Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

God knows I quote:

“Isabella.”  He pronounced my full name carefully, then playfully ruffled my hair with his free hand [when I think vampires, I think of playful hair-ruffling…you?].  A shock ran through my body at his casual touch.  [Of course it did.]  “Bella, I couldn’t live with myself if I ever hurt you.  You don’t know how it’s tortured me.”  He looked down, ashamed again.  “The thought of you, still, white, cold…to never see you blush scarlet again, to never see that flash of intuition in your eyes when you see through my pretenses [I love that he’s so full of shit that after hanging out with her for maybe three weeks tops he’s already fallen in love with the way she looks when she figures out he’s full of shit]…it would be unendurable.”  He lifted his glorious, agonized eyes to mine.  “You are the most important thing to me now.  The most important thing to me ever.”

But don’t worry.  He talks like that because he’s from the Olden Days.  That’s how they talked back then.

I’ve heard about this book from so many different places I can’t even remember them anymore. I knew it was going to be trashy when I checked it out. I could tell. Vampire books are not necessarily trashy, but they often are, and if fangs weren’t so sexy and if vampires weren’t so elegant, the whole vampire books thing would have ended ages ago because they are mostly so extremely trashy.

(Robin McKinley’s Sunshine being an exception. I loved Sunshine. Her best since Beauty, also not trashy.)

Well, anyway, it is very easy to see why Twilight is so popular. Youngish teenage girls love vampires. Fangs are sexy. Vampire dudes are elegant and dangerous. Stephenie Meyer is tapping into this in a big way. Edward Cullen, the vampire dude, is constantly being all “I love you more than my luggage, Bella dearest darling, but if you slip me any tongue while we’re kissing I will have to kill you and suck your blood”. And, you know, who wouldn’t want that?

(Vampires aren’t a very subtle metaphor for sex = death, are they?)

I’m kind of embarrassed by reading this book. When the sequels come in at the library, I’m going to have to check out several other quite-intellectual-looking books to keep the librarians from judging me, especially this one guy who always makes snide comments about everything I’m checking out but he can’t say anything if I have Twilight and then, like, War and Peace and And the Band Played On (not really, I own it) and What Fresh Hell Is This: A Biography of Dorothy Parker and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and…er, some other stuff that clever people might read.

It’s not awfully well-written, or awfully original. It’s just that people cannot resist that whole Will he kiss her or kill her thing. At all. Ever. Even if the guy is sort of creepy. And girls can’t resist vampires. Sexy. Dangerous. Elegant. (Especially elegant, in my case.) Even when they know as I do that these vampire books are silly and trashy, and Bella is ridiculous for being all, “Oh I love you so much and I’m so sure about it that I want to commit to you for all eternity even though I’m only seventeen and I’ve never had a boyfriend before”, and Edward is ridiculous for being all “If I truly loved you I would leave but I can’t because I’m so violently attracted to you and I’m so sexy that I make you faint merely by kissing you”, even then, people – and by people I mean me – cannot resist checking out both sequels as soon as possible.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a good book.

My mum always says this kind of thing – I felt vaguely the same about The Da Vinci Code, which is gripping but not that good a book – begs the question of what a “good book” is. Like, how is it a bad book if it intrigues you so much that you can’t put it down even though you know you want to go to bed early because tomorrow is your only day of the week to sleep late and your roommate is absolutely without question going to wake you up in the morning singing songs and talking on her cell phone? (says my mother) But I don’t think this is right because one only carries on reading out of curiosity about what will happen to the characters, which is the same reason people including her and me get hooked on soap operas, and if there is one thing we can say for sure it is that soap operas are rubbish and not quality television even though they are sometimes addictive.

So.

Edit to add: I just want to be clear here.  I can’t stand these damn books.  When I originally read Twilight, I had no idea of the mad culty Edward-is-perfect business going on across our great nation. The books are enjoyable (for how silly they are!) only insofar as nobody ever takes them seriously or thinks that Edward and Bella have anything approaching a functional relationship.  When people think that Edward and Bella have the perfect relationship, or thinking that Edward is perfect, then I have a problem.  A specific, angry problem with Stephenie Meyer writing a story about an emotionally abusive relationship and portraying it as romantic.  Like girls aren’t receiving that message enough.  He’s not romantic.  He’s a stalker.

  • Hello!

    I very much enjoyed this post, but I have to give a little explanation of why I found it. See, I work in a bookstore and I’m also a big reader as well as being a university student and I was sitting on my bed this lovely Saturday afternoon thinking, “Why is Twilight so popular? WHY?”

    Because, yes, I own all three books. And I can’t figure out why I do. It mystifies me. So in a fit of curiosity, I typed “Why is Twilight Popular” into google and arrived at this lovely entry.

    My blog is at http://nihilistic2.livejournal.com/ if you would like to see a similar post about Twilight (where I also talk about how great Robin McKinley is and such) as well as here is a link to my dear friend’s Twilight parody: http://ladyequinox.livejournal.com/14970.html (As the books get worse, the parodies get better…)

  • jennysbooks

    I know — it’s tragic, we’re all victims of our collective subconscious and Stephenie Meyers preys on us without scruple. 🙂

  • Madeline

    You are so right. I feel betrayed by some estrogen fueled fantasy inside of me that has been agitated by Meyers’ books. As I read them I giggle and grimace.

  • jennysbooks

    Yes, exactly. And I feel guilty because there are better-quality media out there to consume.

    I did, however, just realize this exact second that reading New Moon led me straight to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I don’t know how I missed this before, but I’ve checked the dates on this and my real-life blog, and I definitely got hooked on Buffy right after finishing New Moon. I guess I was sad about waiting for Eclipse to come in at the library, and I started watching Buffy for that reason. Huh.

  • sahar009

    Omg to Madelin’s post – I do that too, giggle and grimace while i read Twilight 🙂

    Great post Jenny! I already wrote a review on Twilight and yet, because I am fascinated by the fascination that myself and millions of other girls have for the series, I have decided to write something about that, too. I hope you don’t mind me quoting you!

  • I am currently writing a research paper on the very same, Why The Hell Do I Stay Up To God Awful Hours Of The Morning Devouring A Book That I Don’t Even Like, and it is absolutely wonderful to know that I am not the only one. The fact is, there are so many other better vampire novels out there, but twilight was the one to completely estrogenize our country. thanks for your insight!

  • Jo

    I see the twilight series as a black hole that i got swallowed by. I am an official addict. I’ve read all four books at least fifteen times, drooled over Rob Pattinson in the movie, cut out clips, saved up money…all that crap.
    I hate Stephenie Meyer.

  • Underworld

    Fifteen times… Don’t you think that’s a little extreme?

  • Pegasus

    Only fifteen? I myself read favorite series again and again…

  • Sera

    I, personally, am disgusted that people, especially other girls, actually like these books.
    The quality of writing is poor, the characters are shallow, there are TYPOS in the book, and there never is any sort of conflict.
    When I went out and bought Twilight at the reccomendation of almost all my girlfriends, I was expecting something that would treat me as though I was mature.
    I was wrong.
    The novel portrays Bella as a naive, generally foolish girl lusting after a SPARKLING vampire.

    Dear god.
    Us girls raised on this kind of garbage- where will our Margaret Atwoods be? Our Brontës?
    They will be gone.

    • jennysbooks

      I know, dude! He sparkles. How does he sparkle? Why does he sparkle? How could anyone ever have thought that was a good idea?

      However, I wouldn’t necessarily assume we’ll lose all our good female authors. People grow out of things; I expect that quite a lot of the girls who right now find Edward dreamy will reread these books in a few years and be staggered by their silliness.

      • royalbk

        Actually, people might already be losing sight of good authors.

        I once mentioned Charlotte Brontë to a friend of mine and he asked me if she was a football player.

