Thursday, July 12, 2012

Will It Hold Up? Probably Not: A Literate Adult's Return to the Valley of Twilight

Hey there my Velocininjas and my Velocininjettes. I wrote a whole bunch of posts in advance a while ago so you've been reading pre-packaged goods lately. It's been mad convenient—like making dinner in the microwave. 

But guess what? I ran out of pre-prepared posts on Tuesday and failed to write more. You know what that means, don't you?

It's gonna be yogurt and mixed nuts for dinner tonight, fuckers!

I thought I'd take this bit of free space to discuss an idea that's been bouncing around in my head. I've found myself discussing Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James with people a lot these days, because who the hell hasn't. I really, really disliked the book. It was hard for me to even have feelings about the characters—the writing was just so, so bad. I can't say I hated Fifty Shades, though, because it was too funny to hate. Ana has a sentient subconscious (what?) and an inner goddess who dances the merengue. That's enough schizophrenic fun for the whole family! In a way I think that's the true genius of this trilogy: It's sappy enough to appeal to romance lovers and ridiculous enough that comics, critics, and all the other talking heads that be can't stop making fun of it. It's a double threat. Like Justin Bieber.

Another thing I couldn't help but notice about the book was how incredibly similar it was to Twilight by Stephenie Meyerwhich isn't surprising, considering it started out as Twilight fanfiction. Ana and Christian are clones of Bella and Edward. The book felt like a sequel of sorts to Twilight: Like, "Oh, this is what happened after Bella and Edward started having sex and eventually needed to spice up their eternal vampire marriage."

I read Twilight about four years ago. And you would think, considering my utter lack of esteem for Fifty Shades of Grey, that I would have hated it. Nope! I liked it. I liked a lot. I liked it enough that I read the other two books available right away, and went to a midnight party at Barnes and Noble to celebrate the release of the fourth. I liked it enough that I pitched a story about Twilight's appeal to my bosses at my Hollywood Reporter internship and wrote a blog post about the first movie's opening night in New York.

Even my younger self thought New Moon was the book equivalent of the gray, disgusting sludge that snow becomes as soon as it hits the Manhattan streets in winter. But though Bella lost my allegiance after the first book, I remained committed to the series.

I haven't so much as looked at those books since college. Breaking Dawn annoyed me with its total lack of a climax and soured the series for me. But I could never bring myself to completely turn my back on Twilight. This is partly because I owe my current job in a roundabout sort of way to that blog post I wrote about the Twilight movie. But mostly I wanted to think that there had been some quality in that first book that the other three had lacked—something that had made it deserving of my rabid love. The writing hadn't been great, surely, but there had been something compelling in the characters ... hadn't there?

After reading Fifty Shades and considering all its similarities to Twilight ... well now I'm just not sure I can defend that first book any longer. Christian is clearly a creepy, stalkery fuck of a rich dude. And he's super controlling. And condescending.

He's also Edward. He's so Edward. This is forcing me to confront some disturbing things about what I thought I wanted out of a man at age twenty, guys.

To tell the truth, at this point I barely remember what happened in Twilight. Four years may not seem like a long time to some, but keep in mind that I have worked multiple jobs in the past three and a half which involved reading at least one book a week. So while I have some recollection of the basic plot, my sense of the characters and the quality of the writing has completely escaped me.

So I'm going to read Twilight again. I want to see if I can still see what my twenty-year-old self saw—or if the expectation of liking the book (it was recommended by a friend whose opinion I usually trusted) and my youthful naïveté clouded my vision of what a shitstorm the book really is. For the next few weeks when I find myself with nothing else to post, I will update you with my honest thoughts on Twilight. I'm going to try to keep an open mind, but I also have three and a half years of editorial experience that Past Jillian didn't. If I see terrible writing, I plan to call it out.

This is not going to be a formal happening on this blog. I'm not doing it by chapter or anything. I'm simply going to tell you about however much of Twilight I have read on those days when I am feeling particularly lazy. (And she never blogged about anything else ever again.)

Thus far I have read the back:

About three things I was absolutely positive.

First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him—and I didn't know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for my blood.

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

Well, bitch can count at least. So thus far: Bella Swan: 1, Anastasia Steele: 0.

Read Part Two here.


  1. You know... when I found Twilight, I read all four books in rapid succession. I really enjoyed that first, fevered read. I talked about it with a similarly inflicted friend of mine. Then I started thinking, and reread the first couple books. I realized how much I disliked the writing and Bella and Edward. It made me wonder what on earth I liked so much about it, what drew so many people in.

    Also, I did not know that about 50 shades. I am disturbed now. I am curious enough to read it from the library, if it's ever available but.. that gives me the heeby jeebies.

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only literary lady who got afflicted with the Twilight Madness :) While its comic value made reading 50 Shades mildly more bearable, I never, NEVER would have read it if I hadn't had to. It made me want to cry over my English degree.


    1. Thank you for reminding me of this! I've long adored that Oatmeal post--even back when I still thought there was quality to be found in Twilight. (I'm only a few pages in but I definitely haven't found it yet.)

    2. I just looked the oatmeal post. It cracked me up so much.

  3. I'm definitely looking forward to this.

    1. Thanks so much for the comment! You guys are the true masters of making fun of bad writing.