Cammy Reads Twilight: Conflict? What Conflict?

I continued to soldier through the book, but only when there was nothing better on TV.  So, Bella was annoying, Edward was more scary than romantic, the show-don’t-tell violation count is through the roof….but I’m still waiting on real conflict to happen.  There are these moments where I think we’re going to get a real conflict, or at least something that feels truly uncomfortable to deal with, but these moments are never really brought to fruition.  They are set up and then allowed to completely fizzle.  It’s as if the author is rooting so hard for Bella and Edward that she can’t really allow anything to cause them issues.

Take the meeting of the Cullens.  Seriously?  The opportunity was there to make this story a lot more interesting.  A little family disapproval drama goes a long way.  After all, at this point, the only actual hurdle Bella and Edward had encountered in their twisted little relationship was the vampire vs. human difference.  I’ll grant you, that’s a sizable difference, but even that was treated as….nothing.  Bella and her little “Oh, you’re such a perfect Adonis hottie that I don’t even care that by your very nature, you want to kill me and drain my blood” attitude took away most of the drama of the hurdle.  So really, meeting the family?  Should have been something more exciting.

Except, like everyone else, they all love this little Mary Sue.  Just as Bella doesn’t seem to actually put logical thought into the whole “my boyfriend is a vampire” thing and how that’s going to ultimately work out, neither does the Cullen family seem willing to mentally process the fact that they have been totally outed to this human chick with no coordination.  Where was the serious conversation with these folks about what Bella knowing their secret really means?  Where’s the parental conversation about where this is all going for Bella and Edward?  Something to introduce just a little discomfort here?

Yes, yes, I know Rosalie doesn’t like her.  In fact, I found Rosalie very endearing in this respect.  I tend to like characters I have something in common with.  I find Bella annoying.  Apparently, so does Rosalie, so, ya know, we’ve got that.  But, Rosalie’s a character that could pose a threat to the blissfully happy little romance, so she’s not allowed to say anything significant.  Other than being described as gorgeous and stubbornly displeased with the whole Bella kerfuffle, we know comparatively little about Rosalie.  Instead of letting her loose to cause a few problems, she’s just a description.  Another bit of the scenery.

It’s not much different with Billy–the only other mild threat.  He gets a little more page time–and significantly more dialog–than Rosalie, but at the end of the day, the threat he poses isn’t really confronted….it just kind of fizzles.

So, basically, it comes down to a real lack of conflict.  Once these two got over the only real obstruction–that first violent-hatred-reaction Edward had toward Bella inside of the first 90 pages–there’s been nothing that actually, legitimately got in their way.  And yet?  We continue on…..
Until the next time, when I wind this puppy up and discuss what is probably the saddest, most pathetic part of all…..

More Twilight: The Difference Between a Hero and a Stalker

I was told by more than one person that Twilight was a romance and that Edward Cullen was just the most romantic thing since Mr. Darcy appeared in print. Now, I know that every woman’s got a different ideal man, but, really, Edward is, by most measures, a stalker/potentially abusive boyfriend. There’s romantic, and then there’s creepy. I definitely see the creepy, and I’m totally not tuning- in to the romantic.

You start with the fact that, by his very nature, he wants to exsanguinate you. Sure, he’d feel bad about doing it and all, but that doesn’t change the fact that your blood = world’s best chocolate malt to this guy. Creep factor? High. Romance factor? Zilch.

Then there’s the lurking. Yeah, theoretically it might be kind of romantic to entertain the thought of a hot guy pining for you so much that he hangs around outside your window, waiting for a glimpse of you (although, to me it shows that he doesn’t know how to use his time constructively–why not take up a useful hobby?), but in practice, it’s generally a criminal offense. Especially when you take it as far as this lad who, you know, was looking into a second story window. Honestly, think about your reaction if you see a face–hot or not–outside your second story window, at night.  After you regain control of your bladder and identify the face, maybe you’d be oddly pleased, but before that you’re just someone who wet herself in fear. Again, I’m missing the romantic aspect here.

And this is just the things that were” romantic” before Edward and Bella came to their quasi-relationships understanding. Sometime after the second rescue of Bella, the two become so attached at the hip that I started to wonder if she was allowed to go to the bathroom alone. I kind of pictured Edward skulking outside the ladies room between classes. And thanks to Mr. Mind-Reader, even girls night gets a male invasion. A guy who’s there for you is romantic, but a guy who’s never, ever gone starts to grate.

But hey, maybe you’re down with the lurking and the cling. However, you’re an independent, empowered woman, so if nothing else has been a turn off, dealing with his bossiness ought to douse some of that romance. “Go here.” “Don’t go there.” “Do as I say.” Oy. Seriously? That’s not romantic, that’s annoying at best, and controlling at worst. And when you combine this with that tenuous control thing where he’s always a half inch from violence? Wow. Can you feel the love tonight? Because I’m mostly feeling like I’m in an after-school special about bad dating relationship warning signs. Or possibly a Lifetime TV movie.

This leaves looks and hormones and a seemingly endless amount of money. Edward Cullen’s not romantic, he’s just a hottie with coin, and Bella’s teenage hormones are in working order. However, my well-past-teenage hormones are way to practical to dismiss the inherent character flaws this guy has.

Or am I just missing something? Is my romance button broke?

Beginning Twilight: Description Overload and Character Flaws

So, as planned, I cracked open Twilight while sitting at the aiport gate waiting to begin my trip out to Santa Barbara.   Feet propped up on my carry on, seated off to the side away from the in-and-out foot traffic.  Here we go, aaaaaannnnnndddd…

We start off with a Bible quote.  From Genesis no less.  Now, a well-placed quote from the B-I-B-L-E can be a spectacular asset to a piece of literature, but in this case I was skeptical.  Beginning with a quote from another beginning can have a lot of symmetry, but it can also be a little heavy handed.  I made a note of this and then moved on–only further reading will reveal the value using this quote.

What’s next?  Oh, look.  A preface.  If anyone reading this book is expecting the preface to come in the form of an essay giving an overview and scope for the book, you’re going to be disappointed.  What you do is read is the end of the story, written all vauge and suspenseful-like to draw you in.  It serves a valuable purpose though, because catching a reader in the first few paragraphs is key and as I moved on to the first paragraphs of the actual first chapter, I realized that if not for the preface, I would definitely not have felt even remotely hooked by the first paragraphs of the initial chapter.

The biggest drag for me as I dove into the first legitimate chapter were the descriptions.  Now, I like a lot of description and detail in a scene, but for some reason even I felt overloaded in this first chapter…and the second…and the third.  Heck, even the first few paragraphs seemed to be full of too many adjectives  “omnipresent”  “gloomy”  “near-constant”  “cloudless”  “perfect.”    And that’s before you ever get to the in-depth description of Bella & Charlie’s Fork’s residence.  I felt like I was reading a first draft–that this was where the author was making sure she knew just how it looked in her mind so that she had it firmly cemented where she could make sure the necessary highlights were conveyed to the audience.  Necessary being the key word there, because I have a hard time believing at this point (at this writing I’ve not yet finished the book) that there’s a a real reason I needed a full tour of the home in chapter 1, complete with description of the paint colors.  Maybe talking about the yellow cabinets would have been more meaningful if it hadn’t already been spelled out at least 3 different ways that Forks was gloomy and overcast and that this was part of why Bella’s mother (and Bella) hadn’t liked it there.  The violation of show-don’t-tell has the consequence of taking a description that could have been meaningful, and making it redudant and tedious.

These, of course, are all stylistic nitpicks on my part, which is kind of low given that I barely edit my posts before they go out, and I’m world famous for using the cliches and phrases that my teachers specifically told me not to use, ever.  But, I’m not getting paid to do this and the only editor I have is Kristy–and she only edits if I specifically ask her to edit and she has the time.   I feel like I can demand a little higher standard out of a published book.

But, let’s move on to bigger stuff.

Like Bella annoying me from the get go.  She’s so MarySue that I feel like I stumbled into, and so whiny I’d rather go out and deal with real high school students.

Okay, congrats on your martyr complex, sweety, now shut the hell up about the horrors small-town Pacific Northwest living.  Since you don’t actually find out why Bella chose self-exile until nearly chapter 3, I spent the first two chapters mostly wanting to beat her nut-job ass for the constant stream of whoa-is-me over the weather and small town when there was, at that point, no good reason for her to have chosen to suffer.  And, straight ball honest, I didn’t gain any sympathy for her lone-suffering even after hearing the explanation.  Being a martyr works better if you soldier on with less complaint, rather than constantly reminding us all of how much you’re suffering for someone else.

Then there’s Bella’s stereotypical “oddball” traits, which, honestly, aren’t oddball anymore.  She’s worried about being pale.  Seriously?  I joked a lot about the pathetic pasty color of my legs when I was in high school, but even then it wasn’t so horribly out of fashion that I actually felt bad about it.  Pale is the new tan and has been for a while.  Actually, by proliferating the pale-as-abnormal thing, it does a disservice to a lot of people.  With skin cancer being a real threat, wouldn’t it make more sense to at least acknowledge that the pastier members of society are smart to do what they can to remain that way, in the name of avoiding melanoma, rather than implying that by not getting sun they’re non-conformant?

