Viewed & Reviewed

Oh No. Not Twi-Moms.


They’re back. The vampires, I mean. I hear there’s even an American Vampire League devoted to promoting the equality and civil liberties of vampires. No surprise, really. Every generation has its version, though Anne Rice must be having a lit fit over the return of the undead in Stephenie Myers' Twilight series. Rice’s Vampire Chronicles may have been overwrought, her prose purple, but until Twilight and its sequels (and the new tv series “True Blood,” which has the wit to do vampires with a nod and a wink), she had the vampire franchise pretty much to herself. Nor is it surprising that even the most highbrow among us have our lowbrow guilty pleasures. Still, I have to wonder what is so compelling about the books that have seduced otherwise smart adult women into helping to turn these cheesy melodramas made for teen-aged girls into the latest commercial juggernaut. It’s certainly not the prose.

 

But take one smart, independent, accident prone girl who faints at the sight or scent of blood, yank her out of her warm sunny home town element and plunk her down in a new high school in a dank and murky town she dislikes; add a gorgeous, sensitive, smart but dangerous young man (did I mention that he’s gorgeous?) who finds her beautiful (did I mention that he’s dangerous?), throw in the breathless language of sleazy romances, - his eyes smolder at least once on every page, his voice is like melting honey when it’s not like velvet; his chest is “sculpted, incandescent,” his breath has an “exquisite scent”; she feels “flickers of electricity” when near him - and I can muster a few hunches.

 

For those of you who are uninitiated and who still have time to reconsider, the series follows the secret love affair between Bella, a “human,” and Edward, a particularly ravishing (is that pun intended?) and ethical vampire who, along with his adopted vampire family, has trained himself to resist the blood of humans and feed only on that of animals. This does not mean that he isn’t dangerously susceptible to Bella’s scent and often on the brink of wanting to bite her. Bella doesn’t care. If a part of him thirsts for her blood, she’ll live with that, however precariously, because she is “unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.” Who wouldn’t be? Did I mention that he’s drop dead gorgeous? I think I did. But I haven’t yet mentioned that he’s irresistibly sensitive to Bella’s needs and feelings, supremely protective of her, (he rescues her from danger at least four times just in book one), and agonizingly passionate. And dangerous. This is all about sex- illicit, desperately longed for and tantalizingly withheld, for if Edward loses control, Bella dies. So part of the books’ lure is that of the cliff-hanger – Will she? Will he? What happens if they do?

 

But that’s not their only attraction. At one point, Bella tells Edward she wishes she could explain “how very uninterested I was in a normal human life.” A big part of the story’s appeal is that it’s told in the first person by Bella. From page one on, the reader is in her head, identifying with her, feeling her passion for Edward, her alienation from her high school peers, her longing to be taken. She’s always in danger, and so is the reader – but at a just-safe distance. Bella lives in a perpetual state of heightened excitement and, for the time our heads are in the book – so are we.

 

Do all adolescent girls entertain the fantasy of loving the bad boy, subduing him, discovering his sensitive core? I suspect a lot of them do. A holdover from pre Sex and the City times, when the bad boy could act out all the impulses denied to women, he remains a powerful lure, apparently even for grown-ups. It’s as though now that women have won a hefty supply of adult responsibilities, they fantasize about losing the control they’ve gained, surrendering it back to the guys. In Twilight Edward’s power is paradoxically enhanced and tamed: he may be a fatal attraction, but it’s he who exercises restraint. Talk about safe sex. For adolescent girls, the books are an opportunity explore and indulge. For their mothers, they’re a temporary return to that state of hyper excitation and yearning, the fantasy that something special and even dangerous might yet happen to lift them out of lives that feel ordinary, without any of the real danger that comes from taking personal risks with one’s life. Reliving the tense eroticism of the high school years from a safely comfortable distance has its understandable rewards, but this fantasy comes packaged in a retro-folly of female helplessness and male rescue. Bella is smart and sassy and seems independent – she drives an old pick-up truck she loves and comes and goes from her father’s house pretty much as she pleases – but she’s also pretty helpless, clumsy and accident prone so Edward can always rush in to save her. Bella isn’t making her own life exciting – Edward is doing that for her, leaving her breathless and tingling in the process.

