26 July 2009

Info dumpish.

I am allowing my MySpace to go fallow for most intents and purposes (hell, I just this moment cancelled my Friendster. It was pretty heartbreaking, actually: the cancellation form asked you to specify which other social network you switched to), but I can't bear to delete it altogether, as the blog entries stretch back to 2005, and I have a really hard time getting rid of anything I've written (I have boxes of juvenilia in the basement). A couple entries from last summer, though, are explicitly book-related, so I'm reposting them here.

July 20
Current mood: indignant

So for all y'all who don't have your finger on the pulse of the young-adult literary zeitgeist like I do: pretty much every girl in America between the ages of 10 and 17--and their mothers--has read Stephenie Meyer's three Twilight novels, about a girl named Bella and her hot vampire boyfriend, and is anxiously awaiting the release of the fourth and final installment on August 1st. The bookstore where I work is having a Harry-Potter-style release party with themed food, a reading, the works, and a lead-up reading group called the Twilight Circle, which I, the resident young, hip female with goth tendencies, am leading, aided by some rabid devotees from our Young Readers' Group. As a die-hard Buffy fan, I've been excited about these books since I found out they existed, and after I read Meyer's new adult novel, The Host, and found it to be a ripping good sci-fi yarn, my geeked-out bliss just hit new levels. Since the Twilight Circle (my bril name, btw--note how it's almost "coven" but without scaring off the Godfolk) meets for the first time next Friday, I spent the last three nights up way too late reading the eponymous first novel.

I hated it.

At first I was just annoyed by the protagonist's hopeless adolescence and the way she can't go two paragraphs without mentioning once again how beautiful Edward is and how she just can't believe a guy like him would be interested in her OMG (though she puts it in more awkward, romance novel-y terms--at least lolspeak has its own breathless charm. Srsly, I read a whole blog novel a few months back and just loved it). Then, Meyer's habit of exposition-through-dialogue-and-no-action started to grate. But really, all of that could be forgiven for some of her good bits--like how the vampires aren't harmed by the sunlight, but avoid it in human eyeshot because their skin literally sparkles, or Bella's endearing clumsiness.

Here's where she lost me: you see, Edward's a good vampire in true Louis/Angel fashion, living on animals rather than humans. However, he still has to be careful when he's close to Bella. And whenever he kisses her, she has to remain perfectly still and not breathe fast or grab his hair or anything or he might just lose control and hurt her.

In other words! Any sexual response on the part of a female is dangerous and should be avoided. Are you fucking kidding me? This is what we're teaching our teenage girls? Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME?

Stephenie, I'm very, very disappointed in you.

[Ms. magazine did a great piece on this topic this spring, and when the fourth book came out (in which 19-year-old Bella gets married and has a half-vampire baby right away, and then abandons her mortal family for immortality with Edward, AND learns to LET HIM INTO HER THOUGHTS WHICH WAS THE ONLY THING SHE HAD LEFT THAT WASN'T COMPLETELY SUBSUMED BY HIM OH MY GOD THIS IS SUCH BULLSHIT), even those friends of mine who were into the first three ended up turned off. The teenage girls of America (and their mothers, which is even more terrifying) sure don't agree with me, though.]

July 23:
Current mood: miffed

It's cheap but true that you don't need an MFA to write well, though I would never in a thousand years discount the work put in by talented friends to get their degrees. I think they'd agree, howevs, that it's also true that you can get through grad school without learning a damn thing about writing if you so choose.

Like one Stephanie Kuehnert, whose debut novel, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, I just stopped reading at page 129 because I simply couldn't take her ham-fisted expository dialogue anymore. It is one thing, in a first-person narrative, to move away from the natural rhythms of speech, to give voice to metaphor and description in a way that people don't in conversation. It's necessary, in fact. But when one character is directly speaking to another, telling a story about her past, and continues to speak in the narrative voice (although it's a different character), she needs to sound like she's talking, for heaven's sake. No one, anywhere, not even the most pretentiously poetic among us (and by this I mean me, who says things like "I felt like I was watching my own death" about superhero movies, for fucking out loud), utters lines like "He put his amp down and ran his fingers through his inky black hair," or, heaven forfend, "I didn't let rock 'n' roll save me. I became the ultimate rock cliche!"

Didn't anyone at Columbia College, where Ms. Kuehnert got her degree, ever point out the stiffness and clunk of writing like this? That people JUST DON'T TALK LIKE THAT? What did she read that she thought this was acceptable?

Working at the bookstore, I consume a lot of galleys, with an eye towards figuring out what I like and yeah, what I can sell. I give them 100 pages--a mere hour and a half of my life--to do something for me. Some don't make it past the first paragraph. Some take a few chapters, a little characterization, a settling into a style, to hook me, even if I don't adore it. I'll always give an interesting story a chance; I'm a sucker for good writing, deft handling of adjectives and punctuation. Awkward phrasing, easily predicted story arcs, or, on the other side of the spectrum, self-conscious literariness (another casualty of MFA programs, especially the Iowa Writers' Workshop . . . it's writing so concerned with craft, with shaking up the linearity of time and space, with pithy phrasing, that it forgets to make you care about any of it) will get a novel tossed back onto the pile.

Next up on the stack is Iodine, by Haven Kimmel; I read her The Solace of Leaving Early a few years ago and remember liking it, though I can't recall exactly what it was about. I'm pretty sure I'll finish it.

[Iodine was amazing, in fact, one of the best novels I read last year.]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
Muse at Highway Speeds by http://museathighwayspeeds.blogspot.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.