Friday, October 29, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 29: Gimme Shelter

Through a series of unfortunately stupid events, Jacob, Edward, and Bella are now stuck in a tent on some godforsaken rock in a storm. So here we are, then. No joke, this chapter is kind of a blast. It's also the closest S. Meyer will ever get to a No Exit homage: Hell is other werewolves. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 22: Fire and Ice

So we're on the mountain, in the tent, and the storm is getting worse and worse. Bella's shivering in her sleeping bag, Edward's watching helplessly from the corner. He's so cold, see? He can't warm her up, he'd only make it worse. It's a pretty clever conceit until you think about how utterly contrived the circumstances were that got us here: A freak snowstorm (in June!) and an incredibly ill advised and poorly justified camping trip. But oh well! (I knew this chapter was coming so I've already cleared the suspension-of-disbelief hurdles necessary for it. If you haven't yet, you need to A. forget any inclinations toward rape Jacob might have once had, B. ignore the nonsensical plot contrivances as best you can, and C. try to actually care about whether or not Bella freezes to death. Okay? Okay!) Meanwhile, warm ol' Jacob-wolf is outside, enduring the elements. You can start to see where this is going, which is why you are smiling. Jacob has always argued that he is better for Bella than Edward, and no matter how wrong he and Charlie have been about that in the past, they are emphatically correct at the moment. And I mean that more literally than you can imagine, as Jasper would say.

(There's a weird extraneous moment where Bella wonders about why Jacob's wolf-fur is so shaggy. Later on in the chapter she asks him about it, and he explains that it's because his human hair is so long. Huh. Well, I'm glad that was a part of this chapter's arc structure. As Chekov once said, if someone asks about someone's hair in the first act, someone should talk about the hair again later.)

In the tent, Bella's teeth are chattering so hard she can barely talk, and Edward seems to be losing his mind with stress. Bella has rejected Edward's suggestion that they make a run for it because she doesn't want to lose the work they did on the trail. Mind you, Edward has assured Bella that the wind and snow will not ruin the trail in the first place. Well, that's lucky (“Newborns have a very particular sense of smell. They will latch on to your scent, and ignore the parallel scent trail of a vampire twenty yards away. Also, comically Biblical storms will do nothing to screw up the trail you left using strands of your hair and the oil from your fingertips. We're really lucked out in that every idiosyncrasy in the behavior of newborns is playing out in our favor.”-Edward)!

Outside, Jacob-wolf is LITERALLY howling in protest to everything Bella and Edward say. Edward tells Jacob to “go fetch a space heater,” and Jacob can't resist the urge to trade tepid, schoolboys-on-TV-shows-in-the-fifties style insults with Edward, so he changes into human form and enters the tent. Bella notes that he's only wearing the “bare essentials – just a pair of sweats, no shirt, no shoes.” And no boxers, ladiezzzz! Jacob spreads his arms and brags about his high body temperature. “You said she needed a space heater, and here I am.” Hey, Edward's foot: meet Edward's mouth! Jacob starts to unzip Bella's sleeping bag. Such a rich image, right there. Edward protests, physically holding Jacob back for a moment; things are tense. GET IT? TENTS! Bella tries to protest but she's too cold, and that kind of takes the force out of Edward's opposition, or the pitch out of his tent, or whatever. There's not really enough room for Jacob but he forces himself in (you are all welcome) and Bella says “then I couldn't object.” It just feels too good with him inside there! He's so warm that Bella starts involuntarily groping him, digging her cold hands into his skin. Jacob cringes, but rallies enough to point out that it would be easier if she took her clothes off. I have to side with Jacob here (that hurdle is way behind me now, you guys, but I'm so far around the track, or around a bend of some kind, that I feel like I'm going to have to jump over it again soon). That's just good science and good science is in short supply these days; we should embrace it, with our clothes off. But Bella does not. It's no big deal; this tent is already full of pansexual tension, and it's incredibly hard to shake the feeling that one of the following things is going to happen:
  1. Edward and Jacob are going to pull their cocks out and measure them
  2. Edward and Jacob are going to pull their cocks out and start tag-teaming Bella
  3. Edward and Jacob are going to pull their cocks out and start fucking each other, while Bella watches and masturbates miserably, Little Ashes-style.
What's kind of the triumph of this chapter is that very little happens – the plot is not really advanced in any meaningful way and Jacob and Edward actually don't talk about much. It is our imagination that fills the space in that tent (and that sleeping bag!) but for once S. Meyer seems to be encouraging us to do so. She gets these three characters together in a confined space and lets us do the legwork. That nobody fucks anybody else in the end is beside the point – it's starting to feel like Edward and Bella really WILL fuck soon, so the tone of these teases have changed. We're not futilely dry humping anymore – this is foreplay.

But for a long while option three REALLY seems likely, as Jacob and Edward unexpectedly have a heart-to-heart. Yes, they reach a detente in the tent. GET IT? That is what happens. Bella starts to doze off, buried in Jacob's warm chest, and she somewhat ridiculously interprets the next five or six pages of dialogue between Edward and Jacob as a dream. She's still our narrator, after all, but Edward and Jacob have to be able to talk as though she is not around. So every few paragraphs we cut back to Bella remarking about what a strange dream this is. Shut up, Magdelena! Let the men talk (and/or have sex).

Can we talk about how Jacob almost definitely has a gigantic erection right now? The boys' talk kicks off when Edward hisses at Jacob to turn his sexual fantasies down a notch, and Jacob tells him to stay out of his head. Edward says Jacob's thoughts are shouting at him (“Yeah Bella, ride the wolf, Bella! Make me howl at the moon, baby!”-Jacob's thoughts, I imagine).There's a brief bit of silence and Edward starts answering an unspoken question. One of the things that is ostensibly supposed to complicate this exchange is the fact that Jacob doesn't always speak his questions aloud. Of course Edward proceeds to answer like he's taking a standardized test – “The hardest thing about my time away from Bella was...”– so Jacob's queries are always fairly obvious. And then Jacob turns the tables on Edward, asking him to open up his thoughts for the night, out of fairness or something. So Edward does most of the talking. It's an interesting turn of events, but of course it leaves the boner question unanswered. Wouldn't Bella notice, at least? Through those SWEATPANTS? Or does Jacob usually sport a hard-on in her dreams?

(Jacob makes an allusion, by the way, to the fact that he could fuck Bella without killing her and Edward couldn't. First of all, wasn't the whole deal in New Moon that Jacob wouldn't have been able to handle it either? That Bella was surrounded by men who couldn't fuck her lest they fuck her to death? I get that Jacob has more of a grip on his wolfiness now, but Edward has more of a grip on his vampireness, too. The “fuck you to death” thing is mostly just cover for Edward's religious convictions, is it not? But whatever.)

Jacob asks Edward if the jealousy is eating him alive. Edward confesses that yes, watching Jacob cuddle with his girlfriend (nay, fiancee! But Jacob doesn't know that) while erect (probably) is killing him inside. Jacob wants to know if it boners- I mean bothers- him all the time, or at least when Bella is at La Push. (This is pretty much the tenor of Jacob's half of the conversation throughout: “And don't you hate it when I do this?”) Edward explains that vampire minds work differently, like, he can think about a lot of stuff all the time? I don't know. This is only the second or third cryptic allusion we're heard about vampire neuroscience. I guess if you are already going to believe that vampires' hearts don't beat but their vocal chords and sex organs still work, you can also believe that they are like, high functioning autistics or something.

Edward is painfully honest as Jacob continues to pester him, giving voice to thoughts we'd only assumed he had until now. It makes the “tortured” act easier to swallow when we have a window into his head like this; maybe Midnight Sun would radically shift my perspective on all of this shit. Then again, Edward doesn't mention God once, so maybe he's not being totally honest with Jacob/us. But they continue to talk through what Edward calls an “uncomfortable truce.” Jacob asks why Edward decided to be “the very patient good guy.” Edward says he saw how much it pained Bella to have to choose him over Jacob, so he didn't make her do it. (Hear that Bella? If you're ever interested in an “open” situation down the line I think Edward would allow it!) Jacob asks if he was ever afraid Bella would choose him instead. Edward is like “not really.”

What passes for humor in this chapter comes when Jacob and Edward periodically admit to wanting to kill each other. Edward says he would never want to hurt Bella that way, but then says “sometimes it's an intriguing idea.” I suppose this is all a part of S. Meyer's idea of What Women Want – sensitive men who are also LITERAL killing machines if need be, men who aren't jealous but nonetheless SAY jealous things if need be – it's one way to cover all the angles for your audience, I guess. All women don't want the same thing, but by emphasizing different stuff at different times you can try to catch 'em all, so to speak.

There's some really dumb stuff in here, too. Edward mentions that Jacob thinks of him as a rock. “That's true. We are set the way we are, and it is very rare for us to experience real change. When that happens, as when Bella entered my life, it is a permanent change.” Uh, okay. So vampires get like, ONE change, for their whole lives? So Edward will love Bella forever, it's part of his nature now, because he is a literally “living stone?” If it happened once how could it not happen some other time? Or is Edward not going to say that until he falls in love with someone else? (“Oh wow, I've changed twice. This is exceedingly rare for our kind.”) WHY DOES EVERYONE IN THIS BOOK NEED A PARANORMAL JUSTIFICATION FOR LIKING SOMEONE?

