NPR Bashes Twilight: Anyone Surprised?

National Public Radio’s ‘Monkey See’ weblog yielded to popular requests for a reading of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga and the result is predictable. It is “a necessary but painful exercise we are obliged to do,” yields to “the woman really cannot write,” which brings us where you probably knew we were headed eventually “Bella Swan is not a proper feminist or likable person.” The three literary pigs of aestheticism (wordsmithing is all), deconstruction (political correctness), and literary taxonomy (genre revulsion) are all on display — and the inability of anyone using these tools to explain the popularity of the books or even to contemplate seriously the possibility that the woman actually is delivering the goods readers wants is demonstrated.

There is a suggestion, maybe just a hint in the words ‘national’ and ‘public’ that National Public Radio would take the national reading public’s affirmation of Mrs. Meyer’s writing abilities — an affirmation to the tune of fifty million copies of her books and several years’ dominance of best seller lists — more seriously than they have. But, forgive me, this is more than just snobbery and neglecting the elephant in the room (which would be the question, “If these books are so bad, why do they sell so well?”).

It is ignorance.

As unlikely as that must seem, being unable to see the allegorical and alchemical artistry of the Twilight books, i.e., how they work beneath the narrative line and postmodern morality as well as how and why they resonate so profoundly with readers, amounts to willful blindness or graduate-study induced myopia. I urge you to read Spotlight: A Close-Up Look at the Artistry and Meaning of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga for a common sense, iconological understanding of what Mrs. Meyer does right and why her readers love the stories she writes.

And tune in to NPR only for Car Talk rather than for intelligent discussion of either contemporary or traditional fiction.

(H/T to James for the NPR links!)


  1. Boy, sure tired of the ignorant Twilight hating.

    The NPR “reviews” come across to me as simply, “I’m smarter than all those dopes” harshing.

    More often than not, the two are complaining about things within the texts that the reviewers either (1) fail to understand, or (2) are intentionally placed in the narrative for dramatic impact — or both — such as “holes” in Bella’s narrative about things she doesn’t see or understand.

    And adding “har har” or “hiyo” after an unobservant and unjustifiable assertion doesn’t make the comment insightful or clever. Or even funny. It’s just an excuse for the comment just made.

    You are so right, John. I appreciate your insights into the willful ignorance of the haters. To paraphrase U2 and/or Jeremiah, “No one is blinder than he who will not see.”

    Thanks for the post, John. Feeling better already.

  2. Hmmm. I listen to NPR whenever I’m in the car. I listen a lot. But, no I’m not surprised by their review/comments, or whatever they are callling it. I’ve never been impressed by the children’s book reviews I’ve heard. I’m sure some of the books are good, but the lady who does the reveiws seems intent on talking only about books that are more obscure and never about anything that sells alot. So no Harry Potter reviews or comments.

    The same goes for the movie reviews. I think I only heard Harry Potter mentioned once, and it was in a rather dismissive fashion.

    So, yes, it does come across as the ultimate snobbery. But I don’t listen for the book and movie reviews. I’m capable of deciding what I want to read and see, all on my own, thanks. The book and movie reviews that I hear just happen to be on when I’m in the car – they are not something I seek out.

    BTW, I love Car Talk. And Garrison Keillor. And the Vinyl Cafe. And Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. And . . . well, you get the idea of the things I listen to.
    I also like listening to the news from the BBC. Nice to get a perspective not shaded by our msm.

  3. Wow. Are you seriously suggesting that NPR shouldn’t criticize Twilight simply because it makes “CASH MONEY!!”?

    What naive world do you live in where you honestly believe that if something sells well, IT MUST BE GOOD RIGHT? Wrong. There are so many different examples where one can choose proving that, it doesn’t need to be good to be popular (unless I’m so wrong and the musical stylings of 3oh3 are so complex for my fragile little mind simply because it’s popular).

  4. No, I am not suggesting (a) that NPR not criticize Twilight, (b) that Twilight must must be good because it is popular, or (c) that all things that sell well have value. I confess to being startled at the straw man you have built of my common sense observation that the logical assumption when meeting a literary mania is that the author has done something right — i.e., to satisfy readers expectations of a novel — rather than to assume that it is poor writing. That is intellectually self-serving and lazy.

    And I think that sort of thinking is what we see in NPR’s critique of Twilight.

