On Reading Twilight and Harry Potter

versus-twilight-vs-harry-potter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter moved me to rush home and re-read the whole series from the beginning.  I also figured that since Eclipse was releasing to theaters soon after my return, I would trudge through the final three installments of Twilight and have a wonderful time writing a series of blog posts analyzing the differences in characterization, writing style, and literary worth among other things.

The original plan was to read Harry Potter 1-7 then Twilight 2-4 and write based on the experience of finishing the two series consecutively.  So I got home from Orlando, finished The Red Pyramid, then eagerly broke into Philosopher’s Stone (yes, the UK version), and finished it pretty quickly.  I then had a choice: I could alternate HP and Twilight books, or I could finish one series and then read the other.  Since Chamber of Secrets is my least favorite of Rowling’s, I opted to alternate.

I Tried.  I Promise I Did.

Twilight is bad.  B-A-D.  But I read it all the way through despite feeling the urge to stop pretty often.  So when I started New Moon, I expected more of the same.  I’d seen the movie, so I expected no cohesive plot, but the saving grace was that Edward Cullen wasn’t present through most of the narrative.

Unfortunately, if it is possible to be worse than Twilight, New Moon is.  At the very least, it is equal in its terribleness.  Bella Swan is just as vapid in the second novel as she is in the first, and if it’s possible, Meyer writes her to be even more clingy and dead-behind-the-eyes.  The writing after coming off of the eloquent yet simple style of J.K. Rowling is hard to muddle through and glean any meaning from—and please note that by meaning, I am speaking literally, as in sometimes the sentences have to be read two or three times just to understand what they say, not as in a deeper meaning that speaks to underlying themes and the human condition.

I made it through 26% of the novel.  That’s over a quarter of the book!

I’m proud of myself for that because initially, I stopped at 12%.  I just couldn’t take it anymore after reading passages like these:

I knew I was too late—and I was glad something bloodthirsty waited in the wings.  For in failing at this, I forfeited any desire to live.

and

I couldn’t feel anything but despair until I pulled into the familiar parking lot behind Forks High School and spotted Edward leaning motionlessly against his polished silver Volvo, like a marble tribute to some forgotten pagan god of beauty.

and

Besides, the only kind of heaven I could appreciate would have to include Edward

stephenie-meyer-new-moon-cover But something made me keep going.  I thought I was better than that.  I was sure that if droves of barely literate teenagers could finish these books, so could I!  And by the 26% marker, I gave in.  I had watched Bella collapse in the middle of the woods for hours/days out of misplaced infatuation and selfishness, I saw her treat her friends and family as though they didn’t exist because she turned a year older than Edward was when he was turned into a vampire, and I saw her start talking to Jacob Black who, at least when I stopped reading, had not yet ripped his shirt off to show us his impeccable abs, for the sole reason of making the voices in her head jealous.

Between 12% and 26%, I was treated to these gems of prose:

I tried to remember if I liked scary movies, but I wasn’t sure.

This one bothers me for a new reason.  I’ve been dumped.  I’ve had some bad breakups.  And even when I was 18 years old (the age Bella is when all this happens), no breakup in the world would make me turn into such a zombie that I forgot what my own interests were, which is what the lead up in the narrative to this quote indicates.  She was zoned out for months, losing her friends, family, and apparently personality.  Way to be dependent on someone else to even have a personality, Bella.  Yeah, there’s a great literary character for young girls to aspire to be like.  Good job, Stephenie Meyer.  Good job.

And then there’s when Bella goes to visit Jacob Black to fix her newly gifted motorcycles.  He doesn’t charge her to fix it, but she has to buy the parts the bike needs.  A fair trade, actually.  So what does Bella do?  Why, she dips into her college fund!

Every penny I made went into my microscopic college fund. (College was Plan B.  I was still hoping for Plan A, but Edward was just so stubborn about leaving me human…)

Which leads to:

I’ve got some money saved.  College fund, you know.” College, schmollege, I thought to myself.  It wasn’t like I’d saved up enough to go anywhere special—and besides, I had no desire to leave Forks anyway. What difference would it make if I skimmed a little bit off the top?

So now we have a vapid, poorly written teenager presenting to young readers that it’s okay to take money from college savings in order to do something as stupid and reckless as fix up a broken motorcycle to get back at both an absentee father and the guy who just dumped you.  And so I quit.

Now, keep in mind, I’m a bit proponent of “presentation does not equal promotion.”  Just because something is included in a book or movie does not mean the author is necessarily promoting its ideals.  But it takes an educated and distinguishing eye to discern which perspective is being portrayed—presentation or promotion—and I know few adolescents, much less Twilight fans who can make that kind of distinction.

Bigger and Better

versus-twilights-vs-harry-potter-m My wife pulled up the new Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows trailer just after I had witnessed Bella’s ignorance regarding college.  After we watched it, I immediately realized two things.  That Harry Potter is more interesting on every level than Twilight is—from the world to the characters to the narrative itself.  And that my dad was right: reading something just to rip it apart was stupid, especially if I’m not getting even the slightest bit of enjoyment out of it.  Even the most pure and academic reasons I could muster didn’t stand up to the reality of just how awful New Moon really is.  There are a lot of other books out there I can read and re-read without being subjected to such miserable writing and ideas.  So I started up Chamber of Secrets and left New Moon to rot.