Edward goes through the possibilities he had with Bella when Jacob gets all weird about the coming vampire thing. He says the best case scenario would have been that she didn't love him like he loved her. But that didn't happen. His second choice was to live with Bella throughout her human life until she died, then kill himself. But the bitch was so accident prone he was worried she'd die before then (I'm paraphrasing). The third option was to leave, and we saw how that worked out. Which leaves him with vampire-dom. Jacob says option three would have worked out, that he had a plan. Yes, a plan to wear Bella down.

“I've walked two marathons.”-Jacob Bernard

Jacob tries to get another year to seduce Bella, and Edward says no. But when Jacob asks what he would do if Bella chose him (Jacob) anyway, Edward says he'd step aside. Then he makes an interesting point: “You see Jacob, you might leave her someday.” He might IMPRINT, and Edward says he'd be waiting in the wings until that happened. Check mate, motherfucker.

The most subtle (yet still probably intentional) purpose of this chapter is to show us that Edward is the more mature one, is the adult here. As much was more or less clear already (the guy does have 90ish years on Jacob), but where Jacob uses his time in the tent to antagonize Edward, Edward uses the time to be introspective. He allows himself to be antagonized. And at the end, he admits that he could be friends with Jacob, which Jacob still can't admit.

“You know, Jacob, if it weren't for the fact that we're natural enemies and that you're also trying to steal away the reason for my existence, I might actually like you.”
“Maybe... if you weren't a disgusting vampire who was planning to suck the life out of the girl I love... well, no, not even then.”

Ha ha ha, but also telling! Look at your man, Bella. Now look at Jacob. Now back to your man, now back to Jacob. Now back to your man. You made the right choice. Well, the right choice would have been staying awake and starting a threesome, but this is good too.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 28: Idiot Wind

The Biterion Collection Movie Club is shaping up nicely! I'm still integrating some comments into the conversation, but check it out here. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 21: Trails

Bella wakes, unfucked, and notes the lousy weather outside (symbolism). One would think this was the day of the battle, but it's still another day away. (We were moving at a pretty good clip for a while there, but we've screeched to a halt. And there's still a hundred pages of this book! Either S. Meyer is really going to make a meal out of this battle or we're in for a motherfucker of a denouement.) Edward leaves so Bella can get dressed, and she tries to sort out how she got engaged last night. In any other book, waking up with a ring on your finger would at least mean you'd had some fun the night before, but not here. Even when she takes the ring off, Bella's hand feels heavy. Maybe not so much with the commitment and the monogamy for this one, eh?

Bella and Edward agree not to tell anyone, and the Cullens return from their trip. They all seem very “business like” except for Alice, who is in a uniquely pissy mood. She tells Edward that he should probably pack for cold weather – she can't be sure, since Jacob is involved in the hiking trip – and practically spits at Bella to “wear a jacket, cunt.” (Eventually we'll need to address the fact that Alice should be able to see what the weather is gong to be like in other places around Forks, but we'll worry about that later, when this plot ceases to make sense entirely.) Edward and Bella go to the garage where the Cullens keep a bunch of unused camping gear, and Alice follows them in. Bella calls Jacob to tell him they'll be leaving soon, Billy answers. We haven't heard much from Billy lately – S. Meyer hasn't needed a vaguely hostile noble savage or some handicapped comic relief, so he hasn't been around. But he's really nice on the phone, telling Bella he wished he could go fight with the wolves. “Being an old man is a hardship, Bella,” he says. Awwwww. Billy is nice, Alice is mean, left is black, white is down! I have a bad feeling about this battle.

When Bella hangs up she can see that Edward and Alice are having a kind of telepathic argument. Alice asks to speak to Bella alone, and Edward protests. “This is a female thing,” Alice says. Well, now you have my attention! Edward leaves, Alice goes and sits on the hood of her Porsche. Bella leans up against her, and Alice curls into Bella's side (!!!). What is about to happen, you guys?

“What's wrong, Alice?”
“Don't you love me?” she asked

Don't get your hopes up! In the margins I wrote “ahhhhhh!” but it turns out that Alice is just pissed off she's not invited to the wedding. Sigh. Bella and Edward resolved to go to Vegas to make it official, so naturally Alice found out about the whole engagement thing. Bella tells Alice she can come too, but that doesn't satisfy her.

She stared at me with pleading eyes, her long black eyebrows slanting up in the middle and pulling together, her lips trembling at the corners. It was a heart-breaking expression.
“Please, please, please,” she whispered. “Please, Bella, please – if you really love me... Please let me do your wedding.”

Alice's manipulation of Bella plays as a parallel version of the last scene with Edward. Both of them are taking advantage of our narrator, but Alice's methods and motives are far less reprehensible. Edward's trying to obey his convoluted moral code on the sly, couching his religious convictions in realpolitik negotiation. Alice just wants to throw a party, and she's transparent with her manipulation. Even Bella recognizes that she's being played by Alice – she later calls her “totally unscrupulous,” a label I imagine Alice would like – but she doesn't see that with Edward. She defends the idea of going to Vegas by saying that Edward is “trying to make me happy.” He's actually just trying to appease you, ever so slightly, now that he has what he wants, (which by the way, is your intact virginity before holy matrimony, Bella!). Alice is deliberately making you miserable, but at least she's going about it honorably. It's what makes this scene cute and fun to read, unlike that last fucking chapter. Obviously Bella ends up agreeing to let Alice be her wedding planner (“Suck my dick, J. Lo!”-Alice Cullen).

Alice then asks to see the ring, but Bella's not wearing it. Alice is taken aback, like maybe she missed a breakup somewhere back there: “You mean we could have been having sex on the hood of my car all this time?” Edward has returned by then, and tells Alice that Bella “has issues” with jewelry. “What's one more diamond?” Alice says.

“Well, I guess the ring has lots of diamonds, but my point is that he's already got one on –”
“Enough, Alice!” Edward cut her off suddenly.

So the crystal on Bella's wrist is apparently a gigantic diamond, like something out of a heist movie. Okay, sure. Fine, whatever. I mean, why is this even coming up now? But whatever. Alice realizes she should shut the fuck up about it before Bella catches on (because that was apparently not enough to allow Bella to catch on) and warns them again about the terrible weather coming. It sure seems like we're hearing a lot about this bad weather. Do you think it's going to be important? Probably not, right?

Edward and Bella head to the woods, and then Bella starts leaving the false trail. Edward walks parallel to her, “twenty yards away.” This scent science is getting even dumber – Bella is leaving her scent by touching rocks and trees, and that's going to be strong enough that it's okay for Edward to be 20 yards away the whole time? As long as he doesn't run his fingers along anything? Even Bella seems to think this doesn't make any sense – she starts running her fingers through her hair and leaving the loose strands around. "A" for effort, Bella. As they reach the clearing, Bella trips and cuts her hand. Edward comes over to help her and there's a big deal made of the fact that he's okay around her blood. Bella thinks back to the party, when he'd had to hold his breath around her. That was the last time Bella's bled around him? Bella, whose clumsiness is the most well-defined part of her character? Anyway, Edward says her life is too important to him now or something equally stupid. Bella rubs her bloody hand on the rocks, noting that it will probably drive the newborns crazy and Jasper will be pleased. Either that or Jasper will go nuts like he did LAST TIME he was around your blood, you idiot! They reach the clearing; “Let's go camping!” Edward says. Yay, camping!

See, what's a little bad weather among friends?

Jacob shows up – steps out from behind some trees, actually. Way to not seem like a rapist, Jacob! It's his turn to take Bella through the woods to a predetermined place where Edward will be waiting. Pay attention now, because this is complicated. And stupid.

This whole excursion with Jacob is happening, we are meant to understand, in order to disguise Bella's scent. Okay. And apparently it's going to take a few hours. Okay! The false trail has been laid, so now Bella has to be spirited HOURS AWAY from the trail and the battlefield, to what turns out to be THE TOP OF A MOUNTAIN. OKAY. Why not just take her back to her bedroom in Forks? How much further away is it? What is going on with this plan? It would be ridiculous under normal circumstances, but everyone also keeps talking about how a terrible storm is coming, too. As he sets off with Bella in his arms, Jacob notes the absence of wildlife. “It takes a lot to silence the forest this way,” he says. So maybe we should reconsider camping on a mountaintop, guys!

Jacob jumps from rock to rock while holding Bella – she likens him to a mountain goat. Nice. Jacob notices the charm next to his wolf-carving, and says it figures that Edward would give her “a rock.” Bella again wonders if this charm could possibly be a diamond, but her train of thought gets derailed before she can conclude one way or another. I love that we've got a mystery subplot going on. IS IT A DIAMOND OR ISN'T IT? WHEN WILL WE KNOW?

I'd kind of forgotten that Jacob was an evil rape-kisser, but he brings it up again. Why is he always reminding us how evil he is? Maybe he's been ordered to talk about it every few chapters like how sex offenders have to go door to door. Bella's getting better and more accurate with her put downs – she says she didn't think of it as a kiss, that it was “more of an assault.” Jacob goes on anyway to tell Bella she should be playing the field more. “You know, like the sort of fields parceled out to indigenous peoples by the US Government to apologize for past instances of systematic extermination,” he says (OK, he doesn't). Something kind of weird happens when Jacob brings up the fact that she seems to like him better as a wolf.

