Once Bitten

bitemebooks
Mood: Snarky
Drinking: Tea

It was really only a matter of time before curiosity won out over better judgment and I picked up the Twilight books.

I’m a sucker (heh) for all things vampire. Dracula, Lestat, Angel, even the incredibly boring Bill from those Sookie Stackhouse novels. I’ve loved them all, to varying degrees.

I remember seeing Twilight on the shelves in a bookstore a few years ago, with its fairytale-suggestive cover. I picked it up, read the back jacket copy, and dismissed it as too teenage for my tastes.

But then it became more than a book, it crossed over into phenomenon territory, Harry Potter territory, and my curiosity was piqued.

Speaking of Potter, I put him off for 4 whole books, but was finally coerced into reading by a 10-year-old. With Harry, I was pleasantly surprised. J.K. Rowling created a beautiful, fully-realized world, with actual plots and character development.

Stephenie Meyer, however, created a big pile of crap.

I had trouble settling into reading the first book because Meyer’s writing is so terrible. Really, laughably awful. In fact, I’ve read better fan fiction! And yet, the concept of vampires going to high school was intriguing enough at the beginning that I slogged on through it, pausing here and there to roll my eyes in disbelief at the prose.

A friend recently suggested that of course I finished all 4 books in the series because I, like “everyone else”, fell in love with Edward, the vampire hero, in the first book. Except that I didn’t. How could I? Meyer gives you nothing to fall in love with. He’s a caricature of a 13-year-old’s bedtime fantasy.

And then she goes and mucks about with vampire lore, ridding herself of all garlic, crosses, and coffins to create a whole new vampire legend. And I would be fine with that, if her new vampires weren’t so silly. For example: The reason Meyer’s vampires live in Forks, Washington, under the cloudiest skies in the country is not because, like your usual Whedon or Rice vampire, they will burst into flames in the sunlight. No. Meyer’s vampires, when touched by sun, sparkle.

I will pause so you can guffaw.

Yes, her vampires are so beautiful and glittery, they must hide from the sunlight because their skin is so iridescent, it would dazzle all humans and thereby reveal the vampire secret identity.

I guess I prefer my vampires a little less sparkly. And a little less stalkerish.

I remember being a teenager and dreaming of having a boyfriend who thought I was utterly fascinating, who was entranced by everything about me, who loved to just sit for hours and watch me breathe, who wanted to be with me every moment of every day, no matter what kind of mood I might be in.

It was a pretty little fantasy that quickly hit the wall of reality when I actually got a boyfriend and had to face the fact that I really wasn’t all that fascinating all the time, and that having someone around underfoot every single second of the day would only wipe the bloom off the rose that much faster.

I grew up, I grew out of it, and I came to understand that love was more complicated than I had imagined, but it was better, too.

Meyer apparently never outgrew her fantasy, and she bequeaths her vampire Edward with all the attributes of a perfect teenage dream. He is pretty. He has great hair. He’s mysterious. He’s slightly dangerous. He plays the piano. He’s a vegetarian (he only sucks the blood of animals, not humans). He never sleeps, so he has plenty of time to devote to staring at the object of his inexplicable, immortal ardor: a human girl with brown eyes, brown hair, and average everygirl tendencies, Bella.

Bella is quite possibly the most boring heroine I’ve ever come across. She narrates all four books, and constantly harps on Edward’s perfection and her own comparative inadequacies. It’s the old “why does he love me?” quandary, times ten.

The thing is, Meyer never really answers that question to the reader’s satisfaction. She never gives a good enough reason for why Edward does love Bella, and why then readers should love her, too.

Bella remains a hapless, accident-prone damsel in distress, self-absorbed, co-dependent, utterly obsessive in her fixation on Edward, and yet somehow profoundly boring.

I kept returning to that underlying issue as I read each book. I wasn’t in love with Edward, and I didn’t give a shit about Bella. I’m still not sure how I made it through all 4 books.

There’s also the love triangle with a werewolf (of course).
Pages and pages and pages wasted on that angst-ridden drama, only to resolve it neatly and all-too conveniently in the final book.

Wasted pages an apt description for this entire series of books. Meyer’s writing does improve somewhat — it would have to, as she churned out these 4 books in just 3 years.

But she is not a good writer, by any stretch. You’d hope that she’d make up for it by at least being a good storyteller, but she doesn’t pull that off, either.

For me, one of the most ridiculous storylines in the entire series is this: Bella, who is a virgin (of course), wants to make love to Edward. But he won’t have sex with her because he’s afraid he will hurt her with his vampire super-strength (super penis!). Ok. I can possibly accept that.

But then Meyer, who is a Mormon, takes it to a whole new level of crazy: Edward, who is really about 80 years old, and therefore was a human in a much more genteel time, really doesn’t want to have sex with Bella UNTIL THEY ARE MARRIED.

For real. A vampire with a puritan (or Mormon) moral code. Pardon me while I die laughing.

Overall, Meyer’s overarching plot points, if you can call them that, are much ado about nothing. She’ll blather on and on and on about pointless details, with excruciatingly long conversations between Bella and her two men, Edward and Jacob, and then *bam* throw some sort of dramatic conflict with other, non-vegetarian vampires in toward the very end in order to resolve some half-assed plot points.

In the last book, there’s this big buildup for chapters and chapters to a final battle, and then when you actually get there, the battle just disappears. The vampires talk it out instead.

Gah! Most. Boring. Vampires. Ever.

I just kept thinking, as I plowed my way through this mess, “How in the HELL did she ever get published?” Followed quickly by, “And who the HELL are her editors? They should be fired!” Followed immediately by, “And why the HELL am I reading this garbage?”

Bottom line: Meyer’s books are the most self-indulgent, poorly-written, ridiculously-contrived, juvenile fantasies I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading. Edward groupies can bite me, because no amount of fanatical raving is going to make these books any good.

They say curiousity killed the cat, and all that, but in this case, curiosity killed off more than a few of my brain cells.

Oh, I can’t wait for the movie!

-Lo, twice shy.

Boycotts are Bollocks

bookshelfMood: Bothered
Drinking: Tea from the ‘bucks

This is not a timely post. It is, in fact, rather behind the times.

All the Christian brouhaha over The Golden Compass movie was last winter, and all the Harry Potter paranoia is old news.

But I was wasting time on facebook yesterday and noticed that one of my virtual acquaintances had joined a group called “Do NOT support ‘The Golden Compass’.”

After taking a moment to indulge in a hearty eye roll, I clicked over to the group to see what idiocies they were spouting, and found more than a few.

Such as: “The movie… is designed to be very attractive in the hope unsuspecting parents will take their children to see the the movie and that the children will want the books for Christmas.”

And: “In the final book a boy and girl kill God so they can do as they please.”

Really. And people wonder why I’m such a misanthrope.

Seriously, this shit is ridiculous. I’d wager a hefty sum that most people who panicked and inundated their friends with email forwards urging them to “Boycott The Golden Compass!” never even bothered to read the books. They just regurgitated the paranoia they heard from somebody else.

The same thing happened with Harry Potter – so many people with their knickers in a bunch, but they never bothered to stop and be reasonable for a moment. They just ran like lemmings off the cliff – “Witches are bad! Magic is evil! Harry Potter hates Jesus!”

Yet these same hypochondriacs don’t seem to have any issues with the magic in Narnia or Middle Earth, because the authors of those books were supposedly Christian.

Whatever.

I read His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman’s trilogy of The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass) several years ago and found them to be fascinating science fiction stories. The kind of tales of fantasy and parallel worlds that engage imagination in the best sort of way.

Yes, there are spiritual elements to the books. But I don’t get my philosophy of life from science fiction. I don’t think anybody does. Except for maybe Tom Cruise.

The thing that horrifies me the most about all of this boycotting and book burning is the idea that children can’t think for themselves. I read the Wizard of Oz books as a kid, but I didn’t go run and jump into a tornado so I could get to the Emerald City.

Tales of fiction and fantasy exist to help us dream. To take us into new worlds, to lead us on improbable adventures. Part of the fun of being a kid is reading books about things that aren’t real. Hell – that’s part of the fun of being an adult, too.

I’m not going to rip a book out of my child’s hands because the author might hold to a different belief system than I do.

The most dangerous thing in all of this insanity is not the books, or the movies spawned from the books. It’s the thought police. It’s the people who think their God is really small enough to be threatened by an agnostic or athiest’s work of fiction.

Safe to say that my children can read their fill of books about dragons and muggles and daemons and fairies and goblins and wizards and talking lions and armored bears.

In fact, all of those books are already sitting on my bookshelf, just waiting to take a new reader on a grand adventure.

And I won’t stand in the way.

-Lo, who thinks it’s not the athiests who are the big bad wolves.