I Bowed To The Pressure

Yes, I bowed to the pressure, I did, I’m sorry, I’m a terrible person, how will you ever forgive me. Is that enough grovelling now? I bought Twilight, is what I did. I figured that if the entire female population of the Western world, bar literature students, is raving about this book, there must be a reason, yes?

It’s not actually too badly written. The plot is so far serious wish-fulfilment – the hero is beautiful, troubled, enigmatic, sarcastic, all the things a young girl could wish for in a man; and the heroine is a normal, average girl, of little self-esteem and in many ways if not all your average teenager, perfectly fitting in with and cold-reading exactly (as if that was a difficult thing to do) how it feels to be in school. So yes, wish fulfilment, and vampires. Personally I am (guiltily) enjoying it. What it does, it does well, and I know it’s not new or clever or interesting, doesn’t tell me any more about human nature or make me think in any way, but I’m enjoying it, so there.

I just thought I ought to see what all the fuss was about for myself before dissing it utterly. The red gilting on the page-edges is possibly a step too far, though…! My other (massively patronising) theory is this: kids younger than me, who were introduced to the idea of reading and enjoying actual books through Harry Potter, will then have progressed on to these books. From Twilight, perhaps they’ll move onto adult real literature with ideas and themes they can really get their teeth into and learn to actually love reading. I know this is hugely patronising, but for the sake of the book industry and because reading good things is good for you, I’ll patronise whoever I like: I think books like this are potentially A Good Thing if they have the effect of making people read because it’s enjoyable, so that people realise there is more to books than dissecting in tedious detail Shakespeare plays or Wide Sargasso Sea or Lord of the Flies. Not that those aren’t all good books – I personally love them, but I didn’t love studying them and I’m not alone, and it’s a shame that people are put off reading because they associate reading with the endless discussions of theme, context, gender roles, and so on, all of which is made into this utterly formulaic tedium by the nature of the curriculum we’re made to follow; rather than associating reading with enjoyment and pleasure and total involvement in the book in front of them, preferably accompanied by a cat, a comfy chair, and a cup of coffee.

I’ll let you know what I think when I finish the book, meanwhile, as to whether it is actually any good. And I’m sorry that in this entry my grammar was shot completely. Heaven knows why I’m still awake.

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2 Comments

Filed under Books, Consumer, Life, Society, Thoughts

2 responses to “I Bowed To The Pressure

  1. Rosie

    The real reason I dislike those books is described with much greater coherency than I could manage by Lucy Mangan in The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2008/dec/04/twilight-film-vampire):

    “What you have instead in Meyer’s work is a depressingly retrograde, deeply anti-feminist, borderline misogynistic novel that drains its heroine of life and vitality as surely as if a vampire had sunk his teeth into her and leaves her a bloodless cipher while the story happens around her.”

    As a piece of comfort reading it’s fairly enjoyable (although the purple prose infuriates me. He SPARKLES?). However instead of being aimed at the Mills and Boon readership it’s marketed towards pubescent girls who become absolutely obsessed with this “perfect” relationship, in which sacrifice is the ultimate expression of love. It might get them into books but I don’t think it sets up a particularly mature attitude towards relationships – an argument which can be levelled at Austen or the Brontes, but they were products of their time and it alarms me that Meyer, who must by now be extremely aware of her fanatic preteen fandom, is still writing a heroine who flops around the page like a consumptive martyr. Bella’s average looks/social standing are usual teenage fare, but her utter lack of identity or personality is both unrealistic and badly written. Her life seems to absolutely revolve around a boy who stalks her in the name of protection and can’t be allowed to get “carried away” physically; it’s anachronistic to the extreme.

    I don’t really think that anybody’s going to be permanently psychologically damaged by these books, but the thinness of the characterisation compared to the overly fluffed up prose really annoys me. I’ve read a decent amount of fanfiction in my time and to me it reads exactly like it: adolescent, overblown wish fulfillment without any real meat in it.

  2. standingonthebrink

    Having now finished the book, guess what my next post here would have been? Yes, me ranting away about, well, all of the above. It is borderline misogynistic – I’m not even sure I would hae used the word ‘borderline’, because essentially Bella hands over all control of her life, all her wishes, over to Edward. And yes, occasionally she gets angry with him or refuses to do what he wants, but then he almost always wins her over in the end, completely infantilising this supposedly 17-year-old girl.

    I mean, yes, it was good fun, but it did make me cross!

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