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Mike Reyes, aka Mr. Controversy, has considered himself a writer ever since he was a child. He wrote for various school publications from about 1995 until 2006, and currently runs both The Bookish Kind and Mr. Controversy, which is an offshoot of the regular column he wrote in High School. He's also a film journalist/critic for Cocktails & Movies and CinemaBlend, as well as the author of several short stories such as "The Devil v. George W. Bush". Any inquiries for reprinting, writing services, or general contact, should be forwarded to: mikereyeswrites@gmail.com

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Cannonball Read: Entry 7 - "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer (Bonus: Song and Dance, Note 4)

Warning: If you’re a Twilight fan, you probably won’t want to read this. I warned you.

You goddamn well know what it's time for, and you goddamn well know what's on the block today. Suggestions, requests, or dedications, belong on the Comments Board. All the background on The Read is here,
http://www.pajiba.com/cannonball-read.htm. Brian Prisco is the man behind it all and should be praised, and if you've got the crazy and want to throw down, go here: http://gospelaccordingtoprisco.wordpress.com/choose-your-weapon-the-combatants/ Other than that, it's time to dazzle, motherfuckers.

P.S. If you’re reading this, I love you sweetheart. Please don’t kill me! :)

I approached Twilight, the first book in the Twilight Saga like a war zone. I said a silent prayer, threw my glasses to the side, kissed my brothers and parents goodbye (in case I didn't come back to them in the same condition) and I told my girlfriend I loved her. Once I made peace with all in the world, I asked her for the first book and she handed it to me.

"You know you don't have to do this, Mike. Don't be a hero."

"It's the only thing I know how to be.", I said with a slightly gruff, yet world weary tone. I kissed her again and said, "I'll be back before you know it."

Ok, so maybe none of that actually happened, but I was given the book upon my request and I was given an out. So why did I go through with it anyway? Because when something is labeled as a "cultural phenomenon", people are bound to be interested. Besides, the last "phenomenon" I picked up a copy of ended up entertaining me. Though, that was The DaVinci Code, and not only was that book entertaining and relevant to my interests, but also Jesus didn't sparkle. Still, I was prepared to face down this growing fear in my gut that I was in for a world of pain. With that fear, I was ready. I brought the book home. and after a night of rest, I rose on the morning of that Inauguration Day to finish The Last Victim. I knew those would be the last pages of normalcy for a while, but after savoring them I was ready. With steadfast resolve, and a steel heart, I opened the paperback that'd start it all.

Looking back, I can’t say I completely hated Twilight. For starters, it wasn’t as badly constructed as I thought; and also the characters I liked in the movie were even better in the book. To the book’s credit, Bella and Edward are MUCH more likable in the novel than in the movie. In fact, I’ll admit that my perception was colored a lot by the movie and that’s why I was so against it in the first place. The book makes some headway in repairing the damage the movie did.

While it wasn’t as insultingly bad as I thought, it just wasn’t all that intriguing, mostly because they centered this universe on the two most unlikeable characters. Picture your favorite epic series, then picture it centered around the weakest characters available and you’d have a good idea of where Twilight has gone with its story. Had this story been centered on the Cullen clan, with Edward and Bella as side characters, then I might have enjoyed it more. Carlyle and Esme Cullen would have been much better leads for a story like this, especially with all of the history they’ve been involved in and all the “children” they’ve “adopted”. It could have been part historical fiction, part family drama, and part vampiric romance, but sadly that is not the road this beat up pick up truck is traveling. Nope, instead we’re treated to a mix of soap opera theatrics, a vampire story that’d make Buffy the Vampire Slayer pissed off, and the most successful Mary Sue story of all time.

Bella is Stephenie Meyer’s romanticized version of herself, perfect in every imperfect way, and Edward is her modern Mr. Darcy. As such, everything is perfect for Bella, and there’s minimal awkwardness and clumsiness involved. (Which contradicts her self deprecating remark about how clumsy she is.) True, she gets into scrapes and takes some falls, but really nothing that bad. She is awkward at school for all of one minute and next thing you know they’re singing her praises, filling her in on the school gossip, and trying to ask her to the dance, the prom, and their first college frat party two years from now. Everyone asks her for advice, and she’ll even give advice to them…if she’s truly interested. (Don’t ask her about prom dresses…she’d rather brood over Edward.) Even when she’s almost killed by a stray van, Edward saves her and pretty much the whole school turns and asks if she’s ok, while the driver apologizes profusely as if he’d almost hit the newborn savior of mankind. She has very little actual human conflict, which doesn’t give us much to relate to her with, making the fantasy conflict that much hollower. The only two people that really call bullshit on her existence are Lauren and Rosalie, and neither of them really do anything of note in this book. Even the Harry Potter series had bullying, moral conflict, and the ravages of puberty going for it, because J.K. Rowling understands that if we can’t realistically identify with these kids, no troll or Dark Lord is going to hit us as hard as they can.

It was supposedly based off of Pride and Prejudice, and reading this book only makes me that much more thankful I was never assigned a Jane Austen book in my entire life. (Though, one pattern this series seems to be involved in is mentioning the text it’s based off of in some capacity. While browsing through the New Moon teaser at the back of the book, I saw a mention of Romeo and Juliet.) The whole thing is yet another meditation on how women LOVE men who stalk them and infatuate over them, so long as they’re beautiful, dark, and mysterious. No matter what danger, no matter what consequence, if the guy is mysterious enough and looks like a model, women will fawn and drop all around him…even if he could toss them into the stratosphere with one hand, and sometimes envisions them as a very attractive cheeseburger. (Plus, if there’s anything worse than fops and dandies, it’s Americanized fops and dandies.)

