Sunday, October 31, 2010

Upon Re-reading "Twilight"

Two years ago, I wrote this. If you don't want to follow the link, don't worry. I'll explain--no, wait, there's too much--I'll sum up. The link was to a previous post on this blog in which I expressed my thoughts on first reading Twilight, including a fun anecdote in which the moment I read the last word on the last page, I immediately sprang up, grabbed my car keys, and booked it to the nearest store to buy a copy of New Moon, the sequel to Twilight. In the post I also express a half-awareness of the book's "guilty pleasure" status, yet I remain shameless (mostly).

And now, two years later, I've had time to read the book a couple more times, to see the movie (could have been better, could have been worse), and to distance myself for awhile from the entire phenomenon (as long as I wasn't within 50 feet of a preteen girl, or the mother of a preteen girl). And I would have to say that my opinion of the novel has not altered fundamentally, though time has given it cultivation and nuance.

You know how there are some books that could be page-turners because they're such great stories, but you don't want to read them that fast? They're so good that you just want to take your time, to soak in the prose and study every detail of the characters. For me, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is such a novel (so far), but Twilight was not.

Stephenie Meyer has stated on several occasions something to the effect of, she does not consider herself a writer, but a storyteller. I wholeheartedly agree with her. Keeping in mind that Twilight was her first novel (and I would imagine speedily written, having rather famously appeared to her in a dream a la Mary Shelley's Frankenstein), her prose and her characterization do leave something to be desired. But where she is not lacking is in her ability to tell a compelling story--just try to not stay up far later than your intended bed time while reading this book--and to set a mood.

Twilight is probably one of the moodiest books I've ever read. I was entirely captivated by the setting, a gloomy, romantic, fairy-tale-enchanted-forest kind of setting. Every tree in the town of Forks is dripping with angst and mystery. (Forks is a real town, by the way, to which I've been, both before and after it became a mecca for Twilight fans--I live about four hours away by car. The real Forks isn't nearly as interesting as the fictional one.)

Meyer could not have picked a better location to set her tale, though. Forks is right in the middle of Washington state's Olympic National Forest, one of the only remaining old-growth forests in North America. It's the kind of forest where you would expect to find a cottage full of dwarves, or maybe a vampire.

There was an article in the March 2010 issue of Discover Magazine that was actually about Dutch scientist Frans Vera's concept called "rewilding," but there was a lot about old-growth forests in it: "Today thick, dense forests are considered synonymous with unspoiled nature," but old-growth is "a human artifact: an unnatural, unbalanced outcome created when people...corralled wild horses and cattle. Without free-roaming herds of grazing animals to hold them back, closed-canopy forests took over the land wherever humans did not intervene."

It's an intriguing concept, though one that takes away a little of the romance of all those Grimm tales, and maybe some of the enchanting mystery of Twilight. In the Grimms' tales and in Meyer's tale, the woods are dangerous, haunted by wolves or witches or other unknown terrors. But, if Vera's theory is to be believed, the dark and dangerous woods were created by human activity; we gave the monsters a place to hide.

What a poignant metaphor that is! Twilight doesn't spend a lot of time delving into any kind of psychological exploration, and it barely scratches the surface of the primordial roots of vampire tales throughout human history, but who wants that kind of boring stuff in a fantasy novel?

And Twilight is that: pure fantasy. It's the kind of novel that's a lot of fun if you don't think about it very much, and maybe even more fun if you do.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I once heard the author Mary Clearman Blew say something to the effect of, most people don't have the humility to write about their childhoods until they are at least middle-aged. I don't know that it requires humility, though. Blew's point was, I think, that until someone has lived a certain amount of time, she does not have the wisdom or clarity of sight to look at the experience of childhood, with all its joys and desperate heartbreaks so uneventful to the grown-up mind, as honest narrative, rather than the confusion of half-true facts and guarded memories we see in young adulthood. In other words, it takes time to take our childhoods seriously.

There is too slight a disparity between ten and twenty for a young adult to completely detach herself from the wildness, adventure, and wonder of being a child, and the danger that is no less real for being imaginary. And there is too great a disparity for her believe in that world still.

