It seems like just the time to miss being cutting edge by five years. Basically I'm going to read Stephanie Meyer's novel Twilight and offer various thoughts on the book as I read it, chapter by chapter. For the moment I'm trying to disengage from the impact of the sequels, the media, the online presence. My understanding is that the main popularity of the Twilight phenomenon came from the first book and I'm going to treat it to that end. By everything I've heard about it I don't expect to particularly like it. I'm not a fan of romance fiction in generation or paranormal romance fiction specifically, the YA market it's oriented at isn't me, and by general descriptions I've been given it looks to have poor writing and some objectionable gender messages.
So why read it? And why go to the effort of writing up on it bit by bit to inflict on the general forum? A few reasons.
1. Twilight is a significant phenomenon. By sheer number of sales and press attention it's something that reflects and changes the wider culture. Being part of that culture already I've had more osmosis of this book than most I haven't read--I feel I could name the main characters and themes, and make a guess at the major narrative moments and basis for love and hatred for the book. That's necessarily incomplete, though, and I'm better equipped to understand it if I take the marginal time to read the whole narrative and understand it on its own terms. I'm certainly not in the habit of focusing on popular culture or the more published things as a general standard--that would involve a lowering of my reading quality that I'd consider unacceptable. I can certainly read one, however, amidst the books that I generally read expecting quality.
2. Precisely because it's reputation suggests it's badly written and has some troubling gender attitudes. These things are rarely a matter of fixed absolutes, complete binaries of acceptability or abomination. So, it's worthwhile to see what this narrative indicates about both. Particularly in the degree of sexism--how extreme is it? How disturbing is its portrayal, how much more problematic are the assumptions beyond a culture and genre of writing that were already sexist?
3. Understanding the context of people writing after Twilight. Whether they're trying to push some of the same appeal or if they're writing very distinctively with an anti-Twilight approach.
For this work I'm trying to get away from the question of Meyer as a writer, Meyer as a bad writer, and so forth, and take the text as a presence in itself. Two reasons. One, I've been interesting in breaking through the habit of assessing or personally critiquing authors as a reviewing strategy more generally. Second, with Twilight specifically a lot of the criticism seems to quickly degenerate to attacks against Meyer's writing ability, character, values or religion--and the last element in particular lends itself to the kind of genial xenophobia towards an uncommon religious sect.
So, death of the author approach for my part in this review, as a buffer against a conversation that often seems to focus on calling for the death of the author. And no, a work doesn't in itself have to of literary quality to make literary tools useful for interpreting it. In part this is no different from work as an historian, looking at often badly written things for key motifs and insights into a given culture--the only difference is the culture is near-contemporary. A few main themes I'm looking to explore:
*Is there anything in this novel that indicates why it became so enormously popular? Was it simply a case of writing and marketing to a niche audience or is there anything else in the layout that indicates why this one became the major phenomenon of the last few years?
*What is there in this novel that tabulates with the extreme backlash against it? How much is the usual line of criticism warranted, if this is a bad book how strongly and uniquely bad is it? Actually reading the work should present a better grounds to criticize both the book as well as the hype against it, as needed.
*What is up with the gender portrayal in the story?
*How is capitalism represented in the book? Status of wealth, poverty, commerce, the market, the role of or lack of the state. I'd be interested in seeing what indications of this develop in the presentation of atmosphere--there's been a lot of debate over gender in the book but I've seen less on this angle. Which could be interesting, if there's any relevance in. Twilight definitely became a major factor in capitalism, and I'd be curious if part of the appeal in the story is in offering a supernatural romantic liberation from the world of currency and work.
-The beginning quote is from Genesis 2:17, tree of knowledge of good and evil. Put with the large apple on the cover it pretty clearly indicates a focus on immortality, evil, or both. Useful to set the stage I suppose if one had no prior idea of what Twilight was, and of course initially it was completely obscure. Makes for a kind of ironic juxtaposition with the later success--the quote from Genesis refers to the conditions of paradise, a fall from grace and into mortality and sin. In contrast Twilight's situation was a rise from obscurity to extreme fame, financial success and cultural presence. As I understand the larger story of Bella across the series it's somewhat parallel--shy awkward girl becomes loved, beautiful and immortal. If the terms of the book's protagonist triumph are the same as that underwent by the book itself, it makes for a kind of intriguing situation, a meta-fantasy narrative.
-Even questioning the grounds of fantasy itself. In Adam Roberts' recent novel Yellow Blue Tibia a Soviet SF writer is asked whether he believes in alien visitations. He says he doesn't believe in the physical reality of alien encounters, but does believe that millions of people themselves believe in them, and to that extent they do have an actual social presence of reality. If enough people buy into a fantasy it becomes an actual presence, to the extent of influencing people directly detached from the story. The issue of course is that some fantasies can't be implemented in reality, they take the energy and wish for it without necessarily understanding the full implications or underside. Anyone can start a fantasy narrative with their own lives if they have a desire or expectation for such a thing, the question is how the narrative concludes, where people actually end up. It'll be interesting to track that against the larger story of Twilight, in the book and in the "actual" world.
-There's the Preface, half a page on a first person narrator being faced with threatened death from "the hunter". Clearly an insertion from later on in the narrative, putting a teaser of action and threat in to compel interest. It's often inherently awkward when books do this--the teaser is meaningless until the narrative catches up with it, and here it strongly suggests that nothing engaging is going to start out the narrative proper. It's telling us to have patience, that things will happen later--effectively beginning with a deferral.
-Also kind of interesting approach for a first person account. Commonly that's done to introduce empathy or at least some measure of common perspective with the narrating character. Here, by giving us a future snap of down the road for the story we're immediately primed to be more aware, more genre savy than the main character.
-The preface pushes the theme of "beyond imagination" pretty hard. Both the notion of the actual circumstances of the death (which remain unclear) being what Belle "would not have imagined" as well as the wider context "When life offers you a dream so far beyond any of your expectations, it's not reasonable to grieve when it comes to an end." So, the story is going to be wish-fulfillment, Cindarella lifted from her position. And the reference to dying in the place of one you loved as a good thing clearly fills in the bit of the detail.
-Sort of interesting that Bella doesn't reference her love for Edward by name [Spoilers!] at this point. Presumably all the vagueness is to keep suspense going about what happens with the love plot, but it also makes it seem a lot less tangible in this introduction to the character--someone actually devoted to a real person rather than the idealized sensation of being in love would think of the name and distinguishing characteristics, one would assume. I'll hold judgement on how this situation actually plays out, but it looks possible that Twilight just undermined its core concept within the first five sentences, which had the sole purpose of establishing the core concept.
Chapter One: First Sight.
-If I still had no clue from the series fame, marketing, side-cover or preface, the chapter title here pushes me to anticipate a romance, love at first sight. The text lays itself out fairly directly, which could be a large part of the appeal--if one is reading for a certain expected situation (romance, actor, humor, military tech) there could be an inherent attraction to it being done transparently and directly. No point in waiting a hundred pages for the murder to be committed in a murder mystery after all, or for the main conceit of troubled cross-species romance to be established.
-Off that, Twilight is longer than I expected. The edition I have from the local library is 498 pages, albeit some larger font than is needed but that's still more than I thought, in the discussions and media concerning Twilight I'd gotten the impression it was closer to 300. Let's see how the story develops in that kind of length.
-At this point my commentary has run longer than the actual Twilight lines I'm reacting to. That's not going to continue.
-The actual story. The beginning few pages feature a lot more geographical musings than I expected--specifically extended comparison between small town Forks and Phoenix. Bella is put as the outsider, the new arrival at an environment that doesn't suit here. On one level this format is unsurprising--it sets her up to be sympathetic, showing a situation of alienation and feeling out of place that most people have experienced at some point. It does go on a bit with the problems with Forks, I wonder how many small-town readers the book has gained. Does it appeal more to people that live in larger communities and hate the idea of small town life, or more to people living in small towns that want out?
[QUOTE]When I landed in Port Angeles, it was raining. I didn't see it as an omen--just unavoidable. I'd already said my goodbyes to the sun.[/QUOTE]
Kind of strange phrasing, and more than a bit melodramatic. Not necessarily unrealistic for a teenager's thought process. Related to this facet, there's assessing the prose, the line-by-line writing. Honestly, by the first chapter at least, it's not as bad as often claimed. Yes, there's far too much purple prose, excessively generic claims and description that doesn't actually give a good mental picture of what's being described. Still, it's hardly unreadable, manages dialog okay and overall is competent to follow the unfolding of events. The first person account gives some excuse for the more silly phrasing, and overall it's not transcendently worse than a lot of genre stuff.
-Page five there's a mention of Bella's desire to buy a car, "despite the scarcity of my funds". A bit surprising, and doesn't fit the mental picture given of Bella thus far, I'm preemptively putting in the 'not anti-women' category to assess the larger presentation of her character; the motivation given (faster not being driven by a cop car) is fairly trivial but it also indicates some desire for mobility and independence.
-Of course there's also the particular class status established here--Bella has enough disposable income to conceivably purchase a car, but not very much.
-Page seven, reference to both her father (Charlie) and Bella herself not being comfortable with expressing emotions verbally. File for further reference.
-"No need to add that my being happy in Forks is an impossibility. He didn't need to suffer along with me."
Okay, this is starting to get a bit much. The self-pitying expectation of unhappiness because this town is too small and limited at this point is making Bella look fairly elitist and purposefully bitter. Nothing has actually happened yet to justify this reaction.
