Adventures in Reading


Fiction: New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

I was thrilled that I finished Twilight just before I had to go to work so I was able to almost immediately begin Meyer’s second book in her supernatural series New Moon. The second book in the series gets off to a bit of a rough start and the novel suffers from some “series syndrome” until roughly 20 to 30 pages in. I admit, I do not envy any writer composing those first pages of any books in a series. Bella and Edward pick up from the prom Twilight left the reader at, the two shortly part at Edward’s request, and Bella spends the next 300 pages emotionally suffering and discovering the secrets of Jacob Black.

New Moon is a novel of pathos. There is relatively little action that occurs and I found the plot line weak. In fact, nothing much really happens in New Moon. The book reads as a 500+ page stepping stone Meyer’s uses to get from the first book to the third and eventually fourth books of the series (I assume). I left New Moon with the sense of a very long serial providing near endless cliff hanging questions: What will happen with Victoria? What about the Volturi? Will Bella finally become a vampire? What about the treaty between the vampires and the werewolves?

I felt the book was too long and despite the emotional conflict resulting from Edward’s and Bella’s separation, I didn’t feel the novel in any way developed their relationship. Granted, New Moon turned to develop a relationship between Bella and Jacob, but I am sure most readers would agree it’s not nearly as dynamic and in part do to Bella’s immediate and ongoing rejection of Jacob. Upon finishing it, I felt the book could have been greatly condensed and been just as good.

Despite all of this, it didn’t stop me from gorging on New Moon within a little more than one sitting. I anxiously turned the pages (I confess to some scanning), my heart throbbed for Bella, and I am not ashamed to say my eyes were damp more than once. New Moon is a canvas that brilliantly displays one of Meyer’s great talents: representing emotion tension and demanding a response from her reader. [1] The novel also created a landscape I assume the remaining two books of the series will catapult from. Still, I didn’t feel as if it was as tightly packaged as Twilight and Meyer’s writing was not as well done (or as well hidden) as in her previous novel.

However, if you’ve read Twilight you have to read New Moon. And New Moon is by no means a bad book. But it’s a thinking book for Meyer, delving further into her created world, creating twists and turns that may otherwise have proven difficult in other settings, and constructing a firm enough base that the next two books ought not need such prolonged development.

[1] I must say that at least a few of my ~40+ co-workers have attempted this series and were wearied by it. They found the emotions draining, unconvincing, and unrealistic.

Other opinions: Kay’s Bookshelf, In the Louvre, In the Shadow of Mt. TBR, American Bibliophile, Ax For the Frozen Sea, Muse Books Reviews, Book Nut, J. Kaye’s Book Blog, Literate Chick, and Stephanie’s Written Word.



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.



Fiction: A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott perhaps best known for her novel Little Women (or the various film adaptations of it), which Alcott referred to as her “moral pap for the young,” much to my surprise had also written a good amount of other works. When I stumbled across A Long Fatal Love Chase at the library book sale, a book espousing on the cover “He stalker her every step—for she had become his obsession….” I couldn’t resist and in my continuing excursion to read the teetering stacks of books I already own I jumped right in.

A Long Fatal Love Chase is extremely different than Little Women. Alcott went to Europe with a friend for a trip much like a Grand Tour and upon returning immediately began writing to help with her family’s financial troubles. Alcott was asked to write 24-chapters for a pulp magazine though A Long Fatal Love Chase was not published until after Alcott’s death. It’s a romantic, dark, and scandalous novel of the fair Rosamond falling in love with the fiendish but dashing Philip Tempest. They marry and lead a gay life until Rosamond discovers that she has been duped: Tempest was already married.

If one of the Brontë sisters had taken it into her head to write a sweeping melodrama that unfolded across various countries of Europe from villas to impoverished apartments to mental asylums, Alcott’s novel would have been a reasonably good comparison. A Long Fatal Love Chase follows the story’s heroine as she attempts to escape Tempest and pursue her own freedom. The editor Kent Bicknell reminds the reader of Alcott’s reoccurring themes of “quest for physical, financial, intellectual, and spiritual independence” running through the novel.

I found the book fairly reminiscent of earlier novels such as Clarissa and the works of Radcliffe. Though Rosamond is not nearly as simpering or delicate as these other heroines, she does succumb to a rather pornographic death finale as if Tempest cannot have her no man will. Alcott is also a bit heavy handed with the symbolism and foreshadowing. Every second chapter of the book is also written as a bit of a cliffhanger and all together Alcott produced quite the sensational and titillating read. A Long Fatal Love Chase is a great contrast novel for anyone who has read her little men and women stories.

This book is available through Bookmooch.

Other opinions: the Book Mine Set.

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