“I think it's easier for you to be around me when I'm not human, because you don't have to pretend that you're not attracted to me.”
My mouth fell open with a little popping sound.

Bella neither confirms nor denies Jacob's theory, neither to him nor to us. Why? Is Bella supposed to be attracted to Jacob? When was that supposed to have become true? I feel like S. Meyer intended for Bella to sort of be romantically interested in Jacob all along but just forgot to write about it. The films, incidentally, have the same problem, only worse. Then Jacob says this:

“It's possible to love more than one person at a time, Bella. I've seen it in action.”

On the internet, right Jacob? Or have you been spying on Alice and Jasper and their friends again? JEEZ, how the hell did S. Meyer intend that to sound? Before Bella has a chance to ask Jacob which end of her he had dibs on, they start talking werewolf mechanics again. I thought we were done learning wolf facts, but I guess not. Bella brings up that Jacob is second-in-command, and they have a long, boring discussion of lineage. Bella realizes that Jacob should technically be the leader of the wolfpack and assumes Sam wouldn't step aside. Turns out instead that Jacob didn't want the title! Technically that would have made him Chief of the Quileutes, and it was too much power for him or something. But there has to be at least one highlander, so Sam stayed in charge. Jacob says he's comfortable being a wolf now, but at first it felt like “being drafted into a war you didn't know existed.” It's hard not to feel bad for Jacob a little. I mean, the metaphor only barely works, because usually draftees are acutely aware of the war they are getting drafted into, but I'm saying if you ignore that part. Oh, who am I kidding? No sympathy for the devil.

Jacob and Bella reach the camp site – Edward has a tent set up against a cliff face. The sky is angry and black. Edward says the tent is secure – he “all but welded it to the rock.” Don't you think the first step should be reconsidering the choice of camp site? Or reconsidering the IDEA OF the camp site? This is the dumbest chapter in the book, and that is saying something.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 27.5: Drainage, Eli

I can't believe this fucking chapter. We're still wrapping up chapter 20, “Compromise,” which is both epic in length and in scope of potential outrage. Edward undoes any goodwill he might have earned so far in this book, first by being an untrusting, physically abusive nightmare boyfriend, and now by bringing back his arrogant theologian act from New Moon. We need Daniel Plainview to get in here and slap some sense into this guy. Or maybe do worse. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 20 (cont'd): Compromise

Edward gets Bella to agree to get married before having sex, and she groans as she realizes she is “engaged.” Edward is positively giddy, and he slips into his gentle fucking cadences of an earlier fucking century, the prick. “Do you get the feeling that everything is backward?” he says. “Traditionally, shouldn't you be arguing my side, and I yours?” Traditionally? Didn't Edward, only a few hundred pages ago, paint a picture of a wonderful time when men courted women and asked for their hands? If here by “traditionally,” Edward means “the 1990s,” then sure. Otherwise this is a really inconsistent moment!

Bella tries one last time to get laid – she assures Edward she isn't going to trick him and run to Carlisle in the morning for vamping, as he so rudely suggested. “We're completely alone – how often does that happen?” she asks. “And you've provided this very large and comfortable bed...” See, I'd have mentioned the bed first and the solitude second, because the bed is kind of unimportant. They also have access to the back seat of a car, several couches, the floor. I worry that Bella and Edward are going to have an unimaginative sex life as it is, and I don't want them to get off on the wrong foot, so to speak.

But Edward still refuses, and Bella rightly suspects, as I did, that Edward's realpolitik bargaining is actually just a cover for something else. She makes a joke about herself being a villain, trying to “steal some poor girl's virtue,” and Edward's reaction gives him away. “You're trying to protect your virtue!” Bella says, laughing it up with the rest of us. Edward (and S. Meyer) are not laughing. And then we aren't anymore either.

“No, silly girl,” he muttered against my shoulder. “I'm trying to protect yours.”

Well, fuck you! Are you kidding me with this? Mind-bogglingly, Edward employ's Pascal's Wager to try and explain why they should refrain from pre-marital sex. Blaise Pascal was an early Christian theologian, a gambler, and a moron, who proposed that we all ought to believe in God because:
  • God either exists or he doesn't
  • You can either believe in God or not believe in God.
  • If God doesn't exist and you believe, you gain nothing and lose nothing.
  • If God doesn't exist and you don't believe, you gain nothing and lose nothing.
  • If God does exist and you do believe, you gain everything and lose nothing.
  • If God does exist and you don't believe, you gain nothing and lose everything.
The problem, of course, is that this wager is based around the idea that there is only one god and one religion, not dozens of mutually exclusive ones. Muslims believe that if Christians don't convert to Islam they will go to hell. Christians believe that if Muslims don't convert to Christianity they will go to hell. Incorporate the idea of only two mutually exclusive gods to Pascal's chart and the numbers already favor nonbelief. Now add every other world religion. I figured this out in my freshman philosophy seminar! Edward is over a hundred years old!

“How many people in this room have a soul?” he asks Bella. “A shot at heaven, or whatever there is after this life?” (Somewhere, still hiking, Alice answers “zero.” But she's not here.) Literally every word out of Edward's mouth in this section is stupid. “Now, there's a world full of dissension about this, but the vast majority seem to think that there are rules that have to be followed,” he says. Is Edward running for Congress on the Republican ticket? “Thou shalt not kill is commonly accepted by most major belief systems,” he says (and yet he uses the Christian rendering of the phrase). “And I've killed a lot of people.” What's irritating about the people who advance this kind of argument is that they also tend to insist that one particular religion is correct, and they try to bolster that by citing similarities to other religions. What does it matter, if all of those people are wrong? Pointing out moral similarities between religious belief systems undermines those belief systems. The fact of the matter is, most religions say you shouldn't kill people because that is the conclusion most reasonable people would make anyway. What separates major religions is the batshit stuff! If you ate meat or wore a poly-cotton blend on Friday you're already screwed, Edward. It doesn't matter if you killed someone on Saturday. What religious people like Edward don't realize is that Don't Have Sex Before Marriage isn't Thou Shalt Not Kill. It's Don't Mix Two Kinds Of Cloth (Deuteronomy 22:11)!

Amazingly, Bella doesn't run screaming from Edward's room. Even when he suggests that even if he can't go to heaven, “I'll be damned – no pun intended – if I let them keep you out, too.” Bella rather rightly points out that hell is being somewhere without him. Didn't Sartre write something about that? No? It's a good thing Edward's wrong about everything though, because she still ends up going along with his plan to keep her in Jesus's good graces. They agree not to have sex until they get married. Suddenly Bella wants to get married soon. She could drive over to Mike Newton's house right now and scratch this itch. Doesn't she know that? Instead, she laments the thought of the gossip that will soon ping-pong around town when the news breaks. Unfortunately, we're back to rhetorical territory in which Edward is right. It doesn't matter what other people will think when you'll never see them again. Facebook doesn't count.

Bella mentally acknowledges the fact that part of the reason the thought of gossip bothers her is that she knows she would be one of the biggest gossips around if it were one of her friends in her place. That's a nice, painfully honest moment, even if it isn't supported by anything in Bella's character at all. When has she ever gossiped about anything? She's faked it on road trips with Jessica, and the only other time it ever comes up is in New Moon, when Alice is plying Bella for local gossip and she has nothing to say. But whatever, I'm still madder at Edward!

Speak of the devil, he mentions a ring, which it turns out is already in his possession. Of course it is. Bella refuses to see it, then sees that she's hurt Edward's feelings (good), and subsequently ends up begging for it. It once belonged to his mother – a fact that I would put under the psychological magnifying glass were it not for the fact that my wife's wedding ring once belonged to my mother. (She also wears a ring from my grandmother that has my grandmother's name on it in huge letters: "Effie." My wife is kind of weird.) Bella spends a while touching the box and then looks at the ring:

The face was a long oval, set with slanting rows of glittering round stones. The band was gold – delicate and narrow. The gold made a fragile web around the diamonds. I'd never seen anything like it.

Oh, right – I remember when this ring became available for sale in the run-up to the Eclipse film:

What I like about it is that you can also serve drinks or breakfast in bed or whatever on it. Bella is momentarily hypnotized by the shiny, expensive object in a moment that would be cute were it not for the condescending bullshit about women's virtue a few paragraphs ago. Sex And The City used to get away with the crass commercialism by trading it for female sexual empowerment. You can't have your subjugation cake and eat it too, S. Meyer.

And then, as if S. Meyer is trying to bamboozle us like she just did Bella, Edward gets down on one knee and proposes. Oh, is this scene supposed to be romantic? BECAUSE IT ISN'T. How is Twilight supposed to pull off being such a Great Romance if the proposal scene is built on outrage after outrage? What the fuck is this book? You'd think that Bella's emotional reaction to Edward's proposal, despite her frustrations earlier in this chapter, would at least make me smile. We've spent a lot of time with these characters, and a milestone like this should work on me almost by default. I should almost involuntarily think Awwwww, look at them! Instead I just thought Good, this fucking chapter is finally over.

