Monday, July 06, 2009

Experiment: Reading through "Twilight" (no, really) Part 1

(NOTE: The following post(s) include discussions of plot points from a bunch of books already published but that have not been made into movies yet, much of which can be considered SPOILERS. So no carping at me for not doing inviso-text or something.)

Something that never really made it into the well-known movies (and probably won't be in the new one) about Sherlock Holmes is that the title character is a habitual abuser of cocaine (intravenously, even!) and other narcotics. The reasoning behind this - aside from "Hey, YOU find a way to give this smug, antisocial, asexual intellectual show-off whos ALWAYS right some depth!" - is that Holmes is so cerebral he can't bear to be mentally disengaged even for a moment and will take the synapse-stimulating haze of a "high" over not having any cases to solve or chemistry to dick around with. (If he'd lived today - or at all - Holmes would've been forced-fed handfuls Ritalin as soon as he was old enough to talk back to this teachers and Professor Moriarty would be ruling half of Western Europe right now.) There's an amusing element of truth in this: Nerds HATE to be bored. That's why we turn casual leisure activities like movie-watching or gaming into marathons of endurance, why we "collect" instead of "aquire," and why we'll take bad stories that are "in continuity" over good ones that aren't (looking at YOU, everyone who's sooooo psyched about Ben Reilly coming back.)

Which is kind of a long-ish way of explaining that Bob works in a used book store, and occasionally Bob has NOTHING to fucking do for hours on end, so Bob will read just about ANYTHING to pass the time. As a rule, I avoid anything I expect to really LIKE because I want to be able to drop it once work actually rolls around and I'm "that guy" who can't put a good read down. One day, for example, I read Sean Hannity's book. Guess how I feel about Sean Hannity. Go on, guess. By far my favorite "snack" in these cases is bad "genre fiction" - read: scifi and fantasy of the type so brilliantly parodied with Stephen Colbert's "Tek Jansen" bits - because it's usually a quick read and even when it's REALLY bad at least I get some aliens and/or sexually-aggressive amazons. A little while back the store made a big thing out of finally carrying the "Twilight" books, so I figured... well, only a matter of time. Plus, I needed to take a break from the lesser works of R.A. Salvatore at SOME point ;)

Frequent readers and/or fans of my Escapist stuff may recall that I quit shortly through book #1 and HATED the movie (dubbing it "Mormon Vampire Abstinence Porn") and I honestly had very little intention of ever reading these save for a rare attack of negative introspection. See, they've been teasing the release of movie #2 "New Moon" with glamour shots of the Indian Werewolf dudes (hey, I warned you at the top of the page) standing around shirtless looking like a parody of early-90s designer-jeans ads. Like everyone else in the web geekverse, this struck me as immediately hysterical but also gave me a subsequent pause: There's nothing INHERENTLY "funny" about this, other than the blatant sexualization of mythic characters... in which case, am I now on the "other side" of seeing my female compatriots roll their eyes at the likes of Power Girl and Fathom (okay, thats not fair, EVERYONE rolls their eyes at Fathom...) etc? In other words, am I missing the "point" here by not at least trying to engage the rare genre-entry that's actually AIMED at women (instead of aimed at ME with some girl-power bones thrown to a female audience - looking at you Joss Whedon.)?

So I figured... what the hell? I'll read the damn things, maybe get a run of blog entries out of it and MAYBE I'll have to revise my feelings toward the franchise as a whole (spoiler: that didn't happen) and in doing so further endear myself to the she-geek set (fingers still crossed on that one - hey ladies, did I mention I ALSO happen to love chocolate, flavored-alcohol and Tina Fey?) So I did. Took about a week reading in-between customers and stocking duty, probably coulda done it in about twelve hours uninterupted (see above i.e. nerds and boredom.) Overall verdict: Shoulda gone with my first instinct - yeesh, this goes from not-very-good to holy-shit-what-a-train-wreck more profoundly than the last three M. Night Shyamalan flicks. BUT can I wring some blogging out of it? Um... yeah, actually, since I've already banged FIVE paragraphs out of "so, I read some bad vampire books recently...") So here's how this "experiment" is gonna work: 4 books, 4 days. I'm gonna collect and post my insightful recollects (read: mean-spirited sex jokes) regarding each; and then YOU'RE going to read it, hopefully laugh and not be too angry with me when I recycle/cannibalize 90% of this material for reviewing the subsequent movie adaptations ;)

