Adventures in Reading

Fiction: Twilight by Stephanie Meyers

When I decided to finally pick up a copy of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, half of my co-workers cheered while the others half groaned. This sensationally popular young adult series has been flying off the shelf, but I confess I have had relatively little attraction to it. First, I’m not much of a fan of vampires and particularly when these mythic creatures are explored in the traditional manner. That is strong, ethereal beauty, stylish, almost immortal – too near-perfect for my taste. I have similar sentiments towards werewolves, which is why I did find Sharp Teeth such an appealing book.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself swept away by Twilight. Bella has decided to move in with her estranged stepfather in Forks, Washington. Bella’s experience at her new school is dramatic and enticing to most any reader; she is immediately popular—particularly with her male peers—and attracts the attention of the bad boy of the school Edward Culleton: who happens to be a vampire. Meyer’s vampire story is not traditional in every sense as it unfolds in a suburban, high school environment and some vampires have acquired special characteristics, dare I say superpowers, carried over from their past human life.

Bella is the normal outsider favored in contemporary novels. Though placed on the edge of peer acceptance, she is an attractive, slender, intelligent, well-read, and well-spoken teenager. Her one flaw, beautifully represented throughout the novel by Meyers, is her clumsiness. Perhaps Bella’s most endearing quality is Meyer’s quality ability to inject high-school desires into Bella believably and simultaneously pulling (even long stagnant) heartstrings of the reader.

Vampire violence itself has a sexual connotation to it through penetration, passion, and spilling blood. Twilight is not exempt from this interpretation. Repeatedly throughout the text, Edward comments on how he must control himself from “taking [Bella],” which literally refers to drinking her blood but is a barely disguised euphemism for sex. The sexual tension throughout the book is taught and is one of the more alluring and well-written tensions in the book. Likewise, at the conclusion when the traditionally virginal Bella pleads with Edward to “change” her it’s likewise a reference of offering herself to Edward.

But Bella is no longer a “virgin.” Andrea Dworkin describes in her book Intercourse, when discussing Bram Stoker’s Dracula, “The place of sex is moved to the throat; and the meaning of sex is in draining her body of all its blood.” When Bella is lured by the vampire James to the dance studio, is violently attacked, is bitten by him (though in the hand), and all while being videotaped—it’s an experience synonymous with a violent rape and at that a recorded violent rape.

The “vegetarianism” that the Culleton family has resigned themselves to, that is rather than attack humans they hunt and drink the blood of animals, is a rejection of vampirical violence and in a sense the sexual violence that accompanies it. The Culleton’s have refused the misogyny of their kind, which is an interesting parallel to Bella’s English report on the misogynistic tendencies of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

I admit, I am taken with the series and am looking forward to picking up the next book in the series Eclipse. Perhaps what I am even more impressed with though is that I would disagree with the oft heard banter that it’s a fun or fluff series: candy for the brain. An argument that too often cuts the legs out from under “children’s books” and refuses said books to be considered seriously. Though I still think roughly 50-pages could have been chopped from Twilight to make it a tighter novel, it really is a sensational book to read for pure enjoyment or literary interpretation.

Other opinions: books i done read, Necromancy Never Pays, Two-Legged Animal, and the Lit Connection.


Ben, In the World by Doris Lessing

First, allow me to say: “Damn you WordPress!” As it just proceeded to lose all of my text (though somehow retain the categories and tags I had filled in). After the book sale yesterday, I stopped in at the library to pick up Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook. While I had to order this novel, I did stumble across Ben, in the World (2000) – the sequel to The Fifth Child – and gave in to see where Lessing’s curious story continued. I was greatly disappointed. Often my favorite part of reading fiction are the multitude of interpretations that are available. I love the discussion that results from this and the author’s embodiment of diverse ideas. Ben, In the World was very much a dead end.

Yesterday when I finished The Fifth Child my imagination was very much captured by the duplicity of Ben as either being a human anomaly of evolution or that Lessing was utilizing the fear and apprehension surrounding the Thalidomide scare in the UK during the 1950s and 60s (or something similar). Ben, In the World without a doubt confirms that he is an evolutionary “throwback” with no mention of his mother’s habitual use of tranquilizers during her pregnancy. Ben has been rejected by his family, taken in by an old lady who dies, rapes a prostitute with a “heart of gold” he befriends moments after the rape [1], he’s involved in drug trafficking with the prostitute’s pimp, taken to Brazil by an American to be in a movie, kidnapped for scientific experiments, escapes and commits suicide. Really, that is about it, and I will admit that I can only suspend my disbelief so much. I still have hope for Lessing’s other books, but what a contrast from my mindset of yesterday!

The one interesting point in the book, which is summarized quite well at the end is societies longing or even craving for normalcy. Teresa – a Brazilian beauty, ex-prostitute, current television hand – ends the book saying: “‘And I know that we are pleased that he is dead and that we don’t have to think about him'” (178). This applies very much to Ben as well as the “corrupted” culture the reader is given a tour of through Ben’s exploits.

On a different note, I have been doing a lot of tweaking around Adventures in Reading, which includes: tags, new links, recommendations, a visual book stack, and so forth. I am also considering a new picture or design to replace the black and white books at the beginning of the blog and any suggestions would be more than welcome.

[1] I had never realized before how much some authors gloss over rape and/or partake in the “no means yes” mindset. Literature can indeed by rather misogynistic.