My parallel chapter for Compromise: "The Cullens Go Hiking"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

WRITING ECLIPSE: The Cullens Go Hiking

Here we have a parallel story for chapter 20 of Eclipse, which you can read all about here. Otherwise it probably won't make any sense. (Eventually I plan on going back and linking to context for all of the fan fiction for new readers, but that's going to take a while so I've been putting it off.)

"The Cullens Go Hiking"

“Explain to me again the necessity of traveling at this speed?” Alice Cullen strolled gracefully alongside her boyfriend Jasper on a path through the woods.
“This place is crawling with bird-watchers,” Jasper said softly. “We need to get a few more miles out before we can really move.”
“This is bullshit,” Alice said. “I'm starving.”
“Patience,” Jasper commanded, walking on. He traveled a few yards before he realized Alice was no longer at his side.
She'd frozen in place, her eyes blank.
“What is it, darling?” Jasper rushed back to her side, momentarily forgetting Carlisle's order to travel at human speed. Further ahead, nearly at a bend in the path, Emmett Cullen noticed and signaled for the rest of his family to stop.
“He's carrying her over the threshold,” Alice sneered. “Jesus fucking Christ, Edward.”
Emmett roared with laughter, and Carlisle softly told Alice not to take the Lord's name in vain. Even at some distance, she could hear him.
“Sorry. Fuck.” She started off toward them. Jasper followed.
Carlisle, Emmett, Rosalie and Esme waited for them to catch up. Emmett was still grinning when they got there. “If I know Bella, you're going to want to tune them out pretty soon,” he said.
Rosalie whacked him across the chest.
“What?” Emmett was unfazed. “Girl's been chomping at the bit.”
“It's about time,” Alice smiled at her brother. “I've been telling Edward to get laid since the early fifties.”
“I wish you wouldn't talk like that,” Carlisle urged. “And Alice – you didn't get my message about dressing appropriately? We're trying to blend in here.”
He looked at his daughter, who was wearing knee-length leather boots and a sequined dress. “I wore boots,” she said innocently. “For hiking!”
They all laughed. Alice's eyes went out of focus again. “He's giving her the charm now,” she groaned.
“Oh, it's sweet.” Esme said. “So what if Edward's mother liked tacky jewelry? I keep the one he gave me in my jewelry box. Sometimes I wear it when I know I'm not leaving the house.”
“I crushed mine up and snorted it,” Alice said, adding a “jerking off” hand motion for good measure.
“He never gave me one,” Rosalie said wistfully.
“It makes sense. You're a cunt,” Alice explained.
“ALICE!” Carlisle and Esme said simultaneously.
“It's fine,” Rosalie said. “I kind of am.” She smiled at her sister, but Alice was staring far away again.
She made a surprised noise, then smiled from ear to ear. “Bella's making a move!” She said, exultant. “They're finally going to fuck!” She high-fived Jasper's already extended palm.
Carlisle started to lead Esme away from the loose circle they'd formed in the middle of the path. Their four children followed slowly behind, peppering Alice with questions.
“Is Bella going to try going down on him? I feel like that's the best course of action,” Jasper said. He was always thinking in terms of strategy.
“What does Edward think?” Emmett asked.
“He has no idea,” Alice said in disbelief. “He doesn't even know what she's asking for. And she's totally botching this. Twitching, crossing her arms, biting her lip – very unsexy behavior. Shit, what's happening now?” Alice's eyes darted back and forth. “She's asking him to clarify his prerequisites! Dammit!” Alice slapped her hand against her forehead.
“That's just a classic strategic error, Jasper said. “I mean, it's literally the last thing she should be doing.”
“No, Jasper, remember what we said?” Rosalie asked gently. “That's not how the word 'literally' works.”
Jasper furrowed his brow in concentration. “I literally can't tell what I said incorrectly,” he told her.
“That's... sure, okay, that works.” Rosalie shot a small, exasperated smile at Emmett.
Jasper literally grinned, oblivious.
They walked on. Alice's face was tight and withdrawn as the monitored the myriad turns in the conversation. “This is fucking... ridiculous,” she muttered. “Why have neither of you talked to Edward about what's going to happen when he ejaculates?” she said, glaring Jasper and Emmett.
“What do you mean, 'what's going to happen?' What does he think is going to happen?” Emmett asked.
“He thinks he's going to crush Bella's head or something,” Alice laughed bitterly.
“Well, there was that one time,” Jasper started, “when you told me to punch you while you c –”
“Totally different situation,” Alice cut him off. She sighed loudly. “I have a fucking headache.”
They walked on, Carlisle and Esme far ahead, and for a time all anyone could hear was the calling of birds, the crunching of boots on leaves, and Alice quietly cursing.
“What's happening?” Jasper asked when some minutes had passed and the situation had clearly not improved.
“They're talking marriage. Bella is considering it. She's that desperate?”
Emmett glanced at Rosalie, then Alice. “Hey,” he started. “Why haven't you two ever been married?”
“That's like asking, 'Hey Alice, why haven't you ever shot yourself in the fucking face?'” Alice replied with a dark expression. She looked at Jasper, who seemed vaguely offended. “I just mean, in terms of strategy,” she amended.
“Oh, strategy.” He seemed reassured.
Alice mimed shooting herself in the head as Jasper turned around. Emmett laughed. In one, involuntarily dancer-like motion, Alice abruptly dropped to her knees.
“Not out here, baby,” Jasper said, confused.
Alice vomited blood. Everyone took an involuntary step back. She slowly wiped her mouth and looked up. “Not only are they engaged,” she hissed, “they're not even going to fuck tonight.” She moaned low and hung her head again.
“You're taking this pretty hard,” Emmett observed.
“That's what she said,” Alice replied, still staring at the ground.
“Look on the bright side, Al,” Rosalie said. “Pretty soon Bella will be a vampire and all of this bullshit about marriage and Edward's terrifying moral code will be moot.”
“That doesn't make it any less irritating now,” Alice said, looking up fiercely. “Just because something is going to happen later that's going to make me forget about this doesn't make it right. I think it's important we remember that.”
Jasper, Rosalie, and Emmett nodded in assent, though they weren't entirely sure who she was talking to.
“C'mon darling,” Jasper said, helping her to her feet. “Let's go hunting. Big day tomorrow.”
“I hate Edward,” Alice said in a weak voice as they walked forward.

Monday, October 18, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 27: A Very Long Enragement

When we last left our heroes, Bella was getting ready to fuck Edward's fucking brains out. For real this time! Of course, that isn't going to happen; this chapter is fraught with sexual tension, but it's a prolonged fake-out. Not that I particularly object to being faked-out in this case. The best comparison I can think of is the trailer for CATFISH, which distorts nearly everything about the film in the space of two minutes. It is a movie I wholeheartedly recommend, despite the fact that the trailer writes a million different checks the actual film can't cash. You should really know nothing about CATFISH at all when you see it (and you should see it!) other than the fact that it is a documentary, but trailers are a marketing necessity. Therefore the filmmakers (or someone else at the studio) rather cunningly created a trailer for a film that does not actually exist. I'm not spoiling anything when I tell you that the movie is not at all what you would expect based on the trailer alone. In the end I was happy to be deceived so as not to see where it was headed. And this chapter of Eclipse is a very similar experience. Except for the part where I was happy about where it was headed. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 20: Compromise

As Bella steels her resolve to fuck Edward, they arrive at his house for the night. He literally takes her in his arms and carries her across the threshold of chez Cullen; if you weren't getting the matrimonial vibes already, S. Meyer pours some of them on a piece of cloth, sneaks up behind you, and holds them to your face. Bella feels the excitement in Edward's lips: “It wasn't like before when I could feel the fear and panic leaking through his control.” I don't know what “fear and panic” leaking through “control” feels like, but that's how it normally feels!? Oy vey, Bella. Edward starts talking about the “hand-me-down” he wanted to give her, asking if she'd like to go to his room to get it.

His bedroom? “Sure,” I agreed, feeling quite devious as I wound my fingers through his.

FEELING QUITE DEVIOUS. That got written, you guys. It is obviously the name of my new band's first EP. Edward heads into his closet, and Bella wanders over to his bed, “plopping down on the edge and then sliding to the center.” So “plopping” is obviously not a word that fits very well with the rest of this erotically charged milieu, huh? Check this out:

I curled up in a ball, my arms wrapped around my knees.

SEXY! That is really the pose you want a girl to adopt before you have sex! I'm not exaggerating the harsh juxtaposition here; Bella goes from coquettishly musing about going to Edward's bedroom to the fetal position in the space of SIX SENTENCES. I've got whiplash over here. Edward comes out of the closet (naturally) and brings his gift over, quickly attaching it to Bella's charm bracelet. When you add the second charm to a bracelet, you've really turned a corner; you're basically a charm collector now. This is the moment I realized Bella wasn't going to get laid tonight, or maybe ever. Start investing in stamps and hummels, girl.

The charm itself is a “brilliant heart-shaped crystal” that sparkles in the lamplight. Of course it is. “I thought it was a good representation,” Edward says. “It's hard and cold.” You know what else is hard and cold, Edward? Oh, nevermind. That's kind of a tacky sounding charm! Not that a miniature wood-carving of a wolf is much better. They cuddle on the bed, and we get, hands-down, the dumbest statue metaphor yet: “It probably felt similar to snuggling with Michelangelo's David, except that this perfect marble creature wrapped his arms around me to pull me closer,” Bella says. REALLY? REALLY. My favorite part is “probably.” Like even Bella can't fully commit to that fucker.