Maybe I’ll get back to it sometime.  Heck, writing this blog made me actually want to take a break from Rowling and see what other tragically miserable quotes I can find in the text.  And the idea of a side-by-side comparison really does interest me.  But I have to tell you guys, they’re really badly written, and I’m not sure I have it in me.

I just thought you all should know that I gave it a real, honest shot.  I went in with an open mind, putting my biases aside with the end goal of an honest comparison and analysis between the two series.  And I couldn’t do it.

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About B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.

51 thoughts on “On Reading Twilight and Harry Potter

    • The sparkling vampires actually don’t bother me. Since I typically don’t enjoy vampire literature anyway, the changes to the mythology don’t bother me. Yeah, it’s silly and she never makes it really clear why they hide because of it other than it being inhuman. I mean wouldn’t it just be easier to have someone like Carlisle–a doctor–make up a skin disorder, publish about it, and then claim to possess it than to hide all the time? That way they could lead relatively normal lives? The sparkling itself doesn’t bother me; it’s the way its handled within the narrative that does, much like everything else.

      • Yeah, I agree. I just like making fun of sparkley vampires. Truthfully, it’s a low blow.

        Stuff that’s different from the norm is good. It make your book different. It makes people want to read what you write and not just say it’s “just another vampire book.” And if Twilight does one thing well, it’s not being “just another vampire book.” Doesn’t mean I like it, though.
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  1. The biggest similarity I’m seeing is that Robert Pattinson appears in the movie adaptations of both. :P

    I haven’t read any of the Twilight series, but your quotes are really making me curious as to just how bad it is. I really don’t like Dan Brown, but I keep reading his books because the plots are interesting, even if some of the descriptive writing makes me grind my teeth together. This, I think I might read BECAUSE the writing makes me grind my teeth together. I have an unhealthy love of criticizing.
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    • He does! And I didn’t particularly like him in Harry Potter, either. I thought he was funny looking and pretty stiff to play Cedric, who was supposed to be fun-loving.

      I read Dan Brown for the same reason, keeping in mind how bad the prose can be. He lost me with The Lost Symbol, though. I loved Angels & Demons and liked The DaVinci Code. But The Lost Symbol was just miserably bad, both in story and in how it was written.

      Twilight will certainly give you a lot to criticize if you love doing it, that’s for sure.

    • The trailer is fantastic. I didn’t know it existed either until my wife started it up that night. It was fantastically done, I think, and really grabbed the feel that Deathly Hallows needs.

  2. Muhahaha, I love reading you tearing apart Twilight :P It’s like a giant playing with ants :D

    I’m not overly thrilled with Harry Potter either tbh but I can’t say I have a big issue with it. I can understand that it appeals to foreigners (non Brits ;) ) more though because it’s very quaint and charming and presents a façade of quintessential Britishness. To me though, living in the same city as JK Rowling and having attended a private school, it’s all a little too close to the bone and makes me quite uncomfortable :) It represents a very old fashioned-jolly-good-double-hockey-sticks-yah-yah stereotype that I just detest :)
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    • Gordon, that is a legitimate criticism of Harry Potter, and I can’t argue with it. Nor would I want to. Being public schooled in America, I have no way to tell what’s overstereotyped and not. I’m sure a lot of it is, but even so, I do love Rowling’s writing style.

      That said, I have a similar problem in stereotyping in literature: the American South. I’m not sure how pervasive it is out of the US, but far too often people with a Southern accent are portrayed as simple, stupid, ignorant, racist, uneducated, or some miraculous combination of all these. Especially those from small or rural areas. I love True Blood, but I have a major complaint that quite often it uses the Southern accent not to help build the world in which it exists, but to accentuate character faults. As a person who was born, raised, and educated in language and literature on a graduate level entirely in Tennessee and Alabama, I take offense when people automatically equate having this accent with being stupid or being unable to even grasp the concept of grammar.

      So I completely understand how the “old fasthoned-holly-good-double-hockey-sticks-yah-yah” stereotype that Rowling uses for her series can get under someone’s skin. I think that’s legitimate criticism for the series, and much more valid than just saying “children’s books can’t be literature.”

      • Ha, hon, you said pretty much everything that I was going to say to Gordon, right down to the True Blood comparison. Another interesting thing about how Southerners are represented is the exaggeration of the accents. Yes, there are plenty of people who have very strong accents. But there are also plenty of Southerners with whom you only hear hints of the accent here and there as they speak. Neither type of accent is better or worse than the other, but there is a range. But since the Southern accent is television code for ignorant, quaint, eccentric, etc., the actors feel the need to make it ridiculously obvious. So when a Southern character speaks on TV, every single syllable of every single word contains an exaggerated diphthong. A lot of the times, even when you have actors from the South, they will exaggerate their natural accents if they are playing characters coded as “Southern.”

        There’s even a great interview with Stephen Colbert, who is from South Carolina, in which he says that he learned to mask his accent because he always wanted to be a performer, and he noticed at an early age that the Southern accent is TV shorthand for stupidity. I guess what annoys me the most is that, while most other stereotypes on TV receive a lot of attention and criticism, no one really cares about the Southern stereotypes. I think it’s because most people assume they’re accurate.

