Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eleven Problems With Eclipse

"Wait, I'm confused."

1. Stephenie Meyer's narrative devices are rarely employed with any specific purpose.

When we started this book I objected to the use of prefaces in The Twilight Saga. Not one of them has served the narrative in any way other than building nebulous anticipation, which is also accomplished by putting those vague quotes on the back of the book. It's redundant. And it's not like Twilight books work their way toward show-stopping resolutions or twists, so what are we even anticipating? Eclipse also has some serious problems with various between-paragraph punctuation: sometimes there is an extra space between paragraphs to indicate a shift in focus or a transition in time, sometimes there are a few asterisks instead, and sometimes there are enormous jumps in chronology with no break or extra punctuation whatsoever. And don't even get me started on ellipses! S. Meyer had one inspired turn back in New Moon when Edward left and we got those blank pages, but every other "form over content" trick she has tried has been a swing and a miss.

2. The Edward/Jacob tension is fundamentally bogus and yet it's the engine that's supposed to be powering most of this book.

Read Eclipse one way and it's kind of a great mystery story: what is the deal with these killings in Seattle? Unfortunately that isn't the central thrust of the book; the central thrust of the book is "will Bella chose Jacob or Edward?" And of course, she essentially already has chosen Edward before the book has even started. Here's what I wrote in "Amores Perros":

[I]t's sort of irritating to watch Bella/S. Meyer leap through increasingly narrow rhetorical hoops in order to justify [the tension]. I love Jacob (as a friend), I can't bear to hurt him (as a friend), I miss him (as a friend). It's almost like we're expected to ignore those parentheticals, like we're supposed to see this the way Jacob does.

It becomes almost impossible to read the book the way S. Meyer intended you to read it because it's impossible to understand what that way could have been. Are we supposed to think of Jacob as a valid option or not? For most of the book, it seems like we are not. And suddenly toward the end it seems like we are.

Bella also has this terrible habit of making every problem seem like the worst problem. TRIAGE, BITCH! Were it that the vampire army plot seemed more dire than the Jacob/Edward drama, I might not be so offended by this. There is a real problem in this book and a problem that is entirely the result of/a creation of Bella's brain. And yet Bella treats the latter as more serious than the former, or seems to, which makes us hate her even more.

3. Several plot threads disappear completely.

Who are Angela and Ben, exactly? Why do they seem so important at the beginning of this book? After all of my outrage over Quil imprinting on a two-year old, why is it never mentioned again? Very early in the book, after Alice has a vision at the cafeteria table and Bella asks what it's about, Edward says she's been seeing Jasper in a strange place. It's made clear later that she was seeing something else at the time; was Edward just making something up or is there a dropped subplot somewhere in there?

"You lost me."

4. Alice's visions being inconsistent is okay up to a point, but several of S. Meyer's exceptions seem irreconcilably nonsensical.

Alice's failure to see any of Victoria's involvement in the creation of the vampire army is incomprehensible. How did Victoria manage to create an army and then come and find Edward and Bella without EVER thinking about it? That is the explanation offered, and when it is presented to a reader in the middle of a life-or-death situation it's easy to just say "okay" and keep reading because one wants to know what happens next. But books should not ONLY work on that level, and Eclipse only works on that level.

Similarly: in New Moon the wolves are presented as volatile - they cannot control their phasing in and out of form. By Eclipse all of them seem to have gained a measure of control, and Jacob's control is presented as expert. Yet the justification for Alice's inability to see any aspects of the future that involve wolves is still presented as due to that volatility. From "Windowstill":

“Carlisle theorizes that it's because their lives are so ruled by their transformations. It's more an involuntary reaction than a decision. Utterly unpredictable, and it changes everything about them,” Edward says… As Jacob and the gang get better with the self control, wouldn't Alice's visions also improve? It's totally fine that S. Meyer wants to have a bunch of strange rules and exceptions to those rules on which to build her story; that's what Inception does too. But her explanations are so flimsy, and always voiced by characters as maybes: this could be what is going on, but we're not really sure. Nobody's really sure, least of all S. Meyer.

Adding on to that, she has a bad habit of having characters call attention to plot problems. If Alice sees something she should't have the ability to see, someone else will say "Hey, it's really weird she was able to see that." It's like S. Meyer's guilty conscience did a re-write on this book. Sometimes we get stuck with particularly ridiculous scenes of exposition, like when Bella explains to Edward that Victoria created the vampire army and he asks her a series of questions: how would Victoria know about vampire armies? How would Victoria know about Alice's powers? Bella magically has a solution to every problem. At the end of the scene Edward notes, "You're very perceptive today." Huh!

5. Bella should not actually be opposed to marrying Edward, Edward should not care about marrying Bella.

Bella is supposed to be an old soul, Edward's family makes a concerted effort to keep up with the times. And yet on the issue of marriage both of their stances are out of character: Bella fears being thought of as "that girl," fears rumors that she might be pregnant, fears her mother's reaction; Edward is stuck on this old-timey vision of pre-WWI romance, and tries to argue against the "transitory customs" of the modern era. YOUR CUSTOMS WERE TRANSITORY TOO, WHICH IS WHY THEY NO LONGER EXIST, BUDDY!

Bella wants to be with Edward forever and has no problem fathoming the eternal commitment of their relationship, yet she has a problem with making it official for the above reasons. That doesn't make any sense! Conversely, Edward's family, for the purposes of survival, tries to keep a low profile. A marriage certificate is not exactly low profile. From "I Will Bury You In Time":

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.

If you're keeping track, there are really more reasons why Edward is wrong than Bella. You can basically prove him wrong from any angle you like! But three wrongs don't make another wrong any less wrong.

"Does anybody understand what is going on here?"

6. Imprinting is horrific, and not treated as such.

SPEAKING OF WRONGS AND WRONGNESS. The first problem with imprinting is that when you are writing a romance novel, you probably shouldn't incorporate a magical Indian spell that forces people to love one another unless you are writing A Midsummer Night's Dream and making simultaneous ironic commentary about love and magic. And obviously S. Meyer is not doing that stuff! She undermines herself with the very concept of imprinting, but also makes it an irritatingly vague rule among members of the wolf pack. Like Alice's powers, it's something no one fully understands so S. Meyer doesn't have to fully understand it either.

But that isn't the HUGE GLARING PROBLEM with imprinting. The problem is its close associations with domestic abuse, infidelity, and CHILD MOLESTATION. Sam Uley leaves Leah for Emily, which obviously upsets Emily until it doesn't anymore. From "No, Non Je Regrette Rien":

[Sam] just WORE [EMILY] DOWN! Perfect! Jacob also says that “weirdly enough” the whole thing where Sam ripped off Emily's fucking face was what really brought them together. PERFECTER. “Weirdly enough,” indeed, Jacob. Weirdly enough, my heart is so warmed right now by this wonderful story that my blood is LITERALLY boiling and my skin is melting off!

That same "wearing down" thing is employed later when Quil imprints on a two year old girl. Bella is outraged, and we're outraged, but Jacob (and strangely, S. Meyer) tries to calm us down.

“Quil will be the best, kindest big brother any kid ever had...And then, when she's older and needs a friend, he'll be more understanding, trustworthy, and reliable than anyone else she knows. And then, when she's grown up, they'll be as happy as Emily and Sam.”

(Again, when specifically will these transitions (from ward to best friend to lover) occur? Has S. Meyer thought about that?) And maddeningly, this excuse that a guy can make a girl love him by sheer force of will comes up. That is a seriously dangerous notion, S. Meyer. Again, how did she meet her husband?

“Of course. But why wouldn't she choose him, in the end? He'll be her perfect match. Like he was designed for her alone.”

S. Meyer should think this is outrageous, and sometimes it feels like she does. But not most of the time. This is from when Bella observes Jared and his imprint victim, Kim, and the way he looks at her.

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.


7. In Breaking Dawn, there better not be any references to vampires being like stones or Quileutes being "russet-colored."

WE GET THAT JACOB HAS BROWN SKIN. WE GET THAT VAMPIRES ARE HARD. ENOUGH. (I really love early in the book when Bella says "his face could have been carved from stone" to indicate Edward being angry. HIS FACE COULD HAVE BEEN CARVED FROM STONE ANYWAY!)

8. Edward and Bella so frequently misunderstand each other that I can't be sure they really like each other.

This is more of a New Moon problem than an Eclipse problem, but it still occurs regularly here. S. Meyer's only trick is "this person doesn't understand what this other person actually means." Edward thinks Bella wants to be a vampire so she can fuck other vampires, Bella doesn't think Edward wants her in his family. Their real reasons for opposing each other are even dumber. Jacob thinks Bella's attempts to restrain him when he sexually assaults her are actually gestures of wild passion. The Cullen family misinterprets the vampire army to be a threat against them, not Bella. And so on, and so on, and so on. It's especially troubling when it comes to Bella/Edward misunderstandings - aren't they supposed to know each other really well?

9. The books' relationship with sex is convoluted and terrifying.

We've talked before about the issues around Edward and Bella, and really, the problems are too numerous to list here. But let's talk about what happens between Bella and Jacob by the end of the book. Is Jacob a rapist or does he really show Bella that she loves him when he repeatedly forces her to kiss him? A Judge in Tennessee recently wrote that gays should be forced out of the military, but that lesbians already serving should essentially be subject to corrective rape by male soldiers. I wish I was kidding.

