Stephenie Meyer Sucks the Blood out of Literature

Erin read "Twilight" a few weeks ago, and gave me a library copy she wasn't using so that I could check out what she was digesting at a fairly alarming rate. I won't bore you with the details of the phenomenon I'm sure you're already addicted to or avoiding like the plague. Needless to say, this is the biggest thing to hit literature (at least in terms of financial success) since Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban first broke the boy wizard into the Muggle limelight.

After trying valiantly to get past the first chapters, all I can say at this point is "WOW."
What a load of grammatically incoherent, sexually repressed, Mormo-Victorian manipulation. I tried to pull my hair out after the first chapter, the syntax was so perplexing. There were times I had to read, reread, parse her sentences and finally edit them in my mind to make sure I was REALLY understanding what she was trying to say.
If this book had come to me from one of my ACT-prep students, I wouldn't have been so surprised. But from a thirty-something who has sold gazillions of copies of her novel and has been lauded as the American J.K. Rowling?! Pish posh, I say! Preposterous!!! Doesn't somebody EDIT these things? Or at least proof read them?
I have several problems with her writing style, so I'll break them down into manageable chunks and pray that the tweeners surfing the blogosphere comment to their hearts' content.

One stake out of Six.

That's BAD. Horrible. Want to start your novel out the hard way? Make four of your first five clauses unbearably passive:

"My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. It was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, the sky a perfect, cloudless blue. I was wearing my favorite shirt--sleeveless, white eyelet lace; I was wearing it as a farewell gesture. My carry-on item was a parka." Page 3.
Way to start a grocery list of "BE" verb monotony. The vampire was scary. But he was sexy, too. She is nice. I am scared. "BE" verbs are boring. You catch my drift.

But it doesn't end there, either. SHE MEANDERS LIKE THIS THE REST OF THE WAY! My favorite teacher of all time, Suzan Lake, taught me the two most important writing lessons of all time way back in the 12th Grade:

(1) "Passive writing is lazy writing--make your writing 90% active and 10% passive, and you'll be well on your way."


(2) "Edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit."
Stephenie could have written that first paragraph more actively, more elegantly, and much, much better with something like the following:

"Mom drove me to the airport, the Phoenix sun smiling down through the perfect, cloudless blue. With the windows down, the wind tugged at my favorite sleeveless shirt. This could be the last time the white eyelet lace would see the sun; tucked away as a carry-on, my parka sat waiting."

Not Austenesque in its structure by any means, but IMHO, a heckuva lot more engaging.

Zero stakes out of Six.

Dismissing her egregious BE verbage and passivity, I CANNOT get over Meyer's love of confusing sentence structures. This example made me want to put down the novel and chew some gum so I'd stop grinding my molars:

(1) While saying goodbye to her Mother, who tenderly promises to be there for her always, Bella notices something: "...I could see the sacrifice in her eyes behind the promise." Page 4.

OK, what I think she's trying to say is that (a) behind the promise, Bella could (b) see the sacrifice (c) in her Mother's eyes. But how it's structured actually, it sounds as if her mother's eyes are placed behind the promise and there's a sacrifice within them. Took me two or three reads to make sure what she was trying to say was what she actually had said.

When I have to reread something in a novel to make sure I caught its superficial meaning, that's bad. Mucho bad.

(2) "Flying doesn't bother me; the hour in the car with Charlie, though, I was a little worried about." Page 5

There's a little principle in the English language that we all try to abide by--it's called reflection. Whether you're conscious of it or not, you do it. And good writers abide by it. Essentially, within your sentence, and usually your paragraph when writing, you should ALWAYS maintain the same verbe tense (with some small exceptions that you need to clearly mark out) from verb to verb. Re-read the above sentence....

First clause--present tense. Second clause--past tense.

That's like me saying: "I want to grab a pencil and edit the book as I'm reading; I was on the verge of boring holes through my eyes with my fingernails." You can probably understand what I mean, but it would be clearer if I said "I wanted to grab a pencil and edit the book as I was reading it; I was on the verge...."

(3) "Charlie had really been fairly nice about the whole thing." Page 5.
Really?! Was Charlie really fairly nice? He had REALLY been fairly nice?! Are you sure? Thanks for emphasizing it for us.

And really, couldn't you have put "really" in a different place, Ms. Meyer? What about "Charlie really had been fairly nice" or "Charlie had been really fairly nice?" Why not? Put two adverbs in close proximity to each other, and you get into trouble... really, truly, you do.

Alright, enough grammar staking.

Two stakes out of Six.

Even though Bella may be a teenager who grew up in a really fairly progressive city--Phoenix--and is now living in the Pacific Northwest, she has the lexicon of an eighteenth century Oxford scholar and has no qualms about utilizing it.

Unrealistic? Yes. In a modern-day, tween vampire novel? Maybe not. Grating? Absolutely.

Here are some examples:

1. Forks, the little town on the Olympic Peninsula, isn't quaint, little, or small, it's "inconsequential." Page 3.
So...like some kind of weird time-space differential twilight zone, no consequences ever result there?

2. The gloominess of Forks isn't persistent, overwhelming, or depressing, it's "omnipresent." Page 3. Sometimes, the Fork gloominess creeps up on you while you're reading the Sunday funnies and shouts "BOO!" really loud. But you're not scared, just annoyed because gloominess is always there.

3. "...it was sure to be awkward with Charlie. Neither of us was what anyone would call verbose." Page 5.
I promise, only verbose people use the word verbose.

4. Bella doesn't bring her Arizona clothes to Washington; not because they're too skimpy, or unsuited for the rainy, cold Forks weather.... they're "too permeable." Page 6.  
I thought only microbiologists, contact lenses, and Gore-Tex advertisements used the word permeable. Apparently teenage girls from Phoenix do, too.

5. Bella and her mom didn't put together their money to get Bella some, but not too many new winter clothes... they "pooled [their] resources to supplement [Bella's] wardrobe, [which] was still scanty." Page 6.  
Yes, Stephenie, and I'd like you to do a tetra-annual report on that in order to better utilize our brand and create a sustainability of buzz words that make us sound more possessed of intelligence than mayhaps we be. Mwa-ha.

6. Finally, Bella describes her new red truck as "bulbous." Page 8.  
Indeed, in the late 90s, before his career really took off, MTV's Xibit custom fitted the truck to resemble a tulip in an effort to get his show "Primp my Ride" into production. It wasn't until Xibit dropped the "r" in Primp that MTV finally gave it the green light.


I hate that people compare this lady to JK Rowling. Don't get me wrong--I don't hate Stephenie Meyer. I just despise her writing--and am slightly offended when anyone attempts to legitimately compare her to Rowling. If her writing were as immaculate, goldenly inventive, and captivating to all ages, sexes, and personalities as Rowling's, I'd at least concede some kind of similarity. But it's not. Not by any stretch.

And I'm saddened by what people will read in order to get a quick buzz out of literature. No thinking, analysis, introspection, or even grammar to worry about. Just a sexy, recast Victorian novel that appeals to the High School Musical crowd. Because it's got vampires...but it's safe vampires. Because there's no (overt) sexuality, no (explicit) nudity, no (really) naughty words, no meaning... just safe entertainment.


Rather than as a comparison or colleague, Meyer serves better as a contrasting foil to Rowling, showing that while the two may share a similar financial success rooted in reinventing some traditional genres-- the played out Victorian Vampire Novel and the surprisingly still relevant Orphan Grows Up, Learns Magic, and Saves Everyone Story--they are vastly different.

Where Rowling is fresh, inventive, and so carefully plots, structures, and layers her books with a sophistication that only deepens as Harry gets older, Meyer is content with--and perhaps succeeds in--titillating her readers with action, overly gorgeous characters, and superficial, safely non-sexual foreplay at the expense of character development, depth, and good writing.

Now, in deference to Meyer, she is a multi-millionaire with a legion of fans so loyal to her writings, she could slap a dirty limerick down on a napkin and it would lead out the New York Times Bestseller List for weeks.

But that may be the most frustrating thing-- instead of exploring great literature, probing the depths of the myriad genres and sinking into the human experience that good literature walks us through so effortlessly, fans of Meyer's work seem blissfully content with her brightly packaged, obscenely good-looking story that, at its core, lacks a soul.

Like Bella, they're falling for a literary vampire, trying in equal parts to please them and suck them dry.
Where's my garlic?


I'm so Scared...

Dum da dum da! Dum da duh...
Here it comes, everybody! Summer Movie Season!!! All you fanboys sit up and cheer with me. Among the inevitable sequels (X-Files 2, Batman Begins 2), Superhero start-ups (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk), and crass comedies (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Baby Mama) we get the rebirth of a legend: Indy Four.
For fanboys raised in the early to mid eighties, this is about as good (or as bad) as it gets. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls" has the potential to stand up and be counted a worthy addition as the fourth installment of one of the most beloved movie franchises ever. Or, we could be looking at the greatest crash since the dot com bubble burst; Crystal Skulls could very well be ostracized and ridiculed as George Lucas' and Steven Spielberg's ugly, late-life/ego/money crisis love child.
I'm holding out hope that it will be the former, but not holding my breath against the latter.
Most of my worry comes from both George and Steven's recent track records. Let's take a look.
George Lucas
Perhaps the greatest adventure storyteller of the 70s and 80s, George brought us Star Wars and made movies the grand, fantastic spectacle we have since come to adore. George brought us Indiana Jones (he wrote and produced the first three) and reminded us what it's like to be a kid, fight the bad guys, and win the girl. George brought us Labyrinth, and showed us too much of David Bowie...alright that one wasn't his best achievement. He brought us Willow and Mad Mordigan. And we loved him. And we praised him. And we dreamt of future adventures, and perhaps the first three Star Wars movies, hinted at, teased, danced around, and then finally, in the late nineties, we heard word...
We got we wanted. The first Star Wars movies. The prequels. The rise and fall of the Jedi Council. The beginning of the end of the beginning: the creation of the dastardly Darth Vader out of the prodigious Anakin Skywalker. We were stoked. I remember sitting in line for nearly a day just to get tickets. In the EIGHTH GRADE. I don't even remember how I got out there. Surely it was mine or one of my friend's mothers. But that was the level of dedication we had. People couldn't sleep or eat for weeks. This was the culmination of our childhood fantasies--this was as epic a revelation as the Force was to Luke Skywalker. We loved George Lucas, and we praised him.
And in return, George Lucas promptly stood up, raised his arms high in the air, and thumbed his nose at us. "Neener, Neener, Ewok Speeder!" he seemed to say. Instead of creating memorable characters, good dialogue, and incredible plotting, Lucas filled his stories with overblown cartoons, anti-climactic/anti-sympathetic battles (Oh No! Another droid just died...! Can't...reconstruct...that...), and Jar Jar freaking Binks. At first we cheered, then we blinked, then we wondered, and finally we chocked it up to "Oh, he had to lay down so much ground work, so much story, that he didn't have time to develop characters, story, or dialogue."
We were wrong.
George continued his blasphemous sacrilege with Star Wars Episode Two: The Animated One. At first we thought, great, the action can be ramped up! Whiney, snively little Anakin Skywalker gets a light saber, some use of the force, and proceeds to... somehow woo a girl ten years older than him. And she falls head over heels for his...whiney snivelous ways. Somewhere, somehow, six feet down, Sir Alec Guiness was rolling in his grave. And we groaned. Literally. The first movie I saw after two years as a missionary in Brazil was this load of cartoon drech.
And it got worse from there. And we booed him. And he hissed back. And we never forgave him for spoiling something we loved so much. And he flipped us off and road off into the sunset with the gazillion dollars we gave him to upset us for two hours in a darkened theater.
And now this. Now we get Indy four. And what is George Lucas' reaction to the movie? Perhaps the scariest quote I have ever read (not to mention alienating, frustrating, patronizing, and offensive) via Entertainment Weekly:
LUCAS: "We’re only going to get aggravation. The fans think it’s gonna be the Second Coming. And it’s not the Second Coming. They’ve already written the story in their heads, and lemme tell ya, its not that story. So they’re going to be very disappointed. I went through this with Phantom Menace. Believe me, I’ve been there, I’ve done it. I know exactly the way they react. And they’re very vocal about these things. We’re not gonna have adoring fans sending us e-mails saying how much they loved the movie. We’re gonna have a bunch of angry people saying, “You’re a bunch of assholes and you should never have done this. You’ve ruined my life forever. I loved Indiana Jones so much an d now its ruined.” And all that kind of stuff."
And Steven Spielberg’s hilarious response?
SPIELBERG: "Uh, he needs to speak for himself here. You need to put in parentheses “George Lucas is totally speaking for himself.” And I absolve myself of any connection with that last statement about fans not liking it."
Well, good for Spielberg. However, his recent track record isn't all that hot either. Some of the better B-listers include:
Monster House.
The Terminal.
Jurassic Park III.
Men in Black II.
And some of his upcoming projects:
Transformers II and Jurassic Park IV!!! YAAAAAY! Can't wait to sit in line for those.
And now I've written too much. I just hope this turns out to be a Summer Movie Season to remember. And not another foray into the mediocrity of silly sequels and subpar superheroes. Again, I'm not holding my breath.
I swear, I won't hold my breath.
But I'll probably eat my movie ticket later. Curse you George Stevenberg! Curse you!


