Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yes, I Read Twilight

So, what is a guy-y guy doing reading Twilight, anyway?

Well, 'cause I'm actually a 19-year-old girl named Mary Anne Evans (see, 'geophf' is now my tech-savvy pen-name: 'George Eliot' is just so out of fashion these days) going to Dartmouth and all my GFs were reading it, see? And I was like, SQUEE, OME! Bite me! And he was, like, rly? And I was, like, yeah! And he was, like, coo! And, so we were, like, you know, like, all that? 'Cause Edward's such a playah, until he met me, the character named Mary Sue introduced into the story that solves all the cataclysms because everybody listens to like my non-sequiturs because it all like makes sense because I'm the main character, not Bella, because she like needs me and realizes that Edward loves me and he was just like playin' her so she falls in love with Angela or Mike or somebody, doesn't matter, because like the story ended happily with Edward like falling so hard for me but I had to like leave him to solve world hunger in india and he like understood even though he was sad and then I returned to my space alien world the end? So, I, like, started, like, writing fan-fiction pretending to be like, this, like, twilight-dad so I could get more page views? 'Cause, like, a guy reading Twilight? NW. It's, like, 0.01% of the buyers of the book and, like, 0.000000000001100701% of the fan-fiction writers? So, like, I was, like, "gimme some of dat niche-market mind-share, baybee!" 'cause it's all about the buzz?



No, RLY: why did I keep reading Twilight? 'cause I'm, like, this 19-year-old girl from ... *AHEM*

I kept reading Twilight because it was adolescent. Adolescence is a very important transitional time of life. It's when people can ask questions boldly, because society says it's okay to ask those questions, to rebel, to live. As a child, one is not allowed to live: one is fenced in by parents. As an adult, one is not allowed to live: one must be a responsible member of society (well, except me and my bud Hannibal). Adolescence? Everything is undefined, so everything must be defined.

I kept reading Twilight because it was honest. Superpowers weren't added as the series went on. Endings weren't deus ex machina like Harry Potter ("Gryffindor wins because I'm Dumbledore, and I say so" "Oh, we use this super magic spell to make everything okay, even though two books ago we couldn't"). Characters didn't know what they weren't supposed to know.

To you Harry Potter fans: I'm sorry! I'm sorry! And geroff this Twilight blog!

I kept reading Twilight because it had depth. Every character deserves their own 4 book trilogy (What? Douglas Adams could have a 6-book trilogy!). Every conversation was motivated by a character history that was solid and consistent and true. This was true for the main characters, this was true for the minor characters, this was true for the characters that showed up for a total of a half a page.

I kept reading Twilight because it was complete, but not patronising. There is so much not said in the books, so much not revealed, so much left alone, so much left to explore, ... and so much room to explore. Other books, you cannot wander in the canon because the house of glass is too brittle, and it shatters when you reach out your hand in curiosity. Twilight doesn't allow MSR (well, really RLT), it encourages it! It demands it! Rosalie! The richest character in the series and she has just one chapter to say her piece. It probably took a lot from Steph just to leave her alone, but she did. She left her alone for me.

And she left ALL the characters alone. ALL of them. What's Bella's history? There's a fan-fiction story. What's Edward's story? There's a fan-fiction piece (it's called Midnight Sun, but what about his existence before that? It's called "Green, Red, Gold"). What's Alice's and Jasper's story? There's a story there (Mandi1 wrote it). What's Esmé's history? There's a story (that I AM WAITING FOR ... ANYBODY??!?!??!?!?!11!!112322##*@%#). Emmett? God! The strongest character in Twilight and everybody thinks he's a dumb jock. Idiots! He was the big brother of the McCarty family with many brothers and sisters during the Great Depression. He had to make do and love them and be the father to them all (except his mom who could, and did, take him by the ear by-and-bye), and hunt for supper, and drink, and gamble, and make moonshine, and fall, hard, for Rosalie, ... because only Emmett has the strength of character to put up with her.

