I use words goodly

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Find a degree in English, Philosophy, and Theater in every box! Plus a temporary tattoo!

I have a Bachelor of Arts in English. I swear, they give those things out in Cracker Jack boxes.

I kid! I kid! Put your spatulas at ease, fellow English majors, those burgers don’t flip themselves!

Seriously, I loved, and still love, everything English, it’s my native tongue after all. What I mean is, I love literature and grammar and writing and being pretentious. Apparently, I also love not knowing what to do with my life, why else choose such an ambiguous degree to pursue?

Even with that certificate authenticating that I made it through four years at a reputable institution, charming my professors through long-winded essays that never came to any conclusion on anything conclusive, I must confess, I am a sham.

Yes, a sham. You may even see it in the way I write my blog sometimes. Not only do I make up my own grammar rules, sometimes I use a word so grossly incorrectly that the only thing that can be deduced is that I took an existing word and made it into a new word, devoid of it’s prior association. I’m that good.

It doesn’t stop there. You should hear me talk. I don’t even pronounce words correctly. For 28.5 years, I pronounced the word placate as “play-sate.” My husband first pointed it out to me, and I told him he was an idiot (I have a BA in English after all, from Penn State!). Well, he was, and is, correct, but I still can’t kick the habit. It’s far too entrenched in my brain. This mispronunciation is inoperable.

I have no idea what I would do at work without Grammar Girl. She is my savior whenever I forget the rules of capitalization in a title, which is everyday. How am I even employed?

I know I have faults as a writer (I’m talking about you, passive voice! ) and I’ve come to terms with it. Mostly because I don’t even notice my bad habits at this point—they are far too habitual. I don’t even want to change.

Perhaps I justify this with the compliment I received from the best professor I ever had, in the best class I ever took, and the only class I never skipped (creative writing, of course). All the students had to write a piece of fiction and critique every individual’s short story—mine was naturally the longest by a good 15 pages (remember, lover of passive voice here). The teacher said, “after reading Gingermermaid’s, did it really seem like 25 pages?” And the class was like, “no! How magical!” And he was like, “style…blah blah blah…genius…blah blah blah…A+++++” or something along those lines, I’m sure of it.

Look, I’m no Thomas Hardy (my personal favorite) or Shakespeare (thank goodness) or Suzanne Collins (nom nom nom games), I’m just me. A girl with a degree in English who works in the unrelated topics of the Middle East and Africa, who disregards the grammar rules that I don’t agree with (or remember), and a girl who should never ever teach English to anybody—ever. A girl with a blog I can abuse with words.

 

Yes, Twilight is stupid, but…

So like any self-respecting adult with a claim to loving the written word, I cannot stand the Twilight Saga. I confess, I read the entire series, and I use the excuse that I did this because I was interning at a teen magazine at the time and when I moderated comments on the website, I had no idea what “Forks” was. Now I know what “Forks” is and I didn’t need to read the other three in the series to find out, but once I start something, I want to see it through to the end.

I’m writing this post in response to a Freshly Pressed WordPress blog post that took the time to slam Twilight. The blogger who took considerable time to write the criticism seems take great, if not excess, pride in her literary tastes and writing styles. I can’t truly understand why she put aside writing time to delve into Stephenie Meyer’s work other than her disdain and anger against the series and she needed to vent. Similarly, I’m going to take the time to write on the topic as well. After all, Twilight hasn’t truly had enough press, now has it?

I give this blogger props on many points she addressed. Let’s be honest, the book is fluff, which is why I have no idea why she read (bedumchhhh) so much into it. It’s not a piece of literary art, its teenage angst portrayed to cater to teenage angst. It’s no Great Gatsby because it’s not designed to be a Great Gatsby. Twilight was written for a target audience of girls between the ages of 11 and 17, of which she and I are not.

From what I can tell from her post, the blogger stopped at book one. That’s fair and more than enough reading to judge the entire series. The other books don’t lend much more sustenance with the exception that  in book 4, whatever that one is called, Bella and Edward (spoiler alert) “do it.” Apparently parents were in an uproar about that because teenagers obviously have no idea what sex is until they read the Twilight series. Puuuuleeeeaaase. At 12, I was reading Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, now that is completely inappropriate for a tween, but sooooooo good.

Back to the blogger, who I think probably is a good writer, I mean, it’s a blog, but seems to have a chip on her shoulder about writing and literature. Writers are pretentious human beings, frustrated, dripping with opinions, and narcissistic. The word “humble” is not among the aspiring writer’s diverse vocabulary. It’s dangerous to play the authority on writing, or anything really, because regardless of achievements, merits, degrees, one can be torn quickly to shreds and, more importantly, be perceived as a prick.

As I was reading her interpretation of Twilight, I was surprised by the overall tone. It was downright pissed off. This book was published and, despite its lacking in many literary areas, became a sensational success.  Girls everywhere could relate to the non-dimensional character of Bella and this is the genius of the book. The characters, as mentioned by the blogger, are completely underdeveloped, and in my opinion, this is deliberate. Each girl sees herself as Bella. Each girl pictures her friends in the high school student population. Each girl imagines being in love with a badass and dreams to be fought over by a werewolf and vampire (or kinda, sorta like that). Girls are insecure, and if Bella has any character trait, it’s insecurity (and stupidity). Bingo. There’s the target demographic and there’s every girl between the ages of 11 and, let’s be honest, 30. The character was defined just enough that you, me, and my neighbor could fit that role.

