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The Sunday Backtrack: Book Review Of Twilight

I’m going to try something new on Sundays. Starting today, I will revisit a post that is at least one month old and give some updates or clarifications based on feedback received and personal experience. Today we’re going to go back and talk about Twilight…I suspect not for the last time

When I filmed my book review of Twilight, I expected that it would make some people mad.  I was wrong–at least, I haven’t heard from anybody who got too upset.

Nobody wants a mortal man anymore

Nobody wants a mortal man anymore

The people who have disagreed with me do so more out of a strange sort of pity than out of blinding, you-can’t-say-that-about-Edward-type rage.  As Alice said, “Curioser and curioser.”

Twilight fans hear my snide (but defensible) comments, shake their heads slowly, and say things like, “If you can’t appreciate a book like Twilight, something is missing from your soul.”


Maybe it’s true.  Maybe there’s a hole in my heart the shape of a smoldering vampire with golden eyes, lips, and abs.  But I’ll make due.

So that’s the update.  People who don’t like (or don’t care about) Twilight agreed with me.  People who don’t agree with one word I said don’t seem to care what I think at all.  I mention this because I’m used to heated literary debate–I expect it and welcome it.  You knock The Grapes Of Wrath in front of a Steinbeck fan and you better get ready for a war.

But you knock Twilight, longly and loudly on a video on a fairly high-traffic blog and….their eyes just glaze over and they love Edward even more.

Signs and wonders…


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • flagmonkey June 21, 2009, 12:24 pm

    My girlfriend bought all books of this series last week . I never heard of it before! The DVD came on wednesday and we watched it together (btw: she laughed about your video). The soundtrack has some nice songs. I don’t get the hype behind this.

    And I think Robert Pattinson will have some trouble getting older. Being described as the most beautiful vampire (Twilight) and the most beautiful magician (Harry Potter) can be a burden I guess.

    • Josh Hanagarne June 21, 2009, 12:53 pm

      I’m amazed and jealous. How did you go so long without hearing of it? Seriously, where I’m at, that would be like saying you’d never heard of China. Must be nice. What’s the secret?

  • flagmonkey June 21, 2009, 1:44 pm

    I stopped watching and reading news many months ago. It just happened, perhaps it’s a phase. TV stays off most of the time.

    I don’t know how much hype we have over here, but I saw the press conference of the movie in the “Making Of” and that was just crazy.

    • Josh Hanagarne June 21, 2009, 3:22 pm

      That’s great. I’m on a news fast right now and don’t feel like I’m missing much in the world. I read the headlines on the newspapers at the gas station. Not much TV other than a movie now and then.

  • vanessa June 21, 2009, 8:26 pm

    Have you read all four books in the series? If you haven’t I don’t think you’re qualified to write a formal review. Meyer’s writing ability is chop-sketchy in the first 13 chapters of Twilight, almost as if she wrote it for a 14 year old audience. Painful & embarrassing to read. I couldn’t even buy the book at my local bookstore, I was ashamed. I had to get it at target along with about 30 items I really didn’t need, just so it wouldn’t stand out. I even tried to craft a book cover for my copy of Twilight in order to read it in public without the shame and stigma. Remember Bastian from the Neverending Story? This saga can quickly turn you into Bastian, you must believe and keep reading to make the story reality. If you give in and keep reading, the evolution of Meyer’s writing ability in Twilight books 2-4 is remarkable. But Im sure most men will continue to hide their Twilight love affair like a dirty little secret. Probably for the best. No one needs to see your tattoo of the card catalog number for Twilight across your chest.
    Oh, for Sci-fi fans, especially if you are a hopeless romantic AND a sci-fi fan, her newest story The Host is sparkling, just as captivating as Twilight if not more. -V

    • Josh Hanagarne June 21, 2009, 8:46 pm

      I stand by everything I said. If I read a book, I am qualified to review it. If I had said “this is a review of all four books,” then I would be unqualified. But I didn’t say that:) And I also didn’t say her writing is bad, by the way. I just said it’s average, like most things.

      This is like saying you’re unqualified to review a Louis L’amour book because you only read one out of the 100 + that he wrote.

      I’ll post a picture of that tattoo later.

    • Josh Hanagarne June 21, 2009, 9:47 pm

      By the way, Vanessa, I did love The Neverending Story. If you haven’t read it, I think you’d like it. The original version has different font colors depending on what world they’re all in. Much longer than the movie, too.

  • Adam T Glass June 21, 2009, 9:01 pm

    The book is lame, vampires are lame. Book clubs full of people freaking out about how *amazing* this book is-super lame.

    the only vampire story that was ever cool– 30 days of night.

    • Josh Hanagarne June 21, 2009, 9:37 pm

      I’ve never been able to get into graphic novels at all, Adam, but 30 Days of Night caught my eye and I really enjoyed it–as much as I’ve enjoyed any graphic novel, I guess.

  • flagmonkey June 22, 2009, 2:24 pm

    The neverending story is a great book. I bought Momo some months ago, haven’t read it yet.

    • Josh Hanagarne June 22, 2009, 2:36 pm

      Never heard of Momo. I see it’s the same author. I’ll check it out and we’ll compare notes.

  • Megan Horton June 24, 2009, 4:04 pm

    You should get into a Twilight discussion with Amy. Then you’ll have a war on your hands. NOBODY puts Edward in a corner.

  • Boris June 26, 2009, 10:19 am

    My comment goes to you, Josh, but is largely in response to V. Let me state at the outset, V, I intend no personal offense to you. That being said, I suspect there is a good chance you will be offended. C’est la vie.