“My solution would get the distaff part of our homosexual population off our collective ‘Broke Back,’ thus giving straight male GIs a fair shot at converting lesbians and bringing them into the mainstream.” (via Pride in Utah)

This line of thinking is remarkably similar to S. Meyer's.

10. The heavy plot of this book eventually amounts to pretty much nothing.

This only really works as a complaint for the series as a whole. At the beginning of this book, Edward wants to get married and Bella doesn't. Victoria is alive, and the Volturi are a looming and vague threat. At the end, Edward wants to get married and Bella doesn't want to as much, Victoria is dead, and the Volturi are a looming and vague threat. Not only is the vampire army subplot basically a gigantic distraction (what's the point of reading a long series if you feel like the author is spinning his or her wheels?), but it's also kind of stupid. From: "A Wolf At The Door":

Can I just say how dumb and out of place I think this whole army plot is? It's like S. Meyer is trying to slip some J.R.R. Tolkien shit on us. An army is marching on Forks? Isn't this series supposed to be about interpersonal (and intermonsternal) dynamics? Why so much military history and strategy as of late, then? It's probably just to postpone the fucking; S. Meyer is running out of ways to keep these characters out of each other's pants. And war is a fairly predictable side-effect of sexual frustration, is it not? That's why the Swedes never fight. So I guess it works, on that level.

Unlike the distraction-heavy plot of New Moon which nonetheless advanced Edward and Bella's relationship, I don't feel like this story advanced much of anything.

11. Outrage after outrage is piled upon us until we don't care about anything anymore.

The irritating vampire army subplot is really just a way to connect every individual set piece in which S. Meyer bludgeons us with her convoluted morals. I only flew off the handle once or twice during New Moon; this book nearly gave me an aneurysm:

Imprinting, then imprinting with a two-year old. Edward's irritating religious convictions becoming more and more well-defined, until it turns out he's trying to make sure Bella gets to go hang out with Jesus. The incredibly sexist portrayal of Leah Clearwater. Jacob's rape kiss, and then his CORRECTIVE rape kiss later on, which makes Bella realize she loves him. By the time Jacob forces himself on Bella a second time, we've given up. We let S. Meyer force herself on us, too.

Also: scent-science. Also: the fact that vampire strength is correlated to the size of the animal they eat. Also: the fact that because vampires are seemingly made of stone, they are also very set in their ways. These are not moral outrages, they are just outrageously stupid. I'm not sure which set is worse.

The entire collection of Blogging Eclipse posts can be found in the directory.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 36: Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Accidents

Epilogue! What is the narrative purpose of an epilogue when you have another book coming? I'm only really bringing this up because when we started this book I questioned the need for a preface, and I think I was on to something.

I'm beginning to question the logic of these glimpses into the future we get at the start of each new installment. Much like visiting a psychic, we get a bunch of vague sentiments that only make sense when they make sense - when they fit somewhere…These flash-forwards have no function in terms of dramatic irony - we don't get enough information for that. And since these books are not exactly aggressively plotted it's hard to even remember what was in the preface by the time you get to the climax.

Do you remember what happened in the preface to Eclipse? Me either! I also said this:

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

Nailed it. But anyway, there is kind of a purpose for this epilogue. Meet our new narrator, Jacob Black! WHAT? Previous entries can be found in the directory. (By the way, this is the last official installment of "Blogging Eclipse." We'll do some final thoughts after the holiday before I start "Blogging Breaking Dawn." Thanks for reading.)

Epilogue: Choice

We learn that Jacob Black is suddenly narrating our story via a handy header that reads "Jacob Black." Okay then. I mean, it's a little on the snout (because of wolves) but what is your alternative? In this scene, Jacob is standing somewhere with Leah Clearwater, so I suppose the first few lines could be like:

"Hey, Jacob! Something something something."
"Something that confirms I am Jacob," I replied.

Oh, whoops, that is basically what they are anyway. So okay, it is very firmly established that Jacob is narrating now. He's standing somewhere talking to Leah, and she's being annoying. S. Meyer makes some minor stylistic changes to accommodate this shift, which is nice. I'm glad Jacob's narration isn't indicated by a different font or something like that, which you have to admit wouldn't be that surprising. Most noticeably, he uses a lot of sentence fragments in keeping with our notion of Jacob as a moron. It would be kind of inspired if there were spelling errors too, but there aren't. He's plenty misogynistic, though!

I remembered back to when I used to think that Leah was pretty, maybe even beautiful. That was a long time ago.

YA BURNT LEAH! Jacob doesn't think you're pretty anymore! Leah starts bitching all shrewishly about something. Women, am I right Jacob? But seriously, she's apparently upset because Jacob's thoughts have been poisoning her dreams:

"I don't even like Bella Swan. And you've got me grieving over this leech-lover like I'm in love with her, too. Can you see where that might be a little confusing? I dreamed about kissing her last night! What the hell am I supposed to do with that?"

S. Meyer has quite a few inspired little tricks relating to the wolf-pack hive-mind here, pity that it took us until now to hear about them. Jacob counters that he has been forced to experience homo-erotic thoughts about Sam Uley because of his connection to Leah. Does that mean Sam Uley experiences homo-erotic thoughts about HIMSELF? (Whoops, I just found my next fanfiction.) It took me a little while to realize our characters were in human form, because of stuff like this:

"Really, kid." She ignored me, throwing herself into a sprawl on the ground next to me. "You have no idea how hard this is for me."

That's what she said! Leah, I mean. Do you think a few more clauses could have ended with the word "me" up there? But the point is, she's in human form, throwing herself into a sprawl? I hesitate to call that unladylike, but it would be in keeping with the tone of this epilogue. Leah (or as Jacob calls her, the "bitter harpy") antagonizes Jacob, telling him Edward will probably kill Bella during the vamping. From Jacob's perspective, we get a little more detail as to the Incredible Hulk-like process of transforming; he gets a "red haze" in his eyes and a "slide of fire" down his spine. But he calms himself, Namaste and all that. Jacob's taunting about Sam Uley in response is too much for Leah though - she heads for the woods.

(The running theme of this chapter is characters being able or unable to get a hold of their horses. Leah can't, and Jacob can for a while but something will soon happen that causes him to lose his cool; will Edward be able to keep himself calm enough during the sex and/or vamping? Did I just blow your mind with my ability to access the central thematic thrust of this epilogue so easily? I've had 35 installments worth of practice.)

Jacob tries to work through his emotions. It's an echo of Bella doing the same thing earlier in this book, but even dumber. He doesn't care so much that Bella chose Edward over him, but what really upsets him is the fact that she's going to be a vampire. But what REALLY REALLY upsets him is that she could accidentally die. But what SUPER MEGA UPSETS HIM is that he doesn't think Bella will die, he actually trusts Edward not to fuck it up, and he resents that trust. I refuse to believe that Jacob operates at more than one level of emotion at a time, let alone three! Consider my belief suspended.

In another parallel to Bella's worries, Jacob then wonders if he'll want to kill Bella when he sees her as a vampire. Hey, she was worried she'd want to kill him! This is a page or two after he bragged about having his temper in check by the way; he didn't phase even though Leah did in response to their little fight. So why are you worried? Either you're a zen master or you're not Jacob!

He leaves whatever vague place he is and heads home. He bitches about the "retarded" sling and crutches he is pretending to need as a result of his fake motorcycle accident. So we are to understand that some time has passed, and I respect S. Meyer for not coming right out and saying "it had been four weeks" (or worse, having a character say "Jacob, it's been four weeks!"). Jacob goes home and complains about his father being particularly chatty; He thinks Billy seems nervous about something. I sense utterly no emotion coming from Jacob with regard to his father, their relationship is identical to Bella's relationship with Billy. That is, he is too thinly drawn a character to meaningfully interact with anyone.

Anyway, Billy is trying to avoid telling Jacob that that they have been invited to Bella's wedding. he eventually hands Jacob the envelope.

It was heavy, stiff paper. Expensive. Too fancy for Forks. The card inside was the same, too done up and formal.

Just like how Alice likes her men: done up and formal. And crisp and white and thick. "Bella had nothing do to with this," Jacob laments ("Damn straight"-Alice Cullen, probably wearing a headset while also yelling at a florist). Along with the invitation is a note from Edward. He's inviting Jacob apparently against Bella's wishes. "But I know that, if things had gone the other way, I would have wanted the choice," he writes. I never got the "choice" motif, I guess because I never saw Bella ending up with Jacob as a valid possibility. I don't think that is a result of coming to the books after-the-fact as I have, either; it's pretty fucking clear this is where we've been headed for a while. But whatever, I guess now there's a cliffhanger for the next book: will Jacob come to the wedding? I know it doesn't have the same kick as "Will Victoria kill Bella?" but it'll do.

The answer is still probably no, though. Jacob gets up and leaves the house; he turns into a wolf and starts running. In his head, Quil and Embry offer their telepathic condolences in another inspired little turn. They beg Jacob to let them accompany him on the spiritual quest he is apparently embarking on, but Sam Uley chimes in and tells them to leave Jacob alone. He even orders them to return to human form to leave him with this thoughts. Nice guy, that Sam Uley. Except for the face ripping thing.