-All the stuff with Bella's family is really weird, particularly the overly distant and cautious way she has of engaging with her parents. Seems to suggest some major dysfunctionality or at least some past tragic backstory.
-Page nine, Bella moving into her room is interesting and kind of poignant.
[QUOTE]The room was familiar; it had been belonged to me since I was born. The wooden floor, the light blue walls, the peaked ceiling, the yellowed lace curtains around the window--these were all a part of my childhood. The only changes Charlie had ever made were switching the crib for a bed and adding a desk as I grew.[/QUOTE]
Alright the language here is especially awkward ("It had been belonged to me?" What is the word "been" doing there?) but it's kind of an interesting dynamic described, a subtle way of feeling confined and predetermined to a familiar juvenile role. It makes sense on a direct level--she and Charlie haven't seen each other that much, but it also suggests that on a level of material environment and assigned possessions she'd reducible to a much younger and more restricted environment. Even the computer in there is mentioned as a way for her mother to keep in closer touch, it acts as another form of parental control. Not wonder Bella wanted a car and liked it (specifically for its indestructibility) so much, it's arguably the one thing that marks her.
-Similar indication page eleven, suggesting that the kitchen as well hasn't changed in eighteen years, a basically static layout of possessions.
-Page ten, Bella describes herself:
[QUOTE]But physically, I'd never fit in anywhere. I should be tan, sporty, blond--a volleyball player, or a cheerleader, perhaps--all the things that go with living in the valley of the sun. Instead, I was ivory-skinned, without even the excuse of blue eyes or red hair, despite the constant sunshine. I had always been slender, but soft somehow, obviously not an athlete; I didn't have the necessary hand-eye coordination to play sports without humiliating myself--and harming both myself and anyone else who stood too close. [/QUOTE]
This is not good. It's a character who thinks of herself almost entirely in terms of negatives, who has a major self-loathing expressed throughout. What's worse is the huge emphasis on clumsiness, to the extent of actually injuring herself and others--it's an overdone portrait designed to make its subject alienated from the possibility of normal happy relation to society. And the fact that she's female really sets the stage, the way expectations of others factor in. What's troubling is that the defining oneself by what one isn't is probably a major issue of the book's popularity. Making the protagonist a blank slate like this allows more identity and connection to the alienation, but it's directly fueling a form of pre-romantic romantic focus, establishing a neurotic perspective of being incapable and unlovable until someone comes along to love her. In essence, this representation makes for a disturbing romantic subtext before the romance is actually introduced.
-Page thirteen, Bella thinks Forks High School isn't like a real school, and is nostalgic for chain-link fences and metal detectors. Seems an intentional point of irony there.
-Bella parks her truck.
[QUOTE]I was glad to see that most of the cars were older like mine, nothing flashy. At home I'd lived in one of the few lower-income neighborhoods that were included in the Paradise Valley District. It was a common thing to see a new Mercedes or Porshce in the student lot. The nicest car here was a shiny Volvo, and it stood out. [/QUOTE]
See, I don't need to fish that hard for indicators of capitalism. This one is fairly intriguing, suggested that Bella mostly sees class and possessions as fitting in, or at being shamed by an environment of greater affluence. Here's a way that despite feeling more out of place in Forks she's actually closer. Of course, there's also the fact that I'm assuming the Volvo is Edward's, which sets up an ambivalence with the whole nature of wealth--a desire at once to be invisible in material possessions while also being drawn to them as an indicator of higher value. I'd suggest that there's a basic contradiction here, born from an awkward situation of middle-class America within the larger world economy and individuals in relation with the middle class. In the perspective of this work there's a basic embrace of conflicting values that can only be resolved through sparkly vampires.
-Bella receives a classroom reading list: Bronte, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Faulkner, she sees it as basic and had already read all of them. Is Faulker really standard for high school these days? That doesn't track with my past experience.
-Page 16, Bella is approached by Eric trying to be helpful, but she is dismissive because he has skin problems and seems overhelpful. There's the elitisim again.
-First view of the Cullens. Beautiful, distinctive, similar, impressive, mature.
[QUOTE]The girls were opposties. The tall one was statuesque. She had a beautiful figure, teh kind you saw on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, the kind that makes every girl around her take a hit on her self-esteem just by being in the same room...I stared because their faces, so different, so similar, were all devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful. They were faces you never expected to see expect perhaps on the airbrushed pages of a fashion magazine. [/QUOTE]
Two striking things here. One is how infused this impression is with commercial metaphors, the way Bella reaches for comparisons with celebrity glamor and models before great artistic tropes. This passage will be interesting for future generations as they look back and try to contextualize the Twilight phenomenon, to see the ways that the summoning of transcendent beauty is determined by an understanding from specific forms of media. Nothing is timeless or innate here, the whole form of aesthetic appreciation for another human being has to come through the operation of the market. Second, the presentation of female beauty here is more drawn out and striking than the male, which is far more generic. Even the first overview of Edward practically gets lost in the crowd. Why? And no, there's not any same-sex attraction here. Instead it's because female beauty is held to negate that of every other female, it further establishes an imbalance and sense of awkwardness about Bella in her own body. It's the direct mythological counterpoint to Bella looking in the mirror a few pages earlier. That character and negation of character seem to flow directly into the whole presentation of the story's universe. Again, not good.
-Edward's furious glare at Bella. So, that's the first sight the chapter was referring to. Hmm.
-Bella chats with another guy Mike for a bit, and is less immediately dismisive than with Eric above.
-In reference to her car: "It seemed like a haven, already the closest thing to a home I had in this damp green hole." See, significant.
So, that's chapter one. In itself it doesn't seem hugely more or less impressive than the general paranormal romance mixed with YA. At this point I'd speculate that the book's popularity came from the way the protagonist isn't too defined, and yet is still coherent as a personality. The problem is the way this level of self-image connects to the gender portrayal, and the role of women as narratively erasable at just the point in which they become identfiaible. As well, given that I've gathered the whole book, and indeed series, is all about the beautiful romance of Bella and Edward, it's somewhat disturbing that there first meeting involves a death glare, and the way the vampire beauty is taken as so transcendent and automatically effacing to people, especially women people.
Chapter Two: Open Book.
-You know, this type of running commentary would have a lot more value from someone that had managed to sit out the whole hype thing and had absolutely no idea what Twilight was going in. There's never an unbiased or unconnected reading of anything but at this point I have knowledge of later plot elements from wider discussion that make for a juxtaposition of the series. For instance, by the title here I assume that it refers to Edward's telepathy, which is able to read people's minds but not Bella's. This isn't knowledge I should have relative to taking the book on its own terms, and it's likely to make me more impatient with the unfolding story than it really deserves in its own right. Oh well.
-Bella is forming a circle of friends or at least people she sits with at lunch, and feels less alienated, page 29. That's nice, better than if she was completely isolated all the time until the romance sweeps her up.
-Bella gets really tense and obsessed over Edward not being present at school, to the extent that it's basically her full day. I don't get it. If she's remotely as unpopular and alienated as everything about her prose indicates, is she truly so impacted by someone that glares at her to the extent that his absence unnerves her? Of course this case is different because the larger narrative is about True Love, but even accepting that all Bella knows at this point is that Edward glares at her and doesn't seem to want to be around her. The only distinguishing thing about the issue is his exceptional beauty, which just makes her look shallow.
-Page 33 Bella's mother is over-anxious to get an e-mail response. On one level the way this familial pressure plays out seems dull and meaningless, on the other hand it feels fairly believable and makes me a bit more sympathetic towards Bella, which is what the narrative should be doing at this point, so I'll give the interlude passing marks.
-Charlie describes Dr. Cullen:
[QUOTE]a brilliant surgeon who could probably work in any hosptial in the world, make ten times the salary he gets here...We're lucky to have him--lucky that his wife wanted to live in a small town[/QUOTE]
This description reminds me a lot of the setup to Everwood--world famous neurosurgeon chooses to go to a community in the middle of nowhere which mystifies everyone. That was a great show. Anyway, more directly this passage reinforces the notion of Cullen superiority to everyone else, here in relation to talent beyond beauty, although Charlie also rather awkwardly makes a description of Dr. Cullen's great looks and sex appeal to nurses at the hosptial. Not entirely sure why he feels the need to mention such to his teenage daughter, as it seems most readers would assume Dr. Cullen was beautiful just like the rest of his family.
-More of Edward's absence for subsequent days. Bella is described as being able to relax and not be bugged by this, but focuses in on this angle a bit too much to make us believe it’s not totally about him.
-Page 38, she checks out the local library but finds it so small she doesn't bother getting a card, resolving to drive up to Olympia or Seattle find a good bookstore, then worries about the involved gas mileage. Another indicator of the ongoing capitalist stress in this book, the fear of a gap between what's available and what's wanted. As well, file under 'non negative gender things', Bella is shown to be a significant reader, and that the range of thing she's interested in is more than available in a small town. This is a type of frustration I can relate to, and insofar as it expects the reader to be engaged with other books that seems positive. Though I'm not sure why Bella doesn't just use Amazon to ship in books rather than drive extended distances to physically purchase them. This book seems a bit disconnected from available technology in some ways--the Internet so far has featured only as a means for communicating with her mother, and that at the mother's insistence.
-There's reference, page 38, to a trip to La Push Ocean Park in two weeks, Mike and others. Bella accepts the invitation, although not without a lament for the low quality of regional beaches. Presumably this forms a plot point, since the story focused in on it and it rarely describes Bella's day in any detail. Some of the criticism I've seen on the novel expresses frustration at the slow pace, and that may become a problem down the road. At this point, I'm more struck by the opposite issue, with entire days passing with only very fragmentary description of what's happening. More detail on what Bella is doing in her interactions would actually be desired, it would make her story feel more lived in and her character authentic.