So, why do I read Twilight? Real people and vampires ... and, BONUS, real werewolves (GOD! Leah! Read "Cowboys and Indians" by Minisoo)! Real stories. Yes, they are derivative. No, they are not esoteric; no, they are not erudite, nor complex, nor befuddling, nor pretentious. But, compelling? Yes. Heartbreaking? Yes. Hopeful? Yes. Real? Yes.

What would you rather me be reading? Salinger? I love him, too, love him to death (Franny and Zooey, and Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters (that inspired the Drambuie moment with Buddy and the Tom Collinses), and, OMG, Seymour: an Introduction, and OMR, Nine Stories, a.k.a. For Esmé — with Love & Squalor (every single one of them I cry my eyes out ... every single one — dunno, sometimes Franny and Zooey is my favorite; Franny is Bella's predecessor, and Zooey is as ruthlessly loving, and as lovingly ruthless, as Rosalie is to Bella)). Helen DeWitt? GOD! Helen DeWitt! I just want to go into the Last Samurai and give every one of those genius and geniune characters a big "it'll be okay, Rosalie" hug! Milan Kundera? Salman Rushdie? Robert Zelazny? Neil Gaiman? Chuck Palahniuk? Robert Pirsig? Robert Frost? Billy the Shake? J.R.R. Tolkien? C.S. Lewis? A.A. Milne? Douglas Hofstadter? Ray Smullyan? David Moon? Bashoh? e.e. cummings? Wallace Stevens? William Carlos Williams? God?

I read them all. I keep adding to that list. I love them all. Even Mr. Big-Juju (He's put out quite a bit of varied literature over the ages).

... and I like Twilight.

... and, so far, Twilight has liked me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Happy 19th Birthday, Bella Cullen!

You will recall that the Cullen family, spearheaded by Alice, of course, decided to celebrate Bella's first day as a vampire with a birthday party. It was September 13th, her birthday, so let's celebrate!

Bella, of course, vehemently objected, but this time the objection wasn't because she's party-shy ... well, it wasn't only because she's party shy. No, it was because Edward's eternally seventeen, and if she celebrated her birthday, that would mean she's nineteen.

*Gasp* She'd be a whole two years older than her hubby. That'd make her a cradle-robber. A cougarin', cradle-robbin', May-December romancin' despoiler of little boys.

In that case, she must have joined the wrong family: she should just pack up her things and move in with the succubi in Denali.

"Hey, Tanya, it's Bella ... do you guys have a spare room I can move into?"

And the three Russians would respond in unison: "We're not guys!"

So, Bella claims that she's not eternally nineteen. Oh, no! She's eternally 18.99726 years old. It's the principle of the thing, you see.

But Bella is wrong-wrong-wrong, or at least very, very, very misinformed to think she didn't turn nineteen, and here's why, and Dr. Cullen will back me up on this. Reread BD, reread her transformation. What was the last thing to change? When did she become a vampire?

When her heart stopped beating.

When did her heart stop beating? September 13th, and no, not in the early pre-dawn. It was full light out (well, full light for Forks, WA, USA). Her heart was beating for at least eight, and more likely more than eight hours of the day of September 13th, her birthday.

Bella Cullen was alive in a very real and a very medical sense on her birthday.

Happy 19th Birthday, Bella.


This post is dedicated to my beta-reader Lion_in_the_Land who celebrated her 19th birthday, again, today. Happy Birthday, LiLa

Friday, April 17, 2009

May I tell you a secret? An insight.

That Rosalie. I tell you what. She sure is a real b...

Excuse my language.

That's what everybody thinks, isn't it? Because that's how she is, right?

I published a episode of "Rose by a Lemon Tree" entitled "Her Name: Mother" that looks at the relationship between Rosalie and her mother (the name "Gwendolyn" has been used before, so I use it in my piece as well).

What's interesting to me is that the comments from reviewers of that chapter focus more on Rosalie's cruelty to her maid, Carol. This is interesting to me why?

First, read that chapter then come back. What did you think? Rosalie was surely mean to Carol, even if she and her father were trysting. Too, too mean, right? So Rosalie of her.

May I tell you a secret? What is Steph always saying when she mentions or sells early drafts of Twilight or Midnight Sun or Forever Dawn? Jasper's name was "Ron" in her early drafts. What was Rosalie's name in the early drafts?


