Sunday, September 28, 2008

'Twilight' ...

I was late to the "Harry Potter" party.

Kids were already agog over the boy wizard and lining up for the second book before I got around to picking up a copy of the first. Softcover at that.

I didn't have high expectations. It was, after all, a children's book – "young adult," really – from what I'd heard and seen.

But I loved it. And I loved every book in the series. I didn't quite get swept up in the midnight frenzies to buy each successive release, but I had each of them in my hands within a day or two of their debuts. And even as the installments became more and more like doorstops and cinder blocks, I read them – devoured them – quickly, in time that could be measured in hours, not days.

Likewise, I was late to the Lemony Snicket party. I saw the first book in Barnes & Noble and thought the cover illustration was clever, but I didn't pick it up until, well, I don't even remember now the impetus for buying Book the First. But I have all 13 books on my bookshelf, and they look very literary with their clothlike spines and gilt lettering. I even bought "Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Biography." Take notes, Kitty Kelley.

And then came "Twilight." And again: Me. Party. Late.

I knew about the book because my nephew Nick asked for it for Christmas two years ago. I am all for buying books for kids. The more books, the better. And I'm not alone. At any given time, my nephews and niece are loaded with Barnes & Noble and Borders "credit cards."

I also knew about Stephenie Meyer because she'd pop up on "Good Morning, America" from time to time and the studio audience, stacked with tweens galore, would shriek on cue like this generation's Beatles fans. I wondered if any of them ever fainted.

So it was in my consciousness, this book. And then, as if being poked in the arm from the Universe, several friends told me that I had to read it, that it was so delightful, that I would love it.

All righty. I'm always up for a book recommendation. And the month is waning and I thought that, a la "Harry Potter," I'd be able to knock out the first installment in this Anne Rice-wannabe series this weekend and thereby meet my September challenge. You know the one: At the beginning of the year, Mercurie challenged me to read one book of fiction per month in 2008 because he thinks we just don't read for pleasure enough anymore.

Yesterday, I stopped off at Starbucks (for the first time in a long time, I ordered a soy, not non-fat, latte and realized that I no longer like soy) then headed to Borders where I happened across a big display of Stephenie's books. I picked up a softcover version of "Twilight," and thought perhaps I should buy it in hardcover. For posterity's sake. But I settled for the softcover and its $10.99 price tag.

At the register, I somehow ended up owing nine dollars and change. Hmm. Looking at the receipt before I put it in my wallet, I saw that the book was discounted 20 percent. Because I'm a Borders Rewards member? I dunno. I don't care. But I was happy that my investment turned out to be less than 10 bucks.

I started reading "Twilight" last night, after the sun had set. I settled into my new big, comfy chair, ready for an evening of enchantment. I figured I'd put away about half the book last night (it's just shy of 500 pages) and then polish it off today.

In fits and starts, I managed to make it to page 20. Somewhere between page 1 and page 20, I stopped to Twitter this: "Prodded by friends, I bought 'Twilight' today. Started reading it a little while ago. So far, I'm not impressed. Maybe because I'm not 12."

(Perhaps my Twitter came after I read this, on page 14: "I can do this, I lied to myself feebly. No one was going to bite me." CLEVER FORESHADOWING ALERT!: Edward, of course, is a vampire. But, from what I've gathered ambiently about these books, these vampires aren't of the "I vant to suck your blood!" variety. I could be wrong. Feel free to correct me.)

Clearly, I am not part of Stephenie's target audience.

But then again, J.K. Rowling wasn't gunning for the adult market yet I suspect a goodly number of her eleventymillion books were sold to non-children. (Whether some of us can call ourselves "adults" is open for debate.)

Earlier today, over coffee, I told my mom about my struggle to get into the book and my understanding that the book a) wasn't written for someone my age, and that 2) I'm reading it as a writer (and as someone with above-average intelligence). But "I can't believe her editor let her get away with some of it," I said. "Some of these sentences? I read them and said, 'Oh, come on. That's just lazy.' "

(Allow me to offer that I have tried to write fiction. I don't think I'm particularly good at it. Others have read short pieces of mine and have told me that they liked them. Maybe they were being honest. Maybe they were being good friends. Maybe they were being both. The point is, while I don't think I have a knack for it, I have colossal respect for those who do. It is an art form unlike any other, storytelling. But the key to storytelling, the shortest fiction-writing course ever, is this: Show, don't tell. Somebody give Stephenie a copy of Stephen King's "On Writing," stat. Note: Stephen King's name does not belong in a post about Stephenie Meyer just as Armagnac does not belong in a post about Pabst Blue Ribbon, but I love "On Writing" and if Uncle Stevie finds his way to my blog during a vanity search, so much the better. I'd love to talk to him some day. We now return to our regularly scheduled post.)

Later, at home after running errands, I put on comfy pants (plaid cotton men's PJ bottoms, bought at Macy's in New York years ago, on sale and so cheap, the store almost had to pay me) and hopped onto my bed (which I made this morning, thankyouverymuch; I'll earn that "adult" designation one of these days, by God) with Stephenie's book to try again.

I finished page 20. I started page 21. "I don't think I can read this," I groaned, out loud, when I read "... and I got the impression that she didn't like the doctor and his wife for some reason."

"... for some reason"? Sheesh.

But I kept going, to page 22, where a character says, "That's Edward. He's gorgeous, of course, but don't waste your time." Note to readers: EDWARD IS GORGEOUS, OF COURSE. But we already knew that, because on page 20, Stephenie tells us, as Bella Swan, "I glanced sideways at the beautiful boy ..." which comes as no surprise, because on pages 18 and 19, she tells us that "... they were all exactly alike ... all devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful." (Yes, Bella Swan; "Bella" as in "beautiful," "Swan" as in "graceful." As my friend Mike, also a writer, wrote in an e-mail to me earlier today, "Oh for fuck's sake.")

A few sentences later on page 22, Bella watches Edward and his companions as "the four of them left the table together. They were all noticeably graceful – even the big brawny one. It was unsettling to watch." Note to readers: IT WAS UNSETTLING TO WATCH.

I dragged my eyes onto page 23. This is the sentence that made me throw in the towel on "Twilight": "When we entered the classroom, Angela went to sit at a black-topped lab table exactly like the ones I was used to."

To quote Mike, "Oh for fuck's sake."

(Finishing the paragraph just now, I see that, as kismet would have it, the only open seat in the class is next to Edward, who is gorgeous, of course, because he is devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful.)

And thus ends my Stephenie Meyer experience. I'm happy that kids everywhere have another series to sustain the frenzy and sate the hunger that Rowling created with Harry and Hermione and Ron.

But for me, on page 23, the sun has set on Bella Swan.


Anonymous Mikeachim said...

I want to read it now.

Just so I can say "oh, for fuck's sake" properly.

3:01 PM  

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