She starts talking about Edward's talk of compromise a few days ago: “I was thinking I would like to apply the same principle to a different situation.” For a second I thought Bella was going to bargain for oral and my head almost exploded, but she actually seems to be going down this road with no real plan of attack. She first tries to get out of marriage; Edward cuts her off immediately, countering that by agreeing to vamp her, he's already conceded his half of that equation. Bella's clearly flustered by this move, as she resorts to a mixed construction metaphor like she's been reading a shitty self-help book: “We're not discussing my... renovations right now. I want to hammer out some other details.”

Bella makes a classic rookie negotiation mistake of asking Edward to clarify his prerequisites. You're running this meeting, Bella! Don't give him the floor like that! He throws in a bunch of new shit: when they get married, all of his money is hers, so she should pay for some college, and he'd also like a few more years of her as a human so she can attend said college. Bella ends up trying to argue her way out of this new hole instead of into Edward's pants. Jesus, you are so bad at this Bella! Somewhere, Alice is hiking and monitoring every turn in this conversation, going “fuck!” every time Bella screws up.

Lucky for Bella, Edward is such a moron he doesn't see her coming, if you'll pardon the expression. She talks about her worries of being a newborn, worried she won't feel the same way she feels now: “I won't want you the same way I do.” He's still totally oblivious even when she says, “There's something I want to do before I'm not human anymore,” so she gets him to promise to give her whatever she wants.

“YES!” -Alice, hiking

Bella moves in for the kill, sort of. “I didn't have the faintest idea how to be seductive,” she says. “I would just have to settle for flushed and self-conscious.” I was going to criticize this, but then I thought back to being a teenage virgin. Flushed and self-conscious would have worked just fine on me. And Edward's gone a lot longer without than I did. But of course, that's part of the problem; Edward's at that stage of ever-perpetuated virginity where it's easier just to go on living than try to make a change. They start kissing, she unbuttons his shirt. He freaks out. “Be reasonable, Bella,” he says. I kind of think she is being reasonable! She's turning Edward's rhetoric about having the full human experience around on him – of course by “full human experience,” Edward probably meant accepting Christ into your heart or something.

Bella doesn't give up, though – she starts taking her shirt off. Atta girl! Edward pins her arms to her sides. Here's where any kind of notion of Edward being an attractive figure erodes for me. He doesn't want her to take her clothes off? Way to give the girl a complex, Edward. Also: physically restraining a woman is a troublesome enough image, but physically stopping her from undressing makes it a nearly perfect visual metaphor for this whole series. Edward has become S. Meyer herself, doing everything she can to keep our clothes on.

Is Edward wrong yet? Presumably, eventually, Edward will stop being right, in our author's eyes, for preventing sexual intercourse, right? Bella is not going to change her mind and decide to live a Morrisey-like life of abstention, we're just waiting for Edward's opposition to crumble. The cracks are finally showing here; this chapter is S. Meyer's first real hint that eventually, these two are going to fuck. But this chapter is simultaneously (and more correctly) a re-affirmation of Edward's fucked-up values, because the only thing that is really going to break his resolve is a wedding.

But not before this moment gets more troubling:

“So you can ask for any stupid, ridiculous thing you want, like getting married, but I'm not allowed to even discuss what I –”
While I was ranting, he pulled my hands together to restrain them in just one of his, and put his other hand over my mouth.
“No.” His face was hard.

WHAT? Troubling visual metaphors aside, one could probably write an entire paper about the battered-woman psychology that leads Bella to use the word “ranting” to describe her own plea. It's amazing how fast S. Meyer can take a scene from “teasing and sexy” to “terrible and ugly.” Bella is struck by a harsh, physically potent wave of rejection, and wants to run from the room. Not a bad idea, this chapter has gone on long enough! Edward realizes he's being an asshole, but has a kind of curious strategy for getting back into Bella's good graces: essentially, he tells her that lots of people think she's hot. She's worried about what YOU think, dumbass!

“Do I have to send a petition around to get you to believe? Shall I tell you whose names would be at the top of the list? You know a few of them, but some might surprise you.”
Suddenly Edward's phone rang. He answered it. “Alice? What? No, don't worry, I'm not going to tell her about your feelings –” he noticed me staring at him open-mouthed “er – your feelings about fall fashion.”
I could hear her screaming curse words as he snapped the phone shut sheepishly.

Bella tries to further articulate her fear that as a vampire, she won't feel precisely the same way for Edward as she does now. She's floundering a bit, and kind of sounds like a stoner or a nervous grad student – she uses the word “intellectually” twice in two paragraphs! But it seems to nearly work on Edward - he hesitates. It's really just another fake out, of course; it's a cock-block aftershock. He rallies, and tells Bella he could kill her (as in, it bears repeating, FUCK HER TO DEATH) and she expresses disbelief. So he reaches up and snaps one of the metal roses off of the bed. Then he crushes it. HE CRUSHES A FLOWER. Metaphorical enough for you? Or am I thinking too much like Georgia O'Keefe?

Bella acknowledges that Edward could, you know, FUCK HER TO DEATH, but she counters that he probably won't FUCK HER TO DEATH, that rather, he has the self control to resist FUCKING HER TO DEATH. “It might not work like that, Bella,” he says. Here we come to the crux of the problem (emphasis on the “come,” thank you). Edward has never had sex with anyone before, so he doesn't know what happens when he ejaculates. Forgive me for being so blunt, but S. Meyer dances around this issues so much I'm going to cut through all of the artifice. The problem is vampire ejaculation. How does it work? Does it work? We don't have a reliable authority on hand. (Speaking of reliable authorities, why hasn't Edward practiced on Alice? I'm sure she'd be down. I'm saying, if Bella's safety is so important to Edward, and Bella's desires are also important to Edward, the least he could have done is practice-fuck someone else by now. It's just common courtesy!)

I gotta give Bella credit, here – she does not relent. She wants it bad. “You don't have to give me any guarantees. If it doesn't work out right, well, then that's that,” she says. In other words: “I don't care if you fuck me to death as long as you fuck me.” That's kind of hot. Are we sure Edward's not gay? I know I've taken some flack for suggesting this kind of thing before, but seriously. She promises marriage, a few human years at college. She gives away the store. It starts to work:

He didn't stop kissing me. I was the one who had to break away, gasping for air. Even then his lips did not leave my skin, they just moved to my throat.

She gets his shirt unbuttoned, but he cuts her off again when she turns to her own. (What does Edward have against seeing Bella's bra?) His reasons for stopping now are calculating and kind of bitchy: he says that if they have sex tonight, if he gives Bella what she wants, she'll “go running off to Carlisle in the morning” to be made into a vampire. Um, fuck you, Edward. Trust your woman a little! He says that they have to get married first, because he is “much less reluctant” to give Bella what she wants (as in vampiredom). All evidence to the contrary! This is a whole chapter about Edward being reluctant to give Bella what she wants! This realpolitik stuff is bullshit anyway – Edward (or S. Meyer) is trying to find a way around saying he (or she) doesn't believe in pre-marital sex.

Bella doesn't even say yes before Edward starts saying they're “engaged.” Yes, this is happening. Do you see what S. Meyer did here? She's used this scene to obscure the religious/moral motives of getting married before having sex. Before Edward was just a religious bigot, now he's a cunning negotiator. The necessity of marriage before sex has been couched in a convoluted rhetorical conceit. We've seen puritanical and cavalier forces at odds with each other throughout this series – until now I thought we were seeing S. Meyer's misgivings writ large. But the forces of sex and evil (Team Alice, basically) were never in this fight; they were included to keep Twilight from looking like an obvious religious tract. The idea that this would ever get sexy has been an illusion all along. Twilight isn't a wolf in sheep's clothing, it's a sheep in wolf's clothing.

Somewhere, in the woods, Alice vomits in disgust.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 26: Hable Con Bella

You know what? I'm declaring jihad on commas. For a while now I've tried not to sweat the small stuff in these books. For one thing we've already covered most of S. Meyer's grammatical issues; they have not improved nor have they evolved. Plus, Reasoning With Vampires is out-fine-tooth-combing even me. But S. Meyer fucks up what could be a perfectly good last sentence to chapter 19 with a stray comma:

The killing games continued in the clearing, and I stared at the hazy moon.

Oh, well. You know, S. Meyer, there are better ways to force a pause if you really need to. I use chapter headings. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 19 (cont'd): Selfish

So Bella's super-manipulative ploy to get Edward out of the fight actually works. She invokes her New Moon-era heartbreak (get over it, Bella!) and coldly twists Edward's arm until he agrees to abandon his family for the coming battle. She feels guilty, but not guilty enough to stop. Bella's priorities become very clear here: Edward's life is more important than any other's. Surprisingly, Alice seems to rank a close second.

I knew what he was thinking of – the same thing I was thinking of. Carlisle. Esme. Emmett. Rosalie. And... I forced myself to think the last name. And Alice.

