Hail and well met! This is the first of a series of rants that I am making separately from the literary snarks, where I can basically rant about a topic without needing the actual lines and scenes of a book to appear before I can start blathering about it.
Got it? If not, tough tits.
Well, obviously the topic is Twilight, the bestselling book/series by Stephenie Meyer. If you have been lucky enough to not hear anything about her, she is a Mormon housewife from Arizona who had a weird and boring dream in which a plain boring girl has a conversation with a prettyful sparkly vampire in a field. Or, if you’re a nasty doubter from Doubtersville like me, you think she probably had a dream where she, personally, had sex with a prettyful sparkly vampire in a field. But she doesn’t tell anyone that because hey, Mormon housewife.
Anyway, she wrote this scene down, constructed an anorexic excuse for a plot around it, and filled it with her creepy personal fetishes (mainly agalmatophilia – google it), fantasies (apparently she thinks it’s the height of sexiness to have a guy threaten you), and her obvious hardcore masochistic streak, which is obviously not being addressed. (I have no idea what the Mormon Church’s stance on S&M is, but the fact that googling it revealed nothing makes me think they don’t like it). There is a LOT to hate in this series – the antifeminism, the melodrama, the stupidity of the main characters, the glorification of teenage crushes at the expense of deep heartfelt love, the blatant self-insert, the complete lack of likable protagonists, and the depiction of stalking and psychological abuse as being the only kind of real love.
But one thing that is rarely touched on is… LITERATURE.
The Twilight series’ tenuous connection to great literary classics is pretty blatant, and Meyer has trumpeted her “influences” many times over the years. In Smeyer’s little world, only people who read Serious Classic Literature are smart and mature, and only smart and mature people ever read Serious Classic Literature. Only THEY can possibly understand great deep concepts and cosmic questions like “was Shakespeare a misogynist?” And if you vaguely make connections between great literature and your mind-blowingly creepy teen-vampire romance, that connection will magically give your teen-vampire romance… DEPTH.
The first problem is: This is how stupid people think smart people think. And this is how barely-literate people think bibliophiles think.
I’m going to be a little arrogant here and state that I am a smart person, particularly compared to the woman who thinks extra genes lets you turn into a werewolf. And I love reading. I have been reading since early childhood, and I read classic literature RIGHT FROM THE START. I read books meant for adults when I was still aged in single-digits. I freely admit that I haven’t been able to grasp EVERY challenging/classic book I’ve read (Victor Hugo just annoys me), but that is the thing.
But here’s the thing: true bibliophiles like lots of books. Classic books, new books, tragic books, funny books, strange books, realistic books, fantastical books, mysterious books, and stuff like that. I’m not saying it’s required that you like everything or every genre, but bibliophiles do not simply compile a list of X “smart people” books and hey presto, that means they are “lit’rary folks.” For instance, I adore books like Tristram Shandy, Jane Eyre, Robert Louis Stevenson, Alexandre Dumas, and biographies of presidents and great artists. I also enjoy books by Stephen King, urban fantasy series, theme mystery series (coffee shops, knitting, etc), and sappy G-rated romances set in cozy small towns where the feisty young woman falls in love with the brooding sexy doctor who just wants to help her, except they keep having misunderstandings.
What does this mean? It means that I like books. I don’t like ONLY books that make me look good to other people, and I don’t believe that it makes me look any less intelligent to sometimes read stuff that isn’t “smart” or classic. And if people do think less of me for it, fuck them. Are classic books the only ones that deserve to be read and enjoyed?
I can only assume that Stephenie Meyer thinks so. I also can assume that she also thinks HER books are classics because… we’ll get into that in a minute.
In the same vein, the majority of the intelligent people of the world do not divide the world into “us” (smart people) and “them” (everyone else). The majority of the people who BELIEVE this are not very smart themselves. Guess how Bella Swan – aka the author’s avatar – sees the world’s population.
… but I seem to be going off on a tangent. Okay, back to Twilight and the literature it pretends to be connected to.
Stephenie Meyer has drawn a lot of explicit parallels between her books and classic literature, usually stuff by Shakespeare or Austen.