        >>;

  • Dori

    Wow, its a story people. I would like to see some of you do better. This woman worked hard and wrote a few novels. Good, bad or ugly she got off her rear and did something constructive with her time. Dont like them….DONT READ THEM!! But dont try to sound superior to Stephenie Meyer or the rest of us just because your a bunch of haters. I personally think the books are great. I have read better, I have read worse. Its a form of entertainment. Its not like she is going around claiming to be the best author of all times…

    • MamaWriter

      I have felt a lot of these things,and truly enjoyed this post, as like you, I was sucked in almost against my will. Stephenie Meyer has awoken something in MOST of the country, and frankly, a lot of the world. Good for her!

      After entering the vampirish realm, I stayed there for quite awhile, even after I was done reading Breaking Dawn (which I didn’t like). And most of my friends did the same. (BTW, I am a married mother of four and in my 30’s!)

      Dori, I have to agree with you. Stephenie got off her duff, got published and sold so many copies I am sure she’s laughing her head off. She wrote for fun, following a dream, and look where it’s taken her! Sometimes we all enjoy a little bit of “rubbish,” and need to put down our Bronte novels and Shakespeare soliloquies to do so!

    • The thing about saying “just don’t read them” is that not reading them doesn’t fix the problem. I can not read them ever again, and they will still be out there sending bad antifeminist (hell, anti-woman) messages. There are enough women in abusive relationships already without everyone being in love with a series of books that romanticizes a man whose behavior has nearly all the hallmarks of an abuser.

  • OMG x’D

  • MamaWriter

    The only thing I’d say about the hallmarks of an abuser comment is that the character Edward is not an abuser, and some things need to be put in a different context if indeed he is immortal and drinks animal’s blood. ha.

    And where is the anti-feminist agenda? The Twilight saga a silly story of a love-struck girl who has some of her own obsessive-compulsive disorders. Is some of it weird? Is Breaking Dawn disturbing? Yes, but could the reader possibly come away thinking, “I hate Bella and never want to be like her! She is so weak and easily controlled by her hormones!” therefore learning something entirely opposite any supposed agenda against the rights of women? Is it a commentary on anything else? No. It’s not deep enough to be.

    Personally, Bella bugs the crap out of me–I think she’s ridiculous. I think a lot of people agree. But girls love a knight in shining armor that is willing to do ANYTHING to make his lady love happy. Even if it is a fantasy and ridiculously flawed, they (we) still like it, don’t we?

  • Edward may not physically abuse Bella, but men who act like Edward in real life very often end up as physical or emotional abusers. Their relationship isolates her from her other friends; he tricks and manipulates Bella into doing things that he wants her to do; he is obsessed with her to the exclusion of anything else in his life; he checks up on her constantly and follows her wherever she goes; he talks a lot about being able to (wanting to!) hurt her; she keeps massive secrets about their relationship from her family; he is madly jealous of her; he constantly tries to control what she does.

    That is emotional abuse, and in real life it only escalates if the girl allows it. My problem with the books is that they portray these behaviors as soooo romantic, gestures that prove his true love for her. It makes me so angry that we are sending a message to our girls that these things are okay, even desirable, in a romantic relationship.

    I don’t say it’s an antifeminist agenda (I don’t think Stephenie Meyer has an agenda!), but it sends messages that are harmful to women, suggesting that Edward’s behavior is romantic rather than abusive, and that’s antifeminist. We should be teaching girls about how to avoid abusive relationships, not assuring them that emotionally abusers are the ones that truly truly love them.

  • MamaWriter

    I agree with you 100% on the issues of abuse, Jenny. We should be teaching our girls those things, and trust me, I am teaching my three ladies to be strong, independent, educated women, who also appreciate the role of a good man in their life now (their amazing Dad) and later (a good husband).

    However, when they are old enough to read Twilight and want to, I will allow them to (although Breaking Dawn may have to wait until at least 17!). Why? Because hopefully by then I will have taught them enough to have those values instilled in them and they will be able to handle a story about an emotionally controlling vampire.

    That’s the one thing that saves Edward: he’s a vampire, not just Joe Shmoe who lives down the street. He does what he does (purportedly) because he’s so not human. And as a vampire, he is not held by the traditional boundaries of humans. That is the major difference, to me, between an abusive boyfriend and an obsessive vampire.

    So, while I totally agree on the abuse issue, and there are plenty of girls who read Twilight without having a strong base for who they are and what their expectations of men should be, I still think the story has some good in it. Edward may have tendencies to be all that you said (if you read into it that way), but I think you’ve overlooked an amazingly romantic thing: he holds her virginity as something almost sacred, and doesn’t want to take advantage of her, and wants to wait until they are 100% fully committed to each other.

    That is something that a LOT of guys could learn from, and for those who HAVE been sexually abused or taken advantage of (most women I know have been in some way), Edward’s protection, respect and restraint are HIGHLY desireable.

    Just sayin…

  • I’m not overlooking the fact that Edward’s not pressuring her for sex. It’s nice that he doesn’t. But to me, that point is overshadowed by his obsessive stalking behaviors.

    Your daughters are fortunate to have parents who teach them what to look out for – not all girls are that lucky (if I had daughters I wouldn’t stop them reading the books, for the same reasons you mention). For a lot of girls, though, in less stable families, the messages they’re getting from books and films and their peers are the messages they use to make decisions about relationships. And in that sense, it doesn’t matter that Edward’s a vampire – what they see is a guy obsessed with a girl, and everyone finding it romantic. That’s what squiffs me out.

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  • Tara

    Yeah well ur a stupid ass twilight rules and so does stepnie meyer. u guys just dont like her bcuz she can write better thn u. get a life. u r soooo anoying we get it u hate twilight th only reson u wrote why twilight is popular is bcus u wanted twi fans to say stuf and u point thm wrong and thn u embarras them and u laugh… well we all now twilight rocks ur ass and u just hate it cause its different and edward is not a stalker ur just a pain in my ass u dumb asses well i wont give u what u want i wont follow for ur trick i love twilight so hahahhahaha!!!

  • UMG

    I hate to beat a dead horse, but this is one worth beating, I think. And just so there is no confusion, I am a guy, and yes, I admit this problem willingly.

    But I wish to strike this horse at a slightly different angle.

    I’m currently writing with hopes of submission early 2010, and a recent article in Writer’s Digest came out with some interest to me: their annual shortlist of agents actively seeking new writers.

    Like half of ’em wanted paranormal romance.

    I have no problem realizing the dangers of letting this dog which is Twilight loose upon the teenage girls of our morally and religiously ambiguous country. And I also have no problem realizing, that yes, Stephenie Meyer accomplished something. Personally, I think there is some (an itty bitty “some) literary merit to Twilight, even if that only amounted to say five out of five hundred pages.

    What I have a problem with is what it’s doing to the market.

    Knockoffs and imitations and a flood of the reawakened genre have filled the shelves at my local Sam’s Club and Walmart (the closest things to bookstores I have en route right now), and I want to know:

    Where is this going?

    Can a book being a self-capsulated fantasy adventure (that is, no connection with the real world) without romance of any kind, possibly set a new trend in the market? Can any sword cut the veins of this vampire artery? Is it a matter of originality or relate-ability?

    Just seems such a shame.

  • Melisa

    I am 50 years old and finally, after watching my 35 year old daughter, who never reads, read all of the Twilight series, decided I had to read them. Well let us say, I read the first book and chose what I read out of the last 3.

    What did I find? It fed the fantasy that all woman have. I don’t care if your 100. We all hoped, probably were dissappointed and in the process of life dissappointed someone in the area of romance, to find an Edward.

    In the last book I had become a little tired of him as he just did not seem to be able to say, “Thats it baby, I am out of here.” Too much long suffering for me… but the first book…hmmm.

    I have to admit it did kindle the old memories of being a young girl in high school and wishing with all my heart that Jud would look at me like he did this chick named Debbie.

    I saw the movie Twilight first (my daughter and sister-in-law watched it on the computer – so I tarried and watched also) before I read the book. It is romance, getting what we never think we will have in life and then losing it, getting in back… thrasy… can’t go that far… just ole want what I can’t have, got it, now what do I do with it…do I want him really, or do I want him (the other guy)…

    I love the first part, anticipation is always sweet.

    M

  • Melisa

    Sorry, meant by the 3rd book I was gettin weary of Edward’s long suffering.