  5. revgeorge says

    I’m not surprised but then I was reading their review going, “Uh huh, yes, that’s right, good points…” 😉

    I suppose the most that can be said for their review is that they actually did read Twilight.

  6. I haven’t read Twilight … and I don’t plan to. Based on what others (who have demonstrated that they are highly literate people, who can recognize and produce quality writing) have said, the books are not worth the time to read. I am thoroughly convinced they are poorly written and life is too short to read bad books.

    I read The DaVinci Code solely because of professional necessity — and only that necessity impelled me to finish the thing. The writing was so poor that I wouldn’t have read more than a few chapters (at most). I won’t read any more of Dan Brown’s books. Life is too short to read bad books.

    But like Ms. Meyer, Brown sells millions of copies and is raking in the money.

    Movies with little to no artistic merit make major bucks, too. But that doesn’t make them good movies.

    Popular and good aren’t the same things. It should be perfectly acceptable to make this distinction.

    It’s okay to like schlocky stuff, bad writing, stupid zombie movies, etc. if that’s your thing. There’s nothing wrong with guilty pleasures. Just acknowledge them as such and don’t insist such things be widely acclaimed as great art.

  7. So you haven’t read the books but feel confident you know them well enough to put serious readers who have read them in their place? “Thank you for your feedback.”

    Let me repeat the last part of my post because a few readers seem to have skipped over it before commenting, demonstrating in this a remarkable inability to recognize their reflection in the picture drawn of the three literary pigs:

    I wrote:

    “Being unable to see the allegorical and alchemical artistry of the Twilight books, i.e., how they work beneath the narrative line and postmodern morality as well as how and why they resonate so profoundly with readers, amounts to willful blindness or graduate-study induced myopia. I urge you to read Spotlight: A Close-Up Look at the Artistry and Meaning of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga for a common sense, iconological understanding of what Mrs. Meyer does right and why her readers love the stories she writes.”

    If you don’t understand why these books sell so well, saying they’re poorly written is not an answer but a dodge (“they sell well because people are stupid”). Pointing out other books that have sold well about which there is some kind of consensus that they are “bad books” and arguing by analogy that these books must be just like those books because they are popular hasn’t even a whiff of demonstrative argument or logic in it. It just introduces another variable and question — why those books sold well — rather than attempt to answer the question about these books.

    Can you say “critical nominalism”? “Intellectually lazy”? That last is Lev Grossman’s line about folks dodging the issue of what Mrs. Meyer is doing right, but I’ll second it. Read John Gardner ‘On Moral Fiction’ or anything by Ruskin for an introduction to the world of reading beneath the surface narrative.

    The dismissive and knowing tone of the “she cannot write!” critiques is the telling part. I agree that “life is too short.” Life is too short for arguments not about causes or the question at hand (because the disputants are after something other than answers).

  8. John… a the risk of incurring your wrath, and admitting that I am an avid NPRer across the board, I wonder if both you and the MonkeySee posters haven’t gone too far in different directions. They ignore any deeper meaning that may exist, but you seem to go the opposite direction and ignore the importance of aesthetic. As I see it, a truly wonderful book has a deeper meaning moved by an engaging surface plot presented in an artful way. As someone who treasures an arresting turn of phrase or an evocative description, I’m curious about your apparent (and I acknowledge that this post was directed only at a very specific set of criticisms) dismissal of the aesthetic component as one of the “literary pigs.”

    I have not read Twilight. I cannot say whether the series is, overall, an A or an F. I cannot speak to the deeper meanings that you have teased out, but I’m willing to extend the benefit of the doubt, based on what work of yours I have read, that they are legitimate observations and provide insight into why the books have resonated deeply with many people.

    That said, I see a framework in which a work of literature is “graded” (to put it coarsely) on a multi-faceted rubric. An author could have a great story — on any level of meaning or on multiple levels — and very limited wordsmithing ability. I would likely consider the overall work as mediocre, as I would for the reverse — a mundane plot or a shallow story expressed in gorgeous prose.

