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…

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Reconnecting with literature: reading the books I was supposed to read in college but didn’t

I have my BA in English. What they should call it is a BS. Bedumchhhhh! Just kidding.

Getting a degree in English entails lots of reading, lots of reading, and a bit more reading. Followed by lots of essays, lots of essays, and a few more essays. This work is done  in the hopes that us English majors can earn a position as the manager of a McDonald’s one day. Seriously, what were we thinking?

I wasn’t the archetypal English major. Firstly, because I was sure I already knew everything about everything (which probably made me a typical English major, but not ideal). Secondly, I hated, and still hate, nearly all poetry. Thirdly, I didn’t have my head oriented in studying—it was always chasing after some foreign world with some foreign guy in it which made me grumpy and borderline ready to skip college and frolic in the Mediterranean with my idealized Adonis.

I wasn’t happy at school and I didn’t have the epic collegiate experience that everyone around me was having. What everyone had told me the best part of my life would be was a crushing disappointment. This attitude, experience, whatever, had an impact on my study habits, test taking skills, and general view of literature and writing.

Between hours spent in the library and the hours curled in a hot-ball mess in my bedroom, my manic study habits varied through the semester and even the hour in the day. It is nothing short of a miracle that I not only passed my classes decently but that I managed to do so with a severe nonchalance toward the reading part of my degree—the most essential part of being an English major.

My senior year of college, I had multiple 400-level literature courses to take to fulfil those remaining graduation requirements. Good scheduling on my part (not). This meant many big, thick books to read on a weekly basis.

Rather than read the novels themselves, I took shortcuts. I listened in class, talked to my peers, checked out summaries and analyses online, and then puzzled it all together. It worked for me. I got the gist and manipulated the info into an essay, with a few quintessential shout-out quotes. This gave me steady B’s. Thank goodness my teachers preferred essays to exams. My saving grace is my knack for BS.

It wasn’t until after I graduated that I realized by half-assing it, I didn’t maximize my education and I missed a great opportunity to delve into some seriously great pieces of work. Such is the wisdom that comes with age and failed romances.

The books I was supposed to read during my collegiate career sat patiently on the shelves in my room, waiting to fulfill their destiny to be read. A few years after graduating, I began to open their musty pages and read of my own volition and in my own time.

I feel like a tool for not reading these books when I had the opportunity—to really delve into them with my peers and professors. But in a way, I appreciate them more now than I ever could as a pompous, despondent 21-year-old. Now, I look online for interpretations, discussions, so that I enhance my reading experience—only after I have finished the book. No spoilers!

Here are my most recent reading renaissances:

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100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez

If you like incest and feeling a bit down, this is the book for you. It’s beautifully written, dense, and a bit perturbing. Amuck with magical realism; it’s tough to understand if the magic is real or a metaphor (in my opinion). Politcal theming modeled after Columbian and other Latin American history. The character names are reused often, so it gets confusing.

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The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

Who doesn’t like some Hemingway? Probably lots of people, but what do they know? With an attention to detail, each word setting the scene, mastering an unmatched style of narrative, get involved in the lives of the impotent Jake, and the siren, Lady Brett Ashley, and meet the group of friends that Hemingway modeled his own life after as part of the post-WWI ex-patriots who took to Europe to write, live, and consume a lot of alcohol.

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Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

I read this, but to be honest, not my favorite. Not because it wasn’t well-written and interesting, but because it wasn’t my taste. The story mainly takes place in WWII, written and narrated to speak about survival at the bombing of Dresden, in a very winding road kind of way. Loaded with weird time travelly, flash-backy, flash-forwardy things, it can seem like too much science fiction for the non-lover of the sci-fi genre. Not a happy book; lots of death in this one. So it goes.

Currently Reading…

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East of Eden, John Steinbeck

I just finished chapter 1, so, get back to me…

Over the years I’ve read other pieces of forsaken literature; these reflect the ones I picked up the past months and that I actually physically have in hand. I can’t remember all the required reading I completed since graduating, but I know through this process I discovered new favorite authors in the old, and a new appreciation of a subject I claim to have a degree in. In some ways, I’m more the pretentious English major than I ever was.

I learned in college that books cannot be read via osmosis under your pillow, but they also can’t be read by an unwilling subject. It may be too late to turn my B’s (sometimes C’s) into A’s, but there’s no reason I can’t give my brain some entertainment and mental exercise.

Let’s do this, Steinbeck.