    “Have you read all four books in the series?” No, Josh? Thank God, you still have an IQ/literary credibility. I have read the first book in its entirety, and exactly 30 pages of the second, at which point I realized, “life is too short, and there is much too much actual literature out there to waste my time and pollute my mind for one more precious second with this sub-par, pedestrian, wordy, sappy, prudish tripe.”

    “Meyer’s writing ability is chop-sketchy in the first 13 chapters of Twilight[?]” Meyer’s writing ability is “chop-crappy” in its entirety. She is quasi-illiterate, creatively defunct, a glaringly sad, plump, insecure scribe at every turn. Sure, on some level, her <> “writing” speaks to the chubby, self-conscious, last-picked, lonely, home on a Friday night, every Friday night, wallflower pubertal girl in all of us…oh wait…no…I don’t have one of those inside of me, pining away the hours, gorging herself on cookie dough, whole pans of brownies, and endless pints of phish food in a vain attempt to drown even one ounce of the pain, and, as such, Meyer’s <> “writing” does not speak to me AT ALL.

    You should be embarrassed. Twilight is TERRIBLE.

    And how dare you? How dare you attempt, even indirectly, to parallel Meyer with Ende. The “Neverending Story” is literature. Bastian is a profound, complex, multi-dimensional character in his own right, but particularly as compared to the parade of half-dimensional, transparent strawmen conjured up by the unbrilliant mind of Stephenie Meyer.

    And the idea that if, like Bastian, you just keep reading and believing it will somehow get better boggles the mind. She sucks. Fundamentally. Irrefutably. Just as a leopard cannot change its spots, a terrible writer cannot improve that drastically simply by writing more of the same. You don’t need to read every over-written page of every stupid book to know that.

    “But Im [sic] sure most men will continue to hide their Twilight love affair like a dirty little secret[?]” You have got to be [bleep]-ing kidding me! The incomprehensible ability of otherwise seemingly reasonable, intelligent women everywhere to overlook the glaring flaws in Meyer’s <> “work” is mystery enough. But to insinuate that there is some substantial group of clandestine male Meyer-worshippers out there is as preposterous as it is insulting. No straight, even semi-literate man can look on Twilight with anything but sheer and utter disdain. I entreat you to prove me wrong.

    Finally, Josh, I think you were entirely too generous, both in your response to poor V and in your review of the <> “book.” The horrifying truth is that, you are right, while certainly not better than anything else of its kind out there, it is not just glaringly, astoundingly worse. Which is, in itself, a terrifying commentary on the overall state of literature, both tween and otherwise, today.



    • Josh Hanagarne June 26, 2009, 10:34 am

      Boris, I feel your pain. As for being too generous with my response, I knew it wouldn’t be too long before someone took over for me as The Whip.

      If I was generous, it’s because I’d rather have people reading something than reading nothing. Some people, for whatever reason, only read Twilight. That’s not my first choice, but literacy and curiosity are my priorities, and those start with books, in my opinion. Your remarks about Ende are spot on, by the way.

      Again, if I had just stumbled across Twilight and read it, I never would have given it a second thought. But I am still confronted daily with the “duty” I have to read it, and the rest of the books.

      You’re right: life is too short. I would rather read a book I love every day for the rest of my life than waste another page on something I have to trudge through.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Vanessa Vezina July 3, 2009, 7:54 pm

    Wow, Boris you are far more passionate about the book ithan I. Jeez, have a glass of wine. To each their own. I will agree with you on the overall state of literature, perhaps everyone is too tuned out with Prozac and Ambien to become inspired.
    Then again after working days and nights as hard and in situations as brutal as I and many others do, I have no desire to sit down & curl up & decompress with a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow. Btw I didn’t compare The Neverending Story to Twilight, only the sentiments it inspires. magical & romantic, despite it’s flaws.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 3, 2009, 8:48 pm

      that bit about Gravity’s Rainbow made me laugh out loud. When I would take the bus up to the University, there was always a guy wearing fingerless gloves (in July) reading GR. He’d hold it up really high so that you couldn’t miss the cover. Not bedside, decompression reading. Have you ever read Ulysses?

  • Boris July 6, 2009, 1:47 pm

    Okay, V. Perhaps I overreacted a tad. But this Twilight thing is bigger than all of us, and much of my pent up disdain has nothing at all to do with you. No stranger to a hard day’s/night’s work, the last thing I want to do upon finally arriving home is pretend to be captivated by some dizzyingly pedantic, pompous piece of hyper-technical, uber-academic prose. But don’t you find that passion comes easiest with that which we hate; we all take what we love for granted, am I right?

    Maybe this is just between me and Edward. Maybe I’m just jealous. Why can’t I be that sensitive? That capable of seeing beyond a chubby, self-loathing exterior to the exclusively inner-beauty that lies beneath? That capable of superhuman strength and prowess whilst outwardly appearing ever the limp-wristed anemic?

    Or maybe I’m just jealous of Meyer, positive that I am a better writer, but just as positive that I will never achieve what she has because I could never stoop that low or take that risk of pouring out my heart and soul only to have it trounced upon by jaded cynics like myself.

    No wine for me, thanks. No, for me, relief comes only through the self-flagellation of a workout more severe and excruciating than anything Edward could ever dream of. He may be able to make women swoon with his sparkling (and millennia-of-vampire-lore-contradicting, btw) skin and colossal, heterosexuality-defying self-control, but he couldn’t rip through a deck of cards with a blow torch in one hand and a chain saw in the other, and in that I find my solace.