    The NPR folks are probably too judgmental and looking for a way to discredit the series. They are probably also looking nearly entirely at “surface” (aesthetics and integrity of the surface story), and your point that they may be missing something valuable is well taken. In the post-HP world, however, I think publishers are too quick to rush interesting stories (which may or may not have interesting deeper layers) to market at the expense of great aesthetic writing. Rowling may not be nobel laureate material, but her prose it workmanlike or better, and I think a truly great tale deserves no less. If the writing sampled in the NPR pieces (particularly the first one) is truly indicative of Twilight’s writing (and I have no way to know if it is), then it should be called out. If the series has all of the meaning you ascribe to it, then a good editor should have demanded it get the dignity of solid wording. I note, for one thing, that you do not seem to argue their point about aesthetics (e.g. by rebutting the charge that the wording is poor) so much as argue that discussing aesthetics is beside the point.

    Essentially, I see you as providing a theory — beyond the basic appeal of teen drama and sexy vampires — of why this series has resonated with many people and why that popularity dignifies, rather than denigrates, the work. I see the NPR folks as assuming that it should not have resonated and then highlighting only the flaws. But I suppose my questions is: could you both be right and both be wrong? Is it possible that this series is deeply powerful in one dimension while deeply flawed in another?

  9. Great question, Ally.

    I am not dismissing the aesthetic quality as one of a set of measures for judging the worth of written pieces. Aestheticism becomes one of the “literary pigs” when it becomes the lone criterion and single litmus strip measure of good writing.

    Mrs. Meyer, writing YA fiction for the most part, is required to write accessible fiction if she wants to observe this genre’s parameters. Much of the aesthetic dismissal of Mrs. Meyer’s writing, I suspect, is either ignorance of her constraints (assumed to be her personal limitations) or a despising of the Harlequin genre, the “literary pig” of genre taxonomy and revulsion: “only the modern psychological novel is literature; everything else is mass market paperback slop for the trough.”

    I understand your concern that I am overstating the importance of meaning and in this neglecting artistry. As I argue in Spotlight, though, artistry is not restricted to elevated word-smithing and magisterial prose, as wonderful as that can be. Anagogical symbolism, alchemical scaffolding, genre mixing, thematic weaving of plot and meaning — these are as important, and in a genre where the prose is by definition pedestrian in order for it to be accessible to every reader over the age of ten, they are more important.

    Meyer’s accomplishment isn’t great sales or great prose. It is in her touching millions of readers’ hearts and minds with an engaging, even transformative allegory of the conjunction of the human seeker’s heart and the Divine mind in a YA boy-meets-girl love story. That’s a remarkable accomplishment. Dissing her for purple prose and repetitive phrases is like criticizing Abdul Jabbar for being weak at the foul line. The critic, in focusing on inconsequential weakness and ignoring landmark strength, has missed the larger picture and the elephant in the Best Seller’s room.

  10. Except Abdul-Jabbar really wasn’t that weak at the free throw line. He had a 72.1% in free throw shooting. Anything over 75% is considered good.

    Or am I missing the point? 🙂 Anyway, John, I liked your answer to Ally because I’ve felt you may have been a bit weak in the past on acknowledging aesthetic concerns about Ms. Meyer’s work. Your answer was very helpful to me in understanding where you’re coming from in that regard.

    As you know, I read Twilight and didn’t care for it. I admit there may be deeper meaning to it, but frankly the story & the characters & the writing did not appeal to me nor strike me as very deep. I don’t think this has so much to do with the genre, since I read tons of YA literature.

    So, we’ll probably still have our disagreement on it, but I did buy your book on Twilight and I will read it…one day. 🙂 My recommendation to people is: If you don’t want to read Twilight, don’t. But then also don’t criticize it, as I did at one time, based on what you may have heard. Simply say, “I don’t think I’d care to read it based on what I’ve heard” and leave it at that. Or read it and then comment on it, whether you’re positive or negative about it. But lay off criticizing John’s research & conclusions when he’s read the entire series & you have not. Just saying.

  11. I certainly appreciate the merits you ascribe to Twilight (though I of course cannot agree or disagree with their presence), but I suppose my caveat is that it can become too easy to excuse poor prose, and that it is an unnecessary concession. Writers like Rowling, Pullman, Collins, and Lowry, to name but a few, have shown that complex and difficult ideas can be made accessible to tweens, teens, and adults without (generally) sacrificing prose quality. Certainly young adult writers are not expected to produce writing (in the literal sense of words strung together) on the level of great, classic world literature, but they should be pushed to strive for solid writing. Perhaps this is the former-precocious teen in me speaking, but children, teens, and young adults are capable of much more than often credited, and they do not need pandering, purple prose to make complex narratives accessible. As a teen, I would have found the excerpts cited on the NPR blog condescending.