Hard to know where Jacob ranks with respect to Edward and Alice. All kidding aside, it would truly be interesting if Alice suddenly declared her love for Bella now. We have enough heterosexual love triangles already, S. Meyer. Impress me. Speak of the vampire, Edward calls her to come hang out with Bella while he hands his white flag to Jasper. While she's en route, Edward gives us a lesson on how relationships work.

He shrugged. “You are my first priority.”
“I didn't mean it that way – like you have to choose me over your family.”
“I know that. Besides, that's not what you asked. You gave me two alternatives that you could live with, and I chose the one that
I could live with. That's how compromise is supposed to work.”

Edward should get a job as a professional mediator. But seriously folks, I kind of like the weird-ass lesson this scene is imparting: even perfect, paranormal romances are full of the day-to-day shit. Sure, maybe you and your husband are arguing about where to move or whether or not to have children, whereas Edward and Bella are arguing about who, precisely, will be involved in a war with a legion of newborn vampires, but it's basically the same deal. Relationships take work.


Do you notice that Edward and Bella never really talk about anything other than plot mechanics? I mean, Bella gives us plenty of “And Edward and I spent the summer together” expository bullshit where we can assume some other sort of conversation took place, and this book, for the most part, cuts out any time Bella ever shoots the breeze with anyone, but isn't that a terrible mistake? I get more and more frustrated trying to summarize these long scenes of dialogue, mostly because almost no one ever says anything interesting, ever. Most of the time, dialogue is employed to reveal some new plot twist like a riddle. It gets boring; just say it already! And doesn't it eventually start to feel like the basis of Edward and Bella's relationship is... their relationship? WHY DO THEY EVEN LIKE EACH OTHER? I know this is all kind of obvious, but it isn't something I've said before. It needs to be said.


Alice shows up and tells Edward he's going to “miss all the fun.” She sees the future, folks! She's already told the rest of her family, so it's kind of unclear why Edward leaves to tell them again, but he does. Which leaves Alice alone with Bella. She gives our narrator a “glare” which I assume is supposed to mean “Bitch, what the fuck?” Bella is like, does this put you guys at risk? Alice is like “Bitch please.” So Bella is like, what is the problem? And Alice is like “Edward is going to feel so bad he's going to a mega-dick for the next nine months.” I feel like in real life Alice would do the “jerk off” hand motion a lot.

“Would you let Jasper go without you?” I demanded.
Alice grimaced. “That's different.”
“Sure it is.”

Alice and Jasper's relationship is based on equality, Bella. So yeah, it kind of is different. Also: they are cooler. Alice orders Bella to clean herself up (she doesn't offer to help, which is weird, since they used to be shower buddies) and Charlie gets home shortly thereafter. He's pumped to see Alice – Charlie is a channeling the rest of us right now. He tells Alice everyone is talking about how great her party was last night. “I'll bet you've got one heck of a clean-up job ahead of you.” In response, Alice does the “jerk off” hand motion. Just kidding.

“No worse than Woodstock 99,” she shrugged.

Still kidding. What follows is a kind of bizarre scene where Alice tells Charlie about how the rest of her family is leaving her all alone for the weekend – they all wanted to go camping and she didn't, oh no! – and Charlie is so struck by her sexy misery face that he invites her to stay with them. Alice stomps on Bella's foot, and Bella objects, saying they don't have the room and Alice would be uncomfortable.

“Well, she could sleep in my bed,” Charlie offered. “Or your bed. There are so many possibilities for erotic fan fiction!”

Charlie actually just offers for Bella to stay with Alice in her house for a few days instead. Bella is amazed.

With one complicated-ass Rube Goldberg of a scene, Alice had cleared my schedule for the battle.

Hey Alice, you know what would have been easier? Saying, “Hey Bella, do you want to go shopping with me this weekend?” in front of Charlie and leaving it at that! But whatever. Alice leaves later that night, and Bella goes to bed where Edward is waiting. She tells him that Alice is kidnapping her for the day tomorrow (tomorrow being the day before the battle, I think. The timeline is kind of fucked up here. I guess Alice's party was on a Wednesday?) and Edward informs her that actually that is not the case. The rest of the Cullens, including Alice (shit), are going hunting to prep for the battle, meaning that Edward and Bella will be alone in the Cullen house for the night.

“You're welcome, bitch.”-Alice Cullen

Bella is excited, as in aroused, obviously. They go back out to the clearing for fight club – this time only Jacob, Embry and Quil (all in wolf form) have come out. The rest of the wolves don't need to be there because of the hive mind and all. That must be nice! The wolves must save so much money on movie tickets and shit - as long as one of them is there, all of them are there. It's an intriguing notion which is basically left hanging, right there, like that. Edward still has to help Jasper with his demonstrations, so Bella sits on the ground and Wolf-Jacob comes over and they have another ridiculous, over-anthropomorphized bonding scene. She shivers, he lies down next to her, she basically uses him as a pillow. She worries out loud about his safety, Wolf-Jacob literally rolls his eyes. Okay, sure.

Chapter 20: Compromise

Oddly, Bella takes this time to sort of recap the plot for us. It's the night before the battle, and various tasks have been completed to ensure the safety of Charlie and others. He'll be with Billy at La Push, guarded by a few of the extra members of the wolfpack. Ben, Angela, and Mike have received Bella's concert tickets (if anyone cared) and Mike is buying a fourth to bring Jessica along. It must have been a lame show, if tickets are still available. See you guys in the epilogue! Anyway, Bella starts talking about how she's ready to be a vampire - she looks forward to being Edward's "equal" like Alice and Jasper. This is the first time Bella has been smart enough to realize she should be looking up to those two. Why did it take so long?

There was only one missing piece.

To paraphrase Jasper, Bella means that more literally than you can imagine. She starts thinking about how she could change - she will be a newborn after all. "I knew which human experience I was going to insist on before I became inhuman," she says. "So we had some things to work out tonight."And of course, though S. Meyer is going to go to GREAT LENGTHS to avoid actually saying it, by "some things" Bella means "Edward's cock." Oh my god, you guys, this is happening.

Okay, it probably isn't going to happen even still.

Monday, October 11, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 25: Bella Hath No Fury

Until now, Twilight's sexism has been sort of nebulous or at least easily explained away: This might be a book primarily written about a few boys and how awesome they are, but it's still written by a woman. Bella doesn't have a lot of agency now, but the day where she's a vampire is coming. The whole character of Emily is outrageous and offensive, but it's more of a finger in the eye to domestic abuse victims than women in general.

And yet now, three books in, we get two Women Behaving Very Badly (directly against the wishes of men) right in a row. Leah Clearwater, we shall see, is the truly troubling part. Bella has a brief, shining moment defending the sisterhood, but immediately thereafter becomes the most manipulative she has ever been. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

I want to take a moment once again to endorse the vaguely threatening tumblr “Reasoning With Vampires” - the anonymous author over there is really stepping up his or her game. Check this out, for instance:

Chapter 18 (cont'd): Instruction

In the clearing, Bella bonds with Wolf-Jacob while the Cullens stare in disgust like they're watching a donkey show or something. Then Edward and Jacob start having some kind of telepathic argument. We only hear Edward's half until Jacob runs off into the woods to switch back into human form; Bella notes the cord securing the jorts to the wolf's leg. Why does S. Meyer feel like she has to have such rigid continuity when it comes to Jacob's clothes? Does she think our minds are constantly in the gutter?

Jacob returns, and Jasper comes back from getting blown by Alice in the woods, and there is a long conversation about what to do with Bella during the battle (which it turns out is happening on Saturday, incidentally the same day as the concert Bella was supposed to take Alice and Edward to. Well, thank god for that! We've been spared S. Meyer's description of the Linkin Park/Coldplay concert or whatever it was. Bella decides to subject Angela and Ben to it instead. The concert, not the description. There were only two tickets? So Bella wasn't going? Maybe Alice uninvited herself. Smart girl). The worry is that one of the newborns could slip out of the fray, wander into Forks, and kill her. After some various arguments, someone suggests that Jacob disguise Bella's scent by carrying her around the woods for a while. That is the most chaste and least fun way to disguise one's scent, you guys. But whatever. Jacob carries Bella off and around the woods for a while against her will (as if that part needs to be mentioned. Jacob doesn't do anything unless there is a woman who actively opposes it).

Alice and Jasper try to follow the trail Jacob leaves and can't pick up Bella's scent. Or they pretend to get lost so they can fuck. Jasper comes back with an idea that involves using Bella's scent to lead the Newborn Army directly into the clearing – Jacob will lead her back out so the trail will end there. Or something. Scent-science is kind of dubious. Jasper proposes that Bella actually be in the clearing, which would drive the newborns crazy and make them easy targets. Jacob and Edward are appalled. Alice steps on Jasper's foot (cute). Bella doesn't say anything.

Instead they decide Bella will be up on a mountain nearby, guarded by one of the newer wolves who's job is to basically be a walkie-talkie between Bella and the battle on the ground. Sure, that sounds like a foolproof plan that won't go wrong in any way! Edward and Jacob are both excited and grinning at each other. Now is the time to propose that threesome, Bella.

