Posted tagged ‘Twilight Saga’

Bella and Sookie, Edward Cullen, Bill Compton- The Lines Are Drawn

February 9, 2010

Read yesterday about the upcoming first run publication of 350,000 copies of the new Twilight graphic novel.  “The characters and settings are very close to what I was imagining while writing the series,” Stephanie Meyers, the author of the original Twilight series has said of the graphic novel.  (Does this mean that Ms. Meyers always pictured the characters and settings as cartoonish?)

Okay. Stop.  Guilty confession time.  As followers of this blog know, I wallowed in the Twlight series.  I have also, more recently, wallowed in another vampire series—The Southern Vampire Series by Charlaine Harris, also known as the Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries.

(What can I say?  I get tired, manic, depressed.)

Which brings up another question.  Why is the Twilight Saga (whose collective sales have now reached 45 million) so much more popular than the Southern Vampire Sookie Stackhouse Series?

(Don’t get me wrong.   Charlene Harris is unlikely to live in a garret.  Still, 45 million!)

What makes the difference especially remarkable is that the two series have enough in common to make a vampiric copyright lawyer lick his blood-stained chops.  Both focus on a human-vampire love story; both share telepathy, characters whose minds cannot be permeated by telepathy, super-handsome, super-sexy vampires (well, Edward Cullen is sexy in principal at least), shape-shifters/werewolves, love triangles,  heroinic (as in both addictive and held by the heroine) special blood, attempted suicide through sun-stepping, a ruthless vampire hierarchy, controlling and hyper-jealous male lovers, and fast, fancy cars.   Most importantly, both series have spawned commercially-successful screen versions.

So what makes for the phenomenon? (Other than the casting of Robsten.)

First, there’s the teen factor.  Perhaps (believe or not) tweens and teens simply read more.  After all, they have parents who tell them to turn off the TV and the internet, and they usually don’t have full time jobs.

Then there’s the identification factor.  Bella Swan, the Twilight heroine, is herself a teenager. (Sookie’s in her early twenties.)

More importantly, Bella is presented as Every Girl—Every Girl who is cute enough but clumsy, and who also happens to have some nearly magical qualities (not even known to herself) which, in turn, attract a consummately handsome, devoted, rich, strong, elegant, vampire; a vampire, who, although insistently male (at least he insists he’s male), loves her for her essence, not her body; a body which he adores,  but which he heroically resists (sigh), both to protect her soul and safety.

Sookie is harder to identify with.  She is very much not Every Girl, but a cocktail waitress specifically based in Northern Louisiana.    She introduces herself in the first book Dead Until Dark as someone suffering from a deformity.   She’s also super-attractive.     (The way her mental abilities cause human suitors to lose interest in her well-built body is a bit like the pre-feminist tales of women who were told to hide their smarts if they wanted to hold onto a man.)

Sookie’s vampires, unlike Edward Cullen, have little high-minded hesitancy about sex (or about manipulation and violence.)   Moreover, Sookie’s vampires (i) don’t just lust after her blood but frequently bite her, and (ii) spend about half of every day actually dead.  (These qualities may well be confusing to a young adult reader.)

So maybe here’s the distinction:  Twilight characters are good.  Good.  GOOD.   Except when they are bad.  Bad.  BAD.

Hmm…  Is it possible that the qualities which  seem to make Twilight so popular are the same qualities that make it adaptable to graphic novel form?  (A world that can be drawn in black and white lines.)

Teenage girls, it seems, are idealists after all.  Idealists and Every Girl and lovers of the fantastical.

Escapism – One Could Do Worse Than Eric Northman

December 17, 2009

A  couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the lure of mind candy when escapism hits. At around the same time, I wrote a post about reading nine Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood vampire novels in one week.  (This, I should note, was not a week in which I was on vacation sitting reading on a beach.)    Comparing the Sookie Stackhouse vampire novels to the few other vampire novels I’ve read (the Twilight Saga), I said that the Stackhouse books weren’t really such great re-reads because they were mysteries rather than romances.

A couple of weeks, and several re-reads, later, have led me to revise that opinion.  The Sookie Stackhouse books actually are fairly romantic, at least fairly raunchy, and they score quite well on the escapist/obsessive-compulsive/manicD re-reading charts.  (The audible books read with a delightful Southern accent by Johanna Parker, are also pretty helpful for the highly-pressured who eschew medication.)