Jacob keeps running and running; he remarks that he could keep going like this forever. GOOD. It's too bad there isn't an actual end to the earth that Jacob could run off of, that would be great. "I would never go back," he resolves. YES. PERFECT.

I pushed my legs faster, letting Jacob Black disappear behind me.

(Wait, I thought Jacob was the narrator! JKJKJK) He's leaving forever! HOORAY! Good fucking riddance, Jacob! Yeah right. I can dream, but I'm not that naive anymore, my life is Twilight. See you next book, fuck face!

Monday, November 22, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 35: Take Your Wings Outside, You Can't Fly In Here

If you can believe it, this is the last chapter of Eclipse. We've been doing this since fucking JULY. Good riddance, Eclipse! Next time we'll deal with the epilogue, and soon we'll be getting started with Breaking Dawn. Get fucking ready. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

(The above photo is my modest contribution to the amazing Jumping Rob meme. Wonderful stuff can be found here, thanks TheTrace360.)

ALSO: DEATHLY HALLOWS! Did you see it? Talk to me here.

Chapter 27: Needs

Bella drives out of La Push and starts crying hysterically; she pulls over to the side of the road so as not to crash. Way to perpetuate multiple stereotypes about women in a single swipe, Bella! You're a credit to your gender. Edward shows up after a few minutes, apparently getting a tip off from Alice. (“Doesn't take a psychic to figure out that shit.”-Alice Cullen) He pulls Bella into his arms and she starts sobbing harder. Probably not the reaction he was looking for! He drives her home and sneaks off to her room while Bella tries to get past Charlie. Of course, when she walks in the house and he sees her tear-streaked face, Charlie thinks Jacob is dead. Ha ha!

“No, he's only dead to me,” I said.

I wish. But Bella does indicate that she's broken it off with Jacob. Charlie understandably wonders why she chose this moment to tell him. Why did she? I'm assuming that if werewolves heal at super-speed, Jacob's only going to be in traction for a few days, right? His bones weren't reduced to fucking DUST. Give the guy a few days! You already busted his balls and a vampire busted the rest of him – his heart was all he had left! You know it was harsh if I'm advocating sympathy for Jacob. Once upstairs, Bella tries to take the wolf-charm off of her wrist and fails. Edward tells her not to anyway - “It's part of who you are.” The way these two talk about having to live with the pain caused by Jacob, you'd think the motherfucker actually was dead. All that happened was they broke up, and they weren't even dating!

I knew that the new tear in my heart would always ache. That was just going to be a part of me now. Time would make it easier – that's what everyone always said.

(Between the “knew” followed by “new” and the fact that Bella also talks about the kind of “tear” that you cry on this page, that first sentence could use a tune-up.) Here's a fun little exercise for people who are grieving: try to explain why you are upset in one sentence. You probably should be able to! If you can't, don't cry in Edward's arms all night! But that's what happens. Edward questions whether Bella's made the right choice; hard to blame him for looking for a way out. (“Are you sure you want to be with me? Jacob is pretty great!”-Edward Cullen) In response Bella picks up a copy of Wuthering Heights and starts quoting it at Edward. What? How aggressively can you force a literary allusion into your novel before the pages start to rebel against you? If you squint hard enough you can see the rest of the text straining away from this section. Maybe there was just a printing error on my copy, but whatever. “Cathy's a monster,” Bella says, “but there were a few things she got right.” Edward responds that “Heathcliff had his moments, too.” So what these two are basically saying is “we're assholes, but our love redeems us.” I agree with at least the first part.

Next morning Bella announces they need to go see Alice. When they roll up to the Cullen house, she's standing on the front steps waiting excitedly. Naturally, she seems about to “break into a celebration dance.” That's Alice for you: she even looks like she's dancing when she isn't moving. It turns out Bella has decided to really make a go of this wedding thing, and she's putting Alice to work. Weirdly, Bella's chief motivation for this decision seems to be the fact that it will make Alice happy. I mean, that would be my motivation if I were a character in this book, but it's not usually Bella's motivation to make ANYONE feel better. I'm not saying Bella is self-centered, but she did just recently draw an analogy in which she was THE EARTH and boys were ORBITING AROUND HER.

Anyway, there's a weird section that follows when Alice takes Bella upstairs to see her dress, which she already has in her possession – it's indicated that she has had it in her possession for some time. We're either meant to understand that Alice ordered the dress a few months ago or like, several decades ago. To wit:

“These things take time, Bella,” Alice explained. Her tone seemed... evasive. “I mean, I wasn't sure things were going to turn out this way, but there was a distinct possibility...”
“When?” I asked again.
“Perrine Bruyere has a waiting list, you know,” she said, defensive now. “Fabric masterpieces don't happen overnight! If I hadn't thought ahead, you'd be wearing something off the rack!”

I went and googled Perrine Bruyere, and I got a bunch of articles of people talking about how THEY googled Perrine Bruyere and they couldn't find him either. The only reason I was curious was when Alice finally whips out the dress, Bella looks it over and seems to understand that it is deliberately old-fashioned to turn Edward on. That's gross, Alice.

“Nineteen-eighteen?” I guessed.
“More or less,” she said, nodding. “Some of it is my design, the train, the veil...” She touched the white satin as she spoke. “The lace is vintage. Do you like it?”

So are we meant to understand that Perrine Bruyere made the dress in 1918? And that Alice ordered in in 1918? HOW LONG IS THAT WAITING LIST? Or are we meant to understand it is just 1918-style? Is there a such thing as 1918-style? (“[Bruyere's] got promise... and he specializes in what I needed,” Alice says, in what is either a telling detail or a poorly indicated joke.) I don't know much about wedding dresses, but this scene is very confusingly written. And she doesn't even say what the dress looks like!

But the important moment comes when Bella asks Alice if she can see her dress, and Alice is stunned. “I wouldn't want my maid of honor to wear something off the rack,” Bella says. Alice is so excited that she kicks Bella out so she can plan more. Exeunt Alice for this book, I'm guessing. Dance on, you crazy diamond.

Edward and Bella go to the meadow, so you know we're wrapping up for real. Doesn't it seem like we've been in the denouement phase for a long time here? Didn't Victoria die a few years back? Anyway when they get there Bella explains to Edward her rationale for having a big wedding: Alice's happiness is part of it, but also she's seeing it as a goodbye for her parents. I have to admit, it's a kind of clever suggestion – when fathers walk their daughters down the aisle it probably seems to some fathers like they are losing their little girl forever. This time it really is that. (“It's more literal than you can possibly imagine.”-Jasper Whitlock) It's nice that Bella has found a way to make peace with the fact that she is abandoning her parents, which is why it is weird that Edward suddenly goes “Deal's off.” Huh? You're getting cold feet now, dude? GET IT COLD FEET BECAUSE HE'S A VAMPIRE?

Actually, Edward feels remorse for being such a weird religious zealot the last few books. FINALLY. “I've clung with such idiotic obstinacy to my idea of what's best for you,” he says. “My way is always wrong.” PREACH IT, BUDDY! This is what I have been saying all along! He tells her they can try to vamp her tonight, and says he'll still keep up his end of the bargain, which is not a euphemism for getting a boner. Well, it kind of is. At last, Edward is siding with the rest of us, at least inasmuch as he thinks he should fuck Bella too. Is this book going to end with a crazy sex scene?

He starts kissing her and Bella almost goes for it, but this time she's the one who stops them. Well, the vampire shoe is on the other Bella foot! She insists on giving Alice her fun (which sounds sexy in this context, but isn't), and on giving her parents a proper goodbye. That's all well and good, but then she goes Full-Edward. “Your soul is far, far too important for me to take chances with,” she says. SHIT, BELLA SAYS THAT? Is it fucking Freaky Friday?

At then end of the last book, Victoria and The Volturi were still around – we had threads to carry us into the next book. Has Victoria been replaced by the scourge of stubborn religiosity? Is that our new villain? It's like Bella swallowed the Kool-Aid right after Edward finally vomited it back up. He saw the light and she returned to the dark. He got his cock out as soon as she put her chastity belt back on. Alas.

It starts to rain, which makes the coming nuptials seem more ominous than S. Meyer probably intended. Edward and Bella leave to go tell Charlie they're getting hitched. Presumably, he will kill them both and the next book will be about totally different people. Hopefully.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 34: Sundowner

I'm starting to feel like maybe I can reach a reconciliation of sorts with Jacob. He's still a creep here, but you can see him dialing it down. The first few layers of his manipulative outer crust cracked when that newborn crushed him, maybe. Plus, we're clearly, finally moving on to some other phase of his relationship with Bella for Breaking Dawn; S. Meyer is admirably not dragging this triangle out any longer. Maybe I just like him better because Bella's finally kicking him to the curb? Previous entries can be found in the directory.

The song from which this post takes its title is here. Public Service Announcement: Ivana XL's music is available on iTunes. Buy it, help a struggling artist out!

Chapter 26 (cont'd): Ethics

Bella pulls up to La Push at about seven or eight and Billy Black tells her “Yo, Jacob's home, smell ya later because you'll be a vampire and we'll be repulsed by you” (I'm paraphrasing). She peers through a crack in Jacob's door (what is with this girl and the never knocking?) and sees him waiting for her, face all blank and shit. It's more difficult for her to look at him, “knowing that I loved him.” Oy gevalt. Then S. Meyer makes a particularly bad judgment call transitioning from one paragraph to the next:

I wondered it it had been this hard for him, all the time.
Thankfully, someone had covered him with a quilt.