- Twilight: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s classic tale of a strong-willed woman and aloof, proud man whose tempestuous relationship deepens into love when they realize their personal flaws.
- New Moon: Romeo and Juliet, the tale of two melodramatic teenagers who fall in lust, marry, and then commit suicide.
- Eclipse: Wuthering Heights, the tale of an asshole and a stupid woman’s mutual obsession.
- Breaking Dawn: The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream… what the hell?!
- The Host: Uhhhhh… Stargate SG-1?
- The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: Uhhhh…. drawing a blank here.
- Midnight Sun: Still drawing a big fat blank. Wide Sargasso Sea?
So, what is the problem with those parallels?
1. Assumptions, assumptions
As you can see, the big assumption in Smeyer’s work is that if you associate your own writings with great literature, it will automatically bestow great depth, class and intelligence on the newer works. This is incorrect.
Want an example?
I love Clueless, really I do. But does anyone think that its Jane Austen connection somehow makes it deeper or smarter or more timeless? No, not really. My opinion of it didn’t change at all when I realized it was a modernized version of Emma, and honestly the fluffy story it tells is capable of standing on its own designer-shoe-clad feet.
So, case in point: just associating yourself with the greats does not a great work make.
2. It’s subtle as a brick to the face
Smeyer does not do subtlety. At all. A more talented author making references to great works of literature might weave in similar storylines and allow the similarities to be analyzed by people who have read the original work. Other talented authors might give a shout-out when appropriate, such as Diana Wynne-Jones’ many winks to J.R.R. Tolkien (which are funny as hell).
Smeyer tries to do all that and more. She absolutely BLUDGEONS us with her literary references. It isn’t enough that she sets up New Moon as a vampire version of Romeo and Juliet – she has the characters sitting down, watching a movie adaptation and discussing suicide-for-love. And this is what passes for foreshadowing. UGH.
And that’s not the first or last of such scenes. We have another such discussion in Eclipse, and we have Bella nattering on about how she TOTALLY reads Jane Austen in Twilight. It amazes me that Bella doesn’t start comparing Edward to Mr. Darcy – that is how incredibly unsubtle she is.
Which leads me into the next problem:
3. The Connections Don’t Make Sense
Yes, it sounds very smart and literate to say that your plot was influenced by such-and-such by so-and-so. The problem is that just because you have SOME of the story elements doesn’t mean that they will fit.
For example, we have been told that New Moon is influenced by Romeo and Juliet, aka one of THE most misinterpreted plays Shakespeare ever wrote. The whole idea is that like Romeo and Juliet, Bella and Edward are tragically separated when their love seems to be strongest, and like Romeo and Juliet, the idea of living without each other is so horrible that they want to commit suicide so they can…. I dunno, since Edward thinks vampires go to hell or whatever. Of course, Bella would probably be there too, so… I guess they WOULD be together.
Aside from the idiocy of the plot, it’s not really comparable to Romeo and Juliet. Yes, both works have suicidal teenagers who don’t cope well with being separated. That’s…. pretty much where the resemblance ends. Smeyer acts like it was a big shaping influence, but the absence of some important details means that it’s nothing more than namedropping.
- The feud. If you look at the play as a whole, the feud is actually the driving force, NOT the love story. Remove the feud, and you basically remove the core of Shakespeare’s entire story. Nothing in the play would happen – including the romance, marriage, suicides – if it weren’t for the feud.
- Additionally, the whole idea of people from rival families getting together is totally dumped. Again, an important part of the original story, but nowhere to be found here.
- The opposing forces trying to tear the young lovers apart are conspicuously absent in New Moon. Edward doesn’t leave because he’s been banished, he just up and leaves because… well, because he and Bella are stupid and shortsighted.
- Suicidal behavior: Romeo and Juliet only became suicidal WHEN THE OTHER DIED/SEEMED TO DIE. Bella becomes suicidal and self-harming just because Edward isn’t living in Forks anymore. You don’t get to cite Romeo and Juliet as a source if the characters don’t die at the end!