[QUOTE]They were enjoying the snowy day, just like everyone else--only they looked more like a scene from a movie than the rest of us.[/QUOTE]
Deliberately highlighting the multi-media characteristics of some of the characters but not all. It seems to be deliberately showing the Cullens as less real but more desirable than regular people. Par for the course for vampire romance, I'd suspect, although again the infusion of media culture mechanisms into the idealized romantic imagination.
-A similar passage later, page forty. Description of Edward, post-snowball fight:
[QUOTE]His hair was dripping wet, disheveled--even so, he looked like he'd just finished shooting a commercial for hair gel.[/QUOTE]
Again, romantic aesthetics cannot be imagined without consumer culture.
-Earlier there's also a direct overview of the Cullens with wealth.
[QUOTE]I saw the two Cullens and the Hale twins getting int their car. It was the shiny new Volvo. Of course. I hadn't noticed their clothes before--I'd been too mesmerized by their faces. Now that I looked, it was obvious that they were all dressed exceptionally well; simply, but in clothes that subtly hinted at designer origins. With their remarkable good looks, the style with which they carried themselves, they could have worn dishrags and pulled it off. It seemed excessive for them to have both looks and money. But as far as I could tell, life worked that way most of the time. It didn't look as if it bought them any acceptance here.
No, I didn't fully believe that. The isolation must be their desire; I couldn't imagine any door that wouldn't be opened by that degree of beauty.[/QUOTE]
The Cullens' wealth shouldn't be that much of a surprise, given Charlie mentioned the father was brilliant and could make a higher salary, one might assume he did in the past. Directly Bella here reflects on high wealth accompanying other appeal as part of the inherent unfairness of life. Yet, significantly, this wealth is made to be secondary to their character of overall beauty. They don't look good because they're wearing expensive clothes and have a god car, instead their beauty is so innate and overpowering that at first it distract from the wealth they have access to, and Bella emphasizes that they'd be gorgeous even if wearing rags. There's the ambivalence about the capitalist process here again--wealth is unavailable but appealing, crucial yet unimportant to ultimate nature, resented and yet impressive. Again it comes down to an emphasis on their beauty, which Bella assumes is automatically enough to establish whatever role their desire, their isolation from other people must be their choosing. Agency accompanies beauty.
-First conversation between Edward and Bella. Lots of discussion about names and knowledge, followup romantic tension while doing school science. Having it be a biology experiment is perhaps a bit too much on the money. As far as their actual interactions go, it's not really that creepy. Fairly disjointed in terms of how the conversation goes, but not in a very unrealistic way, and at this point Bella herself notes how strange it is.
-And the last moment is Edward standing nearby and staring at her, disturbing enough to almost provoke an accident.
Chapter Three: Phenomenon
-The first chapter title I don't know exactly what moment to expect from reading it. Presumably something odd and vampire-related, but not a specific encounter.
-Bella sees the ground has been frozen solid:
[QUOTE]I had enough trouble not falling down when the ground was dry; it might be safer for me to go back to bed now.[/QUOTE]
All the emphasis on Bella as barely capable of avoiding injuring herself is really rather creepy, it plays into the whole fantasy of needing a man to protect and help her. Writing her as continually incapable of navigating basic life challenges also plays up childlike aspects, which makes the romance genre rather problematic. Related to the self-danger issue, it turns out that Bella can drive easier than anticipated because Charlie had put snow chains on the truck.
-Related to this theme, when Bella thinks of Edward she's far more critical of herself and her "babbling" than his unexplained hostility and staring at her.
-Bella almost gets hit with a car, Edward rescues her. See above. This is also the first scene that the quality of description becomes an actual dramatic problem--the scene as it unfolds should be fast moving and tense, but it's dragged down by the way it's narrated, making the order of events somewhat awkward.
-I'm reminded a lot of the pilot to the show Roswell in this sequence--paranormal boy saves girl and romance results. That worked better though because they didn't have a previous connection--it was effectively the occasion of their meeting, random gunshot that causes him to interfere. Here the past interest undermines the ongoing romance, and implies that Edward wouldn't have exerted himself to save Bella if he hadn't already had an interest in her.
-Anyway, hospitalization ensues. In talking about Edward's character, here the narrative rather missteps--it takes him saving her life and manages to make it into a negative by him being so hostile and defensive in insisting he displayed only perfectly normal capabilities. I assume that he's reacting this way because of a long history of secrecy by the clan, fear of attracting fear and hostility from normals, government dissection and the like, but his attitude here is still off-putting. Not really an indication of fear or self-concern, but instead a lot of blank dismissal and arrogance. At this point the story should be making us be drawn to Edward in some capacity. A measure of remove from the character goes with the terrain for this stage, but there should also be appealing chracteristics beyond his beauty and strength, and I'm not really getting that from his personality. When he tries to cover his secret by sneering things like "I saved your life--I don't owe you anything" it doesn't make him sympathetic or do an effective job concealing the truth.
[QUOTE]"You think I lifted a van off you?" His tone questioned my sanity, but it only made me more suspicious. It was like a perfectly delivered line by a skilled actor. [/QUOTE]
I think the prose is getting worse, or I'm becoming more aware of it as the book develops, and in intrudes on scenes where things are actually happening. Here the last line in particular just takes me out of the flow of the narrative entirely, it's the epitome of telling rather than showing, distancing me from the event and the protagonist.
-Still, there are things happening in the story, and as set up the situation with the wider Cullen family has its interesting elements. More than anything else at this point I'm curious about Dr. Cullen now that he's been met--the type of intergenerational thing within a vampire society while being a lot more involved in the local community than Edward is has its intriguing elements.
Chapter Four: Invitations.
-Bella's dream of Edward: it's very dark, but light is radiating from his skin. That's it, the whole dream. The account seems to be going for angelic qualities, but at this point it's impossible to separate from my knowledge of the sparkly vampires that have been so mocked.
-A month of time conveyed in several pages, it mostly involves Bella worrying about Edward and thinking he hates her again.
-Some love triangle drama gets drawn up--Jessica is interested in Mike who is interested in Bella. There doesn't seem much point in this element--Mike and Jessica have previously existed as characters only to explain elements of the town and the Cullens to Bella, and this element seems to just add another tangled element to the main story. Mike's interest here is received with more surprise than it seems to warrant--Bella previously reflected to herself that she was a lot more popular than in Phoenix, and knew that Eric (haven't seen him lately) and Mike were both interested in her. One might think that this type of situation and centered interest would make Bella less self-pitying about how loathed and unpopular she is, but one would be wrong.
[QUOTE]Gym was brutal. We'd moved on to basketball. My team never passed me the ball, so that was good, but I fell down a lot. Sometimes I took people with me.[/QUOTE]
This continues to be the most disturbing thing about the book. On one level the initial image of Bella looking at herself in the mirror wasn't that bad--one could accept that as a self-assessment it's not untypical for many teenage girls, the cultural norm for being too harsh in judging themselves. However, the story makes it deeply problematic by backing up everything she said in her later behavior--she actually is so clumsy that even moving across the court without a basketball she's unable to stop injuring herself and others.
-Eric reappears out of the aether to also express interest in Bella and the upcoming dance. She says no. He vanishes again. That serves to emphasize how pointless he is as a character, just serving to echo a sentiment that's already happened. The effect is the opposite of which was presumably intended--it serves to make me less sympathetic to Bella. As currently portrayed there are people who like her, romantically and non, but she holds out all of her attention for the beautiful guy that acts cold and hostile. That's a romantic fantasy at once self-entitled and self-effacing.
-And then Tyler, the one who almost crushed her with his car last chapter, also asks her to the upcoming dance. So, calling this arrangement a love triangle was a bit of an understatement. And I know from things I've heard online that someone named Jacob is going to show up at some point to play a similar foil. And also to be a werewolf. Spoilers.
-Page 81. Edward shows up again, using his super speed to rush in and when challenged about that replying "Bella, it's not my fault if you are exceptionally unobservant." That's really not very encouraging. So they talk a bit, Edward invites her to ride with him to Seattle while continually laughing at her, mentioning in veiled terms how dangerous he is and continuing to attract her with his intensity. I'm not exactly liking the way this is developing.
Although I'll admit I found the rational for carpooling sort of amusing: "The wasting of finite resources is everyone's business." The environmental justification comes out of nowhere and attaching a socially conscious collective sentiment to what's so heavily individual-centered romantic melodrama is kind of a fun juxtaposition.
Chapter Five: Blood Type
-Bella worries because Mike doesn't sit by her in class, but then is met by the door "so I figured I wasn't totally unforgiven." Awkward double negative in there. More broadly while it would normally be nice to see Bella give some attention to someone that's not Edward, the assumption that she would need to be forgiven for turning down a request to a date is rather possessive and creepy. I'm sensing this is how romance and gender relations are structured across the book, not just with Edward.
[QUOTE]It was hard to believe that someone so beautiful could be real. I was afraid that he might disappear in a sudden puff of smoke, and I would wake up.[/QUOTE]
It's kind of interesting that the story keeps reinforcing the unbelievability of its main conceit in this way. It's dwelling on the main issue that the reader has to have suspension of disbelief on, and maintaining it as a fairly generic type of beauty that's impossible to actually visualize. At this point I think it's a deliberate strategy, a way to bring in imagination and romanticization of the reader.