        • New Englanders are often portrayed in a similarly sereotypical way. I hate seeing a movie set in Maine because I know it’s going to be such a horrific caricature. Not everything here is by the ocean and family run for eightteen generations. Not everyone is a fisherman, there are not lighthouses on every corner. I would like to see MORE of the dirty, uneducated, rural poverty represented, because that is what my corner of the country is really like and we often can’t get basic services (retail stores in particular) because people are too concerned about ruining the “quaint” image of the place. To the point where when I was growing up we had to drive hours from home to buy new shoes because the local towns didn’t want to ruin the (measly) tourism income they relied on by modernizing.
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          • I think there’s negative caricatures everywhere, and having lived in the middle of it makes it more annoying to see those negative aspects.

            For example, I grew up in Iowa. Amazingly enough to some people, I’m not a farmer. I went to college in Iowa and got a degree at a university with one of the best Engineering schools in the U.S. (At least during the time I went there.) But, there’s still this stereotype of people from Iowa all being corn farmers, “simple but decent folk”, etc. These days I live in California, and there’s a whole raft of stereotypes about this state as well that I’m sure most people are familiar with.

            As a writer, sometimes its useful to exploit these stereotypes. Speaking of True Blood, could you really imagine Jason Stackhouse with any other sort of accent? There are stupid people all over, and that character’s accent happens to confirm some stereotypes. But, in that show we also have the opposte: Bill Compton’s accent gives way to the stereotype of the old style “Southern Gentleman” that can conjure a lot of positives. Would you complain about that, too, Beej?

            Anyway, as to the topic of the blog post, I think the real issue here is that Bella n ever develops. I’ve only seen the first movie and haven’t read the books (I may be psycho, but I’m not that crazy!), but the big problem is that Bella never grows. Contrast this with Harry, where in the first book he’s very much adrift and at the mercy of the circumstances around him. But, he grows stronger and eventually decides to take control of his own destiny. I think that’s what makes J.K. Rowling’s books so satisfying, at least to me.
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            • Brian, I actually do have reservation regarding Vampire Bill’s accent. It’s that idea regarding the old style Southern gentleman that makes the rest of the country think that we’re so far behind in progress and civilization. There are still people today in the Deep South who speak like he does. Part of that may be coming from living here, though. There are a lot of positives that come from the idea of a Southern gentleman, but the feminist in me sees a lot of negative stereotypes that come from it as well. It indicates chivalry without necessarily equality, at least regarding women and civil rights.

              I may also be biased against it, too, because I am terribly tired of seeing Confederate flags flying and seeing bumper stickers that say “The South Will Rise Again”–unfortunately, I’m not kidding–and the idea of the Southern gentleman plays heavily into what some people think about regarding the Civil War and won’t give it up. I’m all about retaining our culture and regional heritage, but there’s a line in my mind where that can do more harm than good. If that makes sense.

              I would argue that Jason Stackhouse does the same thing you mention Harry Potter doing. He’s stereotyped as the Southern man-whore and is very much a caricature of many people I went to college with, accent and all. But so far in Season 3, he’s trying to learn and adapt into something better than he is. His accent can’t change as he does that, nor should it have to because that’s not indicative of anything other than where he was raised.

              And Rhii, you’re right. I never thought about it before because I’m such a fan of Stephen King’s writing, but there is a certain quaintness that comes to mind when I think of Maine. It never crossed my mind what the cost of actually maintaining that quaintness is. In the next county over, the seat won’t allow any modernization (even a Wal-Mart or a new car wash) to be moved into town because they want to be a “rural, home-owned” Southern town. So people drive to a neighboring county and spend their money; it’s a Catch-22.

              • Yes, we locals have a very love-him-yet-hate-him kind of relationship with Stephen King. Probably very similar to how Gordon feels about Rowling. He’s been a huge benefit to the community, and a benefactor for everything from libraries to hospitals to sporting arenas… but he also portrays us from a very outsider-looking-in perspective in a lot of ways, and wonderful as his writing is in other ways, it is pretty restricted in that sense.

                And yes, your description of the county seat next door is accurate of many of the small Maine coastal towns. The result is that the home-owned business all cater exclusively to tourists (who like quaint) and the local home-owners (heehee punny) have to take their business elsewhere. My parents have to drive 45 minutes to find a Wal-Mart or department store and over 2 hours to a mall. And they’re not *that* far from a large town. It makes life harder than it needs to be.

                I still say “us” and “home” even though I live in Missouri now… oh well… You can take the girl out of the hometown, but apparently you can’t take the hometown out of the girl.

              • Brian, I actually do have reservation regarding Vampire Bill’s accent.

                See, as an outsider, the accent was great shorthand for me. It signified that he was a bit out of touch (as you’d expect a secluded vampire to be) but still an honorable guy despite the bigotry against him. Yes, there are the darker connotations of inequality and slavery, but he doesn’t treat Tara differently. I think that’s the real measure of good writing, in that characters become something more than their stereotypes might initially lead you to believe.

                I’m all about retaining our culture and regional heritage, but there’s a line in my mind where that can do more harm than good. If that makes sense.