Chapter 19: Selfish

Bella wakes up in the afternoon – she slept all day. That is exactly what you should do the day after you graduate high school, but part of me wonders what Charlie thinks happened at that party. I don't know, which is worse: thinking your daughter was up all night doing blow off of Edward's chest between fucks or thinking she was helping to plan a violent battle between mythical creatures? It's probably a draw. Bella puts some Pop-Tarts in the toaster (I think the Pop-Tarts are supposed to be symbolic here. They're the breakfast of aimless post-grads!) and grimaces at herself in the “reflective chrome.” Well nobody looks good in a toaster, Bella.

Edward looks at Bella's wolf-charm danging from her wrist and needles her for a while about how he's not allowed to give her gifts. He wants equal representation on Bella's wrist. If you were hitting that, you wouldn't need a fucking charm to mark your territory, Bro-seph Gordon-Levitt! But anyway, he seems to get her to tentatively agree to receiving a “hand-me-down” gift from him sometime in the near future. When I was a kid I couldn't audibly separate the words in the phrase “hand me down” - the first few times I heard it, I heard it as “hamidown." That's life in New England, I suppose – people talk too fast so the new talkers have an extra handicap. Then we grow up and talk even faster than our parents and the cycle intensifies. I also used to think, until I was a teenager actually, that it was “for all intensive purposes.” Neither term made any sense to me until I realized which words they actually entailed – to discover each was revolutionary. Bella says something about how Edward has already given her himself (“Not really!”-Me, Alice Cullen, in unison) and that is enough of a gift (“[Barfs]”-Me, Alice Cullen, everyone, in unison).

He processed that for a moment, and then rolled his eyes. “The way you regard me is ludicrous.”

Now we're getting closer to gentle cadences of an earlier century, S. Meyer! Is it at all possible that "hand-me-down" is actually a sexual euphemism? Alice calls, and we gather that Bella has solidified her plans to intervene in the battle while sleeping. Some brain you got there, Bella. We don't get to hear what Alice is saying, unfortunately.

“I want you to choke that bitch, Edward. You need to send a fucking message. Break something she uses a lot. Okay, I gotta go, Jasper's giving me a hand-me-down."

But Edward tells Bella that Alice's vision was just of Bella stumbling around in the woods, lost. In other words, she would not have been successful. Bella counters that one possibility Alice could not have seen is utilizing Seth Clearwater, the young wolf on her detail, to find her way to the battle. There's a lot of complicated bullshit where Bella points out that Sam Uley would go along with Jasper's plan, but Edward says Jacob wouldn't, and informs Bella that Jacob is the second-in-command of the wolf-pack and that his orders have the full force of the law as well. Turns out Edward got quite the peek into the pack's hive mind last night. He starts cryptically laughing about how wolves get so surprised when their mythology turns out to be incorrect, and Bella is like, “just say it, you coy motherfucker.” Turns out there is a girl in the wolfpack now: Seth's sister and Sam's ex, Leah Clearwater. Well, how about that!

What could have been a kind of progressive turn for this book gets insulting almost immediately: Bella starts thinking about the heartbreak she's seen on Leah's face and realizes she is now privy to Sam's innermost thoughts. Her first thought is “Poor Leah.” Edward's first thought is “Leah is an unbelievable bitch.”

Edward snorted. “She's making life exceedingly difficult for the rest of them.”

There's a girl in the boy's club! Cooties! Ahhhhh! This conversation, in which Edward defends everything male and Bella speaks up for the ladiez (for once), would be perfectly fine if it didn't end with Edward being right. Because Leah is being a shrew. Why does the one girl have to be “deliberately malicious,” S. Meyer? She's rubbing Sam's face in his mistakes daily, as well as constantly bringing up the fact that (due to multiple secrets clumsily explicated here by Edward rather than in any sort of plot action) Embry is a bastard who's real father might be the father of one of his wolf-brothers. Hey, that's helpful, Leah. Hey, that's helpful, S. Meyer.

Edward agrees that Leah has reason to be upset, and compares the imprinting phenomenon to A Midsummer Night's Dream. I could take this time to talk about how seeing the magic spells in Midsummer as real is actually a kind of reductive, surface reading of the text – that Shakespeare was simultaneously mocking the idea of ascribing things to “magic” and undermining that line of thinking every step of the way, which is maybe something S. Meyer should be doing instead of insisting that imprinting is the be-all and end-all. But let's not do that and say we did.

Edward was right – this was exactly like a soap opera.

SHOW DON'T TELL, Bella. They leave this conversation before Leah can actually be redeemed; Bella tacitly agrees that she's a bitch and moves on. Okay, well, that was a troubling and sexist moment, but maybe we can move on and forget about it. Right, guys? Right? Bella starts insisting she be in the clearing, and when that doesn't work she tries something else. Uh oh.

It wasn't so much that I had to be in the clearing. I just had to be where Edward was.
Cruel, I accused myself. Selfish, selfish, selfish! Don't do it!
I ignored my better instincts. I couldn't look at him while I spoke, though. The guilt had my eyes glued to the table.
“Okay, look, Edward,” I whispered. “Here's the thing...I've already gone crazy once. I know what my limits are. And I can't stand it if you leave me again.”

Oy gevalt. She's invoking New Moon – trying to make Edward feel as guilty as possible. We've seen Bella be manipulative before, but it was always somewhat unknowing. This is some next-level shit; Bella's dark side has become self aware.

What is going on, S. Meyer? The women in this chapter are behaving so admirably! We even have Embry's mom cheating on her husband back there for texture and shading! Is it any wonder that Alice only appears over the phone? She had the good sense to stay away from this shit.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 24: Ecotone

Opposed though I am to the whole “vampire war” plot, the business of preparing for it is giving us some memorable scenes. Here, the Cullens and the werewolves get a lecture of sorts from Jasper, who is still the de-facto head of the Cullen family. The Cullens operate like the Romans or something – in times of trouble they throw democracy out the window and hand the reigns to a military strongman. Let's hope Jasper is more Caesar than Caligula. Though it would be kind of awesome if he made a horse into a vampire. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 18: Instruction

Bella leaves the party (I'm sure Jessica and Mike Newton are banging in the driveway but S. Meyer doesn't say so specifically) bothered by the Cullen family's victorious mood. Alice gets Jasper to mind-drug her and more or less shoves her out the door (“Don't need that buzzkill around”-Everyone). As Edward drives her home, Bella explores the depths of her guilty conscience. She can't bear that the Cullens are risking their lives for her, but seems to characterize that the werewolves are at risk too as even worse, a characterization I find profoundly arguable. Am I an asshole for thinking that I really wouldn't mind if a few of the wolves get offed in the battle? Strictly from a literary perspective, of course. Narratively speaking, we don't really need Embry. Story-wise, he's worth more to us dead than alive. In terms of dramatic stakes, mother fucker should get put on ice.

Bella's concerns are not shared by Edward, who at first won't even take her to the training session; she threatens to call Jacob and he backs down. She could get a lot of mileage out of that Jacob card if she wanted (“Fuck me or I'll fuck Jacob.”-Bella Swan). They go to Bella's place for a while anyway, presumably so that Bella can get some rest in the interval; Charlie is asleep on the couch and Bella has to guide him upstairs and into bed in a scene that would, out of context, make Charlie look like an alcoholic rather than the overgrown boy he actually is (I say overgrown boy in the best possible way). Then Edward waits in Bella's room while she goes and changes in the bathroom. Hold up. Edward, you are doing this wrong: a girl being okay with changing in front of you is one of the best parts of a long-term relationship. Make the most of the time you've been putting in, buddy! You've earned at least that!

Plus, rather than just letting Bella sleep for a while, he tries to convince her how easy the joint vampire-werewolf battle will be. It just makes her more nervous, though it's unclear if Bella is just being stubborn or it's a “protest too much” situation. Edward makes a kind of clever point when he mentions that the newborns will have “no more idea that werewolves exist than [Bella] did.” The idea of one mythological creature being surprised by the existence of another is an amusing gag, and hopefully S. Meyer will do more with it. Instead of listening or at least appreciating a semi-original premise, Bella starts thinking about how she might be able to “focus” her “bad luck” on herself rather than her family and friends. Huh, I wonder how she'll try and do that.

Edward takes Bella out to the Cullens' old baseball field, where the Cullens are all hanging out and laughing. I feel like this story would be a lot less irritating if it was told from, say, Emmett's perspective and Bella and Edward were the ones who dropped in from time to time. That's true of most media, I suppose: there are a million character actors who are more interesting than Brad Pitt, but Richard Jenkins only gets to helm a movie once or twice in a lifetime. A better analogue might be Michael Shannon – who is apparently on Boardwalk Empire (reason #9565 I should really get HBO) now, a show which is itself led by perennial character actor Steve Buscemi. Is it any wonder this show is so acclaimed? Anyway the only Cullen who looks bummed is Alice – Edward explains that she is uncomfortable because she can't “see” anything now that the wolves are involved. Alice overhears and Bella says she sticks her tongue out at Edward, which I imagine is actually just a piece of a much ruder gesture Bella is too modest to mention.

Bella gets a-thinking (there's a decent joke: Bella says “You know what I think?” and Edward laughs and says “No.” GET IT?), and tells Edward she thinks that Victoria is probably the one who is running this vampire army. She suddenly develops a remarkable talent for filling in plot holes; parts of this section read like a Stephenie Meyer interview:

Victoria had always seemed like a force of nature to me – like a hurricane moving toward the coast in a straight line – unavoidable, implacable, but predictable. Maybe it was wrong to limit her that way. She had to be capable of adaptation.

