I've been thinking about Twilight lately.
Yeah, I know, I need a new topic. But after being secretly obsessed with those books, I've been trying to both justify my reaction, and figure out how I feel about the books now.
I have already dealt with the some of the Questionable Content in Twilight. As well as the Reason Why People Read it. Today, I'm going to quickly examine the literary merits of the book, and then explain what form it could, and perhaps should, have taken.
One thing that helped me understand my own veiw, was going to amazon.com and reading the reviews of others. Not the paltry ones from "Twi-hards" or haters (which generally focus entirely on story content and whether they loved or hated it), but the meaty ones that are written with thought (and allude to the author's skill). I especially like the 3/5 stars entries, because there I generally find reviews I agree with. These often point out the same flaws/strengths. Elizabeth Spires, reviewing for the New York Times, got it right.
"The premise of "Twilight" is attractive and compelling — who hasn't fantasized about unearthly love with a beautiful stranger? — but the book suffers at times from overearnest, amateurish writing. A little more "showing" and a lot less "telling" might have been a good thing, especially some pruning to eliminate the constant references to Edward's shattering beauty and Bella's undying love."
The way I see it, Twilight suffers from two main things.
It Lacks Plot. If you can be satisfied to follow every minute detail of a heroine's mental agony over new love (as apparently I can), then you'll enjoy Twilight. The book does not offer as much in the way of life events, as it does in mental/emotional events. Also, it is a very linear book. Bella has one problem and, as soon as it is resolved, another problem enters to take it's place.
The Main Characters Aren't Sympethetic. Those who view books critically tend to find Bella annoying and weak, and Edward abusive. Those who, like me, take characters at face value on a first read, found them to be exactly what Stephenie Meyer intended. Bella is supposed to have a quiet strength. She rarely stands up for herself or speaks her mind but, in the end, she always does what she thinks is right. Edward is supposed to be the strong intellectual that burns with such passion he will stand in the way of anything that threaten's Bella's safety (including Bella herself). The problem lies, as Elizabeth Spires said, in too much telling, and not enough showing. People like me tend to believe everything they are told (unless there is obvious evidence to the contrary), but to about half the population, seeing is believing. So while I find that Bella and Edward's relationship is reminicent of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester's (INFJ + ENTJ), many people find the whole thing to be a disgusting, anti-feminist travesty. In the end, perhaps they are right.
Obviously, the fatal flaw in my Jane Eyre argument is that, in that story, Jane was the one strong enough to leave a bad situation, while in Twilight's sequal, it is Edward that leaves.
Now, on to the THE POINT of my post (yes, I know I always take too long to arrive, but in case you haven't noticed, it's the journey, the "rising action" that I enjoy).
What should Twilight have been? No plot? Flat characters? I'd have thought it was obvious.
Twilight Should have been an Opera
Remember those famous lines from Phantom (Which, incidentally, is not an opera)?
You'd never get away
with all this in a play,
but if it's loudly sung
and in a foreign tongue
it's just the sort of story
in fact a perfect opera!
Traditional opera is a combination of two kinds of singing: Recititive and Aria. Recititive is singing where the melody mimics human speech patterns. It is the conversations, the dialogue, and what moves the action in an opera. Arias are moments in time. Traditionally, they are supposed to explore a single emotion. They do not move the plot forward, but instead are a probe of some aspect of the human experience. (Which is why people take so long to die in operas, they're exploring their final emotion.)
Twilight is full of emotional probes.
Imagine the selections on the soundtrack?
An Aria for Bella, "L'amour est un brillant poitrine".
And one for Edward, "Qu'est-ce qu'elle pense en ce moment?"
And while we're at it, how about Charlie? "S'il vous plaît, rester loin de ma fille!"
No? No opera?
Twilight Should have been a Poem
Imagine if Stephenie Meyer had chosen a more abstract method to catalogue her famous dream? Instead of creating characters that made her curious to explore their lives, she could have focused on the strong emotions involved, written a page a verse, and been done.
I'm no poet, but here's what I came up with in a few minutes:
Green leaves cover death
secret song thrums through veins to capture heart
darkness never looked so bright
breath steals it's last moment
Life lives it's fullest
it has come to an end
Heart stopped by absence....
What would you decide?
Not very good, but I could keep at it and make it better.
My friend, though he hated the movie, was somehow inspired by the concept. He came home and wrote a creeptastically chilling love song. Someday, when it's online, I'll link it here, but for now, you'll have to make do with my attempt.
Alright, now, I know you might not like poetry, so here's my favorite thought:
Twilight Should have been a BALLET
Imagine! No dialogue! No characters agonizing over their faults while the audience completely agrees. No constant discriptions of Edward's beauty! Physical beauty could be successfully portrayed by the (statistically) gay man in the part. It wouldn't be weird that he takes his shirt off, because it'll actually help us see the lines of his movement! And Bella would never have to remind us how clumsy she is.
Ballets have a tradition of romance and the supernatural, and can also do well in industrialized settings (wish I could have seen Matthew Bourne's Cinderella, set in WWII Britain, when it was here in LA).
Bella and Edward's danger laden passion could have been exemplified in beautiful, tension filled pas de deux ("step of two," a dancer's duet, if you will). And imagine the high school scenes! I can picture the intricate chaos between classes, the shy and clumsy Bella, unaware of her effect on those around her. And don't forget pas d'action! The romance would probably not take as long, so we could skip ahead to an Allegro fight scene with James.
How else can we ladies talk our men into going to the ballet?
I'll make a poll. Let me know which you think Twilight should have been.
P.S. I've never tried to get my husband to go to a ballet, but he took ballet in college and I go to Clippers' games with him, so maybe I should try it....