Introduction:

I knew that I had to read Twilight eventually. It’s part of the culture, after all, and as an aspiring author, it’s my responsibility to be as cultured as I possibly can. It’s also a personal interest; I have already written an article on Twilight’s Appeal, and the novel I am currently working on parodies the paranormal romance. So I knew that reading the book was inevitable. However, until recently, two persistent facts have stopped me from reading Twilight. The first is that school eats up a lot of time (which is no longer a problem, now that summer is here). The second is that I couldn’t bear the thought of giving Stephanie Meyer my money.

Well, this past Sunday, I did the unthinkable. That’s eleven dollars that I will never see again, and a fresh stain on my conscience.

There’s only one way I know to clear my conscience. I will take the book apart, summarize it, examine it, and deconstruct it, chapter by chapter, so that you need not add your hard-earned dollars to Ms. Meyer’s piggy bank. It might be ambitious for me, but it’s the surest way to stop this brick from burning a hole in my bookshelf.

So on with the specifics. This going to be a similar format to lccorp’s Bitterwood sporks. I will try to keep the tone serious, but remember this is Twilight we’re talking about. I’d probably go insane if I didn’t snark it up a little. My purpose is to educate, so I’ll try to keep that in mind while ranting, and include something constructive in my criticism. Otherwise, this is going to be fairly freeform. I’ll rant on issues as they appear, and indulge the little imp inside me that just loves loosely-associated tangents. After all, I don’t want to limit myself too much before I even start. I’ll probably experiment a little at first, keeping what works and pretending the other stuff never happened.

Now, before I begin the criticism in earnest, remember: I’m reading Twilight so that you don’t have to. So you all owe me one. May the lord of literature have mercy on my soul.

Preface

Twilgiht begins like all other great pieces of literature: with a Bible verse. Genesis 2:17 specifically.

But of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil,
thou shalt not eat of it:
for in the day that thou eatest thereof
thou shalt surely die.

Now, there are several reasons why an author would put a Bible verse at the beginning of her book. It can sum up the major themes of the work. It can relate directly to the content of the book. It can be there to add air of literary merit to a work. Or it can justify a piece of abstract, symbolic, and highly marketable cover art.

You know it, I know it, TV tropes knows it: the easiest way to make an otherwise pulpy, escapist fantasy into a work of significance and meaning is to open it with a Biblical allusion.

In all fairness, I can see where I am meant to draw the symbolic parallels. If Twilight can be said to have themes, temptation is certainly one of them. Original sin has had a sexual subtext since the middle ages, and like eating from the tree of knowledge, sexing a Meyerpire is fatal (unless you’re married to said Meyerpire, in which case sexing is perfectly safe and wholesome, but that’s for another book). In this context, vampires represent fallen man, and as such, most vamps are soulless monsters, except for a few virtuous, Christian vegetarian vampires who try to resist their hunger.

However, beyond that, I don’t think the metaphor was particularly well thought out. If Meyer intended her vampires to represent fallen man from the beginning, then she completely undermined herself by idolizing them the way she did. It’s one thing if your vampires are dark and dangerously alluring. It’s quite another if every second sentence is about their perfect, godlike beauty. And, I hardly need remind you, they sparkle. If Meyer’s vampires actually represented fallen man, then her sacrilege would rival Philip Pullman’s (who was legitimately trying to subvert the orthodox interpretation of original sin). Not to mention, the regular humans would get a far more sympathetic portrayal.

You get the idea. I’m a little shy about passing a verdict now, seeing as how I haven’t read the book yet. However, I think this is one of the dangers of indiscriminately attaching allusion to your work. Unless you know the work you’re alluding to and have an uncommonly good understanding of your own story, you could be implying things that you didn’t want to imply. This is doubly true for references attached after the work is finished. The pretty cover art isn’t necessarily worth a bundle of unfortunate implications.

Next we have a Teaser, that I remembered hearing at the beginning of Twilight the movie . “I’d never given much thought to how I would die,” begins a nameless first person narrator. We then find out that the narrator is in the same room with a “hunter,” that she’s dying in the place of a loved one, and that she does not regret the decisions that got her into this.

One thing I instantly notice is that this narrator does not sound like someone who is about to be murdered.

I knew that If I’d never gone to Forks, I wouldn’t be facing death right now. But, terrified as I was, I couldn’t bring myself to regret my decision. When life offers you a dream so far beyond your expectations, it’s not reasonable to grieve when it comes to an end.”

I read this and feel nothing for the character. There is no immediacy, fear, apprehension, internal conflict, or any of the other things someone might feel in the moments moments before she’s eaten alive. “It’s not reasonable,” she says? Well who’s reasonable in this kind of situation? She may say that says she’s terrified, but nothing in the prose reflects this. The tone of the section is more like, I’m about to die, and I guess that’s a frightening thought, but I don’t really have a choice about it, and since the past few months were great, I’m pretty much cool with it. Rather than leaving me with the image of a tragic hero, the narrator appears uninterested. She may think she’s dying for a noble purpose, but she should still want to live. Hell, even Jesus had doubts. If she doesn’t care, why should we?