I also want to revise my previously posted opinion of the character of Eric Northman (noting again that I’ve never seen the True Blood TV series.)  I said in my post that  I thought Eric was too devious to be a romantic hero.  While I think it very unlikely that Sookie ultimately ends up with Eric (because of the whole non-aging, non-childbearing, vampire thing), she could definitely do worse.

Re-reading these books has also led me to wonder what exactly people, escapist people, like about vampire novels.

Of course, there’s the utter (fun) silliness.

Then too, there’s the attraction (for female escapists) of unpopular girls suddenly being swooped up into a world of super-handsome, super-devoted, rich, handsome, strong, protective, males.

But I think what escapists are particularly attracted to is the dominance of compulsion in these books.  The vampires are portrayed as beings who, despite being control freaks, are implacably driven by the rules of their deeper natures–their desire for certain scents of blood; their apathy towards other beings; their inescapable hierarchies.  Anyone in escapist mode finds both these battles with compulsion, and the many guiltless surrenders to it, pretty intriguing.

Secondly, there’s the inner logic.   Once you make the huge leap into the world of all these crazy magical beings, everything else is very rational, ordered, in the books.  Certainly, there is a lot of violence, but it’s never random.  (Books with seemingly random, yet very real violence, like, for example,  Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses¸ only make an escapist feel terrified; as if his or her lack of attention to the details of daily life could lead to some truly disastrous consequence.)

Finally, the dialogue-filled prose forms a comfortable groove in the stressed brain a whole lot faster than something like, let’s say, Heidigger.  This accessibility makes them particularly good for reading on a treadmill, of virtually any kind.

After the Ninth Southern Vampire Novel

December 7, 2009

Under pressure of pressure (that is, randomized, yet persistent, work and life demands), I read nine vampire books last week.  (The “Sookie stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries” by Charlaine Harris).  This is not something I am proud of.

I also managed (for the record) to get to work every day, to work while there, even to put in several hours on Sunday.  Cooking was done Laundry was not.  (I hereby send an open apology to all members of my gym.)

Sleep was intermittent.   Perhaps, as a result, I felt a bit dazed finishing the ninth novel this morning (“benighted” may be a better description.)

I’m not quite sure why one (“I”) turn to silly books under pressure. Of course, there’s the whole mind candy business.  (See my earlier post “When Escapism Hits Hard –  https://manicddaily.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/blocking-write…pism-hits-hard/ )

And yes, it’s embarrassing.  Still, there it is.  Some nights (and mornings, Saturday afternoons, and subway rides) will have their vampires (in print.)

Since I am new to this genre, I don’t know what is standard.  I did notice a considerable overlap between the Sookie Stackhouse novels and the Twilight Saga – cool, perfectly handsome, powerful, vamps in love triangles with warm, slightly less handsome and powerful, “were” figures (werewolves, shape shifters, were tigers) and a humble but cute gal who has an extra-special zing to her blood.  There are also characters who can read minds (Edward Cullen and Sookie Stackhouse), but who fall in love with those whose minds they cannot read.  Jokes about the ridiculousness of vampires and baseball.   Enforcers of  vampire “law”.  Many descriptions of clothes.

The Sookie Stackhouse books are much more diverse than Twilight, with (i) a soap-opera-sized number of characters, (ii) nearly non-stop corpses, (iii) an interesting social context (Northern Louisiana); (iv) an interesting political context (the vampires have “come out of the closet” with worldwide TV announcements), and, of course, (v) actual sex/frequent biting (as opposed to abstinence/last-resort biting ).  No wonder the books have successfully translated to a television series (True Blood, which I confess I’ve never seen.)

And yet, despite the fact that I read all the Sookie Stackhouse books straight through, I can also see why they do not have the devoted readership of Twilight.   First, the books are not written for tween/teenage girls, a viciously loyal  group.   Secondly, the books are basically crime mysteries,  inherently written for just one read.

Third, and most important,  where’s the Edward (i.e. Robert Pattinson)?    Bill Compton (and remember, I haven’t seen the TV series) is the closest to unconditionally devoted and droolworthy. (Eric is promising but sneaky, Alcide too hairy, and Quinn, the were-tiger, too unintelligent.)  But after the first book or so, poor Bill only briefly passes, longingly, through the dark of Sookie’s yard.

By the ninth (and last published) book, anyone with a romantic temperament  (read “me”) is getting really tired of Bill’s near-absence.  But, lo and behold, the series is not yet finished.  Ms. Harris has apparently realized that, in our high-pressure world, the appetite for mind candy, like the appetites of Sookie’s vamps, takes many many bites to satisfy.

