Twilight: I Was Not Dazzled

By

I have to begin this review of Twilight with a disclaimer. I have only read the first book in the series. That’s important and counts as an initial strike against my review, because I happen to agree with James W. Thomas, lit scholar at Pepperdine and author of the forthcoming book Repotting Harry Potter that there are far too many people who have written off J.K. Rowling without reading all 4100 pages of J.K. Rowling. I’d hate to be one of those people who are missing the greatness of one particular series of books because I haven’t experienced them in full.

Still, two things lead me to proceed with this review.

One, if the literature is great, it can be shown to be great – or at least have a few inklings of future greatness – in the first portion of the series. Two, if the series is any good, the first book should at the very least keep me reading, wondering what will become of these characters. Even “page-turners” and “penny dreadfuls,” after all, make you want to get to the next page. And in the case of Twilight, current editions have page one of the second book readily available for the reader after the epilogue. But I closed the book, not caring one bit about the sneak-peek into New Moon. I might also add that, in stark contrast to Harry Potter, Twilight has not inspired volumes of academic analysis and college courses exploring its literary merits.

There are many who enjoyed Twilight, and I do not want to disparage their experiences. Everyone loves an exciting story, and I have no gripe against occasional mindless fun. While I found this book neither fun nor exciting, your mileage may vary. But when considering Twilight’s artistic merits, it fails miserably.

By the time I was halfway through this book, it seemed to me that the wisest course of action would have been to put down the book and begin actually looking for Bella. It would have saved my boredom, and perhaps her life. In a few hundred pages, her heart sped up and stopped so many times, it’s cause for serious concern. I work in cardiology in my real life, and I think she needs to come into our lab and get a defibrillator implanted.

Therein lies one of the many artistic problems with Twilight. The same default words, expressions, and phrases are over and over, and if ever the cliche, “beating a dead horse” were poignant, this is it. Bella’s clumsy and gets faint around Edward, who is perfect. And dangerous. And if you forget either of those things, never fear: these two characters will remind you on every page of the book.

So, no – I was not “dazzled” by Edward’s “perfect/glorious/godlike/angel face” and his “dark/golden/ocher eyes,” nor did my heart go into weird rhythms and stop when meeting any of the female vampires. Andrew Osenga’s review got this right. Remove this incessant, uncreative motif, and you lose the majority of the book. Meyer cannot pass up an opportunity to glory in the beauty of Edward, and it gets nauseating as Bella nearly faints – and momentarily faints once! – and goes into frequent bouts of tachycardia.

Very little happens for 400 pages, until we get a jet-tour through an utterly predictable ending which I’m guessing most readers saw coming. Not only the plot, but any poignant theme in this book is not just blurry, but non-existent. In great literature, one finds great themes: self-sacrificial love, mercy, forgiveness, good vs. evil, etc. But in Twilight, a bunch of stuff happens, and that’s about it. We are taken through the melodramatic thoughts of a 16-year old girl who intends to give up her entire life for an infatuation with a creepy, 100 year old vampire who is obsessed with Bella for no other reason than that she smells yummy.

There is zero depth to any these characters. On top of the fact that vampires – vampires – bored me to tears, none of the book’s characters has a unique voice. There is no change in speaking style from one character to the next. To make this even more painful, it’s written in first person of Bella – which means the entire story is a “voice,” and everyone talks exactly like Bella thinks. You’d think that with characters well over 300 years old, there’d be a few interesting voices, that something in the way they speak would indicate that there’s something more to the character. Alas, we find no such thing. And there’s no subtlety in the character development. We don’t come to know characters by their unique actions or their singular voices, but by the same tired descriptions.

I do not care about the characters of Twilight. When I first met Raskolnikov (Crime and Punishment), I was immediately compelled by his tortured psyche. When I first met Charles Wallace (A Wrinkle in Time), I knew I wanted to learn everything about this amazing little boy. When I first met Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter), I knew I’d be fascinated by this enigma for seven full books. When I first met Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights), I knew I’d encountered an intriguing, disturbing character. But there is nothing compelling about any of Twilight’s characters.