And sucking at gym.  There’s another over-done cliche.  I hated gym as much as anyone.  I loathe volleyball with the fire of 1000 suns, and I still can’t muster any sympathy for Bella because gym itself is not that bad and even in a tiny, tiny school you are never the only klutz.  Not everything in gym is about coordination.  A lot of  it is just about not being a chicken shit.  If I can manage to find a few things in gym I could handle (basketball!), then anyone can, even Bella.  Of course, it’s a lot easier to use the “I’m a klutz cop out” than to actually make an attempt at something.  Either way, crying not being any good at sports is pointless.  Getting a line-drive aimed at your head by a school bully in gym, now there’s a reason to cry.

But it’s all good y’all, because Bella is pale and a klutz, BUT she’s super!smart and has already done all the homework and reading and stuff (but she hates Trig–you always have to hate math in these cases).  This is just another thing for her to ponder as she dwells (in her not-infrequent sessions of self-analysis) on how she’s sooooo different than everyone else, which of course, she’s acutely aware of because she’s also so super-observant.  And no one else is.  Except maybe Edward.

And before you get excited about my starting to tear into Eddie, hold you horses.  That’s a topic for a whole ‘nother entry….

I’d like to say I’ve got some good comments to pass along about the first 3 chapters, but my notes really don’t have much in them.  I know that some of the sarcasm was vaguely amusing, but unfortunately while some of the individual statements are funny, they were generally given in conjunction with the whining, so over-all they weren’t all that much of a positive.  I also know that I was a fan of the short, choppy sentences in the first two paragraphs or so.  It was different, but kind of worked.  Unfortunately, beyond that, I didn’t find anything worth really noting that I enjoyed up to that point.

But, I wasn’t about to let it beat me, even though by the time I was flying over the Rockies, I was way more distracted by the scenery below than the book and surrendered reading for the reaminder of the flight….I’d pick it up again on the beach…..

Cammy Reads Twilight: Intro

Quite recently I found myself lucky enough to have Kristy come visit, and, being the lovely house guest that she is, Kristy brought gifts.  Well, one was a gift.  The other may turn out to be a curse: it was a used copy of Twilight.  Ostensibly this is so that I could plug into pop-culture without actually having to shell out hard earned money for the experience (incidentally, this copy had circulated amongst several people for this purpose).  However, I was more than a bit dubious of all this.  The part of me that abhors ignorance–even ignorance of pop-culture–felt the need to be informed, but….

Cammy doesn’t do vampires.

It took major cajoling a full 4 years after Angel had been cancelled for friends to convince me to even start watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I’ve never read an Anne Rice novel, and the only movie version I saw was Queen of the Damned which I went to with friends who were fans:  I spent the entire movie trying very hard not to regurgitate the tacquitos I’d had at Don Pablo’s just before.  You see, the primary problem I have with vampires is that the mere thought of drinking blood makes me turn green and reach for the waste-basket.  Combine this with the fact that even without the slurping or graphic images of blood dribbling down the sides of the mouth, the entire vampire mythos has been a little over-done in the past decade and a half.  It’s gotten to the point that every time a new book or movie about vampires comes out, I roll my eyes at the cliche of it all.  I don’t find vampires mysterious and intriguing, I find them  kind of annoying and old-hat.

As if the vampire bit wasn’t enough, Twilight is teen angst, something which I loathed when I was a teenager myself, and have gained no patience for in my advancing age.  I had a non-negligible amount of trauma in my teen years (something more than being teased in gym or not getting boys to like me or not getting to sit at the popular table or whatever the hell these brats bitch and moan about), and I never found the whining of these fictional teen-angst heroines to be remotely realistic in comparison to actual problems.  It sure doesn’t seem any more important when you’re an adult.

So, really, Twilight by virtue of its genre and subject matter does not start off well in my eyes.

But, Kristy didn’t give me a choice.  So, knowing I had a business trip to Santa Barbara coming up, I decided that Twilight would be my plane-and-beach reading.  A business trip to California just seems to cry out for trashy reading material and I am apparently just not able to buy or check-out a trashy romance novel (that’s a topic of an entirely different blog entry).   While this isn’t going to be a bodice ripper, I’m pretty sure the potential for brain-rot is just as high.

And, even though critiquing Twilight is almost as hack as the book itself, I found myself compelled to make notes as I read.  And if I was going to make notes, I ought to share right?  For the near-future, we’d like to introduce you to It’s My TV, It’s My Peanut Butter‘s first mini-series:  Cammy Reads Twilight.  Stay tuned to this blog.