“Reading Brennan’s Long-Winded Lady pieces is like receiving postcards from the past, which is rendered like a foreign country. Roosting pigeons, fruit markets, the price of martinis, each and every meal: these are the details documented by tourists, who observe the prosaic rattle of city life with the same electric interest they bring to famous sights, and also Brennan. ‘I might as well,’ she announced, ‘have been in Amsterdam for all the attention I was giving the city.’ It is possible to inhabit life entirely, to submit ourselves thoughtfully and entirely to our present circumstances and to treat those circumstances as worthy of reflection.”—Elizabeth Gumport on Maeve Brennan at This Recording.
As soon as I finish up these scenes for my screenwriting class [have I written at all about my screenwriting class, friends? The two most important things that happened in my screenwriting class were: 1) an undergraduate who was writing about a college-aged chronic masturbator with a heart condition one day announced that he had changed the main character’s name to his own name, “because it’s easier,” and 2) I learned that I do not want to be a screenwriter], I’ll have finished my second year of graduate school. I am close enough to the end now that my aggressive unemployability is starting to set up permanent residence somewhere in the area of my kidneys—I’ll be minding my own business, drinking an excessive daily amount of Diet Coke, when suddenly I will feel a general panic creeping up on me, and I wonder, “What is that? Why do I suddenly feel so scared? Oh, right, it’s just my complete lack of professional skills”—but instead of thinking about that, I am going to listen to Petula Clark’s “Downtown” and plan for an excellent summer.
“Throughout the series, Bella never makes a decision at which an adolescent reader would balk—she never deviates from her goal of ‘dating this handsome vampire forever,’ and the series is predicated on the assumption that teenage girls will naturally empathize with this objective.”—This is the best paper I have ever written.
I Just Finished Reading "Twilight" on Purpose, and Not a Moment Too Soon
By far the most frustrating thing about this book series is Stephenie Meyer’s ability to introduce interesting themes and plot twists coupled with her insistence on not carrying any of them through to their most narratively satisfying conclusions. The Twilight Saga is chock-full of shit that made me think, guys. Grotesque anti-feminist behavior. Ideologically-perplexing relationships. Eye-popping moments of racism. Werewolves. But Meyer intentionally evades delving too deeply into the murkier elements of her mythology, with weird results, such as:
We are told in Eclipse that newborn vampires are CRAZY MOFOS WHO WILL DRINK YOUR BLOOD, which leads to all sorts of anxiety for Bella, who is intentionally choosing the path of vampire-hood. But when it finally happens, Bella is totally cool and not blood-thirsty at all; she must just be really good at being a vampire, I guess?
Bella gets human-pregnant with vampire-spawn and is all, “I choose my choice [to carry this baby which is killing me to term]!” which is sort of feminist and also sort of weird, and it would have been really great to hear her rationale for making such a decision, but she makes that decision in the 150 or so pages in which Meyer chooses to narrate from the point of view of another character, which she has not done before over the course of the series, so the decision-making process we hear secondhand is something like “babies = love” which, okay?
Meanwhile, our Native American werewolf friends in the forest “imprint” onto unsuspecting members of the opposite sex—this helpful Twilight wiki describes the process as “the involuntary mechanism by which shape-shifters find their soul-mates,” which I love because I like thinking about the teenage girls managing the Twilight wiki using the word “mechanism.” I’m totally cool with this power—it seems like it will have rich narrative complications, and it does, because it turns out you can imprint on infants! On half-vampire infants! WHICH EVERYONE SHOULD BE PRETTY CONCERNED ABOUT, but instead sort of shrugs off. “Oh well,” Edward and Bella say in the novel’s final pages, “At least we are reasonably certain that our Native American werewolf friend Jacob is not going to try to have sex with our infant” [paraphrased]. SURE!
In the last hundred pages, Meyer starts to set up a showdown, a regular Battle of Hogwarts. Vampires from exotic locales show up! Bella learns how to fight! Shit’s going to get real, you guys, I can just feel—oh, wait, nope. The bad guys show up and basically say, “Meh,” and then go home. No Kreacher leading the house-elves into battle. Only an endless Harry-and-Voldemort-circling-each-other-explaining-everything.