                No, makes perfect sense. I just think that negative stereotypes are unavoidable. I actually don’t mention growing up in Iowa very often because of the negative associations. But, it certainly doesn’t help if people who are the target of a stereotype help perpetuate it.

                But so far in Season 3….

                I’ve only seen Season 1 so far. Being an indie developer, my main source of shows like this is Netflix ’cause it’s cheap. But, nice to know there is some real character progression.

                His accent can’t change as he does that, nor should it have to because that’s not indicative of anything other than where he was raised.

                Again, in writing accents are shorthand. His accent could change, it could soften to indicate a change. Kind of like how a reformed “bad guy” might start wearing a white hat instead of a black one, or a scar might become less prominent, etc, even though they usually don’t do that in “real life”. Literary license and all that.

                Anyway, it’s been interesting discussion on a topic that interests me. :)
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            • Brian,
              You bring up a good point regarding positive stereotypes. My response is that, while they’re less damaging than the negative ones, they are still limiting. For instance, a ridiculous percentage of black characters are either thugs or play the role of the wise old sage. The wise old sage is better, of course, but scholars of African American studies still criticize the stereotype, because it helps to limit the range of personalities and roles that the audience will accept from African Americans.

              Also, your point about Bella failing to develop is absolutely key. A good friend of mine (who blogs over at Pop Culture Extravaganza) LOVED Twilight as the books were being released. I found it curious, because she’s one of the most ardent feminists I know. We lost touch for a while, and when I saw her again, she hated the books. I asked her what had changed her mind, and she said it was Breaking Dawn. She said that she thought the books were setting up for Bella to rise up in the end and really triumph over the self-destruction and submissiveness she showed in the earlier books. When that didn’t happen, it changed everything.

          • You know, right after I submitted my comment, I realized that I was probably being hypocritical. I figured that as I’m complaining that people don’t criticize portrayals of Southerners because they accept the stereotype as true, there are probably any number of stereotypes I fail to recognize because I’m not familiar enough with the region, ethnicity, etc. You folks have certainly confirmed my suspicion.

            I find Rhii’s comment particularly interesting. We normally think about the impact that stereotypes have on the opinions of outsiders, and we often fail to consider how they affect the self-assessment of the very people being stereotyped. Just like you talk about Maine needing to maintain its “quaintness,” a lot of small Southern towns will reject progress in the name of good ol’ boy values. Beej’s story about the county rejecting chain stores is one example (in that case, though, the issue of protecting the local small business owners is at least a legitimate concern). I have also seen campaigns for local government positions where one candidate ran almost solely on the fact that he was born and raised in the town, while his opponent was the dreaded “outsider.” I think the fear of outside ideas is a problem in a lot of small towns (and is the primary problem in our national political atmosphere these days . . . but let’s not go there). Your comment really got me thinking about whether some of these attitudes aren’t inherent or cultural, but rather are learned from portrayals in the media. There are a lot of things that I adore about the South, but the “good ol’ boy” attitude isn’t one of them, because it’s always seemed largely manufactured to me. The conversation here provides a possible explanation for why it feels so unnatural.

            We should totally have a “who has the worst stereotype” contest! My entry: One of my friends in college told me that when a relative of hers found out that she lived in Alabama, the relative asked if it was true that no one in Alabama wore shoes. True story.

  3. Before I rant over Twilight, let me recommend you “Wolfsangel” by @mdlachlan. Just say “Wolfsangel” on Twitter, the author will RT you for sure… ;) .

    I mentioned this novel because it is the total opposite of Twilight. About a Werewolf in a harsh, norse world where Gods are at strife with mankind and themselves.

    I always try to understand WHY people like things I cannot enjoy at all and usually can at least get a basic impression and understanding what they like about something.

    Is Twilight fantasy literature? A Vampire or Werewolf novel? A love story? All of that? … whatever! I simply don’t get it. Probably like Rogert Ebert simply doesn’t get computer games. I wonder if he is about as shocked as I am about Twilight and the avid readership of these novels.

    I usually respect everyone reading something and enjoying it. There are so many books and I do not like it when people look down on whole genres.

    But Twilight really makes me scared for the youth and makes me feel old. I simply do not get it what they find in this hollow bullcrap! :(

    • I’m with you; I just don’t get what’s so great about them. I try; I legitimately try to see what’s good in them, but I can’t find it.

      I really have an issue with bashing people who read it because I know so many intelligent people who do, but I can’t help but wonder if they really understand what they’re reading. It’s so easy to get caught up in a phenomenon and not realize how harmful/terrible it. I’ll bash the books and the author as being terrible, but I feel more sorry for the fans than anything. I can only imagine how one must feel to love something like Twilight and then come to the realization of how terrible it actually is once the fad dies. I’ve known a few people who that’s happened to already, and I can’t wait for it to happen to more. I believe it’s inevitable, which is why they’re pushing the movies out so quickly: they want to make as much money as possible before people outgrow the tweenie fads.

  4. I tried to read the Twilight series like you did but also failed completely. I stopped right around the same point you did. I just couldn’t take the horrible writing and the bad/boring characters.

    I hope you enjoy re-reading Harry Potter. Those are great books.
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  5. Infailing? Can’t say I’m familiar with that particular word.

