Monday, 16 July 2012


Stephenie Meyer Twilight (2005)

A poorly plotted and so-badly-written-it-could-be-Dan-Brown abstinence porn version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer minus the jokes for self-harming teenage girls wherein a personality-free human doormat gushes over the discovery that vampires are not only real, but are also cute boys, so cute in fact as to resemble pouting tousle-haired members of boy bands...

Well, the half of the movie adaptation I managed to squirm through before I'd had enough seemed to confirm most of the above, so I approached the book with certain expectations; kind of difficult not to when the thing is fucking everywhere. Whilst Twilight the novel may not necessarily be the greatest story ever told, much to the general enghastment of my flabber, most of that which has been said of it appears to be bollocks, and I would say it is of sufficient quality as to cast its harshest critic in the role of miserable old fucker crucifying a romance primarily written for teenage girls on the grounds of it being a romance primarily written for teenage girls.

So, to address that which should probably be addressed. Twilight is first and foremost a romance. The entire point is gushing teenage obsession - something it conveys very well with a language which whilst economical compared to, for example, Voltaire, nevertheless tells its story with due flair. Harsh words have been written regarding the main character - Bella if you've been living on Mars these last few years - and her supposedly repetitive drooling over the statuesque Edward the vampire, and again most of it seems to miss a whole lot of points. Bella serves as an everywoman into which the reader may project herself without any overly specific quirk that would obstruct identification - a love of pork pies and gangsta rap for example: she's neither blank slate nor doormat. Her taste for Jane Austen and Debussy remains understated, complementing the story whilst remaining otherwise neutral; and her supposed passivity seems something of a misreading, perhaps mistaking simple realism for the unfortunately fashionable conceit that if your female character hasn't shot someone by page ten then she may as well be Strawberry Shortcake; and for the record, Twilight does have a sense of humour, and to suggest otherwise seems to say more about the expectations of individual readers.

The vampires themselves, specifically Edward, are frequently described in overwrought terms providing constant reminders of their unearthly beauty. Whilst some critics seemingly found this repetitive, Meyer's creatures quite intentionally border on the alien, something absolutely inhuman and belonging to a world other than our own. To this end, it's also a nice touch that the creatures are written as some bizarre evolutionary quirk from which popular vampire legends are derived and to some extent misconstrued. Furthermore, even if you didn't get this, Bella's take on Edward's alleged perfection does a pretty good job of reminding us what it's like to be a seventeen year old girl and in love to the point of nausea; and as I've never actually been a seventeen year old girl, not even when I was seventeen, that's impressive.

Then there's the accusation of it being abstinence porn, which I'm not sure is really even worth addressing, and the poor plotting perceived by Stephen King, the man who brought us the terrible clown-spider-thing of It so ingeniously defeated when some kids pulled off its legs. These criticisms overlook Twilight being first and foremost a romance, something concerned primarily with emotion and love-that-cannot-be and which wouldn't greatly benefit from descriptions of a big stiff vampire hampton going in and out of a human fanny; and which doesn't require a labyrinthine Alan Moore Rubik's Cube of a plot in order to work.

Twilight is engaging, well written, and does what it sets out to do extremely well. The fact that it worked for me, a fat old geezer who also reads Will Self and Rabelais, must surely count for something. Having read plenty of truly horrendous Doctor Who novels in my time, I know bad writing when I see it, and Stephenie Meyer, at least with this one, succeeds.

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