Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More on "Twilight"

So I've finally gotten (mostly) through Stephenie Meyer's Twilight novels. I say "mostly" because I simply could not bring myself to read every single word of the final installment, the execrable "Breaking Dawn." I sort of speed-read through that one to see how the whole thing wrapped up, skipping the portions in the middle that dragged and generally made no sense. Unfortunately for me, I didn't skip over the very worst bits: (SPOILER ALERT) the most horrific pregnancy and birth in the history of literature, along with the creepy pedophile overtones of the Jacob-falls-in-love-with-the-demon-baby sequence. All I can say is: oh my GOD, what is wrong with this woman?

The clunky end to the series is unfortunate, because the first two books were actually pretty good. By the third installment, "Eclipse," the narrative starts falling apart at the seams, before the utter train wreck of the fourth novel. I find the whole thing fascinating, from a writer's perspective (how is it that the editors and publisher allowed Meyer to go off in such unhinged directions in the last book? And why did she feel the need to go in those directions?) and from a mother's. I've read that Meyer's got a bunch of kids--evidently pregnancy was not kind to her. I find it hard to believe that a woman who went through relatively normal pregnancies could have written that section describing Bella's unnatural gestation and ghoulish childbirth. I could be letting my imagination run away with me, but it seems to point to some unresolved personal issues on the part of the writer. To put it mildly.

But, flawed though the series may be, it does have its moments. The first book lays a convincing foundation of suspense and tension, and pretty accurately describes the intensity of first love. Edward is a figure of pathos in the first book, rather than the humorless, authoritarian figure he becomes later. And the character of Jacob, at least until he goes off the rails in the last book, is far and away the most convincingly fleshed-out of all the inhabitants of Meyer's twisted little world. Well, him and Alice, who I also liked a lot. And even in "Breaking Dawn," you can see hints of the talent that evidently got Meyer her publishing contract in the first place.

You know how in certain books, an image will stand out from the rest, providing a compelling visual hook for the story? One example that comes to mind is from J.K. Rowling's final Harry Potter book, "Deathly Hallows." I'm thinking of Rowling's description of Draco Malfoy's mother standing at Severus Snape's door with her long blonde hair flowing down her back, "giving her the look of a drowned person." Similarly in "Breaking Dawn," when Jacob witnesses Edward's suffering as Bella gestates the vampire/human hybrid baby: "This was the face a man would wear while burning at the stake."

It's too bad this talent wasn't put to better use as Meyer wrapped up the series. It seems to have ruined the whole thing for many of the fans, and it's set up what could be an unresolvable conflict for the movie studio producing the films of the books. How in God's name are they going to make a decent movie out of "Breaking Dawn"? There is no way in hell that they can replicate that birth scene without turning it into a torture porn movie. And, the whole "imprinting on the baby" has to assume the studio lawyers won't let them go anywhere NEAR that. Which means that if they make a movie at all, it's going to be vastly different from the book by default. With any luck, maybe it will be better. It's hard to imagine it could be worse.

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