Sunday, February 20, 2011

Vampire Marathon, Part III

This is going to be a bit fragmented; I've got a lot of work to do on campus today, but the Sunday bus doesn't leave for another 45 minutes, so I've got time to do a bit of reading, but not enough to finish the book.

1:06 pm. p 355. "I mmm'd and ahh'd at the right places, but it wasn't easy to concentrate. Jessica, Mike, the dance, the school--they all seemed strangely irrelevant at that moment." Bella Swan: terrible friend. Although I have to admit, you would have to work pretty damn hard to make me care about a school dance either. (I had to look up Bella's last name on Wikipedia. The first line of text under her entry is "Bella Swan (later Bella Cullen)." Thanks for the spoiler alert, Wikipedia.)

1:11 pm. P359. "Charlie couldn't doubt Edward's sincerity, it rang in every word." I think it says a lot about my current state of development that no element in a work of fiction can make me wince more than a particularly egregious comma splice.

1:14 pm. P360. "I was glad that the rain was too heavy to see Charlie clearly on the porch. That mean that he couldn't see how Edward's hands lingered at my neck, brushed along my collarbones. I gave up trying to help him and focused on not hyperventilating." The collarbones have long been known as the sexiest of the shoulder bones. See Shakespeare's Sonnet 130, "My Mistress's collarbones are nothing like an ivory piano."

1:23 pm. P 369. "Alice held the ball in both hands at her waist, and then, like the strike of a cobra, her right hand flicked out and the ball smacked into Jasper's hand.
'Was that a strike?' I whispered to Emse.
'If they don't hit it, it's a strike,' she told me."

All right, I know that, as someone who finds everything associated with football utterly baffling, I probably shouldn't say this, but... really, Bella? Do you understand what a baseball game is? If this is her average sport knowledge, it's no longer a mystery why she has so much trouble in gym class.

1:26 pm. P371. "Alice slapped them dainty high fives." I would like very much to see that. I would like to see what makes a high five dainty.

1:31 pm. P384. A more hunter-oriented vampire has fixated on Bella, and her solution is to leave her father and go on the run. Ladies, don't go on the run with strange older men. Stay in school.

1:37 pm. P398. The only certain way to kill a vampire is to "tear him to shreds and then burn the pieces." First, note that Edward's default gender of a vampire is male. A product of an early 20th century upbringing? (And frankly, you'd think that would be more of an issue; someone who went through their formative years during World War 1 would have a rather different outlook than someone who went through the same formative years in the era of Lady Gaga and the Internet.) Second, I didn't mention this when it first came up, since it's one of the better known scenes of the movie, but Meyer's vampires twinkle in sunlight. That drastically changes the usual vampire dynamic--even if you evade one till morning, all you've done is make them appear more telegenic. And it makes them pretty indestructible. I guess that's okay when you're telling a type of story that focuses on the relationship over the violence, but it does make it a little harder to swallow that the vampires aren't running the joint. Even the True Blood group of vampires has more worldly power than these guys, and they're limited by not only no sunlight, but having to sleep during the day.

1:47 pm. P 410. "It's been almost a century that Edward's been alone. Now he's found you. You can't see the changes that we see, we who have been with him for so long. Do you think any of us want to look into his eyes for the next hundred years if he loses you?"
That would be a problem with vampires: sheer longevity of holding a grudge. And not just something big, like losing one's One True Love. Can you imagine the enmity that would arise over a century of Not Putting Down the Toilet Seat?

I will continue this work later. For now, fair readers, adieu.

4:31 pm. ....aaaand we're back. Let's end this.

4:33 pm. P 413. "like a carnivorous flower, we are physically attractive to our prey." There has got to be a better comparison than that. Although it does leave the door wide open for jokes about Edward's pistil.

4:37 pm. P423. "I could feel it was too early again when I woke, and I knew I was getting the schedule of my days and nights slowly reversed." Another peril of dating the nocturnally oriented.

4:43 pm. P437. "The minutes passed and Edward's arrival grew closer. It was amazing how every cell in my body seemed to know he was coming, to long for his coming. That made it hard." That's what she said. All right, that's literally what she said, but... you know, the joke is to take the phrase and... sigh... I'm getting tired...

4:45 pm. P438. Bella evades the vampires at the airport. I mention this, because her plan here is probably the cleverest thing she has done to date.

4:48 pm. P445. The villain does his grand "reveal of major plot." I have honestly never heard a more unnecessary villainous grand speech. The evil vampire is hardly Machiavelli, and his big revelation re: another member of Eddie's coven is somewhat underwhelming. It may perhaps work better if James has been introduced a little earlier in the narrative, or if the other vampires as characters had been explored a little earlier; it's hard to feel any impact of a revelation involving people you've been familiar with for only a chapter or two.

P4:59 pm. P 468. "My mother's voice was unsure; as far as I could remember, this was the first time since I was eight that she'd come close to trying to sound like a parental authority. I recognized the reasonable-but-firm tone of voice from talks I'd had with her about men." Does that imply that these talks about men happened when Bella was eight? Or that her mother made no attempt to sound like a parental authority when she was previously discussing men? Because really, neither is really an ideal situation.

5:03 pm. P473. " 'I'll be the first to admit that I have no experience with relationships,' I said. 'But it just seems logical... a man and woman have to be somewhat equal... as in, one of them can't always be swooping in and saving the other. They have to save each other equally. ... I can't always be Lois Lane. I want to be Superman, too.'"
The first half of this, at least, is the most sensible thing Bella has said in a while. Unfortunately, it's her argument to support the thesis "You should really turn me into a vampire."

5:07 pm. P 481. "Would I ever get used to his perfection?" Just in case you thought Bella had changed...

5:10 pm P 485. "Emmett enjoyed having me around--he thought my bizarre human reactions were hilarious... or maybe it was just the fact that I fell down a lot that he found so funny." I knew there was a reason I liked Emmett. Also: there is something so... inescapably "teenage girl" -ish about a book that ends with a prom.

5:16 pm P498. " 'Look,' I said, 'I love you more than everything else in the world combined. Isn't that enough?'"
Thank you and goodnight, ladies and gentlemen.

All right, a quick overview. To damn with faint praise, that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I was expecting something excruciatingly badly written, and this, in comparison, was perfectly serviceable, if not outright exciting. I know I keep comparing it to Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels, but I think it's pretty apt. In both cases, I found the mythology behind the world better than execution or the personality of the leads (though Harris pulls ahead in both--Sookie is infuriating, but Bella is virtually a blank slate--all the easier to project one's teenage self onto, I suppose). And in both cases, the vampire is used as a sort of escapist wish-fulfillment--a sense of danger without any real danger. And as someone who devoured fantasy series in his teenage days (and a fair bit now, for that matter), I can respect a piece of escapism when I see it. The story doesn't even need vampires, at the moment; you could have told much the same with Edward as the son of a gangster, or a misplaced prince. I found a lot of Bella's excess in pursuing Edward and being okay with his stalker behavior to be personally distasteful and creepy, but if I believe that teenage boys can play video games without becoming gun addicts, I think I need to give the audience of this book the benefit of the doubt as well.

So then: not a great book, by any means. And not the best possible use of a week off. But its cultural influence was/is undeniable, and with that respect in mind, I graciously leave Bella to pursue her fangs-filled future in peace.
Later Days.

No comments: