Wednesday, January 7, 2009

189: sa-gah

Photo: by Ryan, on his camera phone
Me, reading with Penelope and Gatsby curled up on top
Also: hat, hand knit by my mother, plaid shawl made by my sister,
blanket on far right made by my mother-in-law.
That's a lot of love and cozy. :)

I caved. I read the Twilight sa-ga, back to back, with little breaks to eat, sleep, shift more books around at work. I am not ashamed of my delvings, though, unlike Emily, I will puff out my chest and admit that I am entirely a book snob, that I want the writing to be good in order to be enamored. This does not, however, mean that I can be sucked in by mediocre writing (or that my own writing is anything more than mediocre). Dan Brown: case in point. I wanted to pull my hair out, his prose was so awful, but I read each and every one of his books, staying up quite late and abandoning many responsibilities simply because I could not put them down.

And here too, I marathoned through these books.

But with a wary eye.

Pluses:
+ I loved the setting. Give me the Washington coast any day. Ferns and moss and towering trees and the ocean.
+ I loved that Bella loves books. Sadly, the only mention of the pleasure of shopping for books (in Seattle) never came to fruition, though occasionally the main character speaks of tattered copies of Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet. It fades fairly quickly in the book.
+ Bella is humble. I like humble folk. Probably one of the driving forces behind my powerful admiration of my husband, who is hugely smart and talented, and denies every last bit. Sincerely.
+ Kindness and family. This book is about love, and not just about boy-and-girl love. Bella's best friend is a subject of unwavering love too--and how family isn't just Mom and Dad and brother and sister. Family takes on all kinds of forms. I ought to know.
+ And putting family first is good. Learning is good too, though it doesn't always have to take on ivy towered forms. (Says the girl on her third degree.) I know there's a lot of criticism about this issue (and if I'm being cryptic, it's because I hate spoiling it for those who haven't read it, though I may do so inadvertently anyway--sorry!), but I am of the school of thought that one ought to follow one's happiness and not a formula for said happiness. (I do wish the author hadn't mentioned Bella was in AP classes in the first book, then professed her ordinary throughout--of average intelligence, etc. Not that I didn't encounter my fair share of ordinary in AP classes; I'm probably a good example! But my point is not to mention something casually like that, something that could be important in character development, and change that aspect of the character later.)

Minuses:
- I've already picked apart Disney, that guilty pleasure where the worlds have often been filled with no mother figures save the evil stepmother and the storyline that falling in love is the only happy ending, so it seems I can't resist here either: there is a deep rooted desire to be taken care of; I love it when Ryan is gentle and kind when I am unwell or sad and all I want is to curl up against him and feel protected. But! Three and a half of these books are all about this helpless person who cooks and cleans for her father and whose mother is a flake. And how many times was Bella carried or cradled by a male figure in the book? Though, I must admit, being a vampire isn't about gender, nor is the strength derived from being a vampire about gender. I might just be bristling from the section of her thank you's where S.M. thanks her family for putting up with going out to eat so often--I'm doubly grateful my husband and I are together in the kitchen, together in home repairs (though we do err on the side of traditional gender roles in who "leads"--with my parents, it is the opposite, and some day I will re-dedicate another post to that).
- The prose is plain and repetitive.
- The plot is (fairly) plain and repetitive.
- If I have to read "liquid topaz" or "statue" or the "planes of his chest" again to describe a character, or nearly anything, I shall scream. I swear it.
- Likewise, or "trembling" or anything about breathing or heartbeats ending while kissing or the way glass or skin fractures like diamonds...
- There's also the "chaperoning" issue. And the cliches. Most of my issues are related to style.
- The author is none too subtle with the literary references. I realize this is a teen book, but allow those connections to WH and R+J come about with allusion. Slappity-slap-slap in the face.
- OK, I love a good love story. But vomit and over-the-top. Yes, I loved staying up until the sun rose just talking to Ryan, I still do. My favorite moments in this house are when we sit down and have conversations that trail around for hours. And the subtleties of brushing up against one another, etc. But really? All those clueless doe-eyed moments made me squirm. It was a soap opera, to be un-unique in my description. I'm more impressed with subtle shows of love.
- Each book could use some serious editing for streamlining the story. One issue here is that the books are so "addictive," so the reader plows through them in less than a week. Of course we don't need reminders, gentle or otherwise, or loops in conversations / descriptions. We're hooked; we can't stop reading the dang things. Not get rid of the excess so we can get to the story faster.
- And the characters can be clueless. I like a little surprise; certain twists are obvious to the reader for dozens and dozens of pages before actual revelation occurs. Not painfully clueless though. Just a bit dopey.

Other items of interest:
~ The first book in the series is on the syllabus for the class I'm TAing next semester. Huh. The class is geared toward freshmen and folks who are using this as a requirement and won't take many other English classes in the future, so our goal is to give the students a little glimpse into the joy of reading and discussing. Perhaps you could call this my warm-up, though I promise not to wrinkle my nose too much in discussion.
~ I am in love with this book review. Hilarious!
~ Atlantic Monthly has an interesting review discussing what girls want and focuses on the success of the Twilight series.

4 comments:

sonrie said...

haven't read the books, but you look so cozy with your dogs in that picture!

chelsea said...

my reaction to people even asking me about twilight and assuming that i must be a fan since i like harry potter and other youth oriented fantasy has been, completely dead pan, "do you know what could make me any less interested in a teen romance series? ADDING IN VAMPIRES!"

EWH said...

Just because I prefer filet mignon doesn't mean I won't dive head first into a plate of ground chuck.

My passion for the books comes not from an in-depth analysis of plot and diction and character development. The book evoked great emotion, no matter how sappy. And keeping readers interested (or addicted, as you say) really should be the goal of YA writers right now, lest we lose all of them to computers forever.

Molly said...

Good point on the YA audience; it serves to remind me that I am not entirely Stephenie Meyere's intended audience, as it were.

And while I might still be a book snot, I do love a book that refuses to be put down. I appreciate that, no matter what the reason.

(Aw, Em, you're not sore, are you?)