    Reading this post has actually made me want to read one of the Twilight books out of morbid curiosity. It’s like the time I rented Gigli (don’t judge me) because I had to see for myself how bad it was.
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    • Infailing was a typo that I didn’t catch when I was proofing this little darling. :) Thanks for noticing.

      I’m in the same boat, Jasyla. I love being that critical of stuff and experiencing the badness the movie/literature world has to offer, but Twilight is at a level all its own.

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  7. “Heck, writing this blog made me actually want to take a break from Rowling and see what other tragically miserably quotes I can find in the text. ”

    ‘Made me actually want’ ? ‘tragically miserably quotes’? (‘Tragically miserable quotes’ is a confused and ugly phrase, even without the grammatical error. ‘Miserable quotes’ alone doesn’t really fit in that sentence, adding in the ‘tragically’ is ironic and confusing in that nothing that can reasonably happen to a quote is sensibly described as tragic, and in the larger sense she’s attempting to write in a tragic mode which would make your hasty insult rather a compliment. )

    Heck, writing those criticisms made me actually not want to address any of the rest of your post and let that extensively recursively analytically ironically response be taken as a generally example for what I think really about your comparisoned.

    I’ll not attempt to argue that Rowling is not a better writer than Meyer, nor will I quote you any parables about beams and motes in various eyes. I will suggest that you attempt to divest your writing of such excessive and injurious envy, and yes, perhaps, in time you and Meyer will each remove your respective ocular 2×4′s of your own volition.

    p.s. To all the prior commentors who applauded this botched hatched job, shame on you. Done well, it would not be worthy of such enthusiasm. Properly done, this criticism should bring about sympathy in the reader as his sense of what might have been–save for the author’s missteps– is brought into sharper focus. Done with uncontrolled envy or malice, as in this example, gives the reader the opportunity to experience schadenfreude at the mishaps of the author and the critic simultaneously, as the one exposes the other in a double debauch of crossed intent. Shame on all of you.

    • First of all, I’d like to thank you for pointing out that typo in my post. I must have started skimming a little toward the end as I was proofing and just missed that one. So thanks for bringing it to my attention. It’s fixed now, and so is another one I noticed today.

      A confused and ugly phrase? From me? That’s unpossible! I would like to point out that you’re actually wrong regarding the irony and intent, and it goes back to an apparent misunderstanding of adverbs, adjectives, and objects. You see, when I use “tragically,” I intend for that to modify the adjective “miserable” which then goes on to modify “quotes” (fine, I’ll concede that can be wordy, but I don’t see it as being confused). Now, for me to have actually complimented Meyer’s writing, the adverb would have had to be an adjective–”tragic”–and modify the quote itself, but it isn’t. It’s modifying the extent to which the quote is miserable, or in more easily accessible terms: “how bad the writing is.” You see, had I been looking for “tragic quotes” in New Moon, I could have easily found passages that Meyer had written for just that effect. They’re abundant in the novels. However, since I was not looking for quotes that show how poorly constructed the atmosphere of the novels are, your criticism doesn’t work.

      I’ve mentioned on several occasions that her terrible writing ruins what could have been a decent enough YA fantasy narrative. This post, however, was not about that. It wasn’t about the “tragic mode” in which she writes. It was about how poorly she writes in that mode, so your mentioning that I am inadvertently complimenting her is simply false. She does write in a tragic, melodramatic, over-the-top, teenage angst-filled mode. And that in itself is miserable. But I wasn’t talking about that. As the grammatically–and topically–correct “tragically miserable quotes” indicates.

      This post was about my personal experience of giving the series a legitimate shot and being unable to get through it. I have a sense of what might have been, and I may one day go deeper into what she actually does right in the series. But that’s not what I’m doing here. So you can criticize and shame all of us if you want–that’s your prerogative–but I would suggest that you take a closer look at the topic of the post before doing so.

      • “You see, when I use “tragically,” I intend for that to modify the adjective “miserable” which then goes on to modify “quotes” ”

        Yes, obviously. I assume that you are being insulting on purpose here, but I will forgive you, since you probably feel that you have been attacked on your home ground.

        “fine, I’ll concede that can be wordy, but I don’t see it as being confused”

        So, you don’t find that the description of a work as containing thousands of quotes, each of which you consider so poor as to be a tragedy, to be confusing–even considering the fact that as a whole this work had the effect of making this author famous and wealthy? I don’t mean literally that the reader will be confused of course, I mean that you are speaking with both great exaggeration and infantile irony, the same kind of overstatement for which you are criticizing Meyer. This irony is why I replied to you in the first place.

        “This post, however, was not about that. It wasn’t about the “tragic mode” in which she writes. It was about how poorly she writes in that mode, so your mentioning that I am inadvertently complimenting her is simply false.”

        Well, I didn’t strictly mention that you were inadvertently complimenting her, I simply covered multiple possible senses of the word to save time, in case I didn’t come back to respond again. The only sense you’ve chosen to respond to was the one I considered least possible for you to have meant. Perhaps this wasn’t clear.