WHOOPS! Maybe rethink that juxtaposition, S. Meyer! Bella's happy to not have to see the extent of his injuries (not the extent of his boner), but as soon as she says hello Jacob seems to realize this is his Dear John letter. Bella asks if he's in pain, and he says Carlisle overdid it with the painkillers. (“What do you got? Anything good? Do you need all this percocet?”- Alice Cullen)

I bit my lip. I was never going to get through this. Why didn't anyone ever try to kill me when I wanted to die?

Well if there are plenty of painkillers around you could just overdo it too, Bella. I think it would make everyone's lives easier, especially mine. Jacob asks how she's doing, but I don't think it's like a Joey Tribbiani-style “How YOU doin'?” Bella's shocked that Jacob even cares at all. “Maybe he had taken too many drugs,” she says. S. Meyer really loves painkiller jokes, huh? Maybe she'd be kind of fun to hang out with after all! What Jacob really wants to know is how mad Edward is at her for kissing him. I see what you're doing here, Jacob. Bella tells him Edward wasn't mad, which disappoints him.

This is when the possibilities for just how much manipulation is going on get a little too mind-boggling. Jacob pretended he was going to kill himself to get Bella to kiss him, hoping apparently that it would piss Edward off enough that he'd dump Bella. So did Edward react admirably not out of the goodness of his heart, but rather just to dig the knife deeper into Jacob's back? Has anyone told the truth about ANYTHING? I never though Eclipse would obliterate my sense of the truth as deeply as Rashomon, but there you are!

(Want to fuck up your life for a few years? Watch Rashomon, if you haven't already, and discuss it at length with a few other intelligent people. For optional extra credit, read That Noble Dream by Peter Novick. Whoops, do you feel incredibly isolated and disillusioned now? Akira Kurosawa and I just broke your brain forever, you're welcome.)

Bizarrely, Bella is not hurt by the fact that Jacob is still playing her for a fool, she's pained by the realization that he's still holding out hope they can be together. When she actually does make a caustic remark about Jacob's suicide threat, she takes it back immediately. That is still a valid thing to be mad about Bella! It happened this morning! Gallingly, Jacob says he doesn't care if she's mad about it or not, he'd do it again. Good to know! When the Quileutes get together to tell wolf stories do they ever do one about that Boy Who Cried about them? Jacob's happy that the resultant kiss led Bella to realize she really loved him. I don't even WANT TO GET INTO the dark fucking psychology in that shit. How fast can Stockholm Syndrome set in?

Bella expresses frustration that no one is mad at her. She wants to be punished! If you're into that kind of thing, there's a section here that reads like an excerpt from someone else's Twilight-themed BDSM fan fic:

He grinned. It didn't touch his eyes. “You want me to haul you over the coals?”
“Actually... I think I do.”
He pursed his lips as he measured how much I meant it. A smile flashed across his face briefly, and then he twisted his expression into a fierce scowl.

Get your whips out, freaks! But as soon as Jacob jokingly starts to yell at her, she starts crying. Don't ask for it if you don't want it! Anyway, Jacob seems to realize that Bella isn't going to pull the trigger, so he starts loading her gun for her, pushing the conversation toward a conclusion. “I'll be your friend,” he says. “I won't ask for more than that.” She's understandably like, “Yeah the fuck right.” Then, on the last line of page 597, Jacob says “You know that story in the Bible?”

That's the end of the page. My heart skipped a fucking beat. But it's a fake out; we don't veer off into weird religious territory like we have in the past. Zealotry is apparently exclusive to male vampires.

Instead Jacob just talks about Solomon. “I'm not going to cut you in half anymore, Bella,” he says. Bella sees through that one immediately too. How did Bella get so smart all of a sudden? Force me into kissing you once, shame on you, Trick me into kissing you twice, I'll finally start calling you on all your bullshit! That's how the saying goes, right?

So Jacob drops the games and goes for the straight-up appeal. “The worst part is knowing what would have been,” he says. He arrogantly insists that he was “the natural path” Bella's life would have taken. Aren't you sixteen, buddy? How do you know Bella's natural path wouldn't have been to college and way the fuck away from you forever?

I get that people have problems with the idea of Young Romance – Edward & Bella getting engaged when she's only 18 years old – because in our divorce-saturated society, the talking-point is “exercise caution” before you jump in to that sort of thing. I don't necessarily subscribe to that line of thinking, and when people throw neuroscience at me like, “your brain doesn't finish developing until you are 25” or whatever, I subscribe to it even less. (If subscribing less is something you can really do. “I'd like only six issues a year, please.”) Neuroscience is bullshit. I think you can meet the right person at a young age. I don't think there is a such thing as a “soul mate,” but I think there is a such thing as “a person who is really good for you who you should be with.” And within the narrative framework of a fantasy novel, I'm even less inclined to tell Edward & Bella not to rush in, and not just because Where We're Going, We Don't Need Divorce Lawyers.

All of that said, even my credulity is way fucking strained when Bella agrees with Jacob completely and starts talking about how she has “two soul mates.” Shut up, Bella. Jacob moves the conversation to a different, even dumber place. “He's like a drug for you,” he says, in a weird callback to Edward's terrible metaphor about how Bella was his “brand” of heroin. “But I would have been healthier for you. Not a drug; I would have been the air, the sun.” This metaphor is already tenuous enough, but Jacob & Bella keep going.

“I used to think of you that way, you know. Like the sun. My personal sun. You balanced out the clouds nicely for me.”
He sighed. “The clouds I can handle. But I can't fight with an eclipse.”

Hey, that's the name of this book! Wasn't Edward “a drug” earlier in this metaphor? Is he a giant rock of crack cocaine in the shape of a moon now? I'm trying to wrap my arms around this. Technically, I guess we should remember that the shadow in a lunar eclipse is caused by the earth itself. So is Edward the earth and Bella the moon in this metaphor? Because we all know the sun and the moon aren't meant to be together no matter what Paula Abdul says. Jacob probably shouldn't have gone down this road, or S. Meyer should have specified which kind of eclipse we're dealing with. But Jacob pretty much resigns after that speech anyway, and asks Bella when the vamping is going to happen. Well, either that or she's asking when he's going to have sex.

“How long do you have left?”
“That depends on how long it takes Alice to pull a wedding together.” I suppressed a groan, imagining what Alice would do.
“Before or after?” he asked quietly.
I knew what he meant. “After.” […]
“Are you scared?” he whispered.

She says she's worried about the pain (again, could go either way). “I've never been much of a masochist,” she says. Really, Bella? Weren't you just asking Jacob to rake you over the coals? Haven't you been semi-consciously screwing yourself over for over a thousand pages? Aren't you dating a vampire and cock-teasing a werewolf? Didn't you just stab yourself in the arm with a sharp rock? Not a masochist? Really!?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 33: When The Curious Girl Realizes She Is Under Glass

When S. Meyer titles a chapter “Ethics,” you know you're in trouble. Previous entries can be found in the directory. (Also updated: JASHLEYGATE, A Directory)

Chapter 26: Ethics

Bella sits in Alice's bathroom getting a makeover in order to keep up with her alibi for Charlie's sake; Alice combs her hair with a “slow, rhythmic motion.” OKAY. Bella, Alice, slow rhythmic motions. We're off to a good start, but S. Meyer ruins any potential this scene might have had. For one thing, Bella's thinking about Jacob; he's injured and she wants to see him. It turns out she's already visited him once, an event we've skipped over. We learn about it via some incredibly clumsy flashbacks – S. Meyer will do stupid things like have Alice say something in the present and then talk about something Alice said a few hours ago, during the first visit to Jacob, without really indicating the transition. It's jarring. Later Bella will be talking to Charlie and then mention seeing Jacob “when Charlie left.” But she's referring to when Charlie left La Push earlier in the day – she's still having a conversation with him now. Recall that S. Meyer has previously used every kind of punctuation imaginable to indicate time jumps. What makes her think she can hang us out to dry now? It's some of the worst flashback writing I have ever seen, and I watched every episode of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip! (Sorry Aaron Sorkin! The West Wing and Sports Night and The Social Network are amazing!)

Alice stresses to Bella the importance of keeping up appearances. “It's more important now than ever that Charlie stays safely in the dark,” she says. As Bella gets up to leave, Alice comments how hot she looks in her new dress.

“Huh? Oh. Er – thanks again for the clothes,” I mumbled out of courtesy rather than real gratitude.
“You need the evidence,” Alice said, her eyes innocent and wide. “What's a shopping trip without a new outfit?”

It's indicated throughout that Bella is really distracted thinking about Jacob. Is S. Meyer distracted, too? Why does Alice get reflexively defensive (eyes innocent and wide) about shopping when Bella didn't even protest? The only explanation I can think of is that Alice was actually coming on to Bella and walked it back a little too hard when Bella didn't return the vibes. Or S. Meyer is just a bad writer, maybe, I don't know.

I'm struggling to find a way to write about this chapter, because the chapter itself seems to be struggling. We drift lazily back and forth from Bella's feelings about seeing Jacob the first time to Bella's feelings about sitting in Alice's bathroom getting a makeover to Bella's feelings about potentially seeing Jacob again. It's hard to know what is important, what we should be focusing on, or even what is happening when.