-This moment launches another Bella-Edward scene, in the lunchroom. He continues to mention how dangerous he is, and how she's stupid for wanting to be around him. Beyond the disturbing context of this conversation it's redundant with earlier ones in the plot--it could have been folded into that one or cut entirely.
-I note that in speculating about Edward's character Bella references Spiderman and Edward Superman. I'm hoping this sets up some long passionate argument later with them respectively debating the merits of Marvel as against DC, although I don't think that's where this trend is going. I do wonder at this point how much the novel is aimed at people that already have some contact with genre ideas and how much amateurs. Of course Spider and Superman are the types of things that are pretty well distributed into the larger culture and I'd assume to be recognizable but I seem to recall some ambiguous passages earlier on.
-The science class requires everyone to take blood samples of themselves to determine blood type in preparation for the impending blood drive. Seems really unlikely and a contrived manner to transition into the whole vampire thing. Bella then faints at the sight of blood, Edward comes up and laughs at her for it. You know, it would take so little effort for Edward to not come across as an asshole here. I suppose we could be charitable and assume that, in addition to explicit warnings, he's also trying to act like a jerk to increase the distance with Bella for her own safety. That doesn't track with his increasing number of encounters with her, however. As well this story is from Bella's point of view, and the continuing attraction she has says more about her than anything. And it's sort of disquieting--either she's ignoring everything except Edward's beauty or the callous way he acts is also part of the appeal.
-Page 103, Edward pulls Bella by the jacket into his car, threatening her several times. She relaxes and chats with him a bit once she recognizes the music playing. Similarly, there's Edward's casual assertion that he'll send Alice around to bring her truck back. The assumption is that women are to be commanded and controlled.
[QUOTE]"Don't be offended, but you seem to be one of those people who just attract accidents like a magnet. So..try not to fall into the ocean or get run over or anything, all right?" He smiled crookedly. [/QUOTE]
Yes, that largely sums it up.
Chapter Six: Scary Stories.
-A visit to the La Push beaches. Wait, wasn't that announced for two weeks in the future over a month ago? Did they delay it or something or do I have the timeline wrong?
-Enter Jacob Black, page 119. Ah, so he was the son of the person Charlie bought the truck from? I suppose if we're going to have another major character it's better to have some kind of connection in a small town rather than them just popping out of nowhere.
[QUOTE]His skin was beautiful, silky and russet-colored; his eyes were dark, set deep above the high planes of his cheekbones. He still had just a hint of a childish roundness left around his chin.[/QUOTE]
None of the these elements are too ineffable in themselves, but add them together and it doesn't seem like a face.
-I gather from larger knowledge of the series that Jacob forms the other side with Bella-Edward of the true love triangle of the series, the ultimate and transcendent love triangle before which all the Eric/Mike/Tyler stuff is shown to have been just training wheels for the serious relationship melodrama.
-First impressions: the story tries to hard and tells overly about how intelligent and funny we're supposed to find Jacob. Still, his dialog feels more authentic than Edward's and is a lot more grounded in daily components of life--ages, building a car, details on what mutual acquaintances are up to. It works both to tie him to the real world and gives him a more unique and distinguishable personality. He also has a sense of humor that doesn't revolve around sneering at Bella and lets her in on the joke. A breath of fresh air in several ways.
-I'm also predisposed to like him because he actually explains the wider setting and the grounding for the plot, doing more necessary exposition in a few minutes than Edward provided in months after using his superspeed overtly. That backstory is as follows: many legends, but the accurate one is a conflict between werewolves and their descendants and the cold ones. The Cullens were vampires aka cold ones granted special disposition because they were more civilized, refraining from hunting humans. The Cullens being immortal have remained the same people with a couple new editions. As backstories go, so far this one isn't bad. Combining mythologies of vampires and werewolves as rivals with some exceptions is fairly unique, and a group of vampires that decide to stop hunting humans to draw less hostility on themselves actually makes a fair bit of sense. There needs to be a lot more detail on fleshing all this out, of course, I'll be pissed if the preceding is all the explanation given for an urban fantasy this size.
Chapter Seven: Nightmare
-Bella's dream of Edward as a vampire and a wolf. Mike also features, poor schmucks Eric and Tyler don't get to feature even in Bella's subconscious any more.
-Bella does a web search for vampire.
[QUOTE]I turned to my computer. Naturally, the screen was covered in popup adds. I sat in my hard folding chair and began closing all the little windows. Eventually I made it to my favorite search engine.[/QUOTE]
Apparently Bella has lousy spam subtract software and blocking. Also, "my favorite search engine"? In 2005? Not just Google? This description appears rather distant from the actual daily use of the Internet.
-Ironically do a google search for vampire now and the first result involves the latest Twilight-verse novel. The book's success has been enough to change the mundane minor conditions described as part of the book. This element is part of how Twilight's cultural success has to be taken stock of. It makes everything meta.
-Anyway, Bella looks through vampire stuff and finds only one minor mythological reference to good vampires, somehow managing to not see any of the Anita Blake or Buffy stuff. She then wanders into the forest and thinks about Edward's possible vampirism for awhile, thnking about just avoiding him:
[QUOTE] Iwas gripped in a sudden agony of despair as I considered that alternative. My mind rejected the pain, quickly skipping on to the next option [/QUOTE]
This instinctive reaction and decision not to think about avoiding the bloodrinking supeerhuman that both Edward and Jacob at this point have confirmed is in continual danger of losing control--that's Bella's character for us in a nutshell. It's not just character defect, though, it's the way she stands in as a Reader Avatar. After all we basically all know even without Twilight's success what kind of book this one is, and presumably most of us aren't in this as a project of cultural deconstruction. For the story to proceed on, to grapple with the actuality of Edward is a necessity. The form of the genre insures that Bella can't do the sensible thing and break off all contact forever.
-On page 140 of my copy, after Bella settles on the decision to keep things going because she ultimately cares about Edward, someone has written in marginalia "Cheesy. Off the heezy." What better demonstration can there be of the fluidity of reading encounters, the way the text is mediated by outside context? Flipping through it doesn't seem there is any other marginalia in this library copy, more's the pity.
-In Bella's reflection on her father we learn that he's a burned out ex-romantic, slowly fading in vibracy and engagement. "but when he smiled I could see a little of the man who had run away with Renee when she was jsut two years older than I was now."
That actually explains a whole lot about Bella and her family background.
-It appears that Bella's essay that she's mostly finished with is "Whether Shakespeare's treatment of the female character is misogynistic." Page 143. Given what this book has and the issues that most reviews of Twilight have brought up, it's extremely interesting to see a character like Bella actually bring up the question of weighing an author's writing for misogyny. It has no follow through, of course, and given the book's somewhat lackluster approach to showing schooling I doubt there'll ever be any detail on this topic, but the mention of this topic suggests Twilight is somewhat aware of the issues it raises. That might easily make it worse, mind you.
-In the context of explaining he was helping her friends find dresses "I wouldn't have had to explain this to a woman." The essentialized gender distinction rings loud and clear.
Chapter Eight: Port Angeles
-Bella, Jessica and Angela go out to try on dresses. It's all in relation to attracting men, of course, but despite that is one of the nicer moments--it feels comparatively natural and relaxed to the usual pace.
-Bella gets chased by four men trying presumably to assault her. Considering the text's continual adoration of the Cullens and the wealth and beauty they have, it seems significant that the account emphasizes their grimy clothes, and it's an area of the city with warehouses. Basic class paranoia here, and the way that Bella is immediately suspicious of them as opposed to how she generally reacts to Edward.
On the actual incident, Edward appears out of nowhere and rescues her, of course.
-Edward and Bella go out to a restaurant, the waitress there ignores Bella and keeps trying to flirt with Edward. That scene and the interactions really remind me of Thomas Raith and his reaction on people, apparently some kinds of archetype are pretty similarly marked.
-Bella speaks: "I've always been very good at repressing unpleasant things." Now that's a very interesting character trait to self-define as. It was hinted at several points already, most strikingly when she just shut down her whole worry about hanging out a vampire.
-More conversation between Edward and Bella with direct romance and threats, and some half-direct statements about Edward's abilities. His dialog implies Bella's freakish attracting of danger might actually be significant metaphysically and in terms of the plot.
Chapter Nine: Theory
-Direct disclosure of Edward's telepathy, and that it's unique to him among the clan. He can't read Bella's thoughts because her mind works on a different frequency somehow. As well, vampires aren't burned by the sun, don't sleep at all. And his clan abstains from human blood, although they're continually tempted by it.
[QUOTE]"I decided it didn't matter," I whispered.
"It didn't matter? His tone made me look up-I had finally borken through his carefully composed mask. His face was incredulous..."A hard mocking edge entered his voice. "You don't care if I'm a monster? If I'm not [I]human[/I]?"
Honestly after the buildup it's somewhat of a relief to see Edward consider Bella's attitude towards romance sublimating self-protection as completely insane. However it's somewhat undermined by Bella continuing to insist on a romance, and the whole template being laid for the series in Edward continuing to need to work to keep Bella alive. It lays a whole dependency angle to the whole thing that's ultimately as problematic as the whole predator of the night thing.