Does the president of a bank have as many servants as I mentioned in my episode? Does the president of a bank have a maid specifically designated for his daughter? A daughter that doesn't know the name of that maid, even, for ten years? How would Rosalie ask "Carol" to do something when she was 8 years old if she didn't know the name of her own maid? Can you see a 8-year-old girl, who hadn't yet been hurt so badly by her own mother at the age of 11 for being caught crying (read my episode for details), can you see this 8-year-old girl saying to a servant: "You, there" all the time? A servant who brushes her hair "almost adoringly"?

Who was Rosalie being cruel to? Who is Rosalie hardest on, always? Other people? No.

How does Rosalie see herself? Brave? Proud?

She says that, right? All the time, right? Like, too often?

Rosalie's not this scared little girl pushed around by a cruel world. She just can't be. She's tough. She's a real mean b..., well, you know, and nobody messes with her.

That's what everybody thinks. That's what everybody thinks in the novels. That's what everybody thinks reading the novels. That's what everyone has to think, right? Nobody messes with her, so she cannot possibly be hurt.

If you never let anybody into your heart, your heart cannot be broken.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

For Esmé — with Love and Squalor

I think the award for the "most taken for granted character" in the Twilight series goes to Esmé Platt Evenson Cullen. This is not a trophy that we should be proud giving to Esmé, but give it to her we do.

Esmé: "To love".

But isn't that the way of it for all mothers? Esmé is a stereotypical mother. What can be said of her? "She has no special power, but has a strong ability to love passionately." (Wikipedia) Translation: "Oh, Esmé? Um, well, a typical mom, I guess ... [looks away embarrassedly]". Esmé gets as much thought and consideration as, dare I say, your own mom, right?

You moms out there know what I'm talking about: you pour your heart and your soul into your family, and what do you get for it? If you are lucky you get an appreciative look, or rub, or word ... occasionally. Mostly, it's the slogging away, day after endless day to no thanks, to ingratitude, even.


If it's your lucky day (of the year?) you get flowers. If you are looking for heart-stopping, you get the laundry or dishes done for you. Stop holding your breath, please, that shade of blue isn't particularly lovely on you, you know.

What does Esmé do? Who can barely contain her joy when her son introduces the new girl from school? Who on the baseball field is the first to greet Bella?

Sorry, but that scene has me begging the question: what was Rosalie thinking as she stalked off? I think readers of RLT have an answer. If I were a betting man — and I'm not — I would put a large sum on the following:

"If Edward thinks I'm going to acknowledge his little human pet, he's got another thing coming! She'll be the destruction of us all, Edward, mark my words!"

And how very nearly prophetic her thoughts were. In fact, how timely, too, given the encounter a few innings into that very game!

Esmé is one of the most underrepresented characters in the canon and in all of fan fiction; perhaps she is the most underrepresented character in the lexicon. What's there to say about her? She's the "Mom" who can barely hunt on her own, much less keep up with the other vampires (BD, Book I). End of story.

Yet it is Esmé with the richest back story: in love with Carlisle since she was 16 years old, but handed off to an arranged marriage to an abusive brute. She gets away to protect the child in her womb only to lose him days after birth.

Excuse me a moment, there's something in my eye.

Why is it that the vampires who had the rockiest lives have the most contented new existence? Cases in point: Carlisle, Esmé, Alice.

Why is it that the vampires who had the most gilded lives have the darkest new existence? Cases in point: Jasper, Edward, Rosalie.

Why is it that Emmett sails so smoothly through both his life and his new existence, untroubled in either?

Why is it that Bella is worshiped by all in both?

How can we learn to live our lives from the way the vampires in the Cullen family choose to live in their lives and new existences?

And how about Esmé, the Mom to them all? More importantly, how about your mom?

I'll tell you this: the more I study Esmé, trying to learn about her, the more I appreciate and love my own mother. Esmé is my mother, in many ways. She's the Perfect Mother, but she's only human after all (even if she is a vampire). You see her as this perfect little thing, always calm, always smooth, always affectionate, always doing the right thing for everybody, loving every single one of her children, and her husband, in the perfect way that they each need her love.