So what do these stories have in common? Uhhhh… suicidal melodramatic teenagers in lust. That’s… basically it. Not much of a basis for literary comparisons. I mean, Asimov’s Robot/Foundation series and Star Trek: The Next Generation both have androids with positronic brains who are ALMOST human but not quite. There the resemblance ends. So, I would not say that ST:TNG is heavily influenced by Asimov’s work – it may DRAW on Asimov very occasionally (an early episode name-dropped him), but it’s not Asimov-with-a-twist the way Twilight supposedly is.
And that’s just one example. ALL of Smeyer’s connections between her own books and the classic ones are REALLY, REALLY flimsy. Stuff like: “Edward and Bella had a fight in Twilight and she got pissed off at him for something, so it’s totally like Pride and Prejudice.” And I’m not even sure where the hell she got the “sources” for Breaking Dawn, none of which have the slightest thing to do with the actual book.
Which leads me in to…
4. Trying To Make Connections Where None Exist
I have had people insist that I’m picking too hard, that I’m demanding too much of a connection between the classic works and the Twilight ones. Others have told me that I’m accusing Stephenie Meyer of something that cannot be proven, ie believing that associating her horrible book with a classic one will somehow make it seem deep or clever.
It’s true, I cannot prove that that is how Stephenie Meyer…. uh, perceives things. However, my rebuttal is pretty convincing: Breaking Dawn.
If you have been lucky enough not to read this epic clusterfuck, it is quite possibly one of the most infamously horrible endings of the 21st century. In summary, Bella whines and moans her way through her wedding to Edward, which Jacob crashes (and no, sadly we are not treated to a “if anyone here knows of a reason blah blah blah” moment). They go off on a honeymoon to an island that the Cullens own (yeah, Bella’s totally not a golddigger), where they finally quit dicking around and have sex. Rapey, violent sex. As a Mormonized clone of Anita Blake, Bella loves being savagely beaten during sex, but Edward tries to use it as an excuse to not have sex with an icky girl anymore. His heart will always belong to Carlisle!
However, that one time is enough to knock Bella up with a vampire fetus. And since Smeyer doesn’t want her avatar to spend a WHOLE NINE MONTHS being pregnant, Bella has the world’s shortest term pregnancy, during which she is being slowly beaten to death from the inside and forced to drink blood. Edward tries to make her have an abortion, and amazingly does not repeatedly throw her down the stairs. He also tries to pimp her out to Jacob if Jacob will convince her to get an abortion.
Sadly for Jacob’s raging libido, Bella then has her back broken by her mutant fetus before he can say “Hell yeah!”, and Edward performs a quickie caesarian. With his teeth. He then gives Bella a quickie injection of vampire venom, which transforms her into the Sueiest, sparkliest and speshulest of all vampires everywhere. Meanwhile, Jacob has fallen madly in love with the newborn baby, who is given the horrible name of Renesmee. But the Volturi show up, believing that the Cullens have transformed a mortal kiddie into a vampire, which is apparently forbidden, so Alice and Jasper have to prove that vampire/human hybrids can be born naturally.
They do that, Bella protects everyone with her Mind Shield of Love, Renesmee is creepy, and the series ends with the Volturi just going back home to Italy yet again. Oh, and since Bella and Edward are now vampires and Bella doesn’t have to do any childcare or anything, she and Edward can have violent sex for all of eternity.
What does this have to do with The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
What’s the connection?
What part of the plot is so clearly derived from those two classic plays?
There is no connection between those plays and Breaking Dawn. Wow. That was epicly lame.
I suspect Smeyer would claim that oh, the inspiration from Midsummer Night’s Dream is that Jacob instantly falls in love with Renesmee, and that the inspiration from Merchant of Venice is…. the whole “judging” scene near the end. Here’s the problem:
- Jacob instantly falling for Renesmee does not resemble anything that happens in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
- There is no outside agent, or person causing it to happen. Shakespeare wrote Oberon and Puck as using a flower juice that induced unwavering love.
- Jacob? NOTHING. No outside agent at all. All we get is the dubious idea of “imprinting,” which results in pedophilia and physical abuse.
- Shakespeare at least showed the moral ambiguity of that sort of thing, since Oberon also used it to humiliate and manipulate his wife/lover.
