i think our lives have just begun

10Dec08
I don’t think I’ve ever explicitly stated who I work for on this blog. I think that’s kind of an okay thing, because I don’t want Google to be able to relate me, my name, and my company without having to do a little work.

That being said, on my very first day in the office, I was presented with a copy of one of our most popular books this year, Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer. At the time, it was hot off the printer, and doing so well that my company offered a free copy of the book to every single employee.

I sort of smirked at the idea of ever reading that silly Twilight Saga everyone was raving about. I’m a Harry Potter girl at heart, and my standard of comparison for anything fantasy is actually His Dark Materials – a pretty incredible work of literature, fantasy or no. So needless to say, I took my copy of Breaking Dawn and stuffed it on the very bottom row of my bookshelf, thinking, Yeah, right.

About a month ago, the division of my company that I work for crossed the $60 million profit margin for the year for the first time in our history. We’re a small division, and for us, in this economic climate, $60 million is absolutely stellar. We had a champagne toast at work the same day three of our biggest competitors laid off a total of almost 200 people.

Last week, we had a company-wide meeting. We talked about budgets and income and growth and sales. Hands down, company-wide, the reason not just any of us still have jobs, but all of us have jobs, is Stephenie Meyer. I know it sounds bizarre, but I don’t take that for granted.

So when Twilight appeared on our holiday list at a 90% discount for employees, I decided, maybe I do feel a little strange having not read the series put out by my company’s highest selling author.

Call it an act of gratitude, maybe. But I ordered it, and opened it the same day it arrived.

And I read it in two days. I went and bought New Moon and Eclipse the same day I finished Twilight. I finished New Moon in just over a day and a half, Eclipse in 18 hours, and Breaking Dawn, finally having dragged it off the bottom shelf, in just over 12 hours.

There’s nothing essentially literary about these novels. They’re not particularly eloquent or insightful. They’re a little repetitive and generic. At one point, I remember counting 25 appearances of the word “beautiful” in one chapter. As far as the element of fantasy goes, Meyer didn’t have to dig too hard to come up with her own real mythology for her characters because vampires and werewolves are pretty much familiar to everyone – unlike what Phillip Pullman was forced to do in His Dark Materials in order to get his readers to really believe the story. Nothing about Meyer’s diction or pacing is particularly graceful, and the plot is fairly predictable.

But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – my God, can she tell a story. She knows what her readers want, and even though it’s occasionally disappointing the way she goes about it, she gives it to them.

Twilight was very engaging, if a little slow. New Moon was the worst of the lot, with very little action until the end – and even that was anti-climactic. Eclipse got better. Breaking Dawn, specifically “Book Three”, was absolutely breathtaking. It was a fantastic conclusion.

It’s an understatement to say that I was engrossed in reading them. My sister asked me the other morning if I was, “Obsessed much?” I would say that’s a little inaccurate, but in all truth, when I closed Breaking Dawn Sunday night, it stayed with me so much that I couldn’t sleep for thinking about it.

And not necessarily thinking about it as a plot, or a theme, or a book, or a series. But about them, about the characters – Bella, Edward, Alice, Carlisle. They weren’t even startlingly well-developed characters, but after four books’ worth of getting to know them and engrossing myself in their lives, I do have some kind of affection for them. (I’m like this with all books – what I get absolutely, absurdly attached to more than the plot or the quality of writing or anything else, are the characters.)

I’m not one of those people with a very precise visual imagination. When I imagine how characters look, usually their faces are just sort of oddly blurry in my head, like I know there have to be defining features about them, but I don’t have my glasses on and so all I see is a skin-colored blob with hair and maybe I can make out eye-color. But not with these characters. They were so clear. And not just their appearances, but their voices. And the actual sound of their voices, not just their “voice” as the literary word to describe a strong fictional personality.

But it wasn’t just that, for once, characters in a novel really came alive for me. It was that the whole series really came alive for me. I could see what multi-faceted eyesight looked like. I could see and feel what running through the woods at night was like, with trees almost bending out of the characters’ ways. I could smell the story. I could literally see the biological development of the characters’ brains.

And I fought against it the entire time I read the books. I didn’t want to like The Twilight Saga. Maybe it’s that I really am a book snob. But I fought against enjoying these books from the very first page. It didn’t work. And about half-way through, I sort of realized that it was okay for me to like them.