        “This post was about my personal experience of giving the series a legitimate shot and being unable to get through it. I have a sense of what might have been, and I may one day go deeper into what she actually does right in the series. But that’s not what I’m doing here. So you can criticize and shame all of us if you want–that’s your prerogative–but I would suggest that you take a closer look at the topic of the post before doing so.”

        Again, the irony in this paragraph is astounding. In a post about your criticism of a series that you admittedly would not finish, you admonish me to take a closer look at the topic of your post before criticizing it–based on your presumption and inability to follow the logical structure of my argument. I will return the favor of emphasizing the reason I write this post, minus the presumption: I’m not interested in convincing you that you are a poor writer, mocking another poor writer for the faults you both share. This is both a rather impossible task, due to your natural ego, and the usual state of affairs anyway, as people normally are most sensitive to their own faults in others. I am writing to your entire audience, on the subject of how criticism can be either cruel and ironic, or lucid and hopeful, in the hope of arguing for the latter. My only means of doing so are to write with as little of the former as I can manage as a good example. I beg all the readers to forgive the faults of my argument as a result of my own lack of skill, and to consider this point on its own merits.

        Honestly, your own words betray you, you knew that you were writing this in a subjective and complaining mode, not an objective analytical mode. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    • I laughed hysterically at this post. Just a few hours before I saw it, Beej and I were talking about the silliness of so many online arguments. I told him that, while I always find the “Your an idiot” response hilariously ironic, I think the most ignorant type of responder is the one who points out a mistake that’s obviously a typo and uses it as proof of the original poster’s stupidity.

      One of my professors told me that when he looked back at his master’s thesis, he found numerous typos. Here was a document that went through months of revisions, not only by him but also by the two professors who served as his readers. I find that the longer I study language and literature, the less of a grammar nazi I become. I’ve focused on this stuff for years, and I still make mistakes all the time, so I’ve learned to chill the hell out about it.

      • Yes, you must have missed the part where I acknowledged the typo and aimed my argument at his phrase with the typo fixed. Don’t worry about it, it could happen to anyone, as your comment points out.

        • Ah, the mark of trolls: when called out on something, they twist the meanings of the original words in order to offer up a disingenuous denial, when the intent was clear.

          No, I didn’t miss the fact that you made a show of “forgiving” the error. I also didn’t miss the fact that you opened your post with pointing it out in order to establish a tone of superiority, or that you specifically called it a grammatical error instead of a typo. (It may be fair to call that semantics, but I don’t believe it is, since the mistake was obviously a typo and not an actual misunderstanding of the language). But mostly, I didn’t miss that you then launched into a paragraph full of intentional errors that is supposed to function as satire, thereby making sure that the post maintains its tone of “your error makes you stupid.” It’s nothing but “neener-neener” brand of poking fun, all wrapped up in a post that claims to be discouraging negative criticism. Of course, now you’ll claim that the mistakes were accidental and that I too am criticizing based on typos (and now that I’ve mentioned that, you’ll say that’s ridiculous). The whole runaround of writing a convoluted and vague argument so you can twist its meaning 70 different ways is tiring and, as before, disingenuous. I shouldn’t even be bothering with this response, but I hear the same type of rhetoric from politicians and pundits on issues that are vital to the nation’s well-being, so it was a useful exercise to pinpoint how it worked.

  8. Wow, that last commenter really brought out the teacher! I actually would love to hear what you think are positives on Twilight some day and as a slightly closeted fan of the series, I applaud you trying to get through it.

    As I tweeted at you at least once, “New Moon” is a painful read. Bella is extremely depressed and takes what’s happened with Edward so poorly that it’s a wonder she doesn’t actually attempt suicide. That’s just how depressed she is, not to make light of either situation in real life circumstances. Meyer does capture the character well, but not in a way that makes me like her. If you’re the kind of person that just can’t take teenage angst, it’s no good. I read Twilight to find out what would happen next. “Ah man, how is this chick going to get through this?” “Why can’t you hang out with humans?” “Wait, is she really going to date that guy, I’d love that!” “Oh, he’s back.” “He’s over 100 and won’t have sex? Okay?” But then I’m also 24, I can see that Edward is not an ideal mate, and neither is Jacob. I said this earlier today, but one day I’m going to re-read the books and write an essay about why Bella should have gone the safe route, the human route with Mike Newton. That way the series would have ended sooner and had a less anti-climactic ending. But Twilight for me is like crack. It’s addictive and I had to finish it to be satisfied, though at the end I was very much unsatisfied. It’s not even about the romance, because honestly, if I wanted a romance with vampires, I’d pick up a Kresley Cole book and get some nice sex scenes too.

    I’ll never defend the actual writing, but then I can’t defend most of the books I enjoy based solely on the quality of the prose. Come on, Rowling’s world is beautiful and I dream of writing essays on Harry Potter and it being for me as your and your wife’s Whedon-verse work is for you guys. But it’s not perfect. It’s children’s literature with lots of holes, but she hides them better than many authors I’ve read. Her world is so rich though that there is so much to be covered and so much you can distract yourself with if maybe you don’t actually like Harry, Hermione, or Ron. I liked Ron and Neville more than Harry. Neville was amazing in the last book. And yes, Harry also has angst, but his being surrounded by death angst easily wins over Bella’s my vampire boyfriend left me angst. My actual point here though was yes, Rowling writes better than Meyer, but she doesn’t necessarily write the best children’s literature out there. I got distracted by gushing, I’m sorry. Also, Meyer comes up with worse baby names than Rowling.