-Bella's closing narration helpfully sums up the whole series:
[QUOTE]First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him--and I didn't know how potent that part might be--that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.[/QUOTE]
The formula of vampire romance isn't a terrible one in itself. That's part of the problem with a lot of hype against Twilight--it dismisses the whole premise of any worthwhile storytelling in a teen vampire romance and then, not surprisingly, finds a lot fatally wrong in the course of the book. While it touches on some major issues and problematic subtext (the eroticization of the vampire attacks which goes back at least to Dracula) it can be done effectively. Twilight isn't because it makes Bella so totally devoted to Edward, effacing most of her own defining characteristics to focus in on her. As well the way this "developing romance" has been presented to date has been four fifths Edward being cold, mocking or directly menacing. It seems to be a love story not entered into above and beyond the possibility of the man brutally murdering the woman but it's a love story where the strength and beauty that are the whole appeal are directly linked to the danger.
-On a more direct plot level, it seems that everything in the last two chapters could have been introduced much earlier, soon after the car crash incident. Beyond padding and slowly building some of Bella's circle of friends, crushes and antagonists it doesn't seem to offer much purpose.
Chapter 10: Interrogations
-From the Roswell comparison earlier I had this image of Edward being tortured by the FBI like Max Evans was in late S1. It would be kind of out of left field, but I sort of liked the Roswell shift from intense teenage melodrama with some of the people happening to be aliens to direct life and death confrontation with psychotic authority figures. It does sort of reinforce how Twilight doesn't factor in the external world at all, pretty much all plot stimulus comes from the magic side. That's something I've always been puzzled about for some urban fantasies, that aren't actually about intersections between the modern and magic worlds. Harry Potter was basically about the escape from modern society into a self-contained alternate magical worlds. As well, I recently read Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue/A Local Habitation, which had the characters immersed the modern environment of gritty San Francisco--yet every single character was a full fae or hybrid, and there was no interaction with actual full humans. It makes for a different template for fantasy then it seems to present on the label.
-Anyway, the actual story. Bella opens by considering if the previous events were a dream. She does this sort of thing a lot, I'll return to this concept later in the context of reflecting on the text's relation to the Edward/Bella relationship.
-Edward is still as asshole, insisting that Bella really is extremely delicate, and rebuking her for making it hard to tell what she's thinking. There's an assumption of control here both for use and protection that reinforces all the problems in their interactions.
-Bella turns in a paper for English. It's unnamed at this point, but if I'm tracking correctly this would be the one assessing misogyny in Shakespeare's works (or maybe just in Macbeth, the descriptions are unclear). Ironic.
-Bella and Jessica chat a bit about her situation with Edward, page 204.
[QUOTE]"I do have some trouble with incoherency when I'm around him," I admitted.
"Oh well. He is unbelievably gorgeous." Jessica shrugged as if this excused any flaws. Which, in her book, it probably did.
In [I]her[/I] book? This passage is perhaps the most glaring hypocrisy in the text to date, and a hypocrisy that runs to a core of the book. Bella was basically impressed by Edward's looks, everything about how he drew her in despite his personality was related to his transcendent beauty, and we've seen how she respects beautiful people (Edward and to a lesser extent Jacob) vastly more than average guys like Mike and massively more than people with acne like Eric (who seems to have been MIA for quite awhile now). And yet, it's crucial to the whole format of the story that Bella not see herself, and the audience not see her, as being shallow. So we have Jessica's viewpoint dismissed as taking Edward's beauty over anything else, while just recently we had Bella so awed by his beauty that she continued on despite the expressed danger of being murdered by him. Bella will constantly berate herself and express self-loathing about different aspects of her life, but the flat out most problematic thing about her--her disregard of her own safety and life in pursuit of a visually appealing talker--apparently gets a pass in the name of being a virtue. Here is the basic disconnect at the core of the book, why Bella's point of view on Edward is fundamentally unhealthy.
And then page 208 we have an encapsulation of how the relationship is twisted in regards to Edward's motivation.
[QUOTE]"I warned you I would be listening."
"And I warned you that you didn't want to know everything I was thinking."
"You did," he agreed, but his voice was still rough. You aren't precisely right, though. I do want to know what you're thinking--everything."[/QUOTE]
Consider that what first drew Edward to Bella was her immunity to his psychic scanning. And he has a desire to overcome that metaphysical limitation and find out everything she's thinking. There's a discomforting text here--attracted by resistance yet seeking to overcome it, desire to know all and in the process controlling all. Eavesdropping considered as a right is the logical outcome of this stance.
-Pages later, Edward describes how special and extraordinary Bella is. This attitude has to speak to the idealized model of romance being done here, telling everyone whose felt out of place that they are actually transcendent, unique, and can be valued above all else. Here's part of the disquiet of Twilight, especially following the above. I don't see the creepy relationship context as something that can be detached from the whole story, it's the basis of the appeal. The idea of a relationship that runs across all bounds and restraints, that shows the man recognizing no limits on privacy and focusing on control. That shows the woman as so invested in love that she repeatedly spurs warnings on her own self-interest. That's part of the fantasy, the type of secular religion being offered here. I think it's deliberate that the relationship has disturbing components, shown to reinforce how the sheer transcendent specialness of Edward and Bella transform everything that should keep them apart. What makes the book somewhat unique is that it's not at all the standard teen melodrama in this regard. It's not about external circumstances as a barrier. Even the love triangle stuff doesn't as of yet have much dramatic force. The main pressures against happy heterosexual union comes from within the characters themselves, specifically the danger of murdering and being murdered. It's a fairly good embodiment of the teenage romantic self-absorption--and the whole concept of love as a two person thing isolated from the world and done in defiance of all rationality. The notion of love as being insane, transcending normal standards and basic comparison. To that extent the core of the book is going to work insofar as one accepts that paradigm for love, or demonstrates some basically problematic conceptions is passion as total and isolating.
-Edward describes his hunting of bears and mountain lions. Predatory analogies becomes more explicit.
Chapter 11: Complications
-Bella playing tennis.
[QUOTE]I somehow managed to hit myself in the head with my racket and clip Mike's shoulder on the same swing.[/QUOTE]
-Normally at this point I'd ask why the story hates its Reader Avatar protagonist so much, but it actually follows pretty logically from the larger role of the story. Bella is there to be pathetic and incapable in her own life so it builds the inherent appeal of a supernatural protector that's totally devoted to her. It's not really insulting the reader who identifies with Bella by making her so clumsy, as it's offering them a fantasy of failure and then vindication.
-Lots of back and forth with Charlie concerting the drive up to Seattle, having him feature more in the story than he has for a long time.
-Billy and Jacob renter the narrative.
Chapter 12: Balancing
-Again in contrast Jacob seems much more friendly, non-menacing and grounded in realworld detail than Edward. On a direct story level this encounter seems like a detour, however.
-Edward again flat out states the concern that being alone with Bella will lead to him killing her.
[QUOTE]I realized slowly that his words should frighten me. I waited for that fear to come, but all I could seem to feel was an ache for his pain.[/QUOTE]
One of the interesting things about Twilight is how strongly it appears to build the case against it. It's not like there's a huge amount of work necessary to mine the text for creepy sentiments and issues, instead the novel keeps drawing attention to the disconnect at the heart of the relationship. One could almost at this point of the book believe all the emphasis is a deliberate subversion of the romantic cliches--that at the end the relationship will be shown to be a mistake, Edward's beauty not enough in itself to counteract his disturbing behavior and Bella's equally disturbing reaction to that. It's pretty clear that's not in the cards, and even without wider culture hype I wouldn't expect that from the story to date. It does seem to have built up the case for the anti-Twilight fervor rather effectively though, and continues to emphasize precisely those aspects that one would think would be quickly glossed over.
-More dialog relating to the preparations for the Seattle trip. I realize this is setup for a significant development in the book's terms, but it is still rather excessive and unnecessary. Given this book was before the cultural success one would think there were be stronger editorial presence. The ideal reader at this point is breathlessly waiting on the next Edward/Bella scene, right? By that standard what does all the back and forth about the truck really add?
-They go on the trip finally, go over to a forest trail, and in a dramatic chapter cliffhanger Edward "stepped out into the bright glow of the midday sun." There is actual meta-suspense at this point, as I can anticipate that one of Twilight's most infamous and easily most mocked elements of vampire mythology is about to come to the fore.
Chapter 13: Confessions
[QUOTE]Edward in the sunlight was shocking. I couldn't get used to it, though I'd been staring at him all afternoon. His skin, white despite the faint flush from yesterday's hunting trip, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface. He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare.[/QUOTE]
This is the part that everyone has heard about. We have achieved the point of sparkly vampires. In retrospect it would have been better if this scene wasn't setup as a major dramatic and aesthetic impression, I can't visualize this scene in a way that's not ridiculous.
-Edward shows off his speed and strength, Bella reflects that he's never been less human...or more beautiful.
-Edward also describes different levels of temptation to kill and drink humans.
[QUOTE]"So what you're saying is, I'm your brand of heroin?" I teased, trying to lighten the mood.
He smiled swiftly, seeming to appreciate my effort.
"Yes, you are [I]exactly[/I] my brand of heroin."[/QUOTE]
And of course this particular draw to consume her is the basis for Edward's whole romantic and sexual attraction towards Bella. Just as Edward's general menace, and later capacity and urge to kill her make him more appealing to her. The creepiness in this setup largely speaks for itself, and it's just an intensification of what I said on chapter 10--it's a core element of a certain formula, and a lot of people have bought into it emotionally and financially.
-Some interesting hints about Edward's family and their different temperaments and capabilities.
-And then back to the main issue at the core of this novel.
