Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Breaking Dawn

Despite claims that I would never read another Stephanie Meyer book again, I couldn't resist reading Breaking Dawn. A couple of good friends informed me that it was the worse one yet (and therefore the best). I wasn't going to read it unless it met two criteria: 1. That she finally gets turned into a vampire and 2. They have sex.

(Spoiler Alert) Both those things happen, but not in that order. If you're not familiar with the Twilight series, I'll tell you. It's about a girl who falls in love with a vampire, and, for really no reason, he also falls in love with her. For various reasons, they struggle, and other vampires try to kill them. They persevere. The first book is ridiculous but readable, the second book is beyond ridiculous and really boring, I didn't read the 3rd book, and the forth book is, once again, beyond ridiculous and almost unreadable.

It's a well known fact that readers of these books are either teenage girls or pervy 30-somethings like myself. Two demographics that appreciate a good sex scene - but, I was a bit disappointed. And, slightly creeped out. Instead of the filthy details, what Meyer delivers is something like this:
Edward kissed her and they fell onto the bed... [NEXT CHAPTER]
"Oh, good morning. What happened to the headboard?"
"I broke it."
"Really? I didn't notice."
"You were preoccupied."
"Yes I was. With the sex. That we had. Huh. I'm covered in bruises."
"What? No! I nearly killed you with my vampiric strength! I shall never forgive myself!"
"Don't worry. I liked it."

What's such a shame about these books is that they're so old fashioned. I wish that the (supposedly) most popular book young women were reading wasn't about some dopey teenager who requires saving all the time by her strong, wise boyfriend. And (here comes another big time spoiler) what happens but she gets preggo practically the first time they have sex?!? Her vampire husband (who wanted to wait until they got married to consummate the ol' union) tries to convince her to have a vampire-baby abortion, but, papa, she's keeping the baby (even if it is a blood-sucking monster that will be the death of everyone they know. Was Sarah Palin involved in this?)

I really don't know what's worse, though - the post-feminist story or the pre-brain writing. Meyer writes with all the grace of a sledgehammer. What (I believe) is meant to pass for witty dialogue sounds like two idiots yakking. She's less subtle than even Dan Brown. At one point, I am not making this up, she wrote, "A tear the size of a baseball rolled into the russet fur beneath his eye." There's 754 pages of this nonsense!

Naturally, I did not read it all. After about 50 pages, I started skipping about 10 pages per turn of the page, and then passed on the last 100. It's good for a laugh, but might just be the downfall of our entire society.

Friday, October 10, 2008

When Will There be Good News?

I'm a big fan of Kate Atkinson - especially her "early" work, which is really gothic and beautiful. Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995, and won the Whitbread Book of the Year) is really terrific, as are Emotionally Weird and her book of short stories, Not the End of the World.

When Will There be Good News is sort of a continuation of her previous book, Case Histories, vaguely centered around a character named Jackson Brodie, a former-police detective. I think both of those books are good, but, they almost border on having too many characters. I find it difficult to keep them straight - although that might be purposeful. Most of the characters, particularly in this latest book, all have something in common, which is that, for them, it's just one damn thing after another. Unfortunately I've had a couple of periods like that myself, so I could really relate. The title made perfect sense to me, the minute I saw it - it's that sentiment that (JESUS CHRIST) WHEN will something GOOD happen?!?

I think Atkinson is a wonderful writer, and she's also a very British writer. When Will There Be Good News is full of snippets of old English poetry and songs. I really like her sensibility, she's clearly a feminist, and a lot of her books address violence toward women... women who find strength. She also writes a good mystery - surprises me every time.

I do hope that she leaves behind the whole Jackson Brodie business for her next book, for some reason this kind of seriality gets old for me. It's not, by the way, necessary to read Case Histories before this one. I was very fuzzy on the details myself, but it doesn't matter.

There's an excerpt of the first chapter (you'll be hooked!) on her website.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Maus is a rather famous graphic novel by Art Spiegelman. It won a Pulitzer Prize "Special Award", and Alan Moore said of Spiegelman, "I have been convinced that Art Spiegelman is perhaps the single most important comic creator working within the field and in my opinion Maus represents his most accomplished work to date…"

It's biographical, and tells the tale of a graphic novelist son who is listening to his father tell his story of living through the Holocaust. The story is beautifully and wonderfully told, and I loved the juxtaposition the two stories. In one, the son, who does not have a good relationship with his father, pulls the story from his father, trying to force him into a linear narrative. The other is his father's story, a Polish Jew with an incredible tale. The son (Arty) struggles with the writing of the story, because it's not really the story he wants to tell. He wishes he had his mother's side, to "give the book some balance." Spiegelman does something very interesting with the art, by drawing the Jews as mice (hence the title), nazis as cats, Polish people as pigs, Americans as dogs and so on. I'm sure many a dissertation has already been written about the animalian depictions! Something I thought was very sophisticated was how sometimes the characters wear masks to blend in. Spiegelman's use of the mask is really quite amazing on so many levels - I think he exemplifies how thin are the barriers between us - how fluid identity and culture are. .Well, now I understand why everyone lists Maus as THE comic to read.