Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Vampires, Writing, and Lost Opportunity

Okay. So, I just finished Twilight and have started New Moon. I decided to read the series for two reasons: 1) I have always been fascinated by vampire stories (you'll notice that Bram Stoker is on my author list), and 2) I see my students reading the books, and I thought that reading them might help bridge the gap between my reading and theirs.

Here are my thoughts about the book:

  1. The sentences are not very good.

  2. There is a lot of repetition and redundancy.

  3. The plot compelled me to finish.

  4. Meyer does cool things with vampire myths.

  5. I am disturbed by some of the power/gender dynamics.

  6. After reading it, I feel as if I've eaten too much cake.

And I'm not saying number six in a metaphorical way to highlight the fact that it's candy reading, but I really do feel physically icky. Perhaps it's because I haven't read suspense in a while? Maybe it's some adrenaline kicking in that I'm not used to. But truly, after a reading jag (often before bed), I feel kind of icky and unsettled. Is it the bad sentences or the cool vampire component? Or perhaps it's the unbalanced gender dynamics and the idea of a 17-year old girl who's is ready to give up her life for her boyfriend?

But mostly, when I read it, I think, "Why the hell did I not write this book (or something like this book with better sentences and a stronger female character)?" I have always been interested in young adult literature, and I've been interested in vampire myth (and the history of Vlad the Impaler) for 12 years. And now, Stephanie Meyers, a member of the LDS church (What? How did that happen--that a Mormon writes these books?) who never thought about writing a book, has written books that people gobble up and that have made her rich. Well done, Stephanie.

Some might say, "Yes, but the writing is kind of crappy." Perhaps, but I have become much less of a publishing snob over the years. I still think Danielle Steele sucks, and I haven't touched one of her books since I stopped reading Zoya when I was a senior in college and suddenly realized that the writing sucked (I was a late bloomer). But I have to give props to someone who finishes a book that a lot of people want to read. And even Mary Wollstonecraft argued that reading crap--even romantic crap--is better than reading nothing at all.

These days, I pick up lot of books that I feel as if I'm supposed to want to read. Yes, the sentences are good, so I'm supposed to bow at the writer's feet and feel honored and proud to finish his or her wonderful book. But a lot of times, I find myself thinking, "Okay, so you can write beautiful sentences. But what about me? What about my needs? Where's the plot? Why must I push myself to finish your book? Isn't it your job to make me want to finish your fabulous tome?"

So, in sum. I kind of think the writing in Twilight sucks, but I like some of the vampire stuff, and I appreciate the fact that she wants to excite the reader enought to compel her to move foreward in the book. Call me a philistine if you will, but I'm grateful these days when a writer at least cares about entertaining me.*

But now I must log off, so I can write my own novel in three months and sell it to a top agent and publisher and become very rich, and then I can just write novels in my pajamas all day while I drink chai lattes.

*However, I do hope that Bella gains a stronger sense of self and empowerment in the second book. I am encouraged that, towards the end of Twilight, she tells Edward that she doesn't always want to be stuck in the Lois Lane role. I'm hoping that, as Meyer neared the end of her novel, she started to realize the gender problems (esp. when we're talking about teenage girls here) and that she deconstructs them, to some degree, in New Moon. We'll see.


Contemporary Troubadour said...

Today's word verification is "missed." The generator clearly has a twisted sense of humor!

I haven't read the Twilight series, but my students too are crazy about the books. I'm interested to hear your impressions on the second one -- gender dynamics indeed!

Chai lattes are heavenly.

Ink said...

You had me at "vampires"! ;)

Good luck! Go for it! It's time for a new national obsession, anyway, and why shouldn't it be your novel? It should!

Have to admit that today I looked for Twilight at the used bookstore because everyone who has read it keeps telling me that it's worth a read and now I'm intrigued but sort of disinclined to pay full price. (I so understand what you mean, though, about reading certain things...and I appreciate your articulating it. I felt the same way after finishing The Da Vinci Code. It was a fast, fast read and completely not literary but I both enjoyed it and felt a little sick afterward.)

But back to the vampires. Have you read Our Vampires, Ourselves by Nina Auerbach? Highly recommended.

The Steel Magnolia said...

True, true! I keep wondering why every third somebody gets a book published while the publisher is ignoring us and the porposal on his desk. Graduate school sucked the creativity out of me, but I am still really offended when intellectually problematic stuff get recognition. Mostly, I'm thinking, "Where's my stuff?! Where's my recognition?!" All the "work hard, go for your dreams" I heard all my life rings hollow right about now.

And yet, I guess I'll have to write my own novel before I completely wig out about other people's books . . . .

Good Enough Woman said...

Ink, I do, in fact own "Our Vampires, Ourselves," but I haven't read much of it. I think I'll be pulling it out soon! And me, too--same, same--on DaVinci Code.

Steel--Yes, I have cut back on pointing my critical finger since I have yet to write a novel. Thanks for stopping by!

CT--I'm into the second one. No luck so far, but I'll let you know!

baxie said...

an apropos customer comment, nicely summarizing the whole phenomenon:

"I read 'em all, and I'm not sure why!"