I don’t know if anyone else remembers what it was like to be a girl between the ages of 12 and 18, but unfortunately, I do. I was pathetic. I constantly was trapped in my head, trying to be cool and failing by all accounts. I used to daydream about running away with a band member of Weezer or co-starring next to Elijah Wood in some romantic, artsy film. If my head wasn’t already in the clouds and out of complete touch with reality, it was lost in a book. Since I was ten, I had my nose smashed between the pages of a novel and my hand fused to pen and paper. If Twilight had come out when I was 15, I would be on that bandwagon, no doubt, and have all the paraphernalia that went with it. I was prime meat for this series. I try not to think about this too much. It scares me.

So many tangents, I’ll consider it ground work for the rest of this post. I already mentioned that I don’t understand why the blogger even took the time to try to analyze Twilight, but here I go analyzing her blog post about Twilight. Believe it or not, I do have a life—just not tonight.

The tone and style of the blog post turned me off, not because it was negative, but because it came off as catty and much of this had to do with superfluous swearing. Swearing too much or swearing when unnecessary just comes off as angry and unsubstantiated, even fucking uneducated. I love swearing as much as the next sailor, but let’s be honest, time and place, and yes, quantity. Too much detracts from arguments.

Now let’s break down a few of the sections she broke down: Folklore. The blogger mentions that “you don’t fuck with folklore.” My question is, why not? It’s a creative right and if we didn’t detract, all stories would be the same. Although, the glittery vampire in the sun is totally lame. I think the world agrees with that. Vampires are not intimidating, or sexy, when they sparkle like a disco ball.

Next, she brought up the severe underdevelopment of characters. I addressed this already. They are underdeveloped because that way a girl can imagine herself as Bella, making the book relatable and a place to associate her teenage angst. “Oh, that’s why I’m so wacky and crazy, I just need to find myself a vampire!” Many teen books are like this in terms of character development, which is why they appeal to teens.They certainly are not Pulitzer Prize or Newberry Award winners but that’s not why the books are written. Books can be written for other purposes, such as entertainment.

The blogger mentions “realism.” First, let’s point out that the book involves werewolves and vampires. I don’t think Meyer was overly concerned with the realistic nature of her content. The blogger mentions that any girl who enters a school in a small town is not going to be accepted. I went to a small school, I graduated with 63ish people. If we got a new person, we ATE THEM UP because we were starved for new faces. If they were pretty, they were welcomed by every group. If they were nerdy, they were befriended by the less stellar groups, but befriended nonetheless. We were all sick of each other by the fifth grade; we were ready to welcome any warm body as long as it was new. This argument that Bella wouldn’t have been welcome doesn’t fly with me as new kids in my school were the most sought after—fresh meat.

Here is an excerpt under BFFs and BFs, OMG!:

“How is it believable that this emotionally detached, romantically inexperienced young girl could fall in love so quickly with a guy she knows nothing about, when she keeps herself so guarded around everyone else she comes in to contact with? I suppose the underlying reason is that he’s special, blah blah blah…but basic human psychology dictates that a girl with her emotional restraint and closeness issues wouldn’t have just gone batshit crazy over a guy just cuz he was so darn pretty and mysterious.”

How can a girl fall in love so quickly? Hello-ooh. I was guilty of falling head over heels from the time I was 6 until 28 (current age). That’s not even a little weird regardless of “emotional restraint.” Young love is especially volatile and quick to bloom and quick to wilt. Add in the “pretty” factor and the “mysterious” factor, and hell yeah, that is something I can totally still relate too. Sigh…and, nom nom nom…bad boys.

I just lost myself in every impractical, fleeting crush and romance I ever had.

Let’s also note that the closeness issues would have been ideal in dating a vampire as in this way, she couldn’t get too close, lest he eat her! Can I get another nom nom nom?

Look, I get this book is no masterpiece to be shelved next to Dickens, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Joyce, etc. But this book, for a younger generation, gets them reading. It’s a gateway drug to a literary world. Will they always choose the “right” books? Hell, no. But they are way more likely to pick up and try a book, just to see what it’s like, skipping out on reality TV to escape into an imaginary world that stimulates the mind, increases vocabulary, and increases creativity.

I didn’t cover everything in the blogger’s post, mainly because the more I read it, the more irked I get by the vehemence in which she attacks Meyer and every other writer who doesn’t contribute “worthy” literary works. It’s not called for or justified and I think dismounting the high horse would do her some good.

This is the last line of the blogger’s post:

“Twilight is a slap in the face to every talented author who dreams of seeing their words in print. So congratulations, Miss Meyer. You are revered by your target demographic. But you are despised by those of us who know, respect, and produce good literature, good literature that will probably never see the light of day or reading lamp so long as people continue to believe that the garbage you write is worth reading.”

Seriously? For fuck’s sake. Get over yourself.

Life is too short to read bad books and fret about the success of “mediocre” authors. There are plenty of terrible pieces of literature we can pick apart. Rather than focus on the success of “bad writing” focus on writing and reading for you, for your art, and for your piece of mind. And calm down. This isn’t going to be the last piece of fiction to hit the shelves and hit it big, nor was it the first.

For those of you who enjoy the Twilight series, it’s your right and enjoying them doesn’t make you a bad person, a bad reader, or a bad writer—you just lack a bit of good judgement. 😉

Kidding-ish…