Is there any redemptive value to the story? It’s hard to say for sure. In the first place, I’d argue that the artistic excellence of any work of art contributes significantly to its redemptive value. The work itself must be beautiful – and calling one vampire “beautiful” 37,000 times in 500 pages doesn’t count. We could argue that there is a battle with sinful nature, depicted in the Gothic vampires. The world of the Gothic is a vivid portrayal of fallen humanity (think Jeckyll/Hyde, Frankenstein, etc.), and with a small number of vampires are fighting their desire for human blood, you could say this holds true for Twilight as well. But the struggle against sinful nature in the world of the Gothic has been done so many times before, and so much better, it’s hard to justify the poor artistry of Twilight for that reason alone. If this theme can be found in the stories, it is heavily, heavily muted by the drama of teenage infatuation.

In fact, the fundamental problem I see here is that the sappy romance completely overrides anything mysterious, anything that would hint of an encounter with Faerie, a journey through the Perilous Realm. Unless I missed it because I was too distracted by all the beautiful vampires, the novel operates at no deeper level than the surface story. There is no “journey toward gestures, pictures, images, rhythms, metaphor, symbol, and at the peak of all, myth” (Clyde S. Kilby, Forward to Christian Mythmakers). It seems devoid of much apart from a romance that involves the perfect-looking undead.

I’m sure the story gets more exciting in the sequels. There’s bound to be more revelation about the history of the vampiric subculture, and I’m guessing there’s some conflict ahead with those werewolves. I’ll never know, because I’ve no intention of reading the next volume.

We should call Twilight what it is: the first successful campaign by a publishing company to market a book as “the next Harry Potter.” But successful marketing is all there is to it.


42 Comments

  1. Larry

    Travis,

    Thanks for your review. I am a VP of Marketing at a book publishing company in NYC and my guess is that Little Brown (the publisher) had little to do with the marketing success of this book and series. The marketing success of this series can be attributed to a word-of-mouth tsunami by thirteen year old girls. I was at Posman Books in Grand Central a couple of days before Christmas standing in line with the books I was buying as gifts overhearing a verbal onslought by the two women behind the counter saying things like . . .”I can’t believe you liked this book, I used to respect your opinion,” and “You are just too neurotic and jaded, don’t you want to fall in love again?” Yikes. Publishing is my passion and vocation and I so rarely encounter ANYONE actually arguing about books (outside our proposals meetings) that I was thrilled to be delayed by this dialogue. The genious of Rowling’s works is that they transcend childrens, young adult and adult fiction audiences. I’m failry certain the Twilight series will remain pretty firmly entrenched with the thirteen year olds who’ve just finished the Clique books and think AXE really smells great. I’m just glad they are reading.

    Larry

  2. Loren Eaton

    I wonder if some of the backlash against Twilight is due to the fact that it’s first and foremost a romance, not horror or adventure or even fantasy. Not to anger that genre’s fans (of whom my wife is one), but romance is a great example of classic pulp and requires a strong silliness tolerance to really enjoy.

  3. Travis Prinzi

    @travis

    Larry, you could very well be correct that Little, Brown didn’t have much to do with the marketing. It’s a bit too successful to be just “word of mouth,” I’d guess, but you know more about marketing books than I do! Perhaps it would have been better worded: “This is the first series to successfully tap into the Harry Potter fanbase.”

    Loren, Meyer did an interview a while back in which she said she basically just wrote the books for entertainment. Unless she was being cagey, that says to me that she’s not all that concerned with genre. So, yes – those of us who want to see some sort of artistic quality reflecting fantasy and gothic imaginative literature were probably bound to be disappointed with Twilight.

  4. Loren Eaton

    That’s interesting, Travis, because I thought her real failure was a poor intergration of the vampire bits with the romance. By the way, you might find this article from The Wall Street Journal an illuminating read. I certainly did.