- … and oh yeah, Helena wasn’t a baby covered in birth ooze when Demetrius fell for her. Which is disgusting on many levels.
- So… if two unrelated stories have people falling in instant love, one must be based on the other?! BULLSHIT, I say!
- As for the “judging” scene, does that mean John Grisham novels are also based on The Merchant of Venice?I mean, if they have a courtroom scene, it’s TOTALLY the same thing!
The main point is simply that if there is a slight characteristic of ONE SINGLE PLOT POINT that very slightly resembles something in a Shakespeare play… no, it doesn’t count as being “inspired” by. It’s more like “justified by.”
5. Smeyer just doesn’t get it
Here’s the thing about literary connections and basing your stories on great novels and plays: you need to have a pretty good understanding of the author, the material, the subtext, the intent behind the piece, and the different interpretations that a person can put on the characters, events, and overall plot.
Smeyer doesn’t have that.
I swear, this woman has an almost superhuman ability to misinterpret the point of EVERY SINGLE BOOK she’s ever mentioned. EVER. Whenever she mentions the content of a book she’s reading, she manages to completely miss the WHOLE POINT of said book, as well as the important qualities of its characters. I am dead serious: she NEVER gets them right!
I mean, how can you possibly base YOUR book on another person’s book if you don’t have the faintest idea what happened, what you’re meant to get from the story, and what is up with the characters? HOW?! It’s like watching a foreign movie with no subtitles and no ability to understand the language, and deciding that you’re going to remake it.
Here’s something to compare against: a clip from Slings and Arrows, a TV series about putting on productions of Shakespeare.
In this, the incredibly dumb and bitchy Clare really shows that she has no understanding of her character, and has to have it spelled out to her by the intelligent, well-read Geoffrey who also has a pretty good understanding of psychology. Clare literally sees nothing but the surface of the play, so she needs ALL the subtext, the psychology, the intricate characterizations SPELLED OUT FOR HER, or she just DOES NOT FUCKING GET IT.
Smeyer – and by extension Bella – is like Claire. This woman seems incapable of appreciating messages, subtext, characterization and PLOT beyond what she herself can handle. Every single description – implied or explicit – of a book that comes from her is SO SHALLOW IT MAKES MY BRAIN HURT. I mean, how can you possibly read books your whole life and never understand ANY of them?!
So here’s a sampling of books/plays she has totally fucking missed the point of:
- Pride and Prejudice: As every squealing Twilight fan will tell you, Twilight is allegedly based on Pride and Prejudice. And in case you haven’t read the book (or watched the awesome miniseries with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle), here is the basic run-down: Lizzie Bennett and Mr. Darcy get off on the wrong foot when she takes a dislike to his snotty attitude, and he makes it worse by getting his best friend to dump Lizzie’s sister. Despite this, he falls in love with Lizzie and asks her to marry him, but she tells him off for it. However, Darcy starts improving his cold, snobby personality as he and Lizzie spend more time together, and when her younger sister runs off with an old enemy of Darcy’s, he jumps in to save the Bennett family’s reputation.
… yes, it sounds SO much like Twilight, doesn’t it? I mean, the stories are practically the same!
Okay, okay, I already did my rant on how Smeyer’s “based on” approach has no resemblance to the original works. I’ll shut up about that now. So anyway, the title tells you what the important characterization is about. Both Lizzie and Darcy have a major personality defect that they need to overcome – he is proud and snobby, and she is gullible and easily prejudiced. The whole point of their romance is not that they bicker, but that they change as people and become BETTER, which allows them to fall in love and form a real, strong, lasting relationship.
Smeyer… doesn’t get that. Do Bella and Edward have defects? MILLIONS of them. Are these flaws ever addressed, and do they try to overcome them? HELL NO. Edward and Bella are depicted as “perfect” internally and externally from the very beginning, and not once do they try to overcome any of their crappy personal defects.
And that’s not even getting into the insulting idea that Bella is a “modern” Lizzie. Lizzie was written about in a time when women had no power at all, and were little more than babymakers for the men. Despite this, Austen created a pro-feminist heroine who was smart, independent, physically active, witty AND kind.