    I certainly echo your disdain for genre-based dismissals. For my own part, I cringe when I see great writers like Atwood shrink from the “sci fi” label for no other reason than the fear of being relegated to “genre” author. There is plenty of trash published in and out of many genres, and general categories should not become heuristics substituted for actual reflection.

    That said, it may be that the best way to defeat the ghettoization of genre is to demand the best of its most prominent examples. Ultimately, fantasy fiction, young adult fiction, and the alchemical architecture, allegory, and genre-bending you describe would have been better served by all of Twilight’s powerful attributes wrapped in a stronger aesthetic. I think that requiring Meyer to bring her aesthetic A-game to the table only serves to enhance and underscore your points about the legitimacy of these types of works. She need not achieve the artistry of the Greats, but publishers should be encouraged to give writers more time and better support to develop these works to their full potential.

  12. RevGeorge: I should have said “3 point shooting” at which The Legend was only a 5% shot. 72% for a big man at the free throw line is outstanding.

    Ally: You know I agree with you, I hope, that fine writing beats pedestrian prose. But, to repeat myself, focusing on the quality or elevation of the prosody while simultaneously ignoring, even denying the impact of this story on readers around the world is not intelligent literary criticism. It reflects a lack of critical tools, frankly, and perhaps no little confusion about why people read.

    Yes, anyone can pound on Twilight with an aestheticism hammer. But it won’t drive the “why does this book do what it does?” nail home. It’s not at all what the author is about. Babe Ruth wasn’t a great outfielder, either. Who cares? As a pitcher and hitter, he delivered. Meyer, no stylist, obviously delivers meaning better than any of those critics who dismiss her can appreciate. Which, again, is their failing, not hers.

    Having said that, we’re in full agreement about reflex genre dismissal and publishers trying to catch reader-waves. Thank you for this conversation.

  13. Ally, FWIW, Stephenie Meyer has said that “mistakes” (her word) in Twilight make it difficult for her to read Twilight at this point, as she has progressed as a writer. That said, she wrote the book for herself alone. Later, her sister figured out what was up, read it, and told her to submit it for publication.

    She did, got a dozen or so rejections, and then an agent took her up and within the week they were negotiating her contract with Little Brown for an advance somewhere shy of a $1mil. She has sold 85 million books or so as of last week, I believe.

    I am friends with several K-12 teachers, and they tell me that for many young people, these are the first non-assigned books they’ve read in their lives. Not only have these children made it through the 3,000 or so pages once, they have re-read them over and over — a dozen or more times is not unusual in the least. Their enthusiasm for the books has spawned a multi-billion dollar industry in itself. So, despite any literary “mistakes,” the Twilight story is apparently one that people find fills a need in their lives. John’s “Spotlight” takes a very insightful look at what those needs are. I highly recommend it.

    This astonishing cultural impact outshines, in the eyes of many observers, the “mistakes” of the text.

    If not in your eyes, it’s like, no big. Cool. Read something else. Really. Lots of deserving YA books are going unread at the moment.

    But many, many people refuse to let it go at that — they hate Bella, hate Edward, hate vampires, hate the author, hate the fans, hate the actors, hate sub-sets of all the above, etc. — which I find astonishingly odd.

    Further, I find a lot of haters’ justifications for their incessant attacks, well, asinine. For instance, a major, oft-repeated, frequently-published criticism leveled at Twilight is that Bella is often in danger, of her own choosing. Which she is. And then, the critics claim this sets a bad example for children, rendering these books unfit for human consumption. The number of college newspaper essays along these lines must number in the hundreds.

    Please! How many stories find the hero, as a result of some poor decision which they pay for later, /not/ in jeopardy? If not, where is the story? (I sort through several other popular arguments here: ).

    Personally, I suspect that much of the vitriol directed at Twilight actually has to do with its overarching themes, which have to do with discovering and asserting the Law of the Harvest principle (i.e., that cause and effect is at work in our lives), and the consequent value of pursuing morally upright behaviors — such as chastity, a major dramatic element in itself.