    What I’m saying is that both books are a case of perfect time, perfect place. Not that this makes me enjoy them any less, I’m just saying that there’s countless other wizard and vampire series that I’ll never touch not because they suck but because they were never, popular so I never heard of them. Hopefully this is at least slightly coherent, it’s 1:30am and I’m ranting.

    Also, you have to admit, Twilight got the foot in the door so things like True Blood could happen. Or that’s my thinking at least. Of course, Harry Potter got people paying attention to fantasy in the first place.

    • I totally agree with you that both series came out at the right place and right time. I don’t know if Harry Potter would be anywhere near as popular these days as it was when it was released in the 90s because of the ridiculous crazes regarding melodrama and OMG GOTH stuff.

      Rowling does not write the best children/YA lit out there. She writes wonderfully–to me–but she’s not the best. I still think that title goes to someone like L’Engle or even Mark Twain. But she has a Tolkien-esque worldbuilding ability that makes her very appealing to me.

      And True Blood (the novels at least) came out 4 years prior to Twilight, actually. So they in one way paved the way for Meyer to do what she has done. I don’t know if I should consider that a blessing or a curse. ;)

      • True on Harry Potter possibly not hitting the same cord with people these days. I think the target audience, the 11 year olds have too much interest in being like the big kids. My friends and I work with an organization with girls 10-20 and that’s certainly how it seems to me. I feel like the movies might not be considered classic to future generations, but I think the books have some good solid staying power. It’s sad though, there’s a whole generation that grew up on Harry Potter, aging right along with him as the books and films were released. The last couple movies fit closer to what the kids are looking for, and just sticking your head inside of a Hot Topic around new movie releases shows that.

        Exactly! She creates an amazing world and while I’m not sure if she’ll even do it again, I’m curious to see what she does in the future. L’Engle gave less information with the different worlds and we would always return home in the end.

        Point, but the mutual timing of True Blood the television series and the Twilight films was too perfect and they’re both pulling from similar pools. While True Blood has an obvious older aim with the sex and violence, the actual story and themes in the show than Twilight, you can still find Merlotte shirts along side black tees with a sickly pale Edward. To be perfectly honest though, media-wise you’re right. However, Meyer-wise, if she’s ever read an actual romance novel, I’d be floored.

        Curious, have you read the Southern Vampire Mysteries? I tried to when I had found some lit files of it, but then I had a strange reset with the iTouch and lost a lot of my books.

  9. I haven’t touched Twilight, nor had the urge to investigate. Thanks to the quotes you provided above, I will pat myself on the back for having the good sense to avoid it. I have, however, read the HP series three times. (Twice while I was pregnant with baby #2 and sleepless for a few months.)
    In case you’re wondering, this is what sealed the deal:
    “I couldn’t feel anything but despair until I pulled into the familiar parking lot behind Forks High School and spotted Edward leaning motionlessly against his polished silver Volvo, like a marble tribute to some forgotten pagan god of beauty.”
    That’s not just bad. That’s plain horrific.

  10. I’m sorry to say, but Harry Potter are honestly pretty poorly written as well. Reading a book aloud is a pretty good test to how good storyteller the author is. Not every book is made for reading aloud, admittedly, but in this genre, I think you could expect more than HP delivers. Now, I’ve only read it in the Swedish translation to my kids, so it MIGHT have to do with the translator’s shortcomings. But I doubt that it’s only about that. Because what bugs me with HP is the wordiness of it. It’s just riciculous. Tedious, long, ranting babbling parts, just repeating the same over and over again. Not to speak of how clumsy it is. I start to wonder how she’s been payed. Is it a per-word-payment that has made her write that way?

    I’m really sorry to say this because I WANT to love HP. I’m a sucker for boarding schools and magic and growing-up-novels. Loads of good ingredients. But the execution – when you look closer at it, it’s actually pretty terribad. Not as bad as Twilight, but they’re really not the outstanding counterpart either.

    Compare it to the classic CS Lewis Narnia chronicles. He could tell a story in 200 pages or less, when Rowling needs a thousand. Even if there are some features in Narnia that are starting to feel a bit outdated, they still stand a comparsion pretty well.

    • I’ve actually often wished Lewis’s books were longer.

      I don’t buy into the idea that to be good writing things must always be active and concise. It’s certainly the style of the times (much like in other times paid-by-the-word authors produced masterpieces) but it’s a style choice, not an absolute law.

      Personally, the authors whose prose I like best are ones who are called cumbersome and wordy or archaic. Tolkien springs to mind. My boyfriend and many other people I’ve talked with say that his story is wonderful but his prose is painfully weighty. I have always loved his style, I think the weight behind the language emphasizes the epic sense of the story he’s telling… and I am sure he did it on purpose! Did Tolkien have terrible prose? No! But many readers of my generation don’t like it because it’s not in the current style.
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      • Tolkien is wordy without being bad. I’m a huge Tolkien lover and have no problem whatsoever with the language being old-style. And mind you, I’m reading it in a foreign language (since the Swedish translation was just a joke until the new one arrived a few years ago – full of errors, and “creative” additions.)