Let’s consider this scientifically (and by “scientifically,” I mean with a table):
|Lizzie Bennett||Bella Swan|
|Indepedent-minded||To the point where people criticize her for it.||… no, not at all. She doesn’t get to even make decisions for herself – instead she has to stand by, drooling while other people make plans FOR her.|
|Smart||It’s one of the things about her that Darcy finds attractive.||We’re told that she is, but have no evidence to support it. She can’t deduce basic information and regularly misses the obvious.|
|Physically capable||Yup, especially for her time – think hikes in old-timey shoes.||So passive that people CARRY HER AROUND. Constantly tells us how crazy clumsy she is (but that vanishes conveniently when she wants it to).|
|Witty||Frequently.||In her dreams.|
|Kind||Most of the time, despite her irritating family.||Almost never. Always sneering at other people and complaining about them.|
|Gold-digging||No way – she actually turns down Darcy’s proposal because she detested him. He is insanely rich, and she is poor. Enough said.||Absolutely. Sorry, you can’t convince me that the Cullens’ ridiculous wealth isn’t a deciding factor. And there’s the whole “trying to become an immortal” thing with Bella, where she is always trying to wheedle, blackmail and threaten immortality out of a vampire.|
|Romantic relationship||A relationship based on mutual respect as as well as romantic love.||Edward calls all the shots, and frequently shows that he thinks she’s stupid, incompetent and incapable of caring for herself.|
|Puts up with crap from her love interest||Never. Her dislike of Darcy actually starts because he disrespects her publicly, and she never hesitates to express her opinions of his actions.||Constantly. Considers his stalking/murderous fantasies to be romantic; allows him to physically intimidate her and boss her around, and generally puts up with behavior that would make any thinking woman dump him in a heartbeat.|
|Overcomes personality defects||Yes, she learns that the charming woobie Wickham is actually a despicable cad, and that Darcy is actually very sweet once he overcomes HIS personality defect.||Nope, not a single one. She doesn’t even have personal flaws that are acknowledged.|
But I’m going on a tangent again. The important thing is that Austen had an actual story with an underlying message about overcoming your flaws, and characters who not only fall in love, but CHANGE themselves to become better people for that love to be real. AND SMEYER DOESN’T GET THAT. She just sees a poor, smart girl who falls for a hot rich guy, they bicker some, and then they get together.
And the amazing thing is that Smeyer boasts about having read this annually for TWENTY-FIVE YEARS. At least twenty-five readings over more than half her life… and she hasn’t figured out what the book is about.
- Romeo and Juliet: Oh boy, this one is a tough one. It’s especially bad because Smeyer actually brought up some stuff that undermines her “OMGBBQ R&J = troo lurv!” viewpoint. Does that mean she COULD understand it, but doesn’t want to?!
Anyway, this has become the archetype of feuding-lovers-from-rival-groups thing that is now a trope: the Capulets and Montagues hate each other for reasons I can’t remember. While crashing a party and moping about a girl he’s crushing on, Romeo Montague sees his crush’s cousin Juliet Capulet and instantly wants in her pants. Juliet loves him too, but they can’t be together because their families hate each other. Despite this, they secretly get married, and Romeo immediately gets in trouble and ends up banished. Juliet’s family wants her to marry some other guy, so to avoid bigamy she fakes her suicide in an elaborate plan to escape to be with Romeo. You can guess what happens: due to miscommunications and teen emo-ness, Romeo and Juliet both end up committing suicide, which shames their families into making peace.
So as I said before, Smeyer fairly BLUDGEONS us with this play in New Moon, which is also about hormonal, suicidal emo teens, and in her crappy book-list, she claims that we get all our ideas about young love from Romeo and Juliet.
Well, here’s the thing: Romeo and Juliet don’t really have true love. Sorry, it’s true. The play displays Juliet as naive and easily swayed, and Romeo as a guy who only thinks about the latest girl he’s crushing on (he’s obsessed with Juliet’s cousin SECONDS before he sees HER). Shakespeare was a smart guy and a brilliant writer, and he knew that it would make Romeo seem fickle to have him obsessed with Rosaline at the play’s beginning. He also casts doubt on whether their love would have lasted, since he has the Friar talk to Romeo about “Whoa, the other day you were crying your eyes out about Rosaline, and now you want to screw her cousin? Teen boys!”