UPDATE TO THIS POST FROM JANUARY 7, 2010–After much “review”, I’ve found that the Sookie Stackhouse novels are pretty good “re-reads” after all.  If you are in the mood for escapism, they definitely hold up for repeated reads.  I also want to revise my question: “Where’s the Edward?”  The male characters, especially Eric and Bill, do grow on one.  “Like a fungus,” as Sookie says in one of the books (to Eric).   Eric and Bill have certain advantages (for the reader) over Edward as well that almost make up for the fact that they are not embued with the image of Robert Pattinson.  They are quirky, definitely flawed, have senses of humor, and are very sensual.   Fun.

New Moon -The Missing Moments

November 23, 2009

Chris Weitz and Summit Entertainment have struck gold with Twilight Saga New Moon. Frankly, any regular ManicDDaily reader could have predicted this:  while Kristen Stewart manages to embody both the ordinary and heroic—a combination of qualities that many young girls envisage in themselves, Robert Pattinson embodies (literally) what many young girls envisage for themselves.   And then there’s the extra set of muscles, bright smile, and uncannily canine shagginess of Taylor Lautner.

Where the movie fails, though, is in targeting the needs of tweens, a core fan group, for quirky scenes, lines and gestures which can be repeatedly replayed  (i) in their heads, and (ii) on their downloaded versions of the movie,  (iii)  preferably, at a slumber party.

The first movie, Twilight, had an abundance of these quirky, (one might  say) goofy, moments.  They were camp, but could somehow bear the weight of repeated viewing:  (i) RPatz’s shaken/frozen face after he stops the careening car; (ii) “I’m a killer, Bella,” (iii) the whole “you shouldn’t have said that,” “spider monkey,” thing (iv)  the first kiss;  (v) the second kiss; (vi) the third kiss.

New Moon has remarkably few of these quirky moments —moments that one can imagine young girls watching again and again in giggles and pajamas.   In my pre-vcr/dvr youth, this need was filled by our actual re-enactment of scenes.  My personal favorite was Olivia Hussey’s death scene in Zeferelli’s Romeo and Juliet, which I performed with great gusto and convincing gasps on numerous all-girl occasions.   “Oh happy dagger, this is thy sheathe.  There rust and let me die.”   (Yes, I was a weird kid.)

But what would a weird kid re-enact in New Moon?  All I can come up with (and these are no match for Hussey) are (i)  Bella’s single-arched-browed “kiss me,”,  and (ii) Dakota Fanning’s smiling “this may hurt a little.”

So, will this lack of re-enactable scenes translate into a lack of repeated viewings?  A drastic downfall in ticket and DVD sales after the initial hot weekend?

I doubt it.  The film still has a lot of Rob Pattinson abs.   (Apparently, even 109 year-old  vampires have adopted modern low-rise fashions.  Who knew?)

And, then of, course, there are kisses 4, 5, 6, 7…. But who’s counting?

Vampire Elephant Only Above “New Moon” In Terms of Height!

November 18, 2009

Vampire Elephant Contemplating Movie Ad

Vampire elephants getting pumped.

(All rights reserved, Karin Gustafson)

What To Do When RPatz Just Doesn’t Cut It Anymore–(I’m Not Talking About His Hair.)

November 13, 2009

What to do when the fascination for Robert Pattinson finally runs dry?

Maybe it’s the conclusive evidence of handholding.  (See Robsten photograph, November 10th or so, Le Bourget, France.)

Or maybe the realization that he really is just a young, charmingly goofy but nonetheless, movie star.

Or the news that he wears hair extensions for parts of the new movie.

Or all the Veterans Day celebrations, the tragedy at Fort Hood, the seemingly irresolvable situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the endlessly debated and diluted health care bill, the continuing rise in joblessness, and its concomitant psychological, physical, economic toll (the fact that these are real people’s lives).

Whatever.  Somehow you’re just not so interested anymore.  You haven’t even glanced, walking by, at the Vanity Fair cover.  (Okay, maybe you’ve glanced,)

Even re-reading a Twilight book provides no more escapist zing. (Ho-hum, there’s Edward again being handsome, sweet, overbearingly controlling.)

Fine.  But the problem is what do you do now? With all those spare moments of restlessness, disgruntlement, intermittent despair, which, for the last few months, have been pleasantly occupied by dark smoldering eyes tortured by paparazzi?

