Beneath the Surface: Continued Conversation on Bree Tanner

Well, our so-called surface level thread on the new Bree Tanner novella quickly went far beneath the surface, not a surprising development for our readers here! To make sure some of the great conversation, which went quickly into deep waters of the novella as an allegory or defense of Meyer’s faith, didn’t get lost in the pile of comments, we’re pulling them up here to continue the excellent discussion . Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on the deeper aspects of the text, with other posts along those lines to come soon!

   James on June 15, 2010 at 3:40 am

There are many insights into the vampire world, to be sure, as Stephenie promised. I realized that the Nomad vampires are actually homeless. Don’t know why I didn’t realize that before. Other than the Volturi and Cullens, all appear to be wanderers. Bummer.

I hope to talk on this with John and Steve Walker in another upcoming podcast, but I also noticed the great deal of hellish imagery associated with Riley’s coven/congregation. This led me to see that Riley is a misleading priest figure, lying to his congregants to keep them under his control, spreading superstition and lies so that they won’t realize they have the potential to live as beings of light (with love again as a potential path to glory/divinization).

So the questions arise, “Does the Creator know the truth? Is the Creator… wrong? Does the Creator assent to her priest/spokesman’s controlling lies and abuse?” And, of course, in any case, “what can/should be done about it?” How can you exercise your “free agency”/autonomy when you realize how ignorant and misled your religion truly is? I think with “Bree Tanner,” Meyer posits a remarkable allegory about what (not) to do when you realize your faith — or other beliefs — are untrue, in contrast with Bella’s finding a true path following the prophetic and godlike Carlisle. Remarkable.

[Read more…]

Hogwarts in Central Florida? Wizarding World Opens at Universal

Those of us who have not been living in Australia with modified memories to protect our children from Death Eaters are already probably well aware of the latest development in Harry Potter entertainment experiences, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida, which officially opens June 18. You can watch the opening festivities live here.  While many of us who will be at Infinitus next month may be planning a visit to the Wizarding World (I’m not; I’m generally opposed to amusement parks in Florida in July unless the kindly uncle sets us up with free Disney admission. The only thing worse than sweltering in line for hours is paying out the nose to do it, so I’ll wait until the cooler weather and the hubbub die-down.) For those who are not planning to go in person, the official website has some nice images and information to give you a feel for the place.

The excitement surrounding the opening of the WW, with rides ranging from a virtual reality experience inside Hogwarts Castle to a family-friendly Hippogriff coaster to racing dragon coasters, has been considerable, and the ambiance, including a snowy (!) Hogsmeade with familiar shops like Honeydukes, shows loving attention to detail that is intended to immerse visitors in the world we love visiting in books (and movies, since that’s the vision we get here).

 While it might be easy to dismiss this as yet another way to prise Galleons from the pockets of faithful Potter-philes by playing on their love for all things Harry and slapping a Bernie Botts label on bags of Jelly Belly Beans, there may also be something in this development that harks back to what we’ve discussed here before: the power of a truly immersive text. Yes, people will go just to ride the dragon coasters or just because they think some movie actor was cute, but others will go to experience, in three dimensions, the world we’ve pictured in our minds with the books in our hands. We want to peer into Dumbledore’s office or shop at Ollivander’s because these place already seem real to us. We may feel a thrill of delight as the steam issues from the Hogwarts Express, promising us a journey that we have all taken in our minds.

[Read more…]

Misery Loves Company: The New Yorker on the popularity of YA dystopias (Hunger Games!)

This week’s  New Yorker has a wonderful article analyzing the popularity of dystopian novels for younger readers (though acknowledging that many of the most fervent readers of the Hunger Games are adults). Among the reasons the author, Laura Miller, gives for this trend is the possibility  that high school is a dystopian world much like Panem (no wonder those of us who weren’t  “Careers” felt like we were fighting for survival every day of four years of misery!). [Read more…]

Some “Muse”ings about Inspiration: the Voices in Meyer’s and Collins’s Heads

Inspiration often comes from unusual places. According to tradition, Charles Dickens was asked whether he wanted a lemon twist or an olive in his drink—“olive or twist”—and thus lighted upon the name of one of his most beloved characters.  Rowling got her inspiration on a train, Meyer’s came in a dream, and Collins’s idea for the Hunger Games sprang to life while she was flipping channels on television.  But, after that initial surge of inspiration, an author has to sit down and write, often even when he or she does not want to, and that’s where a different brand of inspiration comes in: auditory inspiration.