There are those cryptic allusions to visits to Jacob past and future. We also are meant to understand that Alice (or someone) has come up with a story for Charlie to explain why all of Jacob's bones are broken, but we don't hear what that story is for a while. Instead, Bella starts asking Alice unrelated questions. Poor Alice. At the start of every book she gets to be this fun, mild-trouble-making weirdo, and by the end of every book she's just stuck explaining plot mechanics. “There's no hurry,” she says to Bella at one point. “If you realized how much extra morphine Carlisle had to give him – what with his temperature burning it off so quickly – you would know that he's going to be out for a while.” Why do we even – ? Nicely shoe-horned in there, S. Meyer! If his body is burning it off why would he be out for a longer than normal amount of time? What in the - ?

Alice becomes even more baldly an expository device as the conversation goes on. Bella asks why Alice's and Jasper's powers work on her, whereas Jane's and Edward's and Aro's don't. Alice shares her complicated theory that Jane, Edward, and Aro all work on the mind, where as Jasper works on like, the endocrine system or something, and she works with physical outcomes. Okay, fair enough. She takes a lot longer to explain it, of course.

She watched my face to see if I was following her logic. In truth, her words had all started to run together, the syllables and sounds losing their meaning. I couldn't concentrate on them.

SO WHY DID YOU EVEN ASK? Bella brings it up for our benefit, apparently. Thanks, Bella! It's maddening that aspects of this chapter can be so difficult to understand and other parts can be so ridiculously transparent: Bella asks if Alice still sees her becoming a vampire, and Alice understands that Bella is agonizing over the Jacob/Edward decision. For our purposes in this particular quote, S. Meyer's original italics are rendered in all caps:

She put her arms around me. “I'm sorry. I can't really EMPATHIZE. My first memory is of seeing Jasper's face in my future; I always knew that he was where my life was headed. But I can SYMPATHIZE. I'm so sorry you have to choose between two good things.”

THIS HAS BEEN YOUR VOCAB MOMENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY ALICE CULLEN. Speaking of vocab, Alice is the first of two people to have “unfathomable” eyes in this chapter. Later, Jacob's eyes will be described with the same word. What is this, an episode of Mad Men?

Bella goes home. Charlie, of course, was at La Push during the battle, and thus saw the injured Jacob. Hence Alice's insistence on getting the story straight. But Charlie, like Alice, has become an instrument of the plot. “I told you those motorcycles were dangerous,” he says almost immediately. If it wasn't clear enough for you that the Cullens and the wolfpack are passing off Jacob's injury as a motorcycle accident, a few paragraphs later Charlie says, “Pretty much the whole right side of his body got crushed when he wrecked that damn bike.” OH I GET IT WE'RE PRETENDING JACOB WAS IN A BIKE ACCIDENT, RIGHT?

Alice insisted that Charlie stay “in the dark,” so she probably should have killed Billy Black if she wanted that to happen. Because Charlie proceeds to talk about what a weird day he had: Billy was on edge the whole time, and cut their fishing trip short when he heard a wolf howl. Then there was some really loud howling all around the reservation while they tried to watch the game and Billy made nervous phone calls. Essentially he recaps the entire plot of the last few chapters from his point of view. But then an injured Jacob showed up and Charlie forgot about the weird stuff until just now. OH DID HE. I would be less bothered by S. Meyer's lazy writing if she didn't seem so paranoid about her lazy writing, inserting these weird intratextual defenses like she does. Charlie also notes that Edward, who was apparently with the injured Jacob (you'd think that fact would make Charlie suspicious but magically it doesn't) seemed genuinely distraught over Jacob's welfare. Oh, that's sweet. Are they going to be best friends now? Don't we have another book to get through first?

(Hey didn't Bella cut her arm open? Is Charlie going to notice?)

Bella flashes back again to seeing Jacob the first time. He looked really fragile, and she feels really guilty about it. She says she wishes there were two of her, so one could be with Jacob and the other with Edward. Still haven't separated guilt and love, eh Bella?

As if shit wasn't fucked up enough, Charlie abruptly says that he's feeling “superstitious” after his weird day on the Rez, and he feels like he is going to lose Bella soon. We're really just laying all of it on the line, huh? Is S. Meyer really that bored with writing this book? Is Breaking Dawn just going to be A FUCKING OUTLINE?

“Don't be silly, Dad,” I mumbled guiltily. “You want me to go to school, don't you?”
“Just promise me one thing.”
I was hesitant, ready to rescind. “Okay...”
“Will you tell me before you do anything major? Before you run off with him or something?”

Or become a vampire or whatever. Thoughts?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 32: Jane Says

Oy, what a messy chapter. You can tell we're wrapping up, but S. Meyer suddenly throws a bunch of new balls into the air. It's hard to blame her; where the fuck are we going to go from here? In the first book of this series we met three villains. In the first book James died, in the second book Laurent died, and now Victoria is dead. And there's still another book coming. What do we do about that? S. Meyer's solution seems to be to try a few things all at once. A plot line about the arrival of the Volturi keeps crashing into a plot line about problems with Jacob, and I kept thinking about that episode of The Simpsons where Homer was trying to mash two mismatched puzzle pieces together. It's not going to work!

Chapter 25: Mirror

Bella stands there shocked, trying not to stare at Victoria's DECAPITATED FUCKING HEAD on the ground in front of her; Victoria's red hair is still blowing in the wind. We're really getting a look at S. Meyer's sadistic side in these chapters, and it's kind of great:

Swiftly and coolly businesslike, [Edward] dismembered the headless corpse.

The dark tone is infectious, and since I've recently given up on moral outrage the timing is especially perfect. Bring on the weird shit, S. Meyer! I'm ready. Bella gives Edward the up and the down to make sure he's okay – she can't even see a tear in his clothes. That's too bad, S. Meyer missed an opportunity to get real harlequin on us; “Edward's shirt had been torn down the front, exposing his smooth marble chest,” and so on. He piles up the “quivering, twitching limbs” (yes!) and covers them in pine needles. I don't feel like that alone is going to get much of a fire going. Gather some kindling, maybe? Edward heads into the woods and for a moment I thought that was really what he was doing, but he comes back with “arms full of Riley” instead. Seth follows with Riley's torso in his mouth (even more yes!). They start the fire (pine needles do the job after all) and thick purple smoke (vampire ghosts, I guess) start climbing toward the sky. Edward extends a fist to Seth and the wolf bumps his teeth against it. Hahahaha wait a second, really? I had to read that a few times to make sure it was real.

“Thug life!” Edward said.

Edward finally turns to Bella, approaching her slowly like she's got a bomb strapped to her chest and he's here to work out the terms of a hostage release. For one thing, she's still got the sharp rock in her hand, but for another Edward is worried she'll be horrified by him. When she doesn't seem to be, he's confused.

“I just beheaded and dismembered a sentient creature not twenty yards from you. That doesn't bother you?”

(He was twenty yards away?) What's weird about this scene is that Bella is simultaneously shell-shocked and trying to convince Edward that she's okay – she's not afraid of him and seems to want him to understand that, but she's also shaken by the events of the last chapter, and thus struggling to keep her head. The problem is, if that is what is happening, it is not made sufficiently clear. Trying to introduce both ideas at once reads like Bella actually is afraid of Edward and is trying to lie about it. Every time she denies that he is a scary murderer there is a little narrative aside that undermines it. Like this:

“Seriously?” I finally asked. “You...what? Thought you'd scared me off?” I snorted. Snorting was good; a voice couldn't tremble or break during a snort. It sounded impressively offhand.

What the hell is that? Is this scene supposed to play like Bella finds it funny that Edward would think she'd be afraid of him? Is she afraid of him? I really can't tell. Combine this section with the whole “I didn't know I loved Jacob” storyline of the last few chapters and it seems like S. Meyer is losing her grip on Bella as a character. How is she feeling right now? I have no idea. She talks about being “confused” by Edward's fear and relieved when she realizes Victoria is never coming back, but then only lines later she is forcing herself to seem “blasé” while talking to Edward. Huh?

The relief (such as it is) of having defeated Victoria is short lived, as multiple vague obstacles appear on pages 560-561. It happens very quickly, like S. Meyer realized how incoherent the first few pages of this chapter were and wanted to distract us before we noticed. Bella asks about Edward's cryptic comment earlier (as in before the fight – for someone in shock she has a pretty good memory) about having to “nail down an schedule” on something. He says it's "nothing." She doesn't get a chance to press him further, because suddenly Edward drifts into the pack mind and something terrible happens.

And then Edward gasped, “No!” and one of his hands flew out as if to grab something that I couldn't see. “Don't –!”
A spasm rocked through Seth's body, and a howl, blistering with agony, ripped from his lungs.

Guys, what the fuck? Edward drops to his knees and Bella follows him down.

I screamed once in bewildered terror.

As opposed to twice? Edward starts speaking in pack-mind form – Sam is helping whoever was hurt. That's all the news we get for a while. So now we have two vague terrible things hanging in the air, which even turn out to be totally unrelated. Edward tells Seth to go straight home, and puts Bella on his back and starts running. She starts pestering him with questions, and he admits that the Volturi had decided to do away with the newborns themselves and are thus en route. They seem to have been hanging back on purpose, and Edward assumes it's because they were hoping a few of the Cullens would die.