    I don’t mean to sound harsh or judgmental, but I can’t help but conclude that some critics may be among the many people who aren’t/weren’t chaste, and find themselves having endured difficult consequences as a result. Such people may have — as many commonly do — consoled themselves that chastity is fundamentally impossible; thus, the painful consequences they’ve brought upon themselves were not actually their fault.

    But Bella Swan is chaste. And enjoys eye-opening benefits as a result.

    In short, if she hadn’t been chaste, she and everyone she loves would have been harmed. Meyer posits a compelling argument for chastity, along with other moral behaviors, to her readers young and old.

    For some, that may pose an unacceptable challenge to their psychological worldview. And since this can be such a painful and personal issue, that challenge could be devastating to their emotional stability. Hence, the vitriol — a.k.a., the weeping, the wailing, and gnashing of teeth — of the many critics who just won’t let Twilight go.

  14. John. why don’t you write NPR directly and ask them to consider the deeper meaning of the series? Ask them to consider what it is that Meyer did right, why her series has made such a positive impact for many adults (let alone the millions of teens around the world). You clearly have good arguments, so why not confront NPR with them?

  15. John: I think your athlete analogy in inapposite, and I do wish that you’d engaged more directly with my point that being YA fiction is no excuse for poor writing. To put in in the athlete framework, Babe Ruth might hit a few epic runs, but you’re not going to have a ball game — or at least win the ball game — unless you’ve got people on all of the bases, someone pitching, etc. Sports involve specialization, but I do think people still admire all around athletes. If Meyer is the slugger who can fill the park, then the whole publishing crew is the rest of the team, the coaches, etc. They have to take the star, who provides so much of the experience, and fill it out into a whole game, a whole season. My point was nothing more than that we should strive for more balance among the elements that make a work great, and plenty of authors show that a better balance is possible for the YA audience. But I’m picking up the signal that this conversation is closed, so perhaps I’ll see you on the next HG post. Cheers.

    James: As I’ve said, I haven’t read Twilight, and I have no comments on its themes or characters. I’m basically taking, as a hypothetical, the NPR view of the words and the JG view of the content and asking, “What would that mean for the overall work.” I think it’s good that Twilight gets kids reading, but all else equal, I’d rather they read HP. It’s also accessible and engrossing, but the writing is better (than the NPR excerpts, which, again, is all I can base it on). For what it’s worth, if we’re talking about education, exposing kids to books with allegory is great, but people also learn to write in part by absorbing what they read, so some attention should be paid to modeling the basics, if not artistry, of writing. Cheers to Meyer for writing a novel with no training or experience. That’s a big achievement, but when a publisher picked her up, a skilled editor should have been assigned to turn her promising first draft into a more fully formed overall work. Some things become extremely popular because they have some deeply resonant meaning, and I admire John’s efforts to uncover those elements. But popularity certainly isn’t the sine qua non of quality (see any number of terrible but popular shows, bands, etc or any number of genius artists unappreciated in their own times), and I worry that publishing (not only YA — go to any book chain and see the display of questionable products), in its fear of books going extinct, may target popularity without worrying as much about quality control. If Twilight has power, how much more power would Twilight 2.0 have had after some hard rewriting?

    I can’t comment on the plot points or the chastity issue, and I have no comment on whether people “should” read Twilight; I generally think that people should read whatever they can get their hands on that interests them. But I think that the best critique of any work takes in the successes as well as the failures. On balance, one side may win out and make the overall work a success or a failure. Twilight may well be a success on balance. But neither the successes nor the failures should be used to gloss over the other, and as a vehicle for a message (such as the virtues of chastity), a work will generally be more effective if it is strong on multiple critical fronts.

  16. Ally, thanks again for your contributions to the conversation. I think you have told us a great deal that is valuable — and that you should go read the books before you say any more. Thank you.

    NPR is back on its Twilight bashing binge. Check out ‘We Are Not Consumer’s Guides.’

    On the title and idea that “Literary critics are not consumer guides,” i.e., that their job is not to confirm popular tastes nor is it to tell folks what novels people should and should not be reading, the appropriate response is “duh.” Of course all that intelligent people want from professional readers is their judgment on the work — if as certainly that serves as a recommendation to read or not to read.

    The question is, can’t we expect these readers to explain, in the cases of popular infatuation with specific books — Harry Potter, Twilight, The Da Vinci Code, etc. — why these books are selling as well as they are? You’d think these readers could, in their reviews, touch upon those qualities in whatever book that have resonated with readers to create their attachment to the story.

