Tag Archives: Stephenie Meyer

Around the Common Room: January 25, 2013

Of the wide variety of articles in this week’s Common Room, one of the most fascinating is Laura Miller’s “Desecrating Poe,” posted over at Salon. Her scathing review of the new Fox TV show “The Following” includes commentary on art, beauty, and the artistic portrayal of violence. Sample quote:

Violence in popular entertainment is usually discussed in absolute terms: Either you think it should be reined in quantitatively or you defend it in blanket terms, as a matter of free speech. This bogus polarity obscures an important question: How is it used? Eyes are gouged out in “The Following” because the mutilated female corpses (all young and pretty in life) make a ghastly spectacle and enable Carroll to torment Hardy with talk of severing the victims’ ocular muscles one by one. Eyes are gouged out in “King Lear” to indicate that the play’s social order has descended to sub-human brutality as a result of the main character’s refusal to see the truth. It’s the same violent act, but in the latter case it is replete with meaning and induces an elemental despair, while in the case of “The Following” it’s just gleefully lurid.

Follow the link for the rest of the story, including many discussable points.

In other news and commentary:

Bloggers and C.S. Lewis fans: Review blog Pages Unbound is hosting a C.S. Lewis read-along throughout the month of February. Ways to participate include reviewing Lewis books or hosting discussions on your own blog, sending in guest posts to the Pages Unbound proprietors, and simply following along to read and/or comment on Lewis’ oeuvre.

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Around the Common Room: November 16, 2012

The interwebs are all about the random this week, it seems, but for the gathering around our common room, we’ll start off with some fantastic literary analysis: Chris Russo’s post titled Unknotting Tangled, in which he talks about the roots of Rapunzel’s story, alchemy, and helicopter parents. Says Professor Russo: “I haven’t enjoyed a Disney film this much since Beauty and the Beast, and as a literature teacher, I haven’t had so much fun exploring the deeper meanings of a Disney film since, well, ever.”

And now that you’ve theoretically got that article opened in another browser tab, here comes the not-oft-connected rest:

Balloon artist Jeremy Telford made his living room into Bag End… entirely by means of balloons. It’s exhausting just watching the stop-motion video, but the final result is stunning.

Seattle, which could probably be fairly called one of the nerd capitals of America, is partially protected by a league of superheroes.

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50 Books a Year & 50 Books Not to Read

The United Kingdom Secretary for Education Michael Gove is saying that children (at least as old as eleven) should read 50 novels a year.   The reading standards in the UK fell from 17th to 25th compared to international standards, and most children only read one or two novels in preparation for their GCSE.  I’m not even going to attempt to explain that so I give you instead the wikipedia article on it.

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Breaking Dawn to be Split into Two Movies

Well, news here that the fourth Twilight movie Breaking Dawn will be split into two films.  The first half is scheduled for sometime in November 2011.  So, all you Twihards need to start saving up your money ’cause like Potter fans you’re going to get charged twice for movies of one book.  And while we’re at it, could somebody please explain to me why The Hobbit has to be two movies? 🙂

Of Twilight and South Park

Saw a story the other day on how Twilight is ranked #5 on the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books, released this past Wednesday. Reasons given were for sexual content and a general unease about supernatural stories and ongoing concerns about vampire novels.  Now, my first sarcastic thought was: “People are challenging books nowadays for lack of sexual content?  Go figure.” 😉  Plus, I didn’t really find anything particularly supernatural about the vampires in Twilight or anything particularly edgy or frightening about them.  Boring maybe, but hey, it takes all kinds I suppose.  Anyway, I could certainly see why people would issue challenges to the first four books on the ALA’s list.  I’m not saying I either agree or disagree with the challenges, just that I could see why people would make the challenge.  But I cannot really see any reason for challenging Twilight, except by people who have never actually read at least the first book in the series.  Check out the story and share your thoughts.

This story also brought to mind a connection to a recent South Park episode.  (BTW, if you don’t like South Park or are easily offended, don’t follow the link.) The article mentioning Twilight on the list of banned books also mentions that A Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is a perennial favorite on the challenged books list.  Well, Catcher in the Rye is assigned to the class to read and all the boys are excited because the book is supposed to be really offensive.  Needless to say, what was offensive in 1951 doesn’t seem to be as offensive in 2010 and the boys are disappointed, even angry, at having been tricked into reading a book!

They set out to write a book of their own with no other purpose than to be as offensive as possible, and hilarity ensues.  Along the way, the show lampoons those who take works of pop culture too seriously and who read meaning into works that isn’t really there, including those who read too much meaning into South Park.  The episode also seems to assert that young people aren’t interested in reading, unless the content is racy or offensive or controversial.  Fun is also poked at the perils of literary success and also the notion that a book could be the sole cause of someone committing violent crimes (alluding to the notion that the killer of John Lennon & the attempted assassin of Ronald Reagan were led to commit their crimes by reading Catcher in the Rye).  If you’d like to watch the episode in question (reminder: don’t do this if you’re sensitive or easily offended), then go to the South Park site sometime after April 24th (they can’t show the episode online until after this date) & look in Season 14 for episode 1402.

Why Twilight Fails (for me)

It’s a provocative title, I know.  Do not fear: this is not another Twilight-bashing post, but an honest attempt at an exploration of why I don’t like it.

Our good friend and one of our most loyal patrons, Mr. John Granger, is continuing to write about the critical reception of Twilight in posts at HogPro.  It’s interesting stuff, even if I remain skeptical, after reading the first novel, that Twilight delivers anything that can be legitimately compared with the artistry of Harry Potter.  Mr. Granger’s question, “Why are the books so popular,” remains an important one, and despite my dislike for Meyer’s fiction, I’m helping him take up his new post as a virtual professor at “Forks High School” in the coming week or so. My few Twilight musings here should not be read as public challenges to Mr. Granger’s work on the stories; rather, I see them as friendly counterparts and counterpoints to his discussion. In other words, I’ve been the “bad cop” in the Twilight discussion.