Alice can apparently see that everything will be fine though, so as always with the Volturi it's a little unclear why anyone is all that stressed out. Bella realizes that Edward still hasn't explained why he was on his knees screaming a minute ago, and realizes he was “distracting” her with the Volturi talk. Sort of like how S. Meyer was distracting us with the screaming! We're paying it forward! I feel like I should go off on a needless digression right now, and then you should open another tab and read something else for a few minutes, just to extend this chain as far as we can.

Hey do you think there's a really twisted dude out there who totally misunderstood the point of Pay It Forward and went out in the world doing good deeds because he knew it would kick start a chain of events that would kill a kid?

ANYWAY what happened was there was a newborn hiding because the werewolves didn't take inventory (stupid lazy werewolves!), and it attacked Leah, and Jacob stepped in and almost got killed. Edward implies that he is very badly hurt, and then Bella faints. She metaphorically slips off a cliff she was standing on in her mind (I don't even – there was a motif back there I mostly ignored) or something, but do you think she also fell off of Edward's back while he was running? I'm entertaining myself with that visual. Edward's running and running and Bella just DROPS. THUD. Hahahaha. Anyway.

Bella wakes up in the clearing next to a pile of burning vampire bodies, an image that should be treated as darker than it is. The Cullens are all there, and Alice sounds “brightly chipper” as she informs them that the Volturi will be arriving in a few minutes, and Bella will be awake in “thirty-seven seconds.” I understand the cheery voice for the second part, but what about the first part? (I have a theory, but I'll explain it in a bit.) Jasper is standing by the pile of burning bodies (natch) rubbing his arm – he was bitten. Edward explains that Jasper got hurt trying to do too much at once, “trying to make sure Alice had nothing to do, actually.”

Alice grimaced toward her true love. “Overprotective fool.”

That's too bad, Alice missed an opportunity to get real harlequin on us; “Oh, my shirt got torn off my the newborns! Also my bra!” and so on. Jasper's hovering over what turns out to be a young girl – a newborn who surrendered to the Cullens. She's thrashing around in the dirt and starts loudly complaining about how badly she wants Bella. Bella looks at the wild eyes of the newborn vampire and, well, you know.

I stared at her, mesmerized, wondering if I were looking into a mirror of my future.

I feel like we could make this more obvious, if we wanted to. What if the girl's name is Swella Ban? That would be so great. Then the Volturi come striding into the clearing. Well, a few of them. Jane is the only notable presence. One dude who I should probably remember but don't (Felix) winks at Bella. Am I the only person who likes the Volturi? Regardless of what Edward seems to think, they aren't particularly evil. They're dicks, but they're such gleeful dicks that their dickishness is endearing. I find myself breathless in anticipation of every casually bitchy word out of Jane's mouth. She seems to plan on showing no mercy to the Cullen's prisoner of war. YES. Kill that kid, Jane! The Victoria scene has filled me with literary bloodlust.

Is it possible that Alice is excited too? Recall that a few minutes ago (told you I'd come back to this) her voice was “chipper” when she said the Volturi were minutes away. Did she see this was going to end with some child-murdering? Jasper used to kill newborns all the time, after all! Could it be she has a really weird fetish? It would explain her lack of the reproductive anxiety suffered by Esme and Rosalie! I'm going to go out on a limb here and say yes, that is exactly it.

Edward talks to Jane for a while explaining everything that happened. Can't we skip some of this, S. Meyer? Jane turns to the newborn girl and asks her name. When she doesn't answer, Jane goes all CRUCIO STARE on her ass. The girl screams and writhes and Bella feels sick. She looks to Esme and Alice, who both have blank faces. Vampires can be so cold! Get it? Cold? (Esme is masking her pain, but I think Alice is masking her enjoyment.)

“She'll tell you anything you want to know,” Edward said through his teeth. “You don't have to do that.”
“Oh, I know,” [Jane] said to Edward, grinning at him before she turned back to the young vampire.

Jane is so great. Bree is the girls name, as in Bree Tanner, as in S. Meyer's novella. And Bree recaps for Jane what is probably the plot of that novella, the way Riley transformed them and told them that the Cullens were coming to get them, the way he kept Victoria's identity secret. When Jane hears that Victoria's efforts were motivated by Bella, she laughs.

“This one seems to bring out bizarrely strong reactions in our kind,” she observed, smiling directly at me, her face beatific.
Edward stiffened... “Would you please not do that?” he asked in a tight voice.
Jane laughed again lightly. “Just checking. No harm done, apparently.”

Jane is the greatest! I'm wondering how much Dakota Fanning's deadpan turn in New Moon is impacting my goodwill toward her. My guess is “a lot.” Jane indicates that it is time to kill Bree and leave, and Edward says the Cullens would take responsibility for the girl. He's looking at Carlisle while he talks – it's possible that he's channeling Carlisle's thoughts and his dad is just too much of a pussy to speak up for himself. He offers to take Bree in, but Jane is like “nope” and Bella looks away and Felix goes over to Bree and then it's SCREAM CRUNCH SNAP. Yeah! So concludes the Brief Wondrous Life of Bree Wao or whatever! Thanks for stopping by, little girl!

Am I supposed to find this horrifying and not awesome? I hope not. It would be weird if S. Meyer expected us to feel much of anything for a character she literally just introduced and transparently linked to Bella since, you know, we barely care about Bella.

Monday, November 8, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 31: Heads Will Roll

Whoa, you guys. This chapter is great! It's short, it has a reasonable plot twist (some might say predictable, but don't we want our plot twists to sort of make sense?), and it concludes with a kind of spectacular show of violence. Plus, Jacob isn't in it at all! Perfect! S. Meyer does a decent job describing the aforementioned action - I've long predicted that the giant newborn showdown would not be depicted in this book, and I was mostly right. But S. Meyer actually does us one better, bringing another fight to Edward and Bella on the mountaintop.

I enjoyed this chapter, but let's keep things in perspective here: the mountain where this fight takes place has some very unclear geography in my mind's eye (I'm not even totally sure it's a mountain), and as always with S. Meyer distances and scale are impossible to determine. That sort of thing is cleared up by the film adaptation, I'm sure. But it shouldn't have to always be that way. When you watch the Harry Potter films you say to yourself “That's exactly how I pictured it.” When you watch the Twilight films you say to yourself “Oh, that's what it was supposed to look like.” Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 24: Snap Decision

Bella lays face down, hoping to be struck dead after kissing Jacob. That's an understandable reaction. Edward appears and starts comforting her, for the moment unaware of what transpired. Of course it doesn't take long for the news to telepathically spread. He reacts admirably, or course, chuckling at Jacob's dirty tactics (in response to the dick move Edward pulled getting Bella to talk about their engagement while Jacob was in earshot. Of course, Edward's dick move was clever and had the truth on its side and Jacob's dick move was horrifying and manipulative, but Edward and S. Meyer don't seem to realize this, so whatever) and asking Bella if she really believed Jacob would have killed himself “just to clear the way for me.” Bella is so filled with self-loathing she can't even be mad at Jacob for lying. That seems like a mistake! She also can't understand why Edward isn't angry with her. “You're only human,” he says.

“There are holes in your life that I can't fill. I understand that.”

That's what he said! You could fill them if you wanted to, buddy! STEP UP! Anyway Edward tells Bella that she loves Jacob, and she can't really argue. You notice everyone has to tell her this, though?

“You love him,” he said.
“I do?” I asked.
“Oh, okay.”

I mean, that's not exactly how it goes, but that is sort of how it's been going. She tells Edward that she loves him more, at least. She wants him to be mad at her, to call her “every bad name you can think of.” Kinda sexy, Bella! But Edward can sense that the fight is about to start, and he wants to have the last word on the matter. “I'm not going to make you choose between us,” he says. “You can have whatever part of me you want, or none at all, if that's better.” Either his generosity or the prospect of a polyamorous relationship sets Bella off and she tries to fuck him again. “You said I could have any part of you I wanted,” she says. “I want this part.” No word on what exactly she gestures at or grabs, but I think we can guess. “Make me forget how awful I am,” she says. “Make me forget my own name.” I'm sorry, what? That really just got said?

Finally something seems to be happening down below, and that's not a euphemism for anything, I mean the fight finally starts. Edward starts channeling the wolfpack hive-mind and starts speaking the narrative aloud, in first person plural, like a George Saunders short story or something – “Sam's taking us around to head off the ambush party,” and “We can hear Emmett – he's enjoying himself,” and so on. It's kind of cool, and would have made for an interesting way to write about the entire fight, but Edward stops abruptly and Bella fears the worst. Someone has died, perhaps? The next thing she knows, she's outside the tent – Edward has picked her up and torn his way out in a flash. He shouts for Seth, the werewolf on duty, to “go” and presses Bella against a wall to protect her from whatever is coming.

In retrospect, it's hard to believe I didn't see anything coming. Eclipse has been essentially a heist story for the last few hundred pages, everyone planning and training for the big event. And of course, Something Always Goes Wrong. I guess I just assumed the “something wrong” was the storm last night. But what if that had been it? Edward and Bella would sit on the mountain and then come down and everyone's okay, the end? Instead we have an organic twist, but one that I didn't think about in advance. How much of that is S. Meyer's skill or luck or my stupidity is hard to say.