Are these the worst books of all time? I can’t imagine they are the worst books of all time. At their best, they are sort of comfortably claustrophobic, strangely engaging, mopey and wistful and weird. At their worst, they make no sense at all whatsoever, and I fear contain no insight into the world of adolescent girls deeper than, “When a really good-looking boy is interested in you, kill yourself for him.” But I have enough faith in adolescent girls to hope that they aren’t taking it too close to heart. I hope they smile at the good and recoil from the bad, and that at night, in their beds, filled with the usual sexual confusion and torment and desire, they whisper over and over to themselves like an incantation the series’ most wondrous line:
If I hadn’t seen him undressed, I would have sworn there was nothing more beautiful than Edward in his khakis and pale beige pullover.
I wish I could feel triumphant about the looming end of my involvement with the Twilight series, but I am only on page 6 of Breaking Dawn, and there are 746 pages to go.
I wish Stephenie Meyer had just given herself over to the creepy, haunting domestic violence narrative her subconscious so clearly wanted to write. By page 6, Bella has already expressed distaste for the marriage she has begrudgingly agreed to (the word “fiance” is always preceded by uncomfortable elipses), unconvincingly laughed off her future husband’s extreme overprotectiveness (it is implied that he wrecked her car in order to replace it with a missile-proof Mercedes), and listed the various materialistic goods meant to represent Edward’s love for Bella (“the shiny black credit card that felt red-hot in my back pocket”) but which feel more like symbols of his ownership of her. These novels are a collection of serious yikes, is what I’m saying, and if Meyer had only capitalized on that, we’d have some Lifetime movie-level craziness on our hands.
I wish this book wasn’t dedicated to Stephenie Meyer’s favorite band (“the very aptly named Muse”).
My favorite sentence(s) in Freedom are on page 346, when Franzen perfectly captures Kids Today and the Way They Talk: “I’m just saying my hit-counter’s going crazy. I’m getting hot-linked all over the world.”
“Sheen is composing a live tweet. More comments from people leaving early: ‘I was expecting a comedy show.’ ‘It’s just like hanging out at his house,’ says a man wearing an ‘I Believe in Tiger Blood’ T-shirt.”—I’m saving this Entertainment Weekly live-blog of Charlie Sheen’s stage show to pass down to my children one day. “This is what America and its culture were like circa early 2011,” I’ll say. “Shut up, Mom,” they’ll say.
Here Are Some Real Thoughts About April Fool's Day:
Every year, a 20-something woman of my acquaintance announces via Facebook that she is “pregnant” or “engaged” on April Fool’s Day, only to later reveal that—ha ha—no, she is not. This offends me on many levels, which I would like to outline below:
The Level of Comedy: This is simply not funny. I refuse to believe that anybody could be so invested in somebody else’s marital or uterus status to actually go through the emotions that the joke-player expects them to—which is to say, buoyant joy followed quickly by crushing disappointment followed quickly by “Ha ha, you totally got me.” I’m saying this as someone who loves both weddings and babies—nobody cares as much as you do about your own prospective weddings or babies. Nobody. Not even your mom.
The Level of Patriarchy: Is this really the best you can come up with, ladies? Is the most outrageous prank you can conceive of really the announcement of your future status as wives and mothers? The whole spectrum of false identities to don, and you choose ones you have probably already chosen? Which brings me to,
The Level of Sadness: Always, these pranks are perpetrated by women who have already made it abundantly clear through their Facebook activity (maybe not realizing that some girl they took a math class with once is closely monitoring the hopes and dreams expressed in their Facebook activity) that they would like nothing more to become a wife or mother, pronto. And thus the Facebook announcement seems like a way they can experience that which they really desire—basking in the glow of congratulations and well wishes and perhaps a bit of jealousy from all the single ladies, all the single ladies.