The question I’ve been working out in my mind is this: If there are legitimate parallels between the elitist, Harold-Bloom-like critical reception of Harry Potter and Twilight, and it can be demonstrated that Twilight is popular because there is something deeper going on in the story – an LDS anagogical tale of the relationship between God and humanity (the jury is out for me on this until I read the remaining 3 novels) – why do I so strongly dislike it?  I think it’s fair for me to say of myself that I don’t fit the Bloom-like elitist category. If we take Mr. Granger’s “Governor Palin Syndrome” example, I think I’ll make my point clearly enough: while it’s fair to say that “elitist” members of the media tore Gov. Palin to pieces primarily because she was a conservative, I clearly don’t fit that category, being a paleo-libertarian (a conservative libertarian) – and I remain adamantly (very, very adamantly) opposed to Ms. Palin as a politician. Not all opponents of Gov. Palin suffer from this “syndrome.” See Peggy Noonan.

So, back to the question: If I, and other readers I know, don’t fit into the category of Bloom-like critics (after all, we think he’s nuts on Potter, right?), why don’t we like Twilight?

I think Tolkien may have answered this question for me.  Revisiting his brilliant essay, “On Fairy-Stories,” for my forthcoming essay on Beedle the Bard in Hog’s Head Conversations (Zossima, Spring 2009), I came across the following lines:

[Students of folklore] are inclined to say that two stories built round the same folk-lore motive, or are made up of a generally similar combination of such motives, are ‘the same stories.’ […] Statements of that kind may express … some element of truth; but they are not true in a fairy-story sense, they are not true in art or literature.  It is precisely the colouring, the atmosphere, the unclassifiable individual details of a story, and above all the general purport that informs with life the undissected bones of the plot, that really count.

Even if it could be demonstrated that Meyer is writing, for instance, another recasting of the alchemical drama, which drama I find very moving, my personal frustration is with the “colouring.”  The imaginative world that comprises Twilight is not compelling to me in the least, because I think the writing and the artistry is not only not magisterial, but not even close to Rowling, whose writing is also not magisterial.  Rowling’s world is intricately filled with magnificent “colouring,” and with an “atmosphere” that captures the “certain mood and power” of the Perilous Realm.  Meyer uses phrases that aren’t just tired, they’re exhausted, sick, and on their deathbeds, to describe the same two or three obsessions over and over again. I still stand by the majority of what I said here. I’m willing to bend on my statement that “the novel operates at no deeper level than the surface story,” but after one novel, I’m still not willing to say I feel any “mood or power” of the Perilous Realm.

In short, Rowling creates a believable journey through Faerie, and what I’ve read of Meyer thus far does not compel me to move forward to learn more about her world and its characters.  The extent to which this is personal preference, as opposed to a legitimate complaint about bad writing, is still somewhat vague to me.  Your comments and corrections will, I’m sure, be helpful in clearing up my own thoughts.

This leads me, of course, to a dilemma:

  • I have not read all 4 volumes of the Twilight Saga, which means I remain uninformed.  James W. Thomas scolds those who suffer from the PRUBONic plague, PRUBON being “Presumptive Reader Unworthiness Based on Non-Reading.” I agree with him, which means beyond explaining my dislike of the first novel, I have to reserve final judgment on the entire saga.
  • I have absolutely no inclination or desire or even vague curiosity to read the remaining novels because of the extent to which I disliked the first one.

All of which means this will probably be my last critical post on Twilight. I’ve said all I need to say about the first novel, and I probably won’t get to the others until long after the hype has died down (at which point, I’ll have even less reason to read them, since “What’s the hype all about?” won’t be a motivating factor.)  I’ll quietly follow our favorite professor’s posts from here on out, and at the Hog’s Head, I’ll only link Twilight items of interest with brief comments. Should I get around to the remaining three (maybe on audiobook?), I’ll resume commentary.

Stay tuned for another post later today, not on the topic of Twilight itself, but on some of its readers.

Stephen King: Lovecraft, Rowling, Meyer and More

Stephen King recently gave an interview to USA Weekend in which he made some interesting comments about Richard Matheson, H.P. Lovecraft, J.K. Rowling, and Stephanie Meyer:

King, whose Stephen King Goes to the Movies collection came out last week, doesn’t know how much of an influence he had on Meyer, but he does know that Rowling read his stuff when she was younger. “I think that has some kind of formative influence the same way reading Richard Matheson had an influence on me,” King explains. “People always say to me, ‘Well, what about H.P. Lovecraft?’ And the thing was, you read Lovecraft when you were a kid but I never felt that he was speaking my language. It was chillier than my heart was, and when Matheson started to write about ordinary people and stuff, that was something that I wanted to do. I said, ‘This is the way to do it. He’s showing the way.’ I think that I serve that purpose for some writers, and that’s a good thing. Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people. … The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.

There’s a lot I’d like to unpack there, but I’m going to leave most of it for the pub’s perceptive patrons.  Just a few notes and questions:

  • I find his description of response to Lovecraft interesting.  Is your response to Lovecraft similar to King’s, or different?
  • Whatever you think of King’s writing (I happen to like it), he’s a guy who’s done a lot of solid thinking … ahem … On Writing. I don’t agree with all of this thoughts on the craft, but on the whole, On Writing is a must-read for aspiring authors.  This, in my mind, lends a bit of credibility to his assessment of Rowling v. Meyer.  Thoughts?
  • Read the rest of the article. What do you think of his other thoughts on the non-threatening, “safe” nature of Meyer’s novels?