Perhaps the biggest complaint I have though is the length and pacing which are, surprisingly, the only things the movie did well. This is supposed to be an introductory book, and in introductory books you introduce the good guys, the bad guys, the protagonist, set the scene, and set the stage for the epic conflict that will span the whole series. What happens? We get one whole book of courtship and infatuation, and the bad guys get shoehorned into the end of the book. At least in the movie you had the creepy element of mysterious animal attacks thrown in with the sap. . Also, the villains and the action in the third act seem tacked on in a bad attempt to “set the stage” for the conflict throughout the series. This is one of the things the movie actually did better than the book, which scattered random “animal attacks” throughout the story. By time the evil Coven showed up, it wasn’t “ZOMG Evil Vamps Outta Fucking Nowhere”!

This book could have been shorter and tighter running, if Stephenie Meyer didn’t take the time to keep reminding us how goddamn gorgeous Edward was and how wonderful he was and how this Cinderella wannabe can’t face real life, when there’s a prettier, more dazzling reality right in front of her. By time I got to p.481 in the Epilogue, the point where Bella says “Would I ever get used to his perfection?”, I thought that if Bella wasn’t used to it at that point then she really is clumsy…mentally clumsy. Part of what kills the pacing is the constant repetition of these themes. Bella always describes Edward in only the most glowering of terms, Edward always presses his lips together and grouses about the fact that he loves his adorable cheeseburger girlfriend, while also talking about how brave she is with facing death (while fearing the little things), and these both seem to happen on every other page. Less is more, and less of that would have equaled to more patience for me. To save you some trouble, here’s some drinking game phrases and keywords to look out for when reading Twilight:

- dazzling
- God, Angelic, Adonis, or any other seraphim of perfection
- Marble
- Chisled
- Edward
- Bella
- “pressed his lips together”
- Eyes
- Neck
- Cold
- stone

I probably left a lot out, but really if you have any intention of reading this book, you’ll find them. Trust me, Twilight is a drinking game book.

The most frustrating thing about this book is while I detest parts of it with every fiber of my being, I can’t kill it completely. It is still a good example of competent authoring, adequate prose, and some really good background characters. I also dare say that it did have some genuinely romantic and cute moments between Edward and Bella, it’s just that the mindless fawning and Edward’s dickery outnumber those moments. It just needed some more time in the editing room. After all, it only took Ms. Meyer 3-6 months to write this book, given a couple more months of editing and tightening I might have sat here today and ate a whole heap of Crow saying “Twilight is actually pretty good”. The most I can muster is that it was ok. Not amazing, not offensive, just meh. Maybe it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Maybe, I should have stayed away from Twilight altogether, after all Edward himself is danger incarnate. But just like Bella, I was drawn to delve deeper into the mysteries of the undead. The only difference is, I didn’t find the answers I wanted and don’t think I ever will. But who needs logic and answers when you’ve got Sparkle Lad by your side? The answer: only the extremely biased and picky readers like me. I make no apologies, and I mock this modern day fairy tale/Harlequin Novel for kids with reckless abandon. I mean no insult to anyone who enjoys these books, and I do not mean to rob you of such…delight. This isn’t a cultural phenomenon, it’ s just a more sophisticated form of dress up. If you’re into that sort of thing, have at it. Just don’t throw it down my throat 24/7 in the media, and don’t tell me it’s the next big thing. This is not the next Harry Potter.

Finally, I present a special edition of “Song and Dance”. Don’t want to read Twilight, but really want to know what goes on? Well, just “listen” to this song, and save yourself the 498 pages.

The Ballad of Bella and Eddie
(to the tune of "The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie")

Bella and Eddie,
One a brat and one’s dead-y.
They’re the king and the queen of the vamps.
Flying around real high in the trees,
like they were the champs.

She was bit of a whiner,
And he was a bit of an emo vein diner.
I’ve never seen two people involved in such overblown strife.
And Bella and Eddie have done this since 2005.

Bella had moved from her home down in Phoenix,
To escape from her unstable mom.
She moved up to Forks at the beginning of the school year,
Way before prom.

She was a little bit awkward,
And when I say “little” I mean for about five words.
Then she accidentally fell for this Edward guy.
And there we were, waving decent sense and plot goodbye.

They flirted a bit, she treats Jacob like shit,
By stringing his heart for some news.
He tells her out flat,
He’s a vamp and that’s that.
How ‘bout getting with a werewolf in lieu?
She might as well said I’d rather be dead,
At least not until book two!

(Whoa-oh. Whoa-oh. Whoa-oh. Whoa-oh.)

She confronts Ed at last,
About his oh sordid past,
Which gives him license to mope and moan.
He finally cheers,
‘cuz she’s got no fears.
But still he drips and drones.
“You should be scared, to me you’re medium rare”
I don’t care, now kiss me again!

(Whoa-oh. Whoa-oh. Whoa-oh. Whoa-oh.)

Bella and Eddie,
I’ve had it all ready.
With these shallow, unlikeable kids.
They have about as much dimension and depth,
As a coffee can lid!

But still it could have been worse now,
The movie’s so bad it makes me want to curse now.
They fucked up Jasper,
but added more about the bad guys.

I guess I’ll just have to keep reading ‘bout Bella,
It sounds like I’m not yet out of eternal Hell-a,
For now I’ll take a break then go back to Bella,
This Bites.

Next Time: “Things I've Learned from Women Who've Dumped Me” by Ben Karlin and Various Contributors

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How many things can she legitimately describe as 'chiseled'? Where is the scene where he lists the vast number of sexual illnesses he's acquired over the years? What's it like to be perfect? This book sounds fascinating.

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