    That’s not looking for critics to be our reading nannies. That’s a reasonable expectation of a book review writer from a book review reader. If s/he cannot explain what is good and what works in a book but can only repeat surface criticisms any grad student could punch out over night, the review is nominalist and not worth my time.

    Very few people read for nominalist experiences, except book reviewers I think. Maybe they would be doing a better job if they understood themselves as providing a service for readers, that is, writing Consumers Guides, rather than just telling us what they feel/think. That might encourage some consideration of why people read and what they are looking for in reading. The dismissal of “review as Consumers Guide” is a reflection of the reviewers’ opinion of (disdain for?) what the “great unwashed horde” wants from a book.

    And a reflection, consequently, of their own ignorance and the poverty of their critical tools? I think so.

  17. I say, has someone opened and been sipping on an antique vintage?

    I was ineluctably brought to recall this:

  18. For the full effect, one must read the Salon article:

    Reading as fun! How proletarian!

  19. Meyer is to Rowling as Rowling is to Tolkien as Tolkien is to Lawrence as Lawrence is to Dickens as Dickens is to Scott…

  20. pontificus maximus says

    I don’t listen to NPR…and I don’t plan to. Based on what others (who have demonstrated that they are highly literate people, who can recognize and produce quality programming) have said, NPR programs are not worth the time to listen. I am thoroughly convinced they are poorly produced and life is too short to listen to bad radio.

    Actually, I do listen to NPR; it is my “guilty” pleasure. Indeed, I am a sucker for “schlocky stuff.” Apart from playing great classical music, their programs have great comedic value. How their pontificators continually spew blatant malarkey with a serious aire is a testament to their burlesque abilities. The above paragraph is just a smart-alecky, near-plagiaristic way to make a point. I trust that I have succeeded.

    No, I am not surprised that National Partisan Radio bashes Twilight. Their philosophically bigoted reviews of nonconformist literature are legendary. Had Bella been portrayed as a bed-hopping nymphomaniac with a penchant for Che Guevara memorabilia, I am certain the reviews of the NPR literary cabal would have been different. Make her a man-hating uber-lesbian of color battling with suicidal tendencies and the reviews would no doubt have been positively glowing.

    James, you are right: Twilight’s “overarching themes” challenge the establishment’s “psychological worldview,” its postmodern sensibilities. Therefore, Meyer must be dragged by a howling mob to the public square and beaten with sticks.

  21. I am not troubled by Twilight because it promotes a life of chastity, I am troubled by it because of the male protagonist’s wholly abusive actions to the woman he is supposed to be in love with. While I admit that I have only read the first book, it bothers me that at first, he shows strong stalking tendencies, and once he gets into a relationship with her he tells her that she needs to run away from her family because she is in danger and he and his family are the only ones who can protect her. I understand that to some teenagers, having a guy wholly devoted to you to the point of starting to be dangerous can have some appeal, but as an adult, it just frightens me. It is totally okay to have a woman who is chaste, searching for her soul-mate, what have you, but the fact that Edward seems to generally disregard what it is that Bella feels, along with the fact that she just goes along with it is troubling.

    I thought that Bella was supposed to be a responsible figure, since she takes care of her father from an early part of the book, but in the book, she’s fine with lying and allows Alice to tamper with the scene of the crime just because she likes Edward. It also isn’t like she sincerely wants to wait until marriage to have sex with him, that’s Edward’s idea of keeping her safe, even though I’ve heard that in Breaking Dawn, he does have sex with her after they’re married, even when she’s human and it’s still a danger to her, which in a way is a form of abuse.

    It’s because of these themes that I am so bothered by Twilight. If it were just some novel wherein the girl chooses not to have sex and to wait for her true love to be married, I’m sure it would have been more enjoyable. But Bella and Edward’s relationship reeks of abuse, and as such I choose not to read more of it.

  22. Elizabeth says

    Hmm, I suppose one could take it that way, but when I was seventeen I adored Mr. Rochester, Heathcliff, and the Phantom of the Opera. However, but I never felt inclined to get involved with a married man who had a mad wife locked up the attic, marry for money and spite the person I really loved, or let myself get involved with a controlling, temperamental, older recluse who was also a murderer. I just married a guy who likes books, too. But then, I may not have been very typical.