But again, Smeyer gets it wrong. She seems to think that these are defects in Shakespeare’s writing. Yes, you read right: Stephenie Meyer thinks that SHE can nitpick Shakespeare. The most influential, and some say the greatest, writer in the history of the English language. She, the author of Twilight.
Let that sink in for a minute.
So anyway, Edward criticizes the character of Romeo, talking about how him switching from Rosaline to Juliet “makes him seem a little fickle,” that he “destroyed his happiness,” and that he made “mistakes” like killing Juliet’s cousin. Amazingly, Smeyer probably thinks this is legit literary criticism. But ALL of it is based entirely on a questionable premise: that left undisturbed, Romeo and Juliet would have a lifetime of eternal love and happiness, even though they barely know each other, they got married after only meeting a couple times, Romeo is a flake and Juliet is FUCKING THIRTEEN. I mean, does that sound like a recipe for “happiness” to anyone with half a brain?
- Again, Shakespeare himself casts doubt on whether their relationship would have lasted.
- Uh, it doesn’t “make” Romeo look fickle. It just SHOWS that Romeo is fickle. Shakespeare was a brilliant writer, and unlike Smeyer he knew perfectly well how this made the character look and the implications of it! “Waaahhhh, sexy Capulet girl has rejected me… woo, her cousin is HOT!”
- Those mistakes are called conflict and plot. Something you won’t find in these books.
- And their “happiness” = teenage crush. Note how Edward doesn’t even dispute that Romeo and Juliet had “twoo wuv” – he just takes it for granted that two soppy romantic teenagers MUST have true love.
- Then again, their relationship made as much sense as Bella and Edward’s.
- In short, Smeyer thinks that it just made Romeo SEEM fickle, not that he WAS fickle, and Romeo had potential “happiness” between himself and a barely pubescent girl he wanted to bone after knowing her for about ten minutes.
Also, Smeyer never even entertains the possibility that the real message here is not “teen luv = troo luv!”, but that feuds are horrible evil things that will cause your kids to kill themselves and each other. She never entertains the possibility – heavily hinted at in the text – that Romeo and Juliet’s feelings are more of a horny crush than real lasting love.
She also had the almighty nerve to announce that “Romeo and Juliet were kind of idiots, they didn’t know each other very well.” Dearie me, you don’t say. Well, maybe it’s because Shakespeare was a master of fucking satire, which you have failed to notice?
Honestly, I don’t think she WANTS to look any deeper than the surface. If she did, she might find something that shatters her romantic fantasies.
- The Princess Bride: Despite claiming that this is one of her favoritest books EVER, Smeyer took the time out to crap all over it at one point:
Actually Bella and Edward’s love story is better than them.
BULL. SHIT. I can’t even come up with something witty about that. It’s like comparing the crap on the bottoms of your shoes to a rosebush, and insisting the crap is superior. What NERVE.
When I was in college, I wrote a lot of papers from a feminine perspective (it’s an easy way to write) on the Princess Bride.
The fact that Smeyer doesn’t know the word “feminist” says a lot.
Buttercup is an idiot and it doesn’t bother anyone, all that matters is that she’s beautiful, at the end she became a little more smart, but the female characters are very weak in that story. Westley is brave and smart and fights, Buttercup is just beautiful , it’s her only thing, her brain means nothing, her personality means nothing to him, they have the kind of love where they can’t live without each other.
Wow. The almighty NERVE of this woman. She literally missed out on EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of this book, mainly because she seems to be blind to satire. This book… is a SPOOF. She managed to miss that it was a SPOOF of such fantasy stories, which is why so much of it is written tongue-in-cheek.
And the almighty chutzpah of Stephenie Meyer accusing another author of writing an idiotic, passive heroine whose brain and personality mean nothing to her boyfriend, but nobody cares about that because she’s so pretty. THE FUCKING NERVE. And “the kind of love where they can’t live without each other”? Funny, I don’t remember Buttercup actively TRYING TO GET RAPED and LEAPING OFF CLIFFS. Wherever did I see that? Oh yeah, your pretty idiot heroine whose yummy-smelling blood is “her only thing.”