“Victoria,” he said, spitting the word, making it a curse.

"Fucktoria!" Bella was right and Victoria was behind the vampire army. Edward very quickly explains away why Alice didn't at least see this coming, and it makes no sense, but whatever. “She never meant to fight with them. She made a spur-of-the-moment decision to find me, guessing that you would be wherever I was. She was right.” Victoria gets to have her mind-cake and eat it too, but c'mon now – if she never planned on fighting with the newborns, why is she anywhere near the scene of the battle? And what train of thought was she on in the first place in order to make the spur-of-the-moment decision that led her here in the second place? In other words if she wasn't thinking about joining the newborns and wasn't thinking about finding Bella, WHAT THE FUCK WAS SHE THINKING ABOUT? At some point she would have had to think about something in the neighborhood of coming with the newborns in order to break off at the last minute, at which point Alice would have seen her, right? Did she just start spinning around in circles somewhere in Canada until she caught Edward's scent? WHY AM I TRYING TO SORT THIS OUT? I ALREADY SAID “WHATEVER.” WHATEVER!!!

WHATEVER, there is a fight now! Cool. Victoria has brought a friend, it turns out his name is Riley. One of the great things about Edward being able to read minds is we never have to wonder very long what anyone's name is. Though I don't really think about my own name very often, do you? Victoria is predictably described as having flame-like hair and a mean expression – but when she speaks Bella reacts to her high girlish voice. Good thing they recast Bryce Dallas Howard in this part! Anyway, Victoria and Riley advance on them, and S. Meyer has a bravura twenty or thirty lines in which Edward plays mind games with Riley, Riley struggles to focus, and Victoria postures and tries to get an angle at which to attack Bella. It's genuinely tense and well paced. Edward starts confirming suspicions Riley must have had, telling him that Victoria is using him and everyone else to get at Bella, that this is all about her former lover. It's strongly suggested that Victoria has been banging Riley and does intend to use him as a distraction for Edward so she can kill Bella and escape. Edward tries to convince Riley that there is another way to live, all the while moving toward him.

“Last chance, Riley,” Edward whispered.

This is a great bad-ass moment for Edward – we haven't seen him close to this since he confronted the would-be rapists in Port Angeles in Twilight, and that was just tough talk. He's about to knock some heads together ("and he means that more literally than you can imagine."-Jasper). Edward's been an oversensitive and indecisive religious zealot for too long. Why haven't we seen more of this?

Victoria stops Edward from making any progress with Riley, and right as they seem poised to strike Seth-wolf bursts out of the woods and tackles Riley. Victoria is audibly shocked. She knew about werewolves though, right? She's run into them before! In a few lines Edward will answer one of her thoughts and confirm that Seth won't turn on him; I'm only noting this because again, nothing about Victoria's appearance makes any sense. Does Alice know about it yet, by the way? Presumably the fight on the ground is over now. It wouldn't take long for the Cullens to get here, and it seems like they should be getting here! BUT WHATEVER!

Over the course of this scene, Seth gradually tears Riley to pieces, and it is brutal and great. Random chunks of vampire keep landing next to Bella while Riley screams in frustration and pain – at one point Seth bites an arm off and it lands near Bella with the fingers still moving. Riley is a guy who has just been introduced to us, but he's been framed as basically innocent, a victim of Victoria's machinations. He still dies a horrible death, eventually losing both arms and then getting killed mid-scream, and I give S. Meyer tons of credit for being absolutely unflinching. It's equal parts awesome and upsetting watching him die.

While that's happening, Edward and Victoria are fighting in fast motion, and Bella can't see exactly what is going on. That's handy. Edward is reading Victoria's thoughts and keeping her from advancing on Bella, and whenever they break he plays a similar mind-game with her, saying James never loved her either. Get a new trick, Edward! I'm picturing like a wrestling announcer right now: Edward Cullen is about to use his signature move, telling his opponent that no one ever loved them! Right to the sternum!

Riley, who still has at least one arm at this point, sends Seth flying into the cliff face above Bella, and shards of rock rain down on her as the wolf collapses nearby. She instinctively grabs a shard of rock (Bella has survival instincts?) but eventually decides (obviously) to cut herself instead (like the third wife, duh!) to distract Victoria and Riley. Bella doesn't have the guts to stab herself in the heart, though. (Wait a minute, why did the third wife stab herself in the heart?) She cuts her arm (nice message! Cut yourself to help your boyfriend!) and somehow manages to hear Edward's exasperated sigh. (And she remarks how weird it is that she could hear it – I don't think S. Meyer is playing fair with her narration you guys!) The distraction is enough for Seth to spring back into action and tear Riley's other arm off – and that's pretty much it for our new friend. Thanks for stopping by, Riley! R.I.P. Get it, because Seth RIPS him apart? Victoria tries to bolt, but Edward catches her.

Edward's mouth brushed once across her neck, like a caress.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

BLOGGING ECLIPSE, pt. 30: I'm With You In Rockland

I knew one of these days S. Meyer was just going to wear me down, and I was going to be unable to muster the moral outrage that any reasonable person would be able to muster in the face of this shit. The problem, for me, is having everything that has happened between Jacob, Edward and Bella in total, fucked-up context. What's another outrage, at this point? I've burrowed so deeply into the world of Twilight that normal things seem crazy and crazy things seem normal. I lost my moral compass somewhere back in New Moon. Now, if you read the following chapter to an uninitiated person, they would be appalled (they would be appalled if you told them this was a book popular among pre-teens. That's one of the unspoken assumptions of this blog that needs to be occasionally spoken aloud, okay, written out – were it that this book was intentionally bleak and dark and morally repulsive and for adults it would be fine. Hell, even if it was intentionally morally repulsive and for CHILDREN it would be fine, what the fuck do I care? But the unintentional repulsiveness is the thing). Anyway, I read this chapter and I am not appalled. I really should be, but I am not. Because I am dead inside. #MLIT. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 23: Monster

Bella wakes up in the tent, sweating next to Jacob's hot body (you're welcome). Edward tells her it's warmer, that she won't need “the space heater.” Hey, no offense Edward, but after last night I'm not totally confident in your ability to read weather patterns, okay? He unzips the sleeping bag, and Jacob falls out onto the cold ground. The still-mostly-unconscious Jacob instinctively rolls away from the cold and end up on top of Bella, momentarily crushing her--

And then the weight was gone. I felt the impact as Jacob flew into one of the tent poles and the tend shuddered.

And the tent didn't collapse? Good tent pitching, Edward! Maybe I should trust his Eagle Scout bonafides after all (he is, of course, a 109-year-old virgin). Anyway, I applaud everyone's instinctual reactions here: Jacob tries to smother Bella and put her out of her misery, and Edward tries to kill Jacob and put him out of his misery. Everybody wins/dies! So there's a tense (GET IT? TENTS) moment in the inexplicably still standing tent while Edward and Jacob growl at each other, but Bella eases them down.

Under my touch, Jacob began to calm himself.

It's not really supposed to work that way, but whatever. Edward apologizes. Jacob asks him gleefully if last night was one of his worst nights ever; Edward concedes that it may have cracked the top ten. Then, even though Edward is ice-cold, he reminds us that he can still burn a motherfucker if he wants:

"But," Edward went on, "if I had been able to take your place, it would not have made the top ten of the best nights of my life. Dream about that."

YA SO BURNT, Jacob! Naturally Mr. Black decides to leave the tent at that point, heading toward the battlefield. If S. Meyer's dialogue patterns weren't predictable enough already, Bella and Edward make a few seconds of smalltalk before she questions him about the aforementioned best nights ("If someone talks about a good night that they had in Act 1, someone should ask them about that shit right away in Act 1 scene 2."-Chekov).

"Well, this one time for Emmett's bachelor party," Edward said excitedly. "Alice hired a bunch of strippers, and..."

Just kidding all of Edward's best nights involve being with Bella! Of course they do. What a shitty first century this guy must have had. This happens as Bella and Edward recount each of their favorites:

"Well, there was the first night. The night you stayed," [I said.]
"Yes, that's one of mine, too. Of course, you were unconscious for my favorite part."

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. The more they talk the more the conversation begins to take on the air of a plot recap. "Remember that time we went to Italy?" and so on. HOW COULD WE FORGET? Apparently that night is in both Edward's and Bella's top ten. Is that in spite of or because of all the mass murdering you guys shrugged past? Then Edward says the night Bella finally agreed to marry him was his favorite night. Of course it was.

"Remember that time I finally convinced you to go along with my bizarre and outdated and inconsistent religious world view in exchange for finally having sex with me? That night was awesome," Edward said.

And you didn't even have sex that night! Before we have to contemplate this for too long, suddenly a loud, pained cry rings out from the forest. Jacob was listening, and now knows that Bella and Edward are engaged. Bella didn't know Jacob was listening, but of course, Edward did, and he just said that shit anyway. YES. SO GOOD. Edward is the man. Fuck you forever, Jacob!

The howl choked off into a peculiar gurgled sob, and then it was quiet again.

I don't feel bad at all that I smiled at Jacob's pain. I hate that Edward and Bella are getting married, but I love that it hurts Jacob. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Bella blames herself for hurting him.

