Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The inward struggle; my thirst for blood wins out


I began my Twilight journey a little late – last summer – when I thought perhaps I'd better just see what all the fuss was about. I managed to find the first book in a charity shop, and spent the next couple of days reading breathlessly in the sun, rueing the day I had ever dismissed "weedy vampires" from my list of suitable heroes of literature. New Moon haunted me with the most convincing portrayal of heartbreak I can remember reading. More than just teenage angst, this book explores real emotions better than many "classics." I held out until January before starting my Christmas present of Eclipse; that book will now forever be associated in my mind with the pure bliss of watching snow fall prettily outside and the sounds of Low's Christmas album wafting ethereally around me. Despite my best efforts to make it last, I finished the book in 24 hours. (This made me feel slightly guilty; although in my defense it was a snow day from work, and such serendipitous events are rarely "productive" anyway.)

Of course, as soon as one book is finished, the natural instinct is to devour the rest in a vampire-like, bloody frenzy. Like the vampires, we must curb our natural urges; we will only live to regret them.

A friend was in a similar position, desperate to read on, but not wanting to lose the delicious sense of anticipation. In the words of Willy Wonka, "the suspense is terrible. I hope it'll last". We formed a support group, TWAT (Twilight Withdrawal: Addicts Therapy) in which we would call each other up every time the temptation to read got too strong. We came up with possible plot lines for the big climax. Would Jacob stop the wedding? Would it turn out that Bella's unexplained clumsiness and general immunity to vampire gifts would explode when she was "changed", and she would become the most powerful vampire yet? I just don't know. And I love not knowing. Yet not knowing could slowly drive me insane. I put off the big day by finishing books I'd been floundering in for months, the watching of adrenaline-fuelled movies and sheer will power. I knew that the moment I flipped open that hardback block of dynamite, it would all be over.

Stephenie Meyer may well be some kind of genius. She has managed to tap into something so powerful that it is recognised by the youngest tween (a junior member of TWAT is twelve, and has already read the books four times) to the driest of elderly spinsters (one assumes, anyway). Perhaps a clue as to why this is so can be found in looking around at heroes of stage and screen. We are starved of real men. Edward may technically be a teenager, but he also encompasses all the best bits of Cary Grant, James Dean and... well, a Greek god. He is suave, handsome, immortal, but most of all, IMPOSSIBLY chivalrous. While we have a hard time finding men who will so much as open the car door for us, he is telling Bella that she is his only reason for living. Which may be kind of tough for men to keep up with – no wonder they ridicule our obsession – but I believe these books should be taught in schools. Might as well give those boys a heads-up on what will reduce grown women to jelly.

So often books which are blessed with extreme financial success are dismissed as "really badly written". This cover-all excuse is somewhat nonsensical in most cases. What exactly does it mean? If a book is technically correct (eg in terms of grammar and punctuation) and it's exciting enough to keep you turning the pages, what's bad about that? Like The Da Vinci Code before it, Twilight may have its silly moments, and may require quite a bit of poetic license and suspension of disbelief, but it is also disgustingly addictive and impossible to put down. Sounds good to me. When reading Twilight I am never in any doubt that my narrator is Bella, a teenage girl. Stephanie Meyer, the 30-something Mormon mother of three, never makes an appearance. What's more, she is never betrayed by those footholes which so often trip other writers, such as teenage slang that is twenty years out of date.

I notice that Ms Meyer's dedications do not include anyone involved in the making of the film. Perhaps she feels that they owe her thanks for the gig of a lifetime. True, perhaps. But surely somebody should be thanked for the general brilliance of the casting, not to mention Robert Pattinson's effortless ability to embody his only brief – perfection. Or Kristen Stewart's ability to give Bella some real personality, to make her clumsiness endearing and awkwardness believable.

So, will this beautiful swan leave her ugly duckling-esque life behind? I do believe the day to find out has arrived. What could be better than a holiday, sunshine, sangria, and an unread book?

And so, I must leave you. After months of stalling, I have finally given in to my vampire urge. The next time we speak, like Bella, I shall be changed. The idea of peeking at the last page is like a hungry wolf who snarls and rattles his cage if I so much as look in his direction, but I must resist if I want to stay sane.

Goodbye, old me! Who knows how I will feel when it is all over, and irreversible. But I must find out!

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