  5. Tony Heringer

    Travis (also my sons name),

    You said: ” Meyer did an interview a while back in which she said she basically just wrote the books for entertainment. Unless she was being cagey, that says to me that she’s not all that concerned with genre. So, yes – those of us who want to see some sort of artistic quality reflecting fantasy and gothic imaginative literature were probably bound to be disappointed with Twilight.”

    Exactly. In your review you actually compare this book to “Crime and Punishment.” To use the common motif of this cyberspace, that’s like comparing “Pat the Bunny” and “Peter Rabbit.” The former is meant to connect a child to language by engaging her senses, the latter is really telling a story to the child. Big difference.

    If Meyer has all but admitted this is meant to be entertainment, then I think
    the search for deeper meaning or significance is pointless. It is also a stretch to press too much meaning into the Potter series. I’m most of the way through book 4 and thus far the series, while entertaining is clearly juvenile fiction.

    Let’s be clear, you and I relate to Potter because we are a guys. Girls relate to Twilight because, surprise, they are girls. Girls relate to Potter as well, but stay with me here.

    I’d love to have Evie or one of the other Rabbit Room women read through the series and give us guys a review and some lessons on why girls are going crazy over this series. Is it just a Cindy Lauper moment or is there more to it? Women or girls who read this aren’t stupid. They sense something about this type of writing that we don’t get. As men, we would do well to learn more about that.

    The ideas of desire and beauty are part of how a woman bears God’s image. That is wholly different than how you and I bear God’s image as men. So, let’s get a separate post from a woman and then let the other ladies in our midst comment. The guys should just read what they say, learn from them and be blessed.

    As for the reading and discussion of these books I’m with Larry. Like with the Potter series, the girls are reading and that is a good thing. As I mentioned in Andy O’s review, it is our job as adults to steer the younger readers to greater works. But even with that, we will all enjoy our entertainment no matter the medium – film, book, music, etc.

    So, to all the ladies in the Room, help us guys out. We are not dumb either, we just lack understanding. 🙂

  6. Tony Heringer

    Loren,

    Well done man. This article is the type I’m looking for from the Rabbit Room Women (say that three times fast and you’ll sound like Elmer Fudd). I love how Laura Miller ends it:

    “It’s hard to imagine any real man pulling that off, and so the authors and readers of paranormal romances have simply ceased trying to imagine it. As fantastical as the paranormal romance may appear, it reflects a rueful pragmatism. The classic romantic hero has been relegated, like the vampire, to the realm of legend and superstition.”

    Ouch!

    By the way, she has a book coming out that may be of interest to folks who visit this place: “The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia.” Sounds like a book worth a Rabbit Room review.

  7. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    I haven’t read Twilight so I can’t really talk about it, but to downplay Potter as juvenile fiction for boys is selling it far short. There’s been plenty of dissection of it here at the RR that I’m not going to reopen but it’s certainly a far cry from mere entertainment.

    (I will say however that the first couple of Potter books were pretty weak, maybe that’s the case with the Twilight series. I don’t know.)

  8. Travis Prinzi

    @travis

    Tony, I only brought up Crime and Punishment as one of many examples of a story which made me care about the characters. Writing a story “only for entertainment” does not let one off the hook for being a bad artist. It’s still bad, bad artistry.

    Let’s be clear, you and I relate to Potter because we are a guys. Girls relate to Twilight because, surprise, they are girls. Girls relate to Potter as well, but stay with me here.

    Actually, I’ve been to several Harry Potter conferences at this point (yes, I am a major dork), and they are 90% attended by females.

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to find more meaning in the Potter books than juvenile fiction. James W. Thomas, whom I quote in this post, is a 30 year literature scholar at Pepperdine University. He’s got a bit more credibility on this sort of thing than most, and he thinks the Potter books are better than Narnia or Lord of the Rings (I happen to disagree on the latter count, but it illustrates the point I’m making). I’d recommend John Granger’s work if you get to the end of 7 Potter books and think they’re nothing more than entertaining kid lit.