[QUOTE]He closed his eyes, lost in his agonized confession. I listened, more eager than rational. Common sense told me I should be terrified. Instead, I was relieved to finally understand. And I was filled with compassion for his suffering, even now, as he confessed his craving to take my life.[/QUOTE]
Late in S2 of [I]Dexter[/I] there's a moment reminiscent of this in some ways. Lilah, the ex-girlfriend of the titular serial killer has been tracking his movements, and comes across someone locked up in a cage. She's rather puzzled by this, and moves to let him out, when he mentions that he's a cop and that Dexter put him in there, because he's the serial killer Miami has been focusing on for months. Lilah stops short and is struck by a moment of incredible compassion and empathy, the cop says he's not in such a bad shape. Lilah corrects him, she wasn't feeling sorry for him, all her feelings are for Dexter, finding out how much inner darkness he had only deepens her feelings for him. This moment is the point of the series where Lilah becomes confirmed as a full on psychopath, she kills the cop immediately after, and sets herself up as a general menace to society, such that Dexter can without qualms kill her off. I prefer that take on this type of attitude.
-There's another reason to draw in the parallel between Dexter and Twilight. Melissa Rosenberg was a writer and co-executive producer for the former, and the main writer behind all the films of the later. To me, this common link to dissimlar products and dissimilar levels of quality show that the promoting machine know what they're doing, who they're writing for, and the commerical success of the films is not a mistake, or unconnected with things that a lot of reviewers have found frustrating. The machine of commerce works, on its own logic. How much of that is present in deliberate intention for the underlying novel is a separate question, but I'd say it's a lot.
-Edward also recaps earlier scenes from his point of view, including at one time his strong urge to kill the receptionist and then drink up Bella. Bella has a moment of compassion and concern for the receptionist, but no equivalent reaction to the possibility that she was nearly killed. This attitudes manages to be at once entirely selfish while having no concern for her own continued existence. It's not like if Edward killed her it would be an effective, if perverse, sacrifice to her love--by everything the story has said so far he'd feel horrible about it, it wouldn't be a net gain. If we accept the (itself deeply sexist) notion that Bella herself is a unique temptation, the best thing she could do for both of them is to maintain a wide distance. As opposed to, you know, dating him.
-The superspeed run through the forest, the kiss. The story seems to be hitting the proper buttons for pre-sexual attraction of a teenager for a beautiful superhuman.
Chapter 14: Mind Over Matter
-Edward's backstory, born in 1901, dying in 1918 of the Spanish influenza. Description of Carlisle and the process of bringing him and other individuals into the vampire clan. Fairly interesting setup, particularly in Alice and Jasper developing a conscience separately and finding them out.
-The notion of distinct superpowers for specific vampire individuals (Edward telepathy, Alice precognition) seems unique from most vampire mythologies I've enocuntered. It's not entirely satisfying though--it seems like a doubling of suspension of disbelief, much like with the X-men or Heroes. Okay, the main premise of the series is a basically magical gene that allows weird effects. Now this magical gene creates effects of massively different character for no readily explored reason. By not connecting the powers to any defined magical system (at least at this point) and insisting they're just a side-effect of being a vampire, a natural instinct, the book seems to waver in its own coherence. I'm also wary about Alice, while the hints of her lifestory at this point are quite interesting precognition is very hard to pull off effectively, more often than not it turns the precog into a huge plot device that doesn't make sense in retrospect.
-In the end there's more direct speculation, it seems the Cullens' don't know their own mythological backstory or mechanism behind themselves, all they have are some general guesses. At a point this item feels like an evasion--reminiscent of the whole Lost non-answering 'Oh, it turns out that the shadowy mysterious Others and Dharma Initiative don't know the real answers either'. On the other hand relative to the story and direct situation we've probably been given enough background for the moment, and there's something kind of intriguing about vampires that don't have a huge defined scripture or explanation of themselves, that can be agnostic about whether they're a product of evolution or something more mystical.
-Then there's the other famous scene from Twilight now--Edward describes, with basic glee and to Bella's only mild annoyance, how each night he came into her room, spied on her and listened to her talking in her sleep. I wish I could say I was surprised, but the moment follows pretty directly from the buildup of the relationship--Edward despite initially being a normal human, knowing people's thoughts and trying to be inconspicuous for a hundred years has zero conception of or respect for people's privacy. When faced with this disclosure, Bella is embarrassed for what Edward might have heard, rather than creeped out by the stalking behavior. I wish I could say that this is the most dysfunctional relationship I've ever read about that's presented as appealing, but it isn't. It does deserve to be condemned, however.
Chapter 15: The Cullens
-More back and froth from Bella and Edward. They visit the Cullen house.
[QUOTE]The house was timeless, graceful, and probably a hundred years old.[/QUOTE]
Four years younger than Edward, in that case. Connection of glamor and wealth comes across fairly clearly in the description of the appeal.
-Seeing Esme, the last of the Cullen family Bella hasn't yet seen. "Something about her heart-shaped face, her billows of soft, caramel-colored hair, reminded me of the ingenues of the silent movie era." Again, aesthetics deriving from media culture, and an explicit description that emphasizes the unreal aspects of vampire beauty.
-Alice is friendly to Bella on sight. Edward composes and plays piano music. Rosalie is jealous of Bella because she'd like to be human. Esme is a bit B/E shipper.
[QUOTE]"Nothing's wrong, exactly. Alice just sees some visitors coming soon. They know we're here, and they're curious."
"Yes...well, they aren't liek us, of course--in their hunting habits, I mean. They probably won't come into town at all, but I'm certainly not going to let you out of my sight till they're gone."
"Finally, a rational response!" he murmured. "I was beginning to think you had no sense of self-preservation at all." [/QUOTE]
It's disconcerting to find myself in full agreement with Edward. Again, it's not surprising to come to Twilight after all the discussion and see that it shows Bella to be disturbingly singleminded in focusing on Edward and willfully overlooking all danger. It is surprising that the book lampshades this element so strongly.
This quote also indicates something like real tension that doesn't involve a random car accident or equally random lower-class rapists. From these lines it seems that the Cullens are just going to schmooze with the other vampires for awhile--there's an interest in keeping Bella safe but apparently not confronting the other vampires and stopping them from murdering random people now and for generations to come.
-Carlisle is apparently 362 years old, from London, born to common folk. He was an active inquisitor type under the service of his father, helping hunt down vampires. In this process, he was attacked and turned. See, that is an interesting backstory, particularly as put against the current persona of the effective, bellow his payscale country doctor.
Chapter 16: Carlisle
-More background exposition. After being turned, Carlisle tried to kill himself but found himself unable to do it, either by drowning or jumping off great heights. Yeah, WyldCard hasn't been exaggerating their feats in vs debates. In the context of the background this makes sense--if vampires weren't physically durable and quick it's harder to accept that they wouldn't have gotten wiped out long ago. And, ironically, the fact that the common vampiric folklore on weaknesses--garlic, sunlight, stakes, crosses--is unconnected to the reality of vampires is a more realistic approach than the common one for vampires. Contrast with the whole Dresden Files approach to worldbuilding, or that of Lovecraft--all myths everywhere are largely true, extraordinary stories could not have existed unless inspired by extraodinary beings, so mix lots of myths together, stir, and you have the underlying reality. In contrast, the notion that vampires would be very different from the forms circulating in the last few hundred years makes sense, particularly in the underlying notion of people dealing with a supernatural threat by comforting themselves with some basic weaknesses and artifacts that can repel them.
-So, anyway, three hundred and forty years ago or whenver Carlisle stumbled on the whole "vegetarian" option of not eatng humans, developed a philosophy of saving human lives and the medical knowledge to do it, perfecting his self-control to the extent of being able to work in a hospital. He went with some refined but still predatory humans, he tried to talk them out of eating humans, they tried to talk him into it, things were left at a general impasse. Eventually he separated and made his way to North America, where he recruited new vampires starting with someone already orphaned and dying.
This is all very interesting. Clearly the novel should have been about Carlisle.
-Edward describes a period of youthful rebellion where he followed a very Dexter-like path: gratifying his darker urges by killing only evil men, using telepathy to identify the guilty, indulging his hunger in a way that saved lives.
-Edward and Bella flirt for a bit amidst him lunge at her and restrain her. Again, creepy.
[QUOTE]"You will be watching," Edward clarified. "We will be playing baseball."
I rolled my eyes. "Vampires like baseball?"
"It's the American pastime," he said with mock solemnity.[/QUOTE]
That seems to come out of nowhere. Works in story, though, I think, as a setup with a precog talking about a story and then suddenly moving into baseball, it's surreal enough to be engaging.
-While this chapter had the requisite seen of increasing the level of proprietary menace that Edward shows, in was probably the most engaging and interesting of the book thus far. There is some effective use of heavy exposition by way of storytelling, and having both Edward and Bella be briefly interested in and impressed by something besides each other works. One hundred and fifty pages remaining for the book.
Chapter 17: The Game
-Billy shows up and warns Bella in foreceful but vague terms about associating with the Cullens. Doesn't really seem to advance things very much, and it could have built up more detail on the werewolf-vampire things. Jacob is present for a bit as well, and does nothing.
-Jessica gushes about Mike kissing her. I wonder if she thinks she's the center of the story. Of course her whole thing here is intended to be boring compared with the dreamy vampire romantic danger, but by all indications it's a more stable and less menacing relationship even if Mike is still overwhelmingly interested in Bella.
-Bella tells Charlie about Edward. Writing the sentence out makes it seem like a a high school word problem for math, we just need an Amy and Daniel in to complete the set and calculate money transfer or train times.