Yeah, Buttercup attempts suicide. But she doesn’t attempt suicide because Westley isn’t there, boo hoo. She attempts suicide because she thought he was DEAD, she had just been forced to marry his murderer, and the guy was planning to kill her anyway. She had basically hit rock bottom. She was not just being emo.
Also… it’s a SPOOF. How could she fail to NOTICE THAT?! And even then, it’s funny, charming, romantic, sweet and achieved eternal meme status. Smeyer? She’s a joke who churned out tween-girl porn and slipped into deserving obscurity.
- Atonement: I only recently found out about this WTFery, in the horrible guide to Twilight. In the first part of the interview, Smeyer brings up the book Atonement by Ian McEwan, which is about a young girl named Briony who accuses her sister’s boyfriend of rape because… well, she doesn’t like him, and apparently she thinks sex is rape or whatever. In her fictional retelling of the story, they eventually live happily ever after. In the real world, they both die miserable premature deaths, having lost their only lovers. Oh, and the woman who was actually raped ends up married to the real rapist.
Smeyer, as usual, totally misses the point of the main character’s borderline-mentally-ill behavior. She burbles about how: I was interested in the way Ian McEwan writes about being a writer through the character‘s standpoint…. She‘s always seeing another story. She‘s doing one thing—but, then, in her head, it becomes something else, and it turns into another story. It‘s kind of like what you were saying about writers needing that extra reality to escape to.
Yeah. She actually is PRAISING the “extra reality” mindset of a character who ended up destroying several people’s lives and happiness because of her “story-making” imagination – some of them died miserable and lonely, an innocent man was falsely accused of rape, the real rapist got off scott-free, and the rape victim ended up married to her rapist.
And Smeyer thinks that the mindset that led to this is a GOOD and NECESSARY thing for a writer.
The entire POINT of the story is that Briony’s “extra reality” was hugely harmful to everyone around her. By the time she realizes this, it’s too late. But Smeyer is apparently wilfully blind to this, because she’s too busy going, “Yes, that Ian McEwan has TOTALLY captured the way I, personally, feel! Awesome! I’m so speshul!”
(NOTE: I know that Smeyer also fired off at Wuthering Heights, but I haven’t reread her comments about it lately. I will go back to this and insert my opinions at a later date, okay?)
So as you can see, Smeyer manages to totally miss the point of any book she talks about for any length of time. Every single analysis she does of books is incredibly shallow. And the saddest thing is, there are people who actually think she knows what she’s talking about, rather than realizing that her teenybopper mind is too narrow to comprehend them.
It’s like the woman has a filter in her head that removes all traces of plot, characterization and subtext that don’t revolve around hawt menz, romance, and Smeyer’s own experiences.
So in conclusion, it might not be technically true that Twilight has NOTHING to do with great literature, but the connections are so slim that they might as well not be there at all.
- Associating yourself with great literature does not make your literature great.
- Her books are too plotless to be “retellings.”
- Her books are too blatant to be homages.
- The “connections” between the sparklepire books and the original books/plays are incredibly tenuous.
- She tries to CREATE connections where none can exist.
- And finally, she does not understand ANY of the great literature she reads.
You know what the saddest thing of all is? This woman is a bestseller, despite the fact that she cannot manage the most basic, simple literary techniques.
Countless authors throughout history have drawn inspiration from plays, books and poetry that existed before their own works. Shakespeare cribbed from lots of previous stories for his plays – most of them were not original. Patricia A. McKillip was inspired to write her best work by J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy. Neil Gaiman homages and retells a lot of authors’ stories, including G.K. Chesterton, Kipling, Shakespeare, Tori Amos and Bradbury. And of course, many authors have rewritten folktales and mythology to suit their own stories.
ALL these authors do a way better job in every way, connecting to the original works and people that they are paying tribute to, while also telling their own unique stories.
Maybe, when you get right down to it, Smeyer is incapable of that. Not just because she’s a bad writer, but because she just can’t appreciate any literature because she can’t – or won’t – look deep enough to see the layers.