    Now, re: female readers vs. male readers of Twilight. I’m certain there are things about Twilight that women can shed light on that I and other men can’t and don’t understand. I don’t think that disqualifies any man from saying, “This is bad art,” which was the point of my review.

    Here, however, is an article by a woman who liked Twilight.

    Re: Laura Miller – I’m not sure Narnia fans will think too highly of her book.

  9. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    I have Miller’s book in the review stacks and was assured I would like it if I like reading!!! (now I’m worrying) In fact I think the LA Times (or some other paper) said it was the best book on CS Lewis to date.

    I would be interested in more YA reviews. To me, it seems an exciting thriving area of books right now. Actually, I’d just love more book reviews. 🙂

  10. La Shawn

    Travis, if you feel this way about the first book, you won’t like the second book. I tried to get through it and could not do it. Didn’t bother with Books 3 and 4. Book 1 held my attention just long enough to get to the end.

    The writing is not good, and the story just isn’t compelling. Then again, I’m a middle-aged woman, so I’m not exactly the target market, am I?

  11. Josh

    I think the best thing I can say about Twilight is this: at least they’re reading. I think that’s pretty remarkable these days with our entertain-me-now culture full of on-demand this and instant that and ebay and amazon and yadda yadda yadda… I do wish they were reading a better book, but maybe Twilight will lead them to something good later on.

  12. Travis Prinzi

    @travis

    Josh, yes – I’d like to see parents and teachers using Twilight (IF the kids are already reading it) to point back to excellent Gothic fiction. A good starting place would be Wuthering Heights, since Bella mentions it several times (though I’d have to say that Bronte wouldn’t be a very easy read for someone only accustomed to Twilight).

  13. Loren Eaton

    Regarding Laura Miller, she admittedly isn’t the most conservative fantasy critic. (She does write for Salon, after all.) But I thought her article about the vampire romance phenomenon was insightful.

    (Full Disclosure: I am not much of a Twilight fan; have read six of the seven Potter, my favorite of which was The Prisoner of Azkaban; and am always very irritated by secularists who decry Lewis for how he ended the Narnia series, e.g. Neil Gaiman’s The Problem of Susan.)

  14. Shauna

    I enjoyed the Twilight series and read each book in about a day but found them a guilty pleasure.They’re not great literature by any stretch of the imagination but are much better than the Sweet Valley High and other crap I’m embarrassed to admit that I used to read when I was a teen. Meyer is not in the same league as Rowling.

  15. Josh

    I can’t really understand, but I can see how it makes sense that a young girl reading twilight wouldn’t be put off at all by the constatnly recurring “he’s perfect but she’s a mess” conversation. Seems like that kind of self-criticism is always front and center in the minds of young women.

  16. dave herring

    my wife read all the books in the series in like 2 weeks. she loved them. she also loves narnia, hp (she read all the hp books in 2 weeks too), and other classics, if that means anything. personally, i’m not wasting my time reading them. i don’t like the genre. i’m more of an “illiad” kinda guy.

  17. Tony Heringer

    Travis,

    Agreed dude, I just meant we are pushing the envelope, as guys, on the reviews of this pabulum. What’s next? The artistic merits of “It’s A Wonderful Life”? Frank Capra’s films were lampooned by critics as “Capra Corn.” It is hokey, but I am drawn to it — bad theology and all. That film is not good art, but its entertainment.

    As for Potter and females, I didn’t say girls didn’t relate to it, I know they do. However, the main character is a guy and we are guys. Therefore we, as guys, can relate to it much better than Twilight. Just call me “Captain Obvious.”

    You are hammering this book like it was trying to be something great. I feel the same way about Potter from the other direction. People elevate those books too much. Rowling wasn’t trying to make great art. She was trying to make a living. As a single mom she needed money. Her story is a classic rags to riches tale which will likely be a movie directed by Ron Howard some day. The books took off, good for her, but it ain’t great art either.

    As for Laura Miller, I’m with you, but that is just why I suggested a Rabbit Room review. It would be good to get a look at a work that is likely to be disagreeable to most of the Lewis fans out here. Sounds like a Jason Gray review to me. He likes to stir things up too.

