The Cultural Gutter

taking the dumb out of fandom

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

We Need To Talk (Again)

Chris Szego
Posted November 25, 2011

Due to a personal emergency, Romance Editor Chris Szego won’t be able to post a new article this week. She will be back next month. Enjoy this timely piece, originally published in 2009.

I’ve put it off long enough. Thought, ‘We can get into that later’, and ‘I should wait till the fuss dies down a little’. But truth is, we’re overdue. It’s time we talked.

About Twilight

(Don’t groan. At least, not till we’re done).

The talk has two parts. The first, about Twilight-the-novel, is fairly straightforward. I read the book because I’m in the book business, and had seen the pre-publicity buzz turn into a roar. I wanted to know what kind of tidal wave was headed my way. Afterwards, I thought it was:

A) nothing new or exciting on the romance front;

B) nothing new or exciting on the vampire front; and

C) probably going to sell in huge quantities, though not necessarily out of my store.  Which isn’t a dig at the series:  we’re a specialty store, and as such tend to sell more Pratchett and Doctorow than we do Rowling or Meyer.

I still stand by those conclusions. When it comes to romance (and vampires, for that matter), I don’t care for melodrama, and have little patience for angst. Twilight is stuffed impossibly full of both. I found it readable, but not enough to pick up the rest of the books in the series.

However…

That I didn’t care for the interaction between Bella and Edward doesn’t mean I think Twilight-the-phenomenon lacks an important and valuable love story. I
just think the love story that matters is the one between the readers and the books.

That’s the second part, and it’s big. Around the world, readers are truly connecting to the Twilight series. They’re passionately attached to the story. I’m not talking about the scary outer edge here, the shrieking fangirls, or anyone in a ‘Team Jacob’ T-shirt:   I’m talking about readers. Millions upon millions upon millions of people loving books.

Everybody should have the chance to love a book that much. Because that kind of love really does bridge time and space. When you love a book with everything that is in you, that love lasts. If you pick it up again years later, decades, whatever, you may find the words no longer have the same music, or the story the same grandeur.  But the love… that will still exist.

The immediacy of that tie is astonishing and powerful. There are books I only have to touch to be transported into a different era of my life: one in which I’m under foreign sky, perhaps; or in the company of someone I’ve since lost. I’m not the person I was when I first read those books – which is probably a good thing – but for a moment, I can remember how that person felt.

Did I say powerful? I mean nuclear.

Twilight also has the added bonus of being set in adolescence, that period in which so many of us first experience the fiery, dizzying rush of infatuation. When I saw the movie with a group of friends, we laughed aloud when Edward first swaggered into frame. That garnered us some vicious glares, but we weren’t making fun. At least, not of the movie. If we’d been fourteen when these books came out, we likely would have thought Edward absolutely wonderful. Really, we were looking back in time, and laughing at our fourteen year old selves. Not unkindly, either.

Though it’s not just teenagers reading the books. Nor is it just women. Though my store isn’t a representative example, the ratio of female Twilight buyers to male is about 80:20. Which is pretty good when you consider that women buy almost 80% of all books. Just yesterday a man came in looking for the third book, Eclipse, in paperback. It’s not quite available yet (but for any anxiously waiting readers: Very Soon Now), and he said he was probably going to cave and buy the hardcover. Because he simply couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.

When I asked, he couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly what drew him so deeply to the story, only that he was drawn. I wondered if the vampire angle made it possible for him to move the book mentally out of the ‘romance’ category into the ‘fantasy’ category, but he went on to say that he loved the love story. He loved all of it. He just didn’t know why.

Maybe his younger self knows. Maybe yours does too.

~~~

Chris Szego thinks that in this, as in so many things, Shakespeare said it best.  Love is an ever-fixed mark… even when it’s a book. 

(Sonnet #116, if you’re wondering)

Comments

One Response to “We Need To Talk (Again)”

  1. Carol Borden
    December 2nd, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

    Still a lovely piece, Chris.

Leave a Reply





  • Support The Gutter

  • The Book!

  • Of Note Elsewhere

    Zack and Steve go through and review Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Module S-1: The Tomb Of Horrors at WTF, D&D?!…so you don’t have to.

    “Steve: Most of the opening paragraph is a warning about difficulty. ‘You’ll never find the demi-lich’s secret chamber’ and the tomb is fraught with “terrible traps, poison gases, and magical protections.” It’s telling you not to play the adventure.

    Zack: Not just in that part. In the DM’s notes section at the start, Gygax explicitly warns Dungeon Masters that if your players enjoy killing monsters they will be unhappy with the adventure.

    Steve: ‘This module is only for parties that enjoy dying immediately and repeatedly.’ Oh, man, we’re not going to play though this thing are we?”

    ~

    Dr. Nerdlove takes a brief break from helping the nerd get the girl to address something that’s been bugging him. “Pardon me while I go off on a bit of a media criticism/ rant here. So I’ve been enjoying the *hell* out of The Flash lately except for one thing: Iris Allen. Her character is screen death; every time she’s around, everything comes to a screeching halt.

    The problem is: it’s not her fault, it’s the writers. Rather like Laurel Lance in the first two seasons of Arrow, she has Lois Lane syndrome. Her (like Laurel and Lois) entire character arc is based around being ignorant of events that literally everyone else in her life is aware of.”

    ~

    Get your own copy of the Satanic Temple’s The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities!

    ~

    At The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about Dr. Doom: “Comics are so often seen as the province of white geeky nerds. But, more broadly, comics are  the literature of outcasts, of pariahs, of Jews, of gays, of blacks. It’s really no mistake that we saw ourselves in Doom, Magneto or Rogue.”

    ~

    Actor Ken Takakura has died. Takakura starred in films such as Brutal Tales of Chivalry (1965); Red Peony Gambler (1968); Miyamoto Musashi: Duel at Ichijoji (1955) and Miyamoto Musashi: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956); as well as in co-productions like The Yakuza (1974); The Bullet Train (1975); Black Rain (1989) and Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles (2005).  The Japan Times, The South China Morning Post and The AV Club have obituaries. Japan Subculture has an interview with Takakura. Here Takakura sings the theme to Abhashiri Prison (1965)

    ~

    Producer, writer and director Glen A. Larson has died. Larson was responsible for creating tv series such as Battlestar Galactica, Magnum P.I, Knight Rider, The Fall Guy, Quincy M.E., The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and Buck Rogers In The 25Th Century, about which the Gutter’s own Keith wrote here. The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter and The AV Club have obituaries. Watch Larson’s interview from 2010 at “Battlestar Galactica: The Exhibition”.

    ~

  • Spilling into Twitter

  • Obsessive?

    Then you might be interested in knowing you can subscribe to our RSS feed, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Tumblr.

    -------

  • Weekly Notifications

  • What We’re Talking About

  • Thanks To

    No Media Kings hosts this site, and Wordpress autoconstructs it.

  • %d bloggers like this: