Reasoning with Vampires

Twilight-hating blogger shares her views on vampire fiction 11 Comments

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How did the blog start?
After I thought my boyfriend had heard one too many rants about the terrible writing in Twilight, I decided we both needed a different outlet for my tirades. There’s only so much Twilight-talk boyfriends should have to endure.

Why Twilight?
One could do this sort of thing with any novel. Even the most luscious language is far from technically perfect. I’ve gotten a lot of recommendations for other books to do when I finish the Twilight Saga (though I’m not sure I ever will be done). I’m doing this with Twilight because I have never before encountered a novel (or novel series) that was so riddled with flaws – across grammatical, logical, and/or psychological.

What, exactly, is wrong with Stephenie Meyer?
I try to direct most of my criticism at her writing or the Writer Known As Stephenie, because I know there’s far more to her than the crimes she has perpetrated on the page (or I hope there is. It’s too depressing if not). Stephenie Meyer’s writing has flawed grammar, abused punctuation, gaping holes in logic, maudlin prose, and despicable so-called heroes.

Stephenie Meyer supposedly left out physical characteristics of Bella Swan so that readers can more easily imagine themselves as the protagonist. It’s lazy characterisation if you ask me, but it’s also a nifty narrative trick. However, the character has absolutely nothing nice to say about herself, and I think that was a really warped thing for an author to do to emotionally-vulnerable teenage readers.

Bella and Edward: why is there relationship so terrifying?
To start, Bella is a disappointing protagonist all by herself. My favourite thing to dislike about Bella Swan is how completely unaware she is. This series is narrated by someone who forgets to breathe, cannot find her own lips, mistakenly believes the rain has stopped (though in truth she was merely carried inside a house), and takes an inordinate amount of time to realise that the weird sound she’s hearing is herself sobbing.

Bella hates herself because (among other things) she’s clumsy and doesn’t fit in; Edward hates himself, because he has murderous urges. At first, she thinks he hates her, but mostly he just wants to kill her. Then there’s a languishing period where he ignores her, and she assumes it must be because she’s insignificant and uninteresting. Four days after they start “dating”, he still wants to kill her and tells her how easy it would be, which might be fine with her because Bella would rather die than be away from him. Bella engages in risky behaviour that’s tantamount to attempted suicide after Edward leaves her. Without intervention, she would have died jumping off a cliff in New Moon, and Bella enjoyed - actually enjoyed! - her near-death, since, if she’d succeeded, it would have meant that she wouldn’t have had to live without Edward. For his part, Edward stalks Bella, trespasses into her room to watch her sleep without her knowledge, and disables her vehicle to prevent her from visiting someone Edward disapproves of.

Again, this story is designed so that the reader can imagine being Bella. All of this unhealthy behaviour is presented as wonderful. Over and over, the saga depicts deplorable behaviour and then calls it the greatest romance of all time. It’s not the kind of relationship that should be idolised.

So, why are these books so gloablly popular?
It would be nice to dismiss the Twilight madness as mass hysteria like the Dancing Plague of 1518, but there’s more to it. Fantasy is an addictive genre. It’s intoxicating. It’s easy to get lost in hundreds of pages of sexy, inhumanly powerful man-candy. Twilight is non-specific enough that many readers can adapt the text into their own idea of lovely, which inevitably broadens the novel’s appeal.

I think there’s a certain amount of mild brainwashing at work, too. When you read page after page of “wonderful,” “beautiful,” “sexy,” “love,” “perfect,” “heavenly,”, you start to accept that it’s true. After several hundred pages, you’re right there with Bella, skipping through the rainbows bouncing off of Edward’s sparkly skin.

If given your choice, what book would you like to see reach Twilight levels of adoration?
I know I might seem pedantic or like a literary snob, but I’m not super-hard to please. I’d prefer a book where major plot points aren’t resolved with, “Enh. Never mind” (New Moon and Breaking Dawn), where obstetric procedures aren’t performed with cuspids (Breaking Dawn), where parents don’t condone sexual assault against their own daughters (Eclipse), where the reaction to stalking isn’t flattery (Twilight), you know... that sort of thing. I don’t think it’s asking much.

Team Edward? Team Jacob? Which are you?
There are so many other sports I’d rather play, if only to avoid being on a Twilight Love-Interest Team. Can I try-out for Being Kicked in the Face Team instead? No? Ok. . .

Does the popularity of these books say anything about the state of modern literature, or the reading public in general?
The Twilight craze does seem indicative of low standards, but I have a lot of faith in humanity. Today we have the benefit of thousands of years of literary giants at our beck and click. I’m betting on the endurance of literary greatness.

In replies to my posts and in my inbox, there’s an ongoing dialogue about the value of language. Many of my readers care about grammar, storytelling, and literary technique. My readers make me feel so hopeful about the future of words. They’re an amazing, brilliant, clever group of people, and I’m privileged they spend so much “time” with me. Actually, I’m betting on them. There are stewards of modern literature out there having rational conversations in calm tones – even if you can’t hear them over the squealing of Twilight fangirls.

Then again, I might be suffering from delusions of wishful thinking. If things are on a grand decline, I’m going to have fun making juvenile jokes about semicolons while it happens.
Check it out at www.reasoningwithvampires.tumblr.com

By Time Out Doha staff
Time Out Doha,

User reviews:

Posted by: Marly on 14 Jan ' 13 at 20:25

To Deborah: Just because a book is written for a specific audience does not mean only that audience is capable of enjoying that book. For example, I know several women over the age of 35 that are in love with the Bella/Edward love story and fangirl over the series with the passion of a fourteen year old high school student.

I'd also like to point out that Harry Potter (and I am NOT comparing the books other than their popularity) was written for children and has been published for children, and look at how many people above the age of eighteen loved those stories. And just because a book is written for a certain age group does not mean the book cannot be analyzed and critiqued. Dana makes several valuable points--these ideals and views presented in Twilight are not something to be presented to a teenage girl who, in all likelihood, is already self conscious about her looks, or has low self esteem. It also does not present a healthy romantic relationship between two adults, and for these young readers it becomes something to strive for.

When views like these are being presented to impressionable audiences, yes, of course they should be critiqued. It would be different if the content were a better example for the people reading it.

Posted by: Deborah on 14 Mar ' 12 at 08:05

I am assuming you are an adult reader and can't help wondering why you spent valuable time reading and analyzing a series of books clearly aimed at the younger end of the teenage girl market. I read Twilight because it was the last book on a boat out at sea, but it would never have occurred to me to pick it up in a bookshop.

I agree with your point that they are not particularly well-written but unfortunately nor are the majority of contemporary novels aimed at this tricky, often reading-reluctant, age group. Sadly it is almost impossible to persuade these girls to read the classics that I read as a child such as I Captured The Castle, Jane Eyre, Little Woman, Pride and Prejudice.

My daughter is now 18 and happily admits that the Twilight novels are complete tosh but she would have defended them to the death when avidly reading them (several times each!) a few years ago. At the time I was happy that she was reading something other than Teen Vogue and her Facebook page!

I am not picking a fight because I found your blog interesting and well-written but I am always slightly perplexed by adults reading and critiquing books aimed at the children's market.

Posted by: Helen on 27 Feb ' 12 at 01:55

Also, "globally", please. I'm not sure if I want to read this interview if the interviewer can't proofread before she puts it on the site.

Posted by: Devin on 26 Feb ' 12 at 01:17

Richard, I challenge you to read "Reasoning With Vampires" and tell us with a straight face that there's "nothing wrong" with what Stephenie Meyer has written. Why can't we blame *both* editor and author for lousy prose? I don't see any reason the editor should suffer the weight of the blame alone. More importantly than the question of writing craft, however, is what the stories are saying. Escapism and entertainment are great, but when it's directed toward teenaged girls and carries the underlying message of "you should hate yourself, be utterly self-absorbed to the exclusion of your family and friends, and dream of being in a physically- and psychologically-abusive relationship", there is, in fact, something wrong with it.

Posted by: mikayla on 10 Feb ' 12 at 21:06

Also, it's "globally"... not "gloablly."

Posted by: Celi on 03 Feb ' 12 at 06:24

Stephen King is awful too.

Just because the interviewer used the incorrect word "there," doesn't discredits Dana's view. Stephanie Meyer is still a bad writer regardless if people like it.

Posted by: Richard Smith on 28 Jan ' 12 at 23:39

Yeah, so they aren't high literature or anything like it, but they're published, well-liked, and made Ms. Meyer rich; that sounds like literary success to me. Her books serve a valid purpose of escape and entertainment, and there's nothing wrong with that. I don't think that anyone but a well-published author (like Stephen King) has any room to criticize her or her writing. If anyone should be criticized, it should be her editor. Oh, and I noticed some typos and errors in that article, too. LOL!

Posted by: Kiona J. on 27 Jan ' 12 at 22:49

I love Dana's blog!! It picks apart all the flaws of the Twilight series and presents them hilariously. She also schools her audience on the dos and don'ts of grammar through her firm and, often times, heartfelt criticisms of Stephenie Meyers as a writer.

Posted by: sindos on 27 Jan ' 12 at 06:53

"Bella and Edward: why is there relationship so terrifying?"
You should've said THEIR.


PS. A Reasoning with Vampires reader.

Posted by: Kay on 27 Jan ' 12 at 05:38

Ironically, the interviewer misspelled "their" in a question.

Posted by: cat on 26 Jan ' 12 at 21:44

Staff,

You mean "their" not "there".

*facepalm*

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