    Happy New Year!

  18. Travis Prinzi

    @travis

    Tony, I certainly wasn’t intending to “hammer” the book, like I have some personal vendetta against it. But I think our disagreement on Potter is probably the central disconnect here. Rowling most certainly was attempting to write great art, and I and many others agree she succeeded. (Again, see John Granger, or my own work.) I’d also highly recommend the James Thomas book I mentioned in the review above.

    Twilight is being billed as either “the next Harry Potter” or “better than,” and that’s the perspective I’m coming from. It’s neither the next, nor better than, because of its artistic failure.

  19. Rumor

    Travis, bless you and your review. I could not agree with you more!!! And for someone about to read Dostoevsky’s The Possessed, I am proud to pick that book up and read it and never buy the sloppy Twilight books. Thanks for enlightening the world.

  20. Tony Heringer

    Travis,

    I am sorry about the wording there. This is the second post on this subject, so your review just seems like piling on to me. I know they are not connected, so perhaps that was unfair.

    We will have to agree to disagree on Potter. Rowling was a single mom trying to survive. Perhaps that’s why the first couple of books were weak and maybe the latter books improved. From my perspective they seem to follow the same style of writing. It’s not bad, but I’m not blown away by it either.

    However, like Star Wars, Potter is a mythology that is part of our pop culture. For that reason, I’m intrigued to know the story and its implications. Like the Lucas myth, the Potter series has some poignant moments, but overall it is pretty simplistic. Similar to Narnia which Rowling, I’ve heard, as a fan of Lewis, patterned her series after.

    When I complete the Potter series, I do plan on reading “The Gospel According to Harry Potter: Spirituality in the Stories of the World’s Most Famous Seeker” by Connie W. Neal. I’m not sure I can stand much more analysis of this work than that, but if I do take in another work, it will be yours. Thanks for the recommendations.

    As for the marketing of Twilight – it is what it is. “The Shack” is billed as the “Pilgrim’s Progress” of our generation – that’s in a quote by Eugene Peterson on the book’s paperback cover. This bit of marketing worked on me. Well, I also had friends telling me “You have to read this book!” But, alas the promise was not fulfilled. I enjoyed that book like I’m enjoying the Potter books, but it wasn’t in the same class as “Pilgrim’s Progress”. Was I surprised? Not really. Young wrote that book for his kids and was goaded into getting it published by his friends. From there it took off.

    If we review “The Shack” here, it will generate a similar storm of pros and cons. That is the trouble with pop art. It’s like junk food. Good for us? Bah! It tastes good!

    Anyway, thanks for the post. I appreciate the candor and input on the series. I don’t think I’ll invest in the books like I am with Potter, but I’ll probably see the movies as a way to connect with my daughter and her friends who are enjoying it.

    Happy New Year!

  21. Travis Prinzi

    @travis

    Tony, I think you’d be interested in a couple of different perspectives on both Narnia and Harry Potter. Have you read anything on the alchemical framework of Harry Potter? Have you read anything on the medieval cosmological framework of the Narnia stories?

    It’s actually a popular misconception that Rowling framed HP after Narnia. While considering Lewis a genius and loving his works, she’s distanced herself quite a bit from Narnia on several counts.

    Still, the key similarity is this: Rowling and Lewis both write in a symbolist tradition in which an artistic, imaginative key guides and undergirds their writing. Neither Narnia nor HP are simplistic in the least. Far from it! I think you’d be blown away by Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia and John Granger’s work on Harry Potter.

    I’m slightly bothered by the “single mom trying to survive” reason you cite. What does that have to do with it? If she’s a great writer, she’s a great writer. And this is not a series of books she rushed out quickly in order to make some money. She spent seven years planning and writing before the first book came out, and it took her 17 years to write the entire series. The series is unbelievably complex, has already inspired volumes and volumes of analysis, courses at major colleges and universities (including Yale!) examining their literary merits!

