newborn child.

UM, MAYBE WE WANT TO RECONSIDER THAT LAST COMPARISON? Maybe we want to reconsider imprinting in general? Maybe we want to reconsider this whole book? I don't buy this love for a minute. If S. Meyer had said “it was like a 15-year-old seeing tits for the first time,” then I would have understood. But it doesn't stop Bella from basically falling in love with Kim.

Her skin looked like russet-colored silk in the firelight...the shape of her lips was a perfect double curve...

First of all: moratorium on “russet-colored.” S. Meyer feels like she has to qualify everything about Native Americans with the fact that they have dark skin. (“Jacob walked russet-coloredly toward me, a russet-colored smile crossing his russet-colored face.”) WE KNOW, THEY ARE ETHNIC. (“And this part is really important: this character is a non-white.”-S. Meyer)

Jacob says it's time for the stories; Quil and a few other recent wolf-converts have heard them before, but never knew they were true until now. So okay, they tell these stories at every meeting. Oral tradition is important after all (“Very important. Wait, what are you talking about?”-Alice Cullen). Why does Emily whip out a notebook and start writing everything down, though? Can't you just use the minutes from the last meeting?

Bella is surprised by the majestic Native-American qualities of Billy Black's russet-colored voice. Were it that his story was as interesting. I'll summarize:

Blah blah blah Quileutes blah blah small race blah blah lots of enemies good land blah blah one day the Quileutes learned to make their souls leave their bodies. Then one day one guy left his body and another took it and he was a bad guy. Blah blah the good guy's soul joined up with a wolf and defeated the bad body-stealer and then from then on they were wolves.

I could go on, or we could all listen to this adorable French girl tell a fairy-tale. I think the choice is obvious.

After Billy Black finally shuts up it becomes clear that the story was only one performance on the setlist. Quil Ateara's grandfather speaks next.

“That was the story of the spirit warriors,” Old Quil began in a thin tenor voice. “This song is called 'Sunday, Bloody Sunday.'”

This is the vampire story (finally) and it basically recounts the history of werewolf run-ins with vampires leading up to the Cullens' time. Once there was a particularly bad vampire attack, and the main character from Billy Black's story, Taha Aki, almost got killed. But his wife saved him by stabbing herself in the heart, which distracted the vampire long enough for Taha Aki to gain the upper hand. This story profoundly affects Bella. So much so that she falls asleep pretty much immediately; this girl is seriously sleep deprived, and she's not even getting laid! But before that happens, she thinks about the wife “with no special gifts or powers” who saved everyone – by killing herself! leave it to Bella to see heroics in the most passive-aggressive act possible – and laments that Quileute oral tradition is so lacking in specifics.

I wish they'd remembered her name...
Something shook my arm.

Gloria Steinem. Just kidding, it's only Jacob. She's suddenly in his car – some time has passed – and she briefly panics because she hasn't called Edward yet. But Jacob did it for her. Awwwww. Hey, wait – what is wrong with this story (and Jacob) that such a tiny gesture feels like a monumental act of kindness? Jacob brings Bella to the DMZ where Edward is waiting, pacing back and forth in front of his car. Cool your jets, buddy!

It's been a while since I've been very nitpick-y with S. Meyer's prose. For one thing, I feel like I've covered that, but there's also a great new tumblr-blog that has been picking S. Meyer apart with microscopic precision for the last two weeks or so. It's called “Reasoning With Vampires,” and if you're fuming about comma splices or split infinitives I recommend it wholeheartedly. Though at the rate they seem to be going they won't get to Eclipse for another 20 or 30 years.

I will take a minute to say, however, that S. Meyer's treatment of Native-American “dialect” is kind of vaguely insulting, since it essentially amounts to making them sound like the above French girl. I get that phrases like “And then the greatest magic happened” feel intuitively authentic, and maybe they would be – if Twilight was set on the American frontier in 1816. But it isn't. Native Americans sound like the rest of us, S. Meyer. But maybe in the hands of a less oblivious-seeming writer this wouldn't feel as offensive. And maybe we should count our blessings Billy Black doesn't fucking talk like The Hulk.

“Taha Aki no like Cold Man. Wolf smash face!”

Edward takes Bella home and puts her to bed; she has a Tony Soprano-esque dream in which Rosalie is an evil vampire attacking a wolf she “instinctively” recognizes as Billy Black. S. Meyer doesn't come right out and say the wolf is in a wheelchair, but how else would Bella be able to figure it out? Bella finds her dream-self dream-running toward the dream-conflict (I was holding out hope that Edward would tip the bed while she was sleeping, throwing off the dream-gravity, but no dice), wielding a knife and ready to kill herself, Quileute wife-style. Well, we certainly didn't wait too long to draw that comparison!

This chapter is full of transparent symbolism, actually. The next morning Bella wakes up and sees that Edward has been reading Wuthering Heights, this book's supposed inspiration, while she slept. I'm glad he's finally doing something constructive. Listening to Bella talk in her sleep had to get old sooner or later – it's bad enough when she's AWAKE. Imagine having a window into Bella's raw subconscious. On second thought, don't.

She quotes a long passage from the page Edward was on – Heathcliff is talking about another man whose heart he would very much like to rip out and whose blood he would very much like to drink. I haven't read Wuthering Heights in a while, but I'm pretty sure Heathcliff isn't actually a vampire, right? But his figure of speech is lost on Bella; she sees the scenario as very similar to her own. And we know that because she basically says “it was a lot like my situation.” Well, there is no better way to articulate the parallels between two works than to have a character just say those parallels out loud. Except for, you know, all of the other ways. And then, it was well deserved for the lion.

Previous entries can be found in the directory.