7.01.2011

Review: The Twilight Mystique: Critical Essays on the Novels and Films, Edited by Amy M. Clarke & Marijane Osborn

Go ahead. Roll your eyes. Get it out now. Yes, we're talking about Twilight. More specifically, we're talking about some critical analysis of Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster teenage vampire series that has taken the world by storm. Meyer has set the literary world spinning in a tizzy, and The Twilight Mystique explores how, and why ¹.

But first, a little backstory. For those of you who perhaps weren't bitten by the Twilight bug - perhaps you suffer from agoraphobia, or maybe you're just too wrapped up in the Casey Anthony trial ². Here's the lowdown:
Twilight tells the story of a teenage girl who falls in love with a "vegetarian" vampire, and whose life is turned upside down by her involvement with him and his veggie vamp family. There are threats to her life by an ancient group of non-veggies, attacks by a tracker and his crew, and then (not to give away too much or anything) she is killed by her human/vampire offspring while in utero (she's then turned a vampire). There are, of course, good vampires and bad vampires, werewolves, as well as your regular run of the mill, though stupendously oblivious, humans.
Meyer has gotten a lot of flack for her work of teenage angst, a work that borrows from Native American tradition, from vampire lore and fairy tales, from classic literature (Romeo & Juliet, Pride & Prejudice, Wuthering Heights ³), and even borrows some from Mormon theology. True, her writing has its flaws. Yet her stories have (here comes the pun) sucked in thousands. This isn't just YA Fiction or chick-lit, it's a kind of phenomenon.

So why? Why do these books draw in untold numbers of teenagers and middle-aged women alike? Clarke & Osborn have assembled a fairly good collection of works that help explain the fanaticism. Basically everything from it being escapist, to its roots in moral values. Surprisingly, though, only one or two of the pieces is in any way negative. With all the publicized negative criticism, you'd think they'd have been less exclusive to only writers who have something nice to say. That's what I thought at first. But when I think back to the 3 year period between the first book coming out, and my giving in to the hype, I realize that many of the anti-Meyer naysayers have either never read the books, or don't care enough to write about them.

For one, I personally liked the McElroy essay on "Eco-Gothics for the 21st Century" and how it explained the excessiveness of the veggie vampires and their irresponsible lifestyles - lazily capitalistic, exhaustive of resources, etc. And I liked it almost more than I enjoyed the essays on literary allusion and fairy tales.

As someone on the outskirts - yes, I read the books, but I'm a little ashamed - this collections is an enjoyable read. If you're like me, you might even figure out why you read them in the first place. If, however, the ticker in your mind reads something like "OMG LUV TWILIGHT TEAM EDWARD BLAH BLAH BLAH" you may not yet be mature enough (and, let's face it, you may never be mature enough) even for the lightest criticism. And if you hate/avoid the books, you can basically forget it. Read the McElroy essay, and then read the essay on the economy of Forks, WA, and then put it away. Otherwise, you might actually find something to convince you to finally read the books and see what the hype's all about ⁴.

PS - Happy July! I've now finished 12 books since the start of summer reading (and all but one of those was actually on my reading list. Brava, myself.
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[1] Perhaps they should have answered the question, "Does anyone actually give a crap?"
[2] If, somehow, you've avoided the unending saga that is the Casey Anthony trial, I applaud your inability to read. Of course, if you can't read, you're not really reading this, and so in fact, I don't believe you've avoided it up to this point. I mean, c'mon. It's the second article in "Latest News" on CNN.com. Right below "Maria Shriver files for divorce" and right next to "Best Viral Videos - Sleepy Kitty." 
[3] And those are just some of the ones she mentions in the books. 
[4] Do yourself a favor - save yourself. Go watch Buffy instead.

2 comments:

  1. I liked the humor in this post. I am still not going to read the books, since I live in Orlando and have daily excess access to all things Casey Anthony - but the point is this: I learned more reading your post than I would learn if I read the Twilight series. So, when I next visit, please loan me this Mystique book. Thank you~

    ~Me
    And I am kidding about Casey Anthony - No I'm not - I actually DVR'ed the trial twice this week and sync'ed my XM car radio to catch it when I had to drive to work.

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  2. So I think I would be interested in reading the one on the economy of Forks, WA since now that I've been there, twilight is the best thing to happen to them in a long time.

    p.s. I might've bought you something from Forks :-D

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Any and all feedback is welcome - thanks for taking the time!