Catching Up

I apologize for not keeping up with the blog(s) lately. Life has been hectic: finals, papers, summer prep, and most importantly, A LADY. As almost everyone has pointed out, my latest posts have taken a decidedly positive/twitterpated/romantic bent, pontificating on the beauty of nature and life itself. This upbeaticism comes with good reason--Erin Roundy (see three posts down) has wedged her way firmly into my priorities. We started dating about five weeks ago, after a chance meeting at none other than the MTC. (It's a cute story, one which is better told face to face with hand motions, facial expressions, and raised eyebrows. Next time you see me, feel free to ask). Anyway, I realized our relationship was more serious than average when I found myself changing my Facebook status from "Single" to "In a Relationship." Kind of my way to tuck my thumbs under my meta-suspenders, stretch those elastic bands, raise up on my electronic tiptoes and announce: "Hands off, ladies, Eric's no longer on the market!" What I thought was a simple transition apparently sent shock waves down the facebook turnpike and elicited quite a bit of cyber excitement among my friends. Some of the better face-posts included:
  • "homie. I am thrilled." --Missy Johnson
  • "ta num relacionamento? Vc eh meu heroi (You're in a relationship? You are my hero!)" --Taylor Howe
  • "Woah... Facebook status has changed! Things are getting serious." -- Cody Roberts
While I was flattered, I had to wonder whether people were thinking "Finally!" and "I thought he'd never make it!" or "Good for him." Either way, it was good to get some face-attention. Even better, Cody was kind enough to include the following: BYU Date Guide: 1. Group Date (Week 1) 2. Change Facebook Status (Week 4-6) 3. Send Mass Text Message of engagement (week 7-8) 4. Marriage (Week 12) 5. Profit?" While I still don't quite understand what "Profit" stands for in Cody's step by step process, unless he's referring to the earning potential at your typical wedding, I found myself laughing and nodding at the BYU DG. In too many cases it's so painfully true. And I even elicited a promise of "very lovely dish towels in the color scheme of [Erin's] choice" from Ruthanne Frost should step 4 come to pass. But, I'll have you know that Erin and I bucked the BYU trend from the get go, so don't go looking for a mass text next week. We did not go on a group date for our first date. We went DISCO SKATING! In full-out 70s gear. Erin looked smashing in her brown and pink 70s dressy thingy, and I rather think I looked dashing in my tight, tight, tight, flared plaid slacks and matching brown vest. In short, we were a smokin' pair! All in all I had the time of my life...trying VERY hard not to fall on my behind. This preeminent goal required me holding onto Erin at some very...key moments. ;D Let's just say that skating has never been one of my strong points, which anyone who has ever gone ice skating or disco skating with me can attest. However, acting cute in the face of a potentially awkward (and dangerous!) situation is one of my strongpoints, or at least I like to think so. So Erin put up with me long enough to let my real quality shine through: soft hands. I'll be the first to admit it--I have incredibly soft hands. Never used lotion in my life. But they're like a pair of baby seals attached to my wrists. Adorable, luxurious in their smooth, silky texture, and great for cuddling, And I'm betting those supple mitts of mine were just enough to push me over the top. That, or Erin just felt sorry for me and the George McFly/Lorraine effect took over every time I was about to fall flat on my face. (True to McFly form, I punched a guy out in the parking lot later that night to defend Erin's honor. Honest!) Well, from there we just hit it off and have been having fun ever since. She has finally managed the heretofore unmanageable: to pull me away from my academic mistress, the ever-jealous, over-zealous, time-consuming, life-swallowing Lady Law. And I couldn't be happier about it. Where Law is cold, calculating, exacting, and ruthless, Erin is cute, funny, smart, curious, affectionate, lovely, grinful, adorable, playful, excited, bodacious, happy, groovy, beautiful, and a whole host of other positive adjectives. I find myself unabashedly entrenched in deep like. And it's nice. And it's good. And for the first time in a long time, I'm happy. Truly, deeply, good and happy. Amazing what some balloons and a scone can do. :D



New posts coming Monday, March 5. (Cinco de Mayo!!!) There are many things to discuss! ebv EDITOR'S NOTE: The actual intended date is May 5. I regret the error. ;)