My childhood is full of stories. My earliest adventures were with the likes of Madeleine and little girls in lines, the Poky Little Puppy and Ferdinand the bull. I explored a split-level tree with the Berenstein Bears, and I sailed through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year with Max and the Wild Things, time and again. A few years later I made fast friends with Laura Ingalls and Sara Crewe and Anne Shirley. And I discovered Narnia rather by accident, just as Lucy did. These were the stories that mattered to me. These are the memories that are most vivid in my mind's eye.

I've lived my life through books. When I was child, the imaginary worlds of orphans and talking animals (for an orphan was to me as strange and mystical a creature as a talking animal), of gloom and brightness and magic, were far more exciting, and far more bearable, than the real world.

In the real world there was school, which had by turns its delights and its atrocities. There were trips to the lake, to the park, to the library, to any other number of interesting places. There were slumber parties and marathon games of make-believe (that wasn't what we called it, but that's what it was). But most of all, in the real world there was the seemingly endless drudgery of living. I was a child for a hundred years.

I couldn't wait to grow up.

When I imagined myself grown up, I pictured an impossibly beautiful and sophisticated woman. At five, I didn't know the word "sophisticated," but that didn't stop me from idolizing the concept. And, inevitably, I suppose, the adult me of my mind's eye often resembled some variation of a Disney princess, a heroine from a book, or a Hollywood actress.

(To be continued...)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

New Job, Old House

So as much of my innermost circle of readership knows, I received and accepted a job offer today. I'll be hanging out at the Kent Historical Museum, doing a little bit of several things. Needless to say, I am beyond excited. I mean, I finally have a reason besides caffeine withdrawal to leave the house every day! And I'll be able to put my blogging skills to more prestigious use, it seems.

I am so thankful, and God is so faithful. I was on the brink of giving up on finding a job that I could really get excited about, and that I could even use my degree in. But here it is, my first real, permanent job right out of college and it's doing something really cool. This is definitely a blessing!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Creepy was Will's Forte

Two weeks into the 36th season of Saturday Night Live, I'm sure many viewers are wondering, “Where's Forte?” At least, if you don't follow entertainment news very closely and you actually noticed that Will Forte's cache of creeper/weirdo characters were absent from those two episodes. He left the show after eight seasons to “pursue new opportunities,” according to a representative for Forte, as quoted in The New York Times about a month ago.

By opportunities, does he mean a MacGruber sequel, by chance? I hope not. There are only so many SNL sketches-turned-movies that the wonderful world of film can contain, and I think we reached the limit right after Wayne's World 2, or maybe somewhere in the middle of it.

But, if Forte is looking to reprise one of his former roles for the big screen, here's a look back at some of his best/creepiest SNL characters, any of which would be just as suitable as MacGruber for a movie franchise:

The Falconer Businessman Ken Mortimer left his career and his home to live in the wilderness with his best friend Donald the falcon, and so became... The Falconer! The most cringe-worthy edition was the Jason Lee episode's Indecent Proposal parody. Yes, Earl Hickey making out with a bird puppet. I had nightmares for weeks.

Tim Calhoun The awkward, camera-shy politician with little to no public speaking ability ran for president in 2008 as the Write-in Party candidate. He appeared on Weekend Update to talk about his stance on issues like the economy—“Put a bag over its face, shotgun a few beers, and then just get it over with”—and the oil crisis—“Drill, baby, drill? Not on my teeth! I hate baby dentists.”

Jon Bovi They are NOT a Bon Jovi cover band! Jon Bovi is the world's first Bon Jovi opposite band. All of their songs are exact opposites of Bon Jovi songs, like “Not Wanted, Alive and Dead,” “Dyin' on a Prayer” and “(Your Hatred is Like) Good Medicine.” For some reason, probably the economy, Jon Bovi hasn't yet been able to sign a gig.

Mr. Dillon (From the “Gilly” sketches) The “Gilly” sketches, starring Kristen Wiig as a school-aged, afro-ed troublemaker, seem like something from Mad TV. They're extremely weird, not actually funny unless you're really sleepy (or high), and yet you can't stop watching them. Forte played the creepy (of course) mustachioed teacher who failed to discipline Gilly for her destructive and violent behavior. Wow, this sounds more like a TV M-rated drama on HBO than a comedy sketch...

I, for one, would gladly pay full price to see a 90 minute version of one of these sketches. Of course, Entertainment Weekly reported back in June that Forte will guest-star on Amy Poehler's sitcom Parks and Recreation this upcoming season, starting in January. But there's still time for a full-length Tim Calhoun feature. Calhoun 2012!