This section also fails on a functional level. Teasers are not, strictly speaking, necessary for the story. After all, everything in the teaser will be repeated verbatim later on. You include a teaser because you think that, if you give the reader a short peek at an exciting scene near the end of the book, he will be curious enough about the circumstances surrounding said scene to read all the pages in-between. The catch, of course, is that the scene has to be exciting. And, in this case, it isn’t. Why? Because the narrator’s soon-to-end life is treated like a homework assignment she had fun blowing off. Perhaps we are meant to wonder why is this person so ambivalent towards being eaten. In fact, that might actually be an interesting way to introduce a character, though it would have to be done in a clever, offbeat way. The “friendly” mannerisms of the hunter flirt with this, but the way the narrator is portrayed is, unfortunately, dishpan dull.

One thing I will say for this teaser, however, is that it’s short and to the point. It introduces what it is meant to introduce: that the narrator is facing a life or death situation, and that something extraordinary happened to her recently. The narration is boring, yes, but it’s brief enough prevent boredom.

And so concludes the first instalment. Next comes the beginning of the book proper, with chapter one.

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Comment

  1. Proserpina FC on 9 July 2009, 20:30 said:

    You guys are so effing noble. XD

    Although, why spend the $11? Couldn’t you get it from the library?

  2. Puppet on 9 July 2009, 21:31 said:

    Then you can’t destroy it once your done reading it. ^^

    Twilight will rip out your soul and stomp on it until you are just a empty shell.

  3. SMARTALIENQT on 10 July 2009, 08:04 said:

    Then you can’t destroy it once your done reading it.

    At least now we have more plasma cannon fodder for the Impish Idea Castle/Offices… or targets, as the case may be.

    Awesome article, Artimaeus! I can’t wait for the next one. I must quote my favorite line… obnoxious throat clearing

    Now, there are several reasons why an author would put a bible verse at the beginning of her book. It can sum up the major themes of the work. It can relate directly to the content of the book. It can be there to add air of literary merit to a work. Or it can justify a piece of abstract, symbolic, and highly marketable cover art.

    Thank you. That is all. Win.

  4. Dan Locke on 10 July 2009, 09:59 said:

    Wait, I thought that this was already posted. Or was that in the forums?

  5. Artimaeus on 10 July 2009, 10:21 said:

    I did post this on the forums first. I’m not sure why it took so long to reach the main site.

  6. Dan Locke on 10 July 2009, 11:36 said:

    Gotcha.

  7. Steph the Phantasmagorical on 12 July 2009, 03:20 said:

    Lol I see this finally made it to the main site. The problem with me is that I keep checking the forums and not II itself!

    Good job, Artimaeus :)

  8. Delzra on 12 July 2009, 03:40 said:

    I just downloaded the torrent instead of paying for it. I wouldn’t giver SM the satisfaction of my money. It also saved me from the temptation of burning the thing. If i had the brains I would have made a program that would visually destroy a file but deleting it was just as good :)

  9. Romantic Vampire Lover on 13 July 2009, 06:15 said:

    Epic win!

    Nice, Arty; loved it. And this is only the preface…

  10. DrAlligator on 14 July 2009, 10:33 said:

    I did post this on the forums first. I’m not sure why it took so long to reach the main site.

    Probably because Sly’s away and has less time to dedicate to it. Just as good as before and we want more. :)

  11. twilighthater on 28 October 2009, 16:45 said:

    Ok so I absolutely HATE twilight I think it’s just for an atractive guy to control a very low self-esteem girl.

  12. Des on 17 July 2010, 14:45 said:

    Hello there, fellow lover of literature. I want to thank you for doing this.

    Also, I’m making this comment as an introduction.

    I am a senior in college, soon to graduate with a B.A. in English and History. While driving on the interstate two days ago, I had an epiphany. You see, my original idea for my senior honors independent study in English was titled “Vlad, Dracula, Twilight, and Gilda: Gender and Race in the Culture of Vampire Fiction, from Lore to Commodity” (or some variation of that). However, as I’m applying for graduate school, I wanted to avoid (what could be misconstrued as) a juvenile research subject. So, I’m now going with something with Octavia Butler or Iranian literature. My epiphany was this: to continue my original idea as a hobby in the form of an Annotated Twilight (I wanted to model it after Nabokov’s Annotated Lolita, but with a little bit more comedy). I have no desire of being a published author of fiction. I want to be a professor, which will hopefully lead to the publication of scholarly articles and (maybe) books. So, my project would have been as scholarly as possible, considering it’s Twilight. As far as I knew at the time and during the past two days, none such as it existed. I decided to Google it just to make sure I wasn’t stepping on any toes. ‘Lo and behold, here you are.

    I want to approach you with goodwill and respect and tell you that I am not stealing your idea, but that I am going forward with my project and that I will be blogging it. I think of it as a Darwin-Wallace situation, but without the competition (for, I assure you, I have no commercial interests) My email is belovedanguissette@gmail.com if you would like to confer, collaborate, or the like.

    Best,
    DL