Why break it up over 4 days? Because this particular blog format doesn't let you do the space-saving "click to read more" teaser-paragraph thing, and I'd rather not have loooong posts vanish from prime viewing space the moment I find a new youtube bit to link to. Anyway, onto #1...

TWILIGHT: Thanks to the media-blitz, the story you already know: Mopey high-school girl moves to overcast town, falls for whiny douchebag who's actually a vampire. It's most infamous for the way it reworks the typical fetishism of the vampire myth into a kind of pro-abstinence/"surrendered wife" thing; but there's a few more levels of "huh?" to it - part of the main vamp's apparent attractiveness to the heroine is that, being a century or so old, he's basically a worldly old man pursuing an inexperience high schooler. That in an of itself is nothing new to vampire stories, but usually it's played as a dark metaphor for predatory behavior - HERE, it's treated like the most dizzyingly-romantic thing evah. Quick tip, girls: In real life, the phrase "he's soooo much more MATURE than guys my own age" is often followed by an Amber Alert ;) There's also a slightly-icky vibe of incest-fantasy hovering over the vampire "family" and their romantically-paired adopted "children," though given that the female-authored-vampire-romance has Anne Rice and Laurel K. Hamilton as it's major touchstones I guess one should be thankful it remains just a "vibe" instead of a book-length digression. There's also some bad guys, who aren't especially interesting, some Native Americans who have kind of a "wolf" thing going on, and apparently vampires get one specific "super-power" in addition to everything else. Lead guy, for example, is a mind-reader... except it doesn't work on the girl. Incidentally as to those last two bits... recurring theme for the series: Stephanie Meyer "foreshadows" like Michael Bay "utilizes pyrotechnics." Overall, my impression of this one - book and movie - remains that it's "this generation's" answer to V.C. Andrews: Cheezy as all hell, not especially artful in it's prose and feels a lot like reading the Myspace pages of it's target audience. In book-form it's a little less embarassing than the movie, but given the choice I'll take the movie because Ashley Greene (who plays "Alice") is fucking GORGEOUS.

So... tune in tomorrow, where I'll either continue this OR sober up to the point that I realize this is a stupid idea to blow 4 days on ;)


Alek said...

Way to go Bob! My tweenage little sister is into this dreck, and I just couldn't bring myself to check it out. Hopefully this will be insightful enough for my purposes of explaining to her why this stuff is BAD. Looking forward to the next few days.

tyra menendez said...

some of the reviews i read of this book were by the target audience; 20-something females (because i've never met a teenage girl that can actually write).
the problem with these books is that they really are that bad. it's not guys just "not getting it". they are the equivalent of the "gor" novels, but for chicks.
while it should be resigned to the guilty pleasure drawer, twilight has been, instead, celebrated. much like how the jonas brothers should be ignored for the teeny bopper crap that it is, instead of treated like it's the fucking second coming of the beetles.

cutekittenkyti said...

good to know that I'm not the only nerd who gets extremely bored and will read/ watch almost anything to keep entertained. aka some really really bad anime. I also make some animated sprite videos, and I almost HAVE to watch some video at the same time while video editing. Or I get too bored.

Anonymous said...

Other than the already well-documented flaws in the story department, I think the book failed on a writing standpoint much more than what you stated in the review. Meyer's prose reeks. I think the main reason it draws so many similarities to blogosphere fan-fiction is that her adverb count is through the roof. Instead of just letting the dialogue speak for itself (though the dialogue is just as painful) she insists on telling you every goddamn phrase how each character said something. That's why the book feels so long and slow.