-After Edward comes by to pick her up, Charlie asks him to make sure she's safe, all wacky textual doublemeanings. Edwards promises he will. Bella stalks out, and Edward and Charlie both laugh together for a moment before Edward follows. Creepy little moment there, not in the usual way of suggestion of physical violence, but in showing Edward and Charlie as basically on the same page with regards to Bella for a moment. It gives an even more patriarchal vibe to the larger relationship.
-Esme talks with Bella and casually mentioned how her child died, and that was why she jumped off a cliff in her first life. Women's priorities always come down to men or maternity in this series, don't they?
-Baseball played at superspeed. It doesn't seem like it would actually be as much fun to watch as Bella appears to believe.
-Alice senses the other vampires coming in sooner than anticipated. Apparently they love the idea of vampiric baseball as much as the Cullens do.
Chapter 18: The Hunt
-The other vampires show up. Bella's first impressions are that they're far more catlike, physical and sinister. Also beautiful, but hardly in the transcendent terms used for Edward and his siblings. How convenient that the bad guys in this universe are easily distinguishable as more sinister, while the most gorgeous people around all those rare vampires that have dedicated restraint in not feasting on humans. This format is pretty pathetic, and is less sophisticated than YA books and fairy tales for ages--the visually stunning stranger is often the most dangerous ones, evil having a seductive face and all that. Isn't that what the whole Christian mythology on Lucifer is? Most beautiful of all the angels, and so forth?
-The newcomers are Laurent, Victoria and James, They don't really have any personality--nothing in their dialog or stances suggests long established character beyond the generic. The threat they pose is pretty well conveyed, though, how quickly everyone starts talking about the need to flee completely, get Bella completely out of town, prevent picking up the scent, etc.
-Not sure why Alice is against killing them, looking for other options even though they outnumber them. I suppose the dynamics of the situation, as seems to have been implied, are that the vegetarian vamps are a tiny minority, tolerated at presents but seen as somewhat weird. If they started killing more sociopathic brethren they'd be viewed as going rapid, and would be hunted down. If that's the calculation so be it, but there should still be some recognition of the fact that leaving unrestrained vampires around means that innocent people will die, people beyond Bella.
Chapter 19: Goodbyes
-The fake fight with her father to mislead the rival vamps, driving away.
-Edward describes the psychology of James, the hunter:
[QUOTE]"If you didn't smell so appallingly luscious, he might not have bothered. But when I defended you...well, that made it a lot worse. He's not use to being thwarted, no matter how insignificant the object. He thinks of himself as a hunter and nothing else. His existence is consumed with tracking, and a challenge is all he asks of life. Suddenly we've presented him with a beautiful challenge--a large clan of strong fighters all bent on protecting the one vulnerable element. You wouldn't believe how euphoric he is now. It's his favorite game, and we've just made it into his most exciting game ever."[/QUOTE]
That's a fairly credible presentation for a creepy adversary, particularly considering how much more physically capable vampires are to humans. It's also striking that the single-minded psychology described here is quite similar to Edward, except with the aim for homicide rather than romance. That underscores how creepy the main relationship is of this book. Edward is similar to James except that he's trying not to kill Bella, and that's nowhere near enough to not make him demented-creepy.
-Apparently the only way to be sure of killing a vampire is tearing it to shreds and then burning the pieces.
-Alice is the first of the vampires to ask permission before lifting Bella and speed running somewhere. Bella's response to that is wry amusement.
Chapter 20: Impatience
-Flight for awhile.
-Alice admits that the range of vampire abilities is superfluous, more weapons than are reasonably required. Including a paralyzing venom which if bitten and then left unchecked eventually changes humans into vampires in an agonizing fashion.
-Mention again of Alice's total amnesia of being human.
-Alice has another vision of James, things shifted so that he was waiting at a ballet room. Some intresting stuff of tracking James, trying to pin him down in or en route to Phoenix.
Chapter 21: Phone Call
-Alice has a vision of Bella's mother's house. The mother calls, sounding panicked, then James takes over and in an agreeable, generic voice directs her on what to say to not tip off the others, directing her step by step on how to get away to prevent harm to her mother.
-It's actually a pretty tense situation set up. The threat to a relative by phone, the combination of explicit superhuman violence, intelligent planning and a polite form of direction to that end make for a fairly strong development. This book is a lot better as a horror and thriller than as a romantic melodrama.
Chapter 22: Hide and Seek
-Bella shows more adaptability than she's done before to outmaneuver a precognitive vampire and another protector in order to get away and be killed by a homicidal vampire. There's the usual shtick from a lot of suspense thrillers of not telling allies the full situation to come up with a less suicidal plan, but as always would you really be prepared to gamble with the fate of a loved one? Here I'd say the interior logic for the setup and the momentum of the event works fairly well.
-James took the precaution of moving the mother to the nearby ballet studio and leaving a number, to prevent himself getting stormed in the house. And then in transpires that he never had her hostage, he just used a video tap of her saying "Bella, Bella" in a panicked tone to draw her in. Well, it has the unfortunate effect of making Bella's previous decision the wholly wrong one--but it's a clever enough trick, and again I'll give the story that for the interest of momentum.
-James monologues his planning up to this point to the human he's about to kill for no reason except to fill in the readers. So typical.
-James turns on a video recorder to show his somewhat drawn out taunting and killing. This part works better--it fits his intention of getting a more thrilling hunt by ensuring that Edward will come after him, and makes an intelligent if basically insane sense. He also explains his role in Alice's mysterious backstory--she was previously the Bella to someone else's Edward, made into a vampire as part of protection. Eh, that seems a bit too neat a coincidence.
-And we've now caught up to the preface, after only four hundred and fifty pages. I will say that the description for the past while hasn't been as much of a problem as earlier--it's certainly still bad prose, but it no longer interferes with the comprehension of what's happening as much.
Chapter 23: The Angel
[QUOTE]And then I knew I was dead.
Because, through the heavy water, I heard the sound of an angel calling my name, calling me to the only heaven I wanted.
"Oh no, Bella, no!" the angel's voice cried out in horror.[/QUOTE]
Heh. The story had been going fairly well with the last few chapters, but then Edward returns with a huge dose of Narm. I should probably analyze the implications of this explicit linking of teen romance to a transcendent religious force, or at least be creeped out by this level of devotion to Edward and his incessant predatory stance, but honestly I just want to laugh uproriously at how inappropriate these lines are in continuing a sentiment of menace, doom or horror. "'Oh no, Bella, no!' the angel's voice cried out in horror." Hilarity. Okay, granted Bella has a literal head injury at this point so messed up perception can be excused to a significant point, but it's just so cliched and jarring as a tone that it doesn't work.
-Bella writhes in pain as the only chance to prevent transformation is for Edward to suck out the venom. This standoff doesn't really work because:
1. I'm still laughing at the unintentional hilarity of Edward as a sad angel.
2. It's a point where the telling rather than showing of description really lets down the ability to feel akin to Bella's situation. "Other pains came, stronger pains" indeed.
3. I keep remembering the How it Should Have Ended for Twilight.
Part of the liability of seeing the parody before the original movie/book.
-Anyway, Edward sucks out the venom, problem solved, Bella sleeps. Kind of anticlimactic, particularly since the viewpoint character is either distracted by pain or losing consciousness at that point.
-Hmm, only one chapter left.
Chapter 24: An Impasse
-Seems like of an awkward chapter title for the end of the book.
-Edward told her mother that Bella's injuries were from falling down two flights of stairs and through a window. Really bad abusive boyfriend vibe just imagining that scene.
-So James got pulled away and killed by Emmett and Jasper off-stage? Kind of a weak finish. Really that whole plot arc should have been introduced earlier and definitely developed to a more satisfying conclusion.
-Bella's mother tries to caution her about Edward, Bella reflects this is the first time she's tried to be parental since she (Bella) was eight. Puts things a bit in context.
-Bella flat out asks Edward why he didn't let the venom change her.
[QUOTE]"I'll be the first to admit that I have no experience with relationships," I said. But it just seems logical...a man and woman have to be somewhat equal..as in, one of the them can't always be swooping in and saving the other one. They have to save each other equally."[/QUOTE]
Edward counters that he's not ready to have Bella throw her life away, she says her parents are already fairly unconnected. Both of them make some reasonable points, but and setting aside the days of pain thing the way they seem to, there's also creepy elements in both sides. For Bella, the total willingness to throw away everything about her life and other relationships outside of Edward. For Edward, precisely ensuring that there won't be equality in their relationship, that she'll never be able to save him, assuring a specific form of very looming dominance. And the ongoing prospect that he might kill her at any time he looses control. Besides, my inner transhumanist says they should just spread the venom in the water supply or something, transform all of humanity into supercapable immortals. Stops that whole danger of dying thing, plus nicely undercuts the problem of unrestrained vampires preying off humans.
Epilogue: An Occasion
-This title is also an awkward one for the end of the book.
-Alice is now dressing Bella in frilly dresses. Sure, let's run with that.
-Edward tells off Tyler, ending his extremely mild range of pursuing Bella. Seriously, have we seen him in the last two hundred pages? In any case it would be a romantic epilogue if we didn't have the boyfriend demonstrating a creepy possessive attitude towards the girlfriend.
