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In these interviews, he tries really hard not to slag the franchise that earned him bundles, but he can't refrain from some rather insightful criticism of the series' failures. His observation that Stephenie Meyer sees herself as Bella makes lots of sense, especially since she got the original idea for a key Twilight scene from a dream. 

I actually really like the guy. From what I've seen, he's rather down-to-earth, playful, a little silly and accessible. Being sexy doesn't hurt either.
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Yes, folks, just in case you were curious, E.L. James' 50 Shades trilogy started off as Twilight fanfic. It starred Edward and Bella in a bdsm relationship, and it was entitled