 

Now, I get that it’s fun getting sucked into a world at once real and not. I get that it’s intoxicating to live temporarily in a fantasy of forbidden passion. I even get that there’s a thrill to be had from indulging in what one knows to be a guilty pleasure. (Ms Myer gets it, too and she knows how to push all the right buttons.) Those of us who are readers like nothing better than to get lost as we surrender to another world, another time and place, intense emotions. Good books deal with themes of longing and loneliness, sexual passion and human frailty, alienation and fear just as the Twilight books do. But they do so by engaging us with complexities of feeling and subtleties of character, expressed in language that rises above banal mediocrity. Their reward is something more than just an escape into banal mediocrity. We deserve something better to get hooked on.

 

Also on Mommy Tracked:
Rescue Me
Vampire Moms
New Age Romeo and Juliet



anya
04.13.09

Twi-mom and proud of it. Read all four in record time, and then went to her web site for the first chapter of Midnight Sun (Edwards side of the story)Thank you Stephenie for some great brain candy with some moral characters to boot. Waiting anxiously for more!

fisherfox
02.02.09

I agree... brain candy! I've already spent a lot of time reading textbooks and sophisticated literature, now it's time to relax a little.

AnnaAmidei
01.30.09

I started reading the books after my 12-year-old daughter (and her friends) started reading the books. Not only do I enjoy the set thoroughly, I am even grateful for an opportunity to have something to share with my daughter. I am proud to admit that I'm a fan of the Twilight series.

avkeough
01.29.09

At the urging of a teenage girl, my partner and I read this book together aloud. I understand the bad boy thing but, we were both troubled by how controlling and prone to angry outbursts Edward is. How he always knows who Bella should and should not trust/befriend, how he always has to save her from herself. Kind of felt like he was laying the groundwork for the classic abusive relationship. Did anyone else find that?

celticscotian
01.28.09

I am on the side of the other well educated mums who thoroughly enjoyed the escape that this series provided. Yes, I am bright...yes, my general reading material is more in line with weighty tomes of more literary "importance". That doesn't stop this series from being among my all time favourites, however. I can't wait for Ms. Meyer to come out with another sequel.

I stumbled across this series in December - a co worker had left her copy of Twilight on the break room table...and before lunch was done, I had read the first chapter and was keen to read the rest. Flash forward a couple of weeks and the books had arrived from internet retailers and been devoured. When all was said and done, crazily, I felt like a friend had just left town indefinitely.

This series managed to unite a diverse group of women in my work place who, previously, had little else in common outside of our profession. Some of these women had never before read a book for enjoyment...ever. I applaud Ms. Meyer for being able to create a series that transcends, makes reading accessible...and I, particularly, applaud her for writing a simply "nice" story in this era of Bratz dolls and Britney and managing to have it still be cool.

mlaru
01.28.09

I'm a Twi-mom - and PROUD of it! I too have an advanced degree - from an IVY, no less, and I LOVE my Twilight! It offers a welcome escape from a world filled with bad news day after day. I enjoy escaping the daily onslaught of bad news about corporate excess, wall street greed and home foreclosures.In addition, as I read my vampire books, I am modeling a love of reading, taking time for myself, and true enjoyment doing something other than playing the Wii for my children. So lighten up and think twice about being so jugemental of sophisticated, educated women actually enjoying something a bit less complicated than "War and Peace"
Cheers!
Mary Laru

fitzmomma
01.28.09

Completely agree with this review. I read all the books in about 4 days, and was totally enthralled during. Afterwards, I felt like I'd been on an icecream and cookie binge- it was fun while it lasted, but what sort of crap had I just ingested?? Guilty/innocent pleasure books, laden with the kind of nonsense that got us going when we were 13.

danee2003
01.28.09

I am a mother to be. And I love these books!! It is soo nice just to put my world to the side and go into this fantasy world. I have always loved Anne Rice and now I love Stephanie Meyer!!!

pambalina
01.28.09

I also loved the escape of these books. I don't need the explicit sex of True Blood to be entertained.

twinmom624
01.28.09

Glad to know there's a name for all of my girlfriends and myself who have been voraciously reading all 4 books, hurrying each other along so we can swap books. With all of the crap going on in the world today, it's nice to have an escape and remember the good old days of being a teen in love. Lighten up!!