        But Rowan isn’t Tolkien. She’s just a bit ranty and… quite bad. I still read the novels, mind you. But reading them aloud was quite revealing. Then you can’t just brows through the bad parts as you can when you read it for yourself.
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    • Larisa, I really suggest going back and reading the HP books in English. I can’t speak for the Swedish translation, but what you mention as being their detriments are actually what I consider their strongest selling point. I see Rowling as clear and concise, presenting her ideas with as few words as possible. Yes, some of the novels toward the end get longer, but that’s because the plots get significantly more complex and necessitate that (at least in my mind).

      I never got the feeling that she was redundant and repetitive, but that may be my personal way of reading. I also never found Tolkien to be excessively wordy like other people do and thoroughly enjoy his prose because of the amount of detail he includes.

      I totally agree about Narnia. They’re quick and fun and have an absolute ton of literary meat to them. My only complaint about them is that there is such a controversy about what order in which they should be read. I’m staunch on reading them in publication order while many new editions present them in chronological order based on the narrative, which I think destroys the flow and pacing that Lewis set up.

    • I am not a Harry Potter fan and I think it is more that Mrs. Rowling hit the right nerve. Actually, exactly what Mrs. Meyer apparently did. ;)

      But I still can see a difference there, Harry Potter does not make me wonder what people were smoking, while Twilight does.

  11. Well since you’ve read The Da Vinci Code(which I loved) you should read Angels and Demons if you haven’t already. Other books I would recommend are the Percy Jackson series, The Last Vampire trilogy by Christopher Pike, the Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke, and The Princess Bride by William Goldman.
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    • I thought Angels and Demons was far better than DaVinci, actually. The Lost Symbol was terrible, though, which made me very sad.

      Percy Jackson is on my list of things I need to get to and soon (I really enjoyed the movie), and I have been interested in Inkheart since I saw the movie, as weak as it was.

      I have a copy of The Princess Bride waiting for me on a shelf, so we’ll see if that ever gets read. ;) And I’ve never heard of the trilogy by Pike. I’m typically not much on vampires, but well-done vampire fiction is as good as anything else, I reckon.

  12. Percy Jackson is good fun! My teen son and tween daughter are taking turns reading it aloud to me while I drive. There’s a distressing number of clunkers in the books, (“the chariots roared to life”), and a snootful of prepositional endings, but there’s also much to like, including Percy. The kids and I honestly liked Harry less with each new book, and they’ve stopped being interested in the movies altogether.

    The Princess Bride is such a good read that I laughed out loud and finally read the whole thing aloud to my husband, back when he was my boyfriend. He liked me reading the swordfight scene in book to him even more than he liked watching it in the movie, or so he said. Fast forward several (okay, many) years, and I’m reading to the kids, and boy, does that book hold up. It’s just marvelous.

    • That sounds about like “The Red Pyramid.” There was some really awkward prose, but the story was well-told and worth reading. I expected about the same out of Percy Jackson.

      As far as liking Harry himself, I disliked him more and more from Chamber of Secrets onward. As for the series, I felt the exact opposite compulsion: I thought each book was better than the last because of the way the mythology was built around what had come before. It’s nuts re-reading the series and finding the nuggets tucked away in there that don’t seem to mean anything before the whole series is done.

      I really need to read The Princess Bride. I hear such great things, but haven’t even read a chapter.

  13. Yes, we ALL know that our obsession with the Twilight series is juvenile and leads others to believe we might be slightly delusional, but get over it already! LoL

    The characters are passionate, deep-thinkers that appeal to our desire to be wanted, understood emotionally and driven to experience adventure. There is a pull that is unlike any other series I have ever read. Also, it is just a fun escape.

    As for Stephenie’s characters being poor role models, how would you justify Rowling demonstrating the use of magic, sometimes demonic in nature, with children? Just sayin…

    • Oh, I’ve gotten over trying to find reason in it or explain why people like the series. I just don’t get it. I have less problem with adults reading it these days than kids; they can (hopefully) discern the fantasy elements from the reality they live in a lot easier than a 12 year old can.

      But it’s where you mention the characters are passionate, deep-thinkers that gets me. Because I don’t see that at all. I don’t see emotional maturity in anyone in the series (except maybe Carlisle), even the adults. And I have yet to see any of them giving any indication they’re deep-thinkers. Bella’s brooding and Edward’s protectiveness doesn’t signify an inner-monologue to me. It signifies vapidity and an inability to deal with the real world in a healthy manner.

      As for role-modeling, give me a witch or wizard any day. I have read all of Harry Potter and never saw any kind of promotion of anything demonic. Is there dark magic? Well, yes, there is. But it’s not promoted as being right. But Star Wars has the dark side of the Force, and yet because they never use the word “magic,” people don’t attack it. I would much prefer my children to read the Harry Potter books and then go into the yard and try to cast Wingardium Leviosa at my car (or even Crucio at my cat!) than for them to read Twilight and then get caught up in a series of physically and emotionally abusive relationships based on what they see as an ideal love. The Harry Potter series does a great job of differentiating between fantasy and reality, but Twilight blurs them to a point where young children aren’t mature enough to do so themselves.

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