Edward acts as the voice of the reader, pointing out the aforementioned plot holes. Bella shoots them down like clay pigeons. PULL: How would Victoria even know how to create an army? BOOM: Bella points out that Edward tracked her to Texas last year before he lost her; she could have found out about newborn armies there. PULL: “Only Aro knows exactly how Alice's visions work,” Edward says. BOOM: Laurent used to live with Tanya and the gang, who would have known a bit about Alice's powers, and Laurent could have told Victoria. Well, that one is kind of a stretch! Also: wasn't a major plot point at the end of New Moon the fact that Aro had an imperfect understanding of Alice's visions? He assumed they were the whole truth, which is why he let Edward, Bella, and Alice go. But whatever!

Edward seems only mildly skeptical of Bella's conspiracy theory – he still primarily suspects the Volturi. Edward's got a problem with authority, huh? But he agrees that Victoria has “a remarkable gift for self-preservation,” suggesting that “maybe it's a talent of hers.” You're really pushing it with the super-powers these days, S. Meyer. First the vampire who “sees relationships” and now super-preservation powers? Next we're going to meet a vampire who is supernaturally good at canning foods (he almost died of Botulism as a human). To seal off this little meta-section, Edward notes that Bella is “very perceptive today.” This is the literary equivalent of a band-aid on a gaping ax wound. One character looks at another and says “Hey, you're acting different today!” ALL FIXED.

The wolfpack shows up, in wolf form, and it turns out there are ten of them now. Everyone is like, “shit.” Edward has to speak Sam Uley's thoughts out loud, and he apparently adopts Sam Uley's voice, or at least his Buddha-like affect. It's been oft-hinted that vampires are particularly good impressionists – remember that Alice did a mean Edward-voice in New Moon – what could the pseudo-scientific Meyerian explanation for that be? Do vampires need to make a lot of prank phone calls to ensure survival?

Carlisle briefly explains the brute-force-using, dim-witted ways of the newborns to the wolves, then yields the floor to Jasper. Remember who is in charge here, folks. Jasper doesn't mince words. The first rule of Newborn Fight Club is “don't let them get their arms around you.” Easy enough. Second rule: “don't go for the obvious kill.” They should all watch the Saw movies as research, then. Jasper points out that Emmett is the dumbest member of the family (basically) so the two of them spar while Jasper demonstrates technique. When Jasper wins, he calls Alice forward for the next round.

What follows is equal parts great and irritating. Alice uses her visions to predict Jasper's attacks, and thus she can stand nonchalantly with her eyes closed while sidestepping his every lunge so quickly that at first Bella can't tell she's moving. Pretty clever. And yet, the irritating dance metaphors accumulate with pants-shitting intensity. Bella says Alice “danced blithely” into the ring (a decent image – were it that it were the only one) and later, when Jasper intensifies this attacks, this happens:

She was dancing – spiraling and twisting, curling in on herself. Jasper was her partner, lunging, reaching through her graceful patterns, never touching her, like every movement was choreographed.

WE GET IT: DANCER. Alice is suddenly laughing, perched on Jasper's back, and she kisses him on the throat. Everything that is wrong and terrible about Bella and Edward is right and wonderful about Alice and Jasper. But instead of seeming like a deliberate study in opposition, these two just make our heroes look worse by comparison. It should make Bella and Edward more interesting for their flaws, but instead it just makes them more irritating. Anyway, Alice walks out of the ring while the wolves make “wary” noises. Yeah, you better be scared!

Edward goes next, and Alice sidles up to Bella. She's seen that Bella's been considering some kind of vague plan to sacrifice herself, and Alice shuts that shit down real fast. She whispers a threat in Bella's ear: “I've got my eye on you.” Slap some sense into her Alice!

Edward walked away, and suddenly my face was slamming into the nearest tree trunk. Alice pulled me back by my hair and hissed into my ear, “What kind of bullshit are you trying to pull, cunt?”
“Nothing!” I sputtered. She smashed me against the tree again. Blood ran down my face.
“Keep it that way, motherfucker,” she said in a low voice, licking my face and then letting me collapse on the ground.

After Jasper spars with every member of his family, he calls practice for the night. Thanks, coach! The wolves ask (through Edward) if they can pick up the scent of each family member so they can avoid friendly fire deaths later. Yeah, I'm sure that's why, perverts. The wolves come forward and Bella finally sees them – she notices the new, gangly ones. Gangly wolves? The CGI artists for Eclipse read this chapter and they were like “FUUUUUUCK.” Then Bella sees the Jacob-Wolf.

His stance was casual, somehow exuding nonchalance over what the rest obviously considered an ordeal.

I think you're over anthropomorphizing the wolf, Bella. And then Jacob apparently grins (“FUUUUUUCK.”-CGI dudes)? Jacob-Wolf trots over to where Bella is standing and lowers his head and they have this weird Free Willy moment where Bella pets him and there is some kind of connection. But then he licks her face. Even Jacob-Wolf can't keep his fucking mouth to himself.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Dr. Carlisle Cullen paced around his study. “When did Alice say we could come out?” he asked for the fifth time.
“She said thirty-six hours. That's in two hours now,” his wife, Esme, replied with more than a little irritation.
“Thirty-six hours?” Carlisle repeated incredulously. “Does she really think the humans can celebrate for that long?”
“She said she would ensure it, somehow. Carlisle, I swear if the DEA gets involved again, I don't know what I'll –”
“I paid them off, I told you. The file on Alice has been destroyed.” Carlisle eyed the clock nervously.
“These children deserve their party,” Esme said gently.
“I know, but I'm worried. The music stopped a while ago.” Carlise's forehead wrinkled.
“They're probably playing Spin The Bottle,” Esme said wryly.
“Esme, you know our children. Kissing hasn't done it for them for a while.”
“That reminds me,” Esme said. “Alice was telling me about this new kind of sex involving mouths. I was thinking maybe we could –”
“Not right now dear, I'm not in the mood.” Carlisle tapped his foot impatiently.
Esme picked up a book.

Emmett Cullen and Jasper Whitlock wiped the dried blood off of their faces and looked at each other guiltily.
“Look on the bright side,” Emmett was saying. “We've been tied down by the same women for a long time. At least we know we still got it.”
“'Monogamy' is not in Alice's vocabulary, Emmett,” Jasper sighed. “I haven't been tied down.”
“Don't rub it in.”
Jasper grinned, then sighed. “This...seduction was too easy. These girls were so eager, I literally undressed them with a look.”
“I don't think you mean literally. Anyway it was still fun, wasn't it?”
“Yes,” Jasper conceded wistfully. “The family's going to be quite angry, of course.” He kicked aside what was left of Angela's head and looked around for his pants.
“We should burn down this house, probably. Too much evidence.” Emmett gestured at the carpets, thick with blood, to emphasize his point.
“And probably leave the country,” Jasper said bitterly. “Alice always liked Rio this time of year. She'll understand.”
“Are there any females left in the graduating class?” Emmett looked sheepishly at the torn up bodies scattered on and around the furniture.
“Bella,” Jasper pointed out. “That might be it. Not that many juniors, even. I told some of the younger girls to go home.”
“Why!?” Emmett demanded.
“Not my style,” Jasper said.
“Why did we have to get carried away?” Emmett said, suddenly overcome with remorse. “We could have just given them a good time and sent them home to their boyfriends. We didn't have to kill all of them.”
“You always say that,” Jasper sighed.

Bella Swan sighed and stared at the perfect angel in bed next to her. She couldn't believe the pills Alice had given her had worked. A vampire, asleep! Well, Edward wasn't asleep exactly. Parts of his body were very much awake. The important parts were up (Bella giggled at her mental turn of phrase); his brain was out cold.
It was nice to see his face was so smooth, expressionless. None of that angst and worry. None of that stupid concern for Bella's virginal purity. She hated that righteous look he'd get on his face when he told her to wait. No more of that, she laughed to herself.
Bella knew she'd ask Alice for more pills soon. She wondered how much Edward would remember, and if she had enough time for another round before he came to.

Alice Cullen couldn't help but a feel a little uncomfortable on the Reservation, but it had been worth the risk. Crossing the shed in her red leather pants and surveying the three sleeping men warily, she finally found her red sequined shirt. It had been torn to pieces. Oh well. It wasn't as though she'd have worn it again anyway, and if need be she was confident she could find a scrap of cloth with which to cover up for the trip home.
Not that the denizens of La Push were much for wearing clothes. Last night, Alice had been a little disappointed. No straps or chains or anything to contend with, just three pairs of jorts. Alice suppressed a shudder, just as she had then. She sat on the floor of Jacob's garage and tried again to light the peace pipe she'd found in Jacob's glove box. It was cashed. “What the fuck!” she exclaimed, tossing it across the room.
Just then, Jacob Black sat up and rubbed his eyes. He focused on the smiling vampire in front of him, then at his pack brothers scattered around the room, still snoring.
“What did we do last night?” he asked her, pale with shock.
“The better question is 'what didn't we do?'” Alice grinned, stretching.