You see her this way, because she is this way. You may wish to let her know this (I'm sure the post office does send mail to the Cullens these days: they may be getting as much now as Santa does, for goodness sake). But underneath all this, she knows she's made mistakes, and she carries those mistakes with her every step of the way.

In the canon, Rosalie tells us, indirectly, that Esmé's record isn't clear (Eclipse, ch 7). Do you think that Esmé has just put aside her "little slip" and moved on with her existence? Well, yes, she has. Do you think that this is easy for her? Do you think that this mistake doesn't haunt her at times? Perhaps not.

Do you think that when her children are fighting (Midnight Sun, conference in ch 4), or leaving her (Edward in Green, Red, Gold and in New Moon; Emmett and Rosalie in New Moon, Alice and Bella in New Moon, Alice and Jasper in BD, Book I) that it's easy for her to be the Mom, for her to let them go, to let them hurt themselves? To let them do all this, knowing, from hard-won experience, that they don't have to? Knowing that allowing them to do this could even eventuate in their destruction?

Do you think that maybe giving her flowers is very nice, but what she really needs is to get a hug and to see her children happy? Not "her children"? But to see this child of hers happy?

How about your mom? Perhaps this Mother's Day, instead of sending the gift, or card, or flowers (or ... nothing?), you could send yourself? And spend a few precious moments, just with her, and let her know she did right? That you are okay? or, if you're not okay, let her know that you love her with all your heart, with all your might and with all your soul?

Perhaps you don't even need to wait until Mother's Day?

Esmé's a strong woman; she "loves passionately". But I'm sure she'd be bursting with joy to get that hug and know that the kids are okay. I'm sure your mom could use the same love, too.

After all, Moms not only make the world go 'round; they also happen to Rock!

Go, Team Esmé!

P.S. For Esmé — with Love and Squalor, a book with the self-same named story by J. D. Salinger has the title character that is nothing like our Esmé, but the girl there is sprightly, like our Esmé can be when delighted, and she did marry for love, I hope, as our Esmé (eventually) did, and she did remain radiant in spite of the squalor of the world, as our Esmé, triumphantly, did. Read that story, please, you may get some insights into our Esmé from J. D. Salinger's.

Marissa's Bunny

Okay. Stop the presses.

I received a phone call from my brother.

That's not a reason to stop the presses, because I get a phone call from him everyday. "geophf, you still alive?" He's such a mother-hen, but for good reason: my cara spoza and the girls have been away for the last three months.

That's not the reason to stop the presses, either.

The reason to stop the presses is that he has just read the first book of the Twilight series.

Okay, I see you don't understand, so let me break it down for you.

He's a man.

He's a manly man.

He's a manly man who's idea of entertainment is shooting zombies or stuff in the face ... by the way, what's your zombie plan? Me, I've got 38 zombie plans!

He's a manly man that doesn't need to be reading girlie-girl novels about swooning girlie-girl's fantasies about hunky emo vamps.

But he did.

Stop the presses.

Now, the reason this big ole brother of mine read the first book is because he needed the context to be able to read my fan fiction story, "My Sister Rosalie" (MSR), a story he said he wouldn't be reading. Or, more correctly, he'd rather, I don't know, reread Moby Dick, a book that he called "pretentious, wordy and pointless" in his book report in his American Lit class (his professor gave him an "A" when a big red caveat indicating his disagreement with the conclusions of the report).

Why is my manly-man brother going to read MSR? Because underneath that gruff exterior is a sweet little teddy bear. Or, more correctly, a bunny.

See, he doesn't need to be doing any of this because he's got other things on his plate, like, for example, he has a daughter with infantile spasms with medical bills running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and with all the other associated issues of raising a baby, firstly, and then raising a baby needing medical attention, sometimes hourly.

Some days, it's more than hourly. One particular day: 100 spasms.

But there he is, Marissa's Dad, or, as he is known: marissas dad, reading Twilight. For me. His little brother.

Stop the Presses!