-The prom ensues. Jacob reappears. His presence in this book is extremely fragmentary--it feels like nothing so much as a long-running television series that they can only get his actor for occasional guest star status. This time, again, Billy apparently sent his son to warn Bella to break up with Edward. I've been saying that since the beginning, Jacob. Honestly, this book has vastly less of the love triangle with him, Bella and Edward than I was anticipating. And whatever happened to Eric? Or, for that matter, James' partner in the hunt Victoria? I think she was never tracked out, and might have some interest in revenge on Bella and groups for the death of her clan-leader. At an a minimum there are a lot of non-vegetarian vampires out hunting people down, but there not in a wonderful love relationship like Bella and Edward are so they can just get slaughtered.
So, that's the novel. I'll writeup some general assessment on [I]Twilight[/I] soon, different aspects of the story, the popularity, the hatred and of course the whole gender angle. Before that I'll probably respond to some specific comments people have made in the last couple pages, as well as any other thoughts people might want to put down on my commentary not that the read is concluded. This manner of approach was about the most exhausting way to write up on a book--a lot of redundancy as I'd comment on an element in the book that appeared in minor form, then it appeared a chapter later with much greater force and needed it's own assessment. It does give a much different sense of reading and assessing a book in 'real time', though, and might be interesting to do with a book of higher quality. Maybe the next Culture series book as it comes out--that could be intriguing to approach in this way, especially given Banks' past effectiveness and more recent mediocre quality.
Assessing Twilight: The Writing
The basics here--is Twilight overall badly written, and if so to what extent? Core elements of assessment: prose, plot, characterization, genre elements. Any given novel can be weak in one or even two of these areas and carry through a strong work if they hit the other two effectively. Fail in all four areas and the book is aesthetically damned without hope of redemption. Twilight's prose is indeed bad--overwritten, gushing on description, oddly lacking in detail, and at some major points wrecking the drama for a given scene. It's not terrible, however, it carries the meaning across, isn't grotesquely slow, and allows a decent momentum across most scenes. It's the type of writing that is easy to laugh or sneer at if studying almost any given line for writing, but to be fair most people for most of the book aren't going to stop to look at the
Characterization is a thorough failure on multiple levels. Some of that is linked to the ideology of the piece, others to what has to be the intent to create blank space for the readers to juxtapose themselves, but at best that's context for the failure, not a mitigation of it. While there are decently framed personalities, vampire and non, they exist on a small minority, and the overwhelming majority of the book features Bella, and most of that features her having or wanting encounters with Edward. And this arc is not done effectively, creating blank slates to interact with eachother where there should be the most intensity. The lack of establishing detail of personalities is a crucial problem here.
Genre elements are fairly effective, in terms of this book doing what it situates itself to do. The main genre here is YA romance, so lots of physical attraction and awe at beauty without any actual sex. A lot of the commentary I've seen on this dichotomy tends to attribute it to Meyer's Mormonism, I think it's at least as plausible as a writing approach. It's about a very sentiment focused romance, beauty and touching without actually dealing with bodies terribly much, and seems the type of approach better suited to sex as an ideal rather than a practice. I understand Edward and Bella consummate their relationship post-marriage, I'd be interested to see how that compares.
In terms of other genre elements, the fantasy, this part goes over decently. As mentioned above, the material offered as to vampire origins and character are fairly coherent and make sense. That they're different from traditional forms of vampires is arguably a strength for the layout, and given the main focus as a romance it makes a great deal of sense that it takes this approach. As to this type of thing being a travesty of a vampire novel---well, it features a group of blood-drinking immortals with superhuman strength, speed and durability. They're vampires, and the book is under no inherent obligation to use them in particularly the way another genre subset would prefer.
So then the plot. I think my initial reaction on the length (huh, it's two hundred pages longer than I thought it was) was fairly direct--this work could have been a lot stronger if it had been condensed to that length. As is, it's quite padded, meanders in its main arc of Edward and Bella particularly. Still, it is a story. It's not a plotless as, say, Blindsight or Little Brother, and features an actual narrative of events happening and a timeline that works to propel characters along, albeit in a somewhat drifting fashion. The horror/thriller section works almost as a self-contained book with in the main book. It's a lot tighter and more urgent than the larger story of romance, and managed to work decently even though I didn't really care about Bella as a character or feel invested in her well being. That part doesn't redeem the main plot, however, since James' entry is far too late and unforeshadowed relative to the main story, and his actual existence along with threat is resolved very anticlimatically.
Overall Twilight is definitely a badly written book, with some persistent minor issuues that could have been tweaked and some fundamental defeacts that sink the main endeavor. Genre writers should and frequently have done better, same with YA writers and writers sans subdivsion. However it's not a terribly written book, and is by no means as badly written as I'd have been led to expect by much internet commentary, including multiple posts on the first page of this thread that suggested I was either a deviant for seeking out [I]Twilight[/I] or a minor hero for talking on the immense burden of subjecting myself to it. Neither is the case. It wasn't boring, it didn't lag through the work and it had numerous positive points along with major problems. It's not even the worst book I've read this year, offhand the one that comes to mind for that category is Rudy Rucker's novel [I]Hylozoic[/I], far more contrived and increasingly incoherent in its main story. So, I'd currently say that certainly Twilight's popularity is not reaching for the best, even among YA books, but in terms of direct writing it's not a harbinger of the cultural apocalypse.
Twilight: The Gender Angle
One of the benefits of looking at the bad treatment of something is a thorough job of critiquing something is you also have to formulate an ideal of a better system. Bring up problems with a book's writing and you have to, implicitly or explicitly, have a system for what one needs to accomplish to do such writing effectively. Talk about a sexist gender portrayal, as I'm now doing, and you have to have some criteria of how sexism is represented and what one can do to make it more feminist. Let's start with that. Giving Bella something to do beyond focus on Edward is fundamental. Making her have other relationships beyond the nominal. A romance should by no standard mean the woman care about nothing except the romantic partner, that's a sentiment born from desperation rather than genuine connection. Have Bella care about and have interest in her family, the other people she meets at Forks.
Also, for a non-misogynist Twilight, one would have to have Bella be attracted to Edward's good qualities as a romantic partner. Which would mean actually giving him some. As currently written he's gorgeous, superhuman, dangerous and obsessed with her. The first two are largely neutral qualities, the last are enough to reasonably veto the relationship up front.
Twilight is indeed sexist, and I'd argue for a moral imperative for people engaging in the text to be aware of and bring criticism on this element. However, there's two issues that often seem to get brought up in such an approach. First is arguing for Twilight as a single critical node of gender failure, that it's transcendently more flawed in its representation of women than everything else. This claim is untrue. Twilight's portrayal of stalking as love and menace as sexy is disturbing, but not nearly as much as, for instance:
-The preteen group sex at the end of Stephen King's It
-The representation of rape in Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago's Blindness. Specifically his equation with it as humiliating to the women rather than the perpetrators, going so far as to refer to husbands of the raped women as "cuckolds".
-Ira Levine's novel This Perfect Day, which features the male protagonist explicitly raping a woman to break brainwashing on her, and the two soon after marrying to a happy life together.
-Similarly, in Robert Heinlein's Friday there's the "strong capable female protagonist" being gang-raped by enemy agents early on, one of them was gentle about it. When he meets up with her near the end they link up, marry and live happily ever after.
-For more recent matters how about Rudy Rucker's Hylozoic again? A women in her thirties forcing sex on a fourteen year old autistic boy? Admiteadly done through alien drugs but still presented as fairly titilating, and gossiped about by characters after the fact in the same way.
-Piers Anthony's book And Eternity, or really most of the things he's written.
Twilight is not a single critical node of failure, and it should be seen as part of a larger culture, political system, economy and science fiction ethos that are themselves sexist. The solution isn't just sneering at Twilight as something in isolation, as damaging in itself. The answer is not just scuttling the whole vampire romance thing as uniquely problematic or the root of the problem for poor behavioral models of young women. We need better writing, promoting and reviewing of feminist materials and a level of critical scrutiny brought against misogynist texts. I'm not trying to be fanatical in this--for the major disturbing elements listed above I still consider It and This Perfect Day well written, effective and aesthetically admirable works. That doesn't mean they get a pass though, and there needs to be a culture of questioning and inquiry, to realize that we as a society do some terrible things to women and in the representation of them in fiction, and that it's possible to do better, and worth doing better.
The second issue with assessing the anti-feminist character of Twilight is a lot of the hatedom is itself rather sexist. Commentators that bash Stephenie Meyer as weak, stupid woman specifically often take of this tone, or the anger against Twilight as a stupid teen girl phenomenon. Assumptions of basically stupid women and femininity abound, on this forum among others, this whole mode of writing for romance being seen as a deficiency next to the really important non stupid things in life--like calculating firepower for different fictional universes and determining which would prevail in a crossover.
 Of course one could also try to fight the beast by making up stories of demented Twilight fans or assuming all of the problems are the fault of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, but I'm not terribly enamored of either approach.
 The relation of judging effective literary value as against gender issues is a complex one. I don't believe one should simply veto all books that show a disturbingly sexist message--goodbye all nineteenth century Russian literary classics--but I also don't believe in holding the gender issues as something unrelated to the story. Books should be available to wide readership access, and if there's fundamental grounds in the work for an entire gender to be represented poorly, then that's half the species effectively being bared. No solid rule for assessing such, but it depends partly how prominent the sexism is, how fundamentally it's tied to the main story, and how much else of wroth is going on. Suffice to say some works are still enjoyable despite a deeply problematic gender message, others are so flawed and focused enough that the issues with women put them over into the negative category, others are massively flawed such that the poor treatment of women is only one oft he problems, and even if done in a wholly egalitarian way I would probably still have detested the book (Hylozoic and Friday both fall into this category).