1.  Take up computer bridge.  Or better yet, poker.  Even better, scotch.

2.  Sleep.  (This five hours a day business seems to be showing on you.)

3.  Blog at least twice rather than once a day.  (No.)

4.  Finally read Marcel Proust’s The Remembrance of Things Past.

5.  Clean out your closet.  (Yes, your dog likes to make a little bed among the rumpled piles, still, there may be some good clothes down there.)

6.  (Do I have to?)

7.  Actually read the details of foreign policy decisions.  And the health care proposals. And the initiatives to create jobs.

8.  (Are you serious?)

9.  Go see the new movie, New Moon, as soon as possible.

10. It opens only one week from today!

Aha!  A plan!

What Makes Young People (And Some of Us Others) Re-read

October 27, 2009

For those of you who actually follow this blog, and don’t just click on a link that happens to mention Robsten or the Twilight Saga, I’m sorry!  There’s not been much poetry over the last couple of days, but a lot of clicks.

Yes, I like the clicks.  (And, strangely, “Robsten” seems to generate a whole bunch more than, let’s say, “sestina.”)

But I want to explain to you (who may not understand why in the world I write about this stuff) that I truly am interested in a couple of facets of Twilight mania (besides each of Rob’s cheekbones.)

First:  despite all the poetry I’ve posted on this blog, I am mainly a fiction writer, primarily for children and young adults.  As a result, I am fascinated by the question of what makes people read a book again and again.  And I have to say (without mentioning anything about my own experience) that the Twilight mania proves Twilight et al. to be a set of those much re-read books.

It’s a given that books that generate this type of obsessive re-reading are not always particularly “good” books, i.e. well-written.  In fact, many “good” books, that is, really profound, original, heart-wrenching, or poetic books, are not the most dog-eared at the end of the day (or lifetime.)  It’s almost as if such books are too sharp, too bitter, too stinging, to be savored again and again (in the same way that grapefruit is not typically considered a comfort food.)

This is not to say that much re-read books are poorly written!  (Charlotte’s Web and  Harry Potter are much re-read great books.) Only that good writing alone does not make a book a good re-read.  (Nor does a good plot, good jokes, good suspense, even though one or more of these is likely to be present.)

So what does make a book a good re-read?

To me, the distinguishing factor is that the book creates characters with whom readers like to spend time, sometimes, too, a world in which readers like to spend time.

Reading a book is a commitment.  It means hours in which you are not conversing, i-ming, watching TV; hours, in other words, in which you are alone.  Sometimes, in fact, a book is a way to be alone, a path to privacy in a place with hard-to-place boundaries, such as a subway, or, if you are a child, a family dinner.

Because of the inherent solitude of reading, it is important that the main character is good company—fun, cool (but not too cool as to be unempathetic), willing to share confidences.  Being admirable is helpful too, as long as there are also sympathetic and/or humorous failings and idiosyncrasies.  (Sam Vines, Captain Carrot, Granny Weatherwax in Terry Pratchett, even Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie.)

The world of a much re-read book can, of course, have its dark side.  But it is hard to repeatedly spend time in a world that is overwhelmingly creepy or frightening. (The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, and even Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier, are obvious examples of wonderful books in which the worlds created, or re-created, are just too horrific to motivate re-reads.  On the children’s shelf, similarly, the later tomes of the wonderful, His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, that is, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, also, with the exception of certain scenes, get both too threatening and rarified for a child’s immediately repeated visits.)

Ideally, the created world, even if dark, has a fun, semi-magical side.  (Hogwarts, obviously; the barn in Charlotte‘s Web, Florida, as seen by Carl Hiassen, Discworld, as envisioned by Terry Pratchett.)

Re-reading is a particular practice of the young and the young (or perhaps, immature) at heart who can repeatedly find sustenance in something that’s already well-digested.  (Sort of like baby penguins.)   This may be because the young (and not young, but immature) are themselves subject to (i) so much fluctuation, and (ii) so much beyond their control, that they find special comfort in the predictability of a “known” fiction.   The combination of the familiar with the fantastical may be especially appealing.

Romance makes a great re-read as well.   First love is a story that has been told again and again and again; is it any wonder that some people don’t mind re-reading the exact same version of it?

Which brings me back to Twilight.

Tomorrow or in the near future (if I get time),  I’ll write about the second facet that I find interesting—that is, what makes people re-see a movie, as opposed to re-read a book.

In the meantime, check out 1 Mississippi by Karin Gustafson on Amazon.