Because, what if, ten or so years from now, a proposal like Stephenie Meyer’s comes across my desk as an editor? Would I be the one to turn it down? Or would I pick it up and be able to recognize that, more than the quality of the writing, the story and Stephenie Meyer’s ability to tell that story are worth a second look?

Our CEO has called Twilight our “Harry Potter Moment.” After reading the series (okay, I’ll be honest, I’m actually rereading it already), I still firmly abide by my claim that I am a Harry Potter girl. But I at least am willing to recognize that Twilight is no worse than Harry Potter. And considering that Stephenie Meyer is the reason I have a job, I’m okay with admitting that I liked her series.

(As to all that supposed Mormon ideology thrown in? If I hadn’t known what to look for, I never would have caught it. And either way, the books are almost entirely outside the context of religion – any religion – so making the claim that the books are a conversionary tactic just sounds like a wildly outdone conspiracy theory. Characters need hair color, and eye color. And seriously, his teeth are venomous – that rule wasn’t just a superfluous no-no.)

So I’ve admitted that I liked the books. Shall we venture into my opinion about the movie?

I have to hang my head in shame here, just a little bit, because, foolishly of me, I had relatively high expectations for the movie. I expected to be a little disappointed, I always am. But this was just, beyond words.

Rule Number One: If you’re a British actor who is most well-known in the U.S. for your role as another supernaturally gifted individual in another highly popular fantasy book-to-film series, please, please, do not spoil that image by taking a role as an American vampire. I’m sorry, Robert Pattinson, you are quite good looking, and you did actually look quite a bit like how I’d imagined Edward. But unfortunately, the entire time you were on the screen, I kept hearing the voice of Albus Dumbledore call out “Cedric Diggory” at very inappropriate times. And for the record, next time you sign on to play a character who is supposed to be exceedingly intelligent and eloquent, ask your studio to provide you with a better American-English tutor. Your accent wasn’t fooling anybody (and neither was your acting, but that’s a whole different story). And instead of sounding like you had a throat made of velvet, you sounded like you had rocks on your tongue and were suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome. It creeped me out.

I think it may have creeped out the rest of the audience, as well. I’m fairly certain everyone in the theater had read the books, or at the very least, were the boyfriends of girls who had read the books. And yet every member of the audience still laughed at inappropriate times – and by inappropriate, I mean, these were supposed to be moments of intense, dramatic emotion. And we were laughing! That doesn’t speak highly.

It is similarly unfortunate that everything that was legitimately cool about the books was either left out or mangled in the movie. The eye colors were totally forgotten, which is inexcusable, because how difficult can it be to provide gold or red contacts? And the supernatural motion was so muted, it was almost unrecognizable. The characters weren’t able to fly in the books; they were just able to run very, very fast. And that was not translated very well on screen. And the skin in the sunlight! It was so wrong!

To the movie’s credit, I will say this: Using “Supermassive Black Hole” as the song during the baseball scene was a fantastic choice. In every single book, Stephenie Meyer acknowledges Muse as providing the soundtrack to her writing. (Having listened to Muse while reading the whole series, it’s easy to see why she acknowledged them. I can almost pick out which song inspired which chapter, or which album inspired which book. Sometime, I was even able to pick out which lyric corresponded with a line in the book. I like Muse, so this was okay with me.) But anyway, the baseball scene was one of my favorites from the book, and I think it did actually translate very well on-screen. It looked like a lot of fun, the thunderstorm was perfect, and the music was even better. Very cool.

I’m not surprised that I didn’t much care for the movie. It’s still a blow, though, as it always is with books I enjoy. And just because I didn’t like it the first time around does not mean that I won’t give it another shot this weekend when Katie and I see it. That’s just the kind of sucker I am.

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2 Responses to “i think our lives have just begun”

  1. 1 Katie

    That’s very interesting about Muse. That almost inspires me to read the books. I’d like to read it for that reason….but I don’t think that’s a good enough excuse to start reading them. What do you think? You know how much I love Muse, too.


  1. 1 BFAM Day 2: Our Bodies Get Bigger But Our Hearts Get Torn Up « Feet on Polished Floor

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