    I can certainly agree that Rowling’s prose does not match up with Tolkien’s or Lewis’s, but as a work of imaginative fiction, I think evidence points to its being included among the best.

    I appreciate your responses and respectful dialogue! Happy New Year!

  22. Caroline

    While I am thankfully not in Twilight’s target audience, I have quite a few female friends who are enamored with these books. I can appreciate that they like the undying “love” and passion in the books, but with a hero like Edward, who is by turns cold and unfeeling, cruel and taciturn, how can that be appealing?

    I’d like to take slight umbrage with Tony’s point that guys relate more than girls to Harry Potter because the central character is a guy. Yes, I know that you’ve said that both guys and girls like HP, but I’d like to reiterate that there is a very strong female fanbase for the HP books. I would argue that the proportion for Twilight’s fans skews heavily toward females, but for HP it must be much more balanced. I’m afraid I don’t have and statistics on that, only anecdotal evidence. I have yet to meet any guys who are into Twilight, but I know both guys and girls who love HP.

  23. Jamie Arpin-Ricci

    This might sound odd, as I have read everything Meyers has written, but I agree with your assessment. I make it a point to read through such pop culture hits, as I find it helpful when talking to people about why it is such a hit. At any rate, literature might be too generous of a term for this series.

    So why the appeal? While Meyer’s is not a great writer (though better than most of what gets published these days, especially in the Christian Fiction market), she is a wonderful story teller. She writes to her audience (primarily young women) in a way that is identifiable. There is one of the challenges- writing first person from the perspective of a (perhaps less than) typical American teenage girl, the writer is faced with the tension between literary quality and contextual authenticity. The latter has earned her the sales in certain demographics. So many readers identify with Bella, feel they understand her, could be her friend.

    She also uses the same formula Disney is so used to using. The unusual, beautiful girl who is an outsider- not because she is a loser, but because she is special. Meant for something special. What teen, male or female (or any of us, for that matter), doesn’t find the appeal in the possibility that those things that alienate us actually make us special?

    In the end, the romance IS the story, with all the other aspects simply framework. Torn lovers, triangles, etc. In fact, if you read her other novel outside of the series (The Host), these themes are blatantly repeated, but with different contexts. The romance overrides the other themes by intention and, while it frustrates readers like you and me, it is what earned this book the numbers it has.

    So, while I wish I had a few hours of my life back having read all of Meyer’s works, I am also thankful to understand something about the many people in my life who have embraced these books with such a passion.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  24. whipple

    To interject a Laura Miller question, I was grabbed by the title and cover of her book while wandering through Borders (on my occasional jaunt to read The Watchmen – which you should look into), and while I was disheartened upon my initial glance into chapter one, I still feel interested in her perspective as one who was clearly not drawn into the ideas of transcendent story and meta-narrative that Narnia suggests.

    So, the question is, is her book, however depressing or grievous, worth my time for that reason?

  25. Tony Heringer

    Travis,

    Sorry about opening up the Harry Potter can of worms. I’m starting to feel like John Cleese in a Monty Python sketch (i.e. “Dear Sir,”)

    Academic analysis doesn’t equal greatness. “The Matrix”, Star Wars, etc. have been looked at too. Pop culture gets that kind of attention. All that to say, I respect Rowling and what she has accomplished. Like some of Charles Dickens work, she has written some clever fiction.

    I heard Ward’s interview on Mars Hill Audio. That guy really gets into Lewis, eh? That is a book I’d like to read – one of several thousand in my que though.

    Caroline,

    Agreed, as with Travis, I didn’t mean to open up this can of worms. Potter was just the foil here and not the focus. I know girls like Potter – lots of people like Potter. The books sales alone tell me that.

    I had hoped, as a Rabbit Room woman, you’d post again. Thanks for the follow up perspective and for your use of the word “umbrage.” A very appropriate word for the type of debate that I assume went on in the real Rabbit Room. 🙂

    By the way, I saw this on Facebook this morning: “Edward Cullen..(the only character in the fictional world who i wish was real… so he could take me away from this dreadful place…)” I think, like the Laura Miller article, this explains the buzz associated with this series. There is a longing for a hero and not just a hero, but the perfect hero.