"Don't torment yourself," he pleaded.
"Yes," I agreed bitterly. I should save my energy to torment Jacob some more. I wouldn't want to leave any part of him unharmed."

I know, she's being sarcastic (Note that S. Meyer fails as usual to properly identify sarcasm) but AMEN, BELLA. In New Moon we went after his penis, now we destroy his heart! Bella goes raggedly stumbling out into the light after Jacob, and realizes Edward is following her when she sees "glittering rainbows" in front of her like she's being trailed by a disco ball. Edward stops her from fruitlessly groping through the woods and offers to go get Jacob so she can talk to him. What a guy.

He leaves, Bella starts crying, feeling terrible for the pain she is causing both Edward and Jacob. Then she (and S. Meyer) remember this book is supposed to loosely parallel Wuthering Heights, so Bella applies some narrative duct-tape. What follows possibly the laziest analogy not just in this series but in like, the world. To wit:

I was like Cathy, like Wuthering Heights, only my options were so much better than hers, neither one evil, neither one weak. And here I sat, crying about it, not doing anything productive to make it right. Just like Cathy.

JUST LIKE HER. What? I'm pretty sure it should be "I was like Cathy, IN Wuthering Heights," But I like the typo. Like Bella is just going to compare herself to a physical book. I was like Wuthering Heights. You could basically use the above metaphor for any book, by the way.

I was like Hamlet, like Hamlet: Prince of Denmark, only my options were so much better than his, neither one evil, neither one weak. And here I sat, crying about it, not doing anything productive to make it right. Just like Hamlet.

I was like Gatsby, like The Great Gatsby, only Daisy was a vampire or a werewolf, and the green light was immortality maybe, and yet here I was just wallowing around in my swimming pool or whatever. Just like Gatsby.

Please tell me this is the last time S. Meyer attempts an extended literary allusion, because she is somehow getting SO MUCH WORSE at it. Bella goes and gets a drink of water from a canteen that is inexplicably not frozen into a solid block of ice. Then she is briefly terrified by the notion that the battle may have started started and Edward and Jacob may have gotten caught in it, but that doesn't happen and Jacob comes back.

There's apparently some shit going on down the mountain, so Edward takes Seth Clearwater (in wolf form) a ways away so that he can use him as a paranormal telephone (even though he as a normal phone; are we worried the newborns have a wire on them?), leaving Jacob and Bella to talk in private. Oh, great. When these two end up alone together it always goes well. Okay, well, it always goes.

Pretty much immediately, Bella says she'll stay out of his life and Jacob makes a counter-offer: how about I kill myself instead? For real, that's what he says: "There's a pretty serious fight brewing down there. I don't think it would be that difficult to take myself out of the picture." Very healthy threat, Jacob. Call his bluff, Bella! Instead she bends pretty much immediately to his will:

"I've changed my mind. We'll work something out, Jacob. There's always a compromise. Don't go!"

Lesson for the younger readers: THREATEN SUICIDE. Always works. She tells him she'll do "anything" he wants, and he very strongly hints that she should ask him to kiss her. If you ask her to ask you I don't think that really counts, Jacob. But it works; a sociopath is born. Physical rape won't be enough for Jacob anymore; once you've had a taste of MIND-RAPE, you never go back.

"Will you kiss me, Jacob?"
His eyes widened in surprise.

Oh, fine. Whatever, S. Meyer. Do what you will with me. I'm just going to close my eyes. Tell me when it's over.

I could feel his anger as his mouth discovered my passive resistance...his lips, disconcertingly soft and warm, tried to force a response out of mine.

There's nothing left to throw up anymore. I'm dry-heaving.

His lips gave up on mine for a moment, but I knew he was nowhere close to finished.

And neither is S. Meyer. Jacob moves to Bella's neck, telling her "You can do better than this, Bella." Bella shivers. We shiver. Finally she gets angry and grabs the back of Jacob's head, probably intending to smash it against a rock or something. But Jacob mistakes it for passion, intensifies his effort, and...

My brain disconnected from my body, and I was kissing him back.

Fine. I guess we should go with this. What's another outrage? Bella makes out wildly with Jacob, and inexplicably immediately starts fantasizing about settling down with him and starting a family. "I saw the bobbing heads of two small, black-haired children, running away from me into the familiar forest," she says. Does Jacob know what kind of response his kiss is provoking? Because I feel like he'd probably cool his rape jets a little if he did.

But in a way, this vision is her way of breaking up with him? She takes that part of her mind and locks it away, where nobody can incept it back out. Jacob starts to leave for the battle, but stops to kiss Bella again. UGH. Fine. I'm like Wuthering Heights right now. Like, literally, a paperback copy. I have no spine to speak of, Bella has worn it away.

There was no reason to resist. What would be the point?

Well put.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Let's say you're going to see a movie that's playing a half-dozen times on a Saturday, starting at 11:05am. Even if you really want to make that 11:05 show for some reason, at what point would you give up and decide to catch the next showing? Probably earlier than 11:45, right? RIGHT? I mean, I consider myself a fairly reasonable person. And I can see showing up for an 11:05 movie at 11:15, sure. Maybe even 11:20. But multiple groups of people at my theater apparently thought the first third of a movie was not something they really had to see to get the full experience. I do not understand this.

Follow-up question: how many times is a reasonable number of times for an adult to giggle at an actress saying something profane or sexual on screen in an R-rated drama? Probably zero times right? Maybe once is allowable. If an actress, perhaps an actress elsewhere known for her role in the popular film adaptations of a teen romance series, announces on-screen that a handjob costs fifty dollars because said actress is playing a prostitute, I suppose we can excuse a small giggle or titter. But when the actress says moments later that a blowjob costs one hundred dollars, why would an adult feel the need to laugh again? It's a mystery to me, but apparently it was not a mystery to several of my fellow audience members.

All of this is to say that if you see nothing wrong with showing up to a movie 40 minutes late and see nothing wrong with laughing out loud at the very presence of curse words, Welcome To The Rileys is not the movie for you. You were looking for Jackass 3D. For everybody else, it's pretty good.

James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo play Doug and Lois Riley, a Midwestern couple whose lives have stalled out in the wake of a family tragedy. Doug travels to New Orleans for a business conference and meets Mallory, a young runaway/stripper/prostitute played by Kristen Stewart. Doug reaches out to the troubled Mallory and they begin an awkward friendship.

WTTR is a very “indie” indie film. It's generally uncompelling visually, as we're meant to focus on the characters. James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo both sort of contain multitudes in their faces anyway, so we don't need to see pretty wide angles of the Indiana neighborhood where the Rileys live or even spend much time admiring the decaying beauty of New Orleans. Obsessing over New Orleans is becoming a visual cliché, really, and Welcome To The Rileys admirably strives to avoid cliché.

Not that they are entirely successful with that. There are several groan-inducing lines throughout, though the most egregious ones (“I'm nobody's little girl!”) are in the trailer so you know they're coming. While we're at it, “hooker with a daughterly heart of gold” is really not a particularly strong genre innovation, though I very much like Dan Kois's description on Twitter of Kristen Stewart's character as a “Manic Trixie Nightmare Girl.” The clichés are still the exception to the rule here – there are several places this film could have gone and doesn't. It's unexpectedly and unflinchingly slight; even the big emotions are small.

Kristen Stewart brings an easy vulgarity and an authentic vulnerability to her role – we're light years from Bella Swan. That said, we're not that far from Joan Jett. I wanted this film to be an eye-opening role for her, for people to walk away from it reconsidering everything they'd said about her the way I reconsidered everything I'd said about Robert Pattinson after Little Ashes. That won't happen. Though if anyone walks away with an Oscar nomination it will probably be Stewart; James Gandolfini's accent inexplicably wanders into different dialects throughout the film, and Melissa Leo's mannered and manic behavior garnered inappropriate laughter from my audience (my audience laughed inappropriately at everything, but I'm fairly certain a few of Leo's moments on screen would have had the same effect even on less moron-saturated crowds. None of that is to say that there aren't moments of levity in this film. There are a few. But only a few). It warrants mentioning that even if Stewart's performance here is similar to her performance in The Runaways, neither performance is at all like any of the performances of her peers. People say Kristen Stewart always plays the mumbly and insecure girl, implying that that's all she can do. Maybe nobody does it better!

The worst part of the film was, for me, the score. Much like previous Biterion Collection entry Up In The Air, WTTR is scored by irritating and repetitive loops that probably have names like “pensive indie upright bass 1.” I understand that these movies are made on the cheap, but why are we so afraid of silence? The actors are adept enough at conveying emotion without music cues, especially such obviously low-rent ones. Just because Mallory's apartment looks like crap doesn't mean it needs to SOUND that way.

Despite my fellow audience members' efforts to the contrary, I enjoyed this film. It did nothing to shake my confidence in Kristen Stewart, even if it only advanced said confidence by proving that The Runaways wasn't a fluke. And wandering accent aside, I will literally watch James Gandolfini do anything. If this film is playing in your city, check it out. I'd probably be telling you to see it even if it wasn't very good – it's hard out there for an independent filmmaker. Jackass 3D made more money in its first day than this movie will ever make. And even if there's very little we can do about that, we should do whatever little we can. It is a good film, but it would be worth your money anyway just to see Kristen Stewart trying to carve her own path. Godspeed, you Manic Trixie Nightmare Girl. Godspeed.