  23. I’m not saying it will make all girls flock to men who have abusive tendencies, it’s merely a reason why I find myself unable to continue to read the series. Instead of Twilight, I read stuff by Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams and Dianne Wynne Jones because overall, I find their protagonists more amusing, more entertaining and overall, a better sort of hero or heroine that I prefer.

  24. Prof. Hardy’s point, I think, is that you take literature both too seriously and not seriously at all. Good books aren’t a moral primer but a point of entry for experience greater than ego. You’re applying superficial litmus strips to story that have nothing to do with their artistry, substantial content, or real effect on readers.

    Frankly, I have a hard time discerning the difference between your political correctness and the Harry Haters’ position on magic in fiction. Both take a view that fiction is either meaningless beyond the surface narrative or dangerously influential on readers’ hearts — or, incredibly and nonsensically, simultaneously both.

  25. So me not liking the book because I thought that Edward is abusive is me taking it both too seriously and not seriously at all? Well, alright then. I chose not to like the book, but I’m not saying everyone else has to stop reading it. If someone else feels the book is a great piece of art or literature they’re free to think so, I just disagree. I also like the Harry Potter books but I don’t try to think they’re some sort of level of Shakespearean writing. They’re fun, and that’s what they’re meant to be, fun.

    Twilight just isn’t the sort of fun I enjoy, that’s all.

  26. Elizabeth says

    Oh, Niena, everyone’s entitled to dislike anything, of course (not an Adams fan, myself)!

    I think what our senior professor warns us against is boiling a text (or a movie, or a work of art, for that matter) down to its least appealing aspects, seen through the lens of our own experiences and backgrounds, and judging that piece on those aspects alone, like disliking Starry Night because you flunked astronomy in college or stating you just can’t stand that play that makes fun of less intelligent people, promotes defying one’s parents, and encourages partner swapping (that would be Midsummer Night’s Dream from the view of some folks). If a book doesn’t sing for you, so be it, but it’s more appropriate to dismiss it on its actual merits (Douglas Adams’s tone leaves me cold) than on the connotations you draw from those merits (i.e. disliking Adams because that tone makes me think of an obnoxious person I once knew.)
    It does sound like you’d rather your reading only be enjoyable (the surface read), but that your enjoyment can be marred by your particular interpretation. (A surface reader would just dislike Twilight because it’s set in a high school or some other basic plot point, rather than on a read of a character that is not supported by the overall text. Neither Bella nor Meyer perceive EC as abusive, nor is that interpretation in line with the book’s narrative intent. ). That is an interesting paradox.

  27. I don’t believe the author has commented on Jacob and Nessie’s relationship or Quil and Clare’s relationship either, especially the fact that it has apparently turned two grown men into pedophiles because they do intend to have sex with them at a later time while these girls are still infants or toddlers. That doesn’t mean it’s okay for grown men to start grooming children to be their future mates. She has commented that EB is like Romeo and Juliet, but I can never see the comparison since there is no active conflict and they aren’t exactly ‘star-crossed lovers’ because they end up happy in the end. If they had to be like R and J it’d have to be for the pure reason they are teenagers in love, but EB’s love is supposed to be true, whereas RJ popped up because the girl Romeo liked wanted to be a nun.

    But beyond that, I dislike her tone and her odd use of thesauruses (chagrin, anyone?). It’s dull and in my personal opinion, vaguely reminiscent of a teenager trying to sound smart.

  28. “It’s dull and in my personal opinion, vaguely reminiscent of a teenager trying to sound smart.”

    The way you feel about Mrs. Meyer’s writing is much like my experience of PC criticism such as this. I explore at some length the imprinting sub-plot of Twilight in my book in the context of LDS folk beliefs about pre-existence, Mrs. Meyer’s “dream conquest” of Gentile criticism of Mormon man-child relationships, and about the over-arching theme of choice, which is close to the heart of the Saga’s postmodern morality. Your reading, however, we are supposed to accept as complete because you understand this important theme to be yukky — and dangerous because thinking about what the author is doing means believing that “it’s okay for grown men to start grooming children to be their future mates.”

    C’mon. Enough, already. Reading seriously means more than reaction to surface narrative or applying mechanical litmus strips from whatever ideology is your hobby horse, right?

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