    Thanks again for the post Travis. I’m still reading the Potter series. Once I get to its conclusion I’ll shoot you an email or post on your blog. 🙂

  26. Travis Prinzi

    @travis

    Academic analysis doesn’t equal greatness.

    Not exactly, no. I agree. But it’s sort of a requirement for getting into the greatness category, and like I said, HP is being examined and lauded for its literary merits, not simply in cultural studies as a pop-culture phenomenon.

  27. Charis

    I recently read Living By Fiction by Annie Dillard. I think this passage has very obvious implications in this discussion.

    “We judge work on its integrity. We often examine a works integrity (or at least I do) by asking what it makes for itself and what it attempts to borrow from the world. Sentimental art for instance attempts to force preexistent emotions upon us. Instead of creating characters and events which will illicit special feelings unique to the text, sentimental art merely gesture toward stock characters and events whose accompanying emotions come on tap. Bad poetry is almost always bad because it attempts to claim for itself the real power of whatever it describes in ten lines: a sky full of stars, first love, or niagra falls. An honest work generates its own power; a dishonest work tries to rob power from the cataracts of the given. That is why scenes of high drama- suicide, rape, murder, incest- or scenes of great beauty are so difficult to do in genuine literature. We already have strong feelings about these things, and literature does not operate on borrowed feelings.”

  28. Charis

    As far as literary value goes, yes there is conjecture to be sure but there are also limits. I think the above statement is a good measure. C.S. Lewis in his introduction to Lilith say (and I am paraphrasing) George Macdonald is not necessarily a good writer, but the story he creates is where his merit lies. Both The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter create “myths” that whether or not they have literary value in your mind bring something new to the table.

    As a teenage girl I understand the appeal of these books but I disagree with the statement made several times before “that at least they are reading”. I love to read but I do not think everyone needs to. There are other ways to learn how to think and experience art. I am tempted to say that better girls and women do not read at all than read stories like these that inflate fantasies and have little value otherwise. There are hosts of other productive activities that are preferable.

  29. Caroline

    Tony,

    Thanks for your response. I’ll admit that I get a little defensive when Harry Potter comes up in the context of Twilight discussions, if only because I believe it is in a league far beyond Twilight.

    I first heard about Twilight on a Harry Potter podcast (MuggleCast) but it was quite a while later when I tried out the books. Comparing Twilight to Harry Potter is similar to people putting Harry Potter in the same basket as Lord of the Rings. Yes, they may both be fantasy books by British authors, but their execution and storylines are not comparable! I enjoy them both, but I would not classify them as similar beyond the fact that they are both fantasy novels.

    If there is something of a gulf between the scholarship of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, there are vast oceans between Harry Potter and Twilight. The only common ground between the latter two is the presence of vampires.

  30. Tony Heringer

    Caroline, Charis, Travis,

    Thanks for the follow ups. Good words my friends.

    Russ,

    Stop it! 🙂

  31. josh

    Charis I have trouble with your disagreement with the “at least they’re reading” idea. I mean I started off reading stories about demonic zombie puppets (gotta love goosebumps) but that lead me to cs lewis, tolkien, beuchner, calvin, luther, hemmingway, burns, piper, etc. So what is actually meant by “at least they are reading” that I hope this fluff that is twilight leads them somewhere great. That’s what Goosebumps did for me anyway.

  32. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    (cross posted because I put it in the wrong thread…sort of)

    I decided that I need to read this book just so I could talk about it intelligently and so with that goal in mind, I bought it and did my level best to read it. I made it to page 23.

    This was the sentence that convinced me I would not be able to finish this book:

    “I’d noticed that his eyes were black–coal black.”

    Let me explain something. A thing is either black, or it’s not. There are not differing levels of black. Had she written simply, “his eyes were coal black,” I could have lived with it, but she actually went out of her way to let us know that she doesn’t understand the nature of the color spectrum. The issue is compounded by the fact that Edward is clearly depicted on the cover of the book with RED eyes. My head asplode.