Many authors report that listening to certain kinds of music helps them write. Sharyn McCrumb, New York Times bestselling Appalachian author, usually has different soundtracks for the different characters in her Ballad novels, and has even produced a CD of traditional songs linked to the books. Suzanne Collins has noted that she prefers listening to classical music as she writes, since she finds lyrics distracting (and with Katniss’s voice in your head, there really isn’t room for more voices, perhaps). And of course, Stephenie Meyer has Muse, the band she has thanked publically as her inspiration and included on many of the “playlists” she posts for her novels on her website.  Muse is an interesting group. Like Queen, with whom they share some stylistic elements and whom they cite as an inspiration, Muse is a band named after a female figure, through the band members are all men. In addition to being a noun describing the nine lovely ladies of mythology, however, the word “muse” is, of course, also a verb for thoughtful pondering, and Muse’s lyrics certainly give much to think about. [Read more…]

Myth Placement: How and Why Popular Media Monkeys with Mythology–Part 2

In the early 1980s, Joseph Campbell indicated that mythology had fallen out of favor in the media, but he could not have foreseen the rampant popularity of mythological themes, characters and structures;  from comic book-like TV series like Hercules and Xena to the epic big-screen journeys of the Fellowship of the Ring and the fall and rise of Anakin Skywalker, mythology has experienced a revival among the general public. More recently, of course, the Greek pantheon has been embraced by an even wider audience through the Percy Jackson novels and inevitable movie, the Clash of the Titans reboot, and a forthcoming War of the Gods. Although mythology is seldom taught anymore in an academic setting (I am finally up to teach a college myth in human culture class next year after ten years of asking), and few college students can recognize the simplest of allusions to classical myths, Perseus is an action figure, Zeus is on keychains, and schoolchildren can dress up as Athena or Ares for Halloween. As mythology loses its place in the academy while being embraced by the popular media, the themes, characters, and events of mythology are being morphed from their traditional forms to fit modern sensibilities and values. At last, here is part two on the subject of how and why the mythical world is altered in text and on-screen. If you missed it, here’s part one.

1. What ARE they teaching them in these schools?

One reason, surely, that film makers and writers use mythological themes and elements is because they themselves like the mythology. Some of them were undoubtedly Latin nerds like me, who always thought, “You know, this stuff is great; if it had the right presentation, it would catch on faster than Spider-Man!”  Thus, authors like Percy Jackson’s Rick Riordan operate from a deft and deep knowledge of mythology to bring their stories to life.  Other media mongers, however, seem to be under the impression that mythology is not widely taught, certainly not in public schools if the scant knowledge of college freshman is the indicator, so therefore they are at liberty to make any changes they like, assuming no one will actually notice.  Like filmmakers who think no one knows much about the original book on which their film is based (read: Tim Burton’s movie that was charming, but was not Lewis Carroll’s story!) these folks depend on the gullibility and lack of mythological knowledge among the general public to pass off shoddy versions of the myths. Unlike C.S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling, who include great in-jokes assuming their readers actually do know a classical allusion is not a magic trick performed to the accompaniment of Bach music, such writers and filmmakers trust in the general lack of knowledge  to get away with whatever changes they want to make. Sadly, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: because the general public watches television instead of reading Edith Hamilton or Bullfinch, most viewers and readers are duped into thinking the “tinkered with” version of the myth is authentic. This has been clearly illustrated to me as I give a reading quiz on “Leda and the Swan” in my literature survey class, and I always offer extra credit for names of other women with whom Zeus dallied. The most frequent wrong guess? Xena. [Read more…]