    Let me also say that I forgave multiple instances of similar inanity on the previous twenty-two pages.

    To further reinforce my opinion that this is an earth-shatteringly awful piece of writing, I submit this sentence from page 281 that I stumbled on as I thumbed through the rest of the book before consigning it to the toilet paper rack:

    “His beauty stunned my mind[…]”

    I’m actually looking forward to keeping the book around as a bathroom reader because almost every single page contains these kinds of cubic zirconium gems.

  33. Tony Heringer

    I don’t know which cracks me up more, the teen girls going on about Edward or the guys in these two posts taking issue with the book — capped off by Pete buying it. Too funny!

    I know this, the publisher and the author are laughing all the way to the bank.

    Pete, in your honor I’m listening to Viva la Vida during this post. 🙂

  34. Josh Wyant

    My wife loves twilight and told me all about it, (I also took her to the movie) I came away with one question…How come when Edward breaks into a girls room and watches her sleep it’s romantic, but if anybody else does it it’s stalking…

  35. Chelsea Ferguson

    Caroline said “with a hero like Edward, who is by turns cold and unfeeling, cruel and taciturn, how can that be appealing?”
    The appeal of Edward is that he fights the deepest nature of his being because he is in love with Bella. He has lived over a hundred years not knowing love, and suddenly, there she is, the one he has been waiting for, and throughout the series he learns how to love, all the while trying to be “good” despite the circumstances of being a vampire. He is taciturn because he thinks himself a monster, he doesn’t believe that anyone could love him if they knew what he was. He is the very opposite of unfeeling, he just has to learn how to feel after 100 years of not feeling.
    He is far from infallible, but his allure lies in his unconditional love for Bella. Besides that, BELLA is the hero of the series, NOT Edward, Edward just helps Bella along the way to the life that was meant for her.

    Now that I’m done defending Edward…
    To compare Twilight to Harry Potter I find somewhat ridiculous. The HP series will be forever a piece of literary history, a classic, and a well-written one. Twilight, while a beautiful love story, is just that, and nothing more.

  36. Travis Prinzi

    @travis

    Chelsea, it might be obviously “ridiculous” to compare HP and Twilight, but when it’s already being done, particularly to put Twilight in a good light, I don’t think it’s ridiculous to reflect on and respond to the comparison.

  37. becky

    I realize that everyone else has probably stopped thinking about Twilight long ago, but I just got around to watching the movie. I found myself disturbed by the film, because it perpetuates a couple of myths that many women believe, which lead them into unhealthy relationships.

    Myth #1: Dangerous, secretive men are more exciting and romantic than men who are safe, open, and honest.

    This is only true in movies or books. In real life, it is just the opposite. In real life, a guy who comes in your bedroom window and stands in the corner of the room watching you sleep is not romantic, he is frightening. You don’t ask him to stick around and chat, you scream for help and report him to the police. In the movies, Han Solo is dashing and romantic. But Han Solo is never going to settle down with Princess Leah, get a day job and a house in the suburbs, and come home at night to play with the kids and help her with the dishes. Many women have found out this truth the hard and painful way.

    Myth #2: My boyfriend may hurt others, but he loves me too much to ever hurt me. Bella says to Edward more than once, “I know that you would never hurt me,” even though Edward himself doesn’t know this.

    The truth is, that if a man is abusive and violent with others, it is only a matter of time until he becomes abusive and violent with you. Believing otherwise has lead many, many women into desperate domestic situations, that have resulted in pain, injury, and even death.

    I think that Twilight has the “knight rescues the damsel in distress” theme going on, and most women would like to be a fair damsel who is rescued from distress. But acting on one’s belief in the myths listed above does not lead to rescue but to much greater distress. I find it a cause for concern that so many girls and young women are being pulled into these patterns of thinking. Yes, it is good that girls learn to love reading, but I fear that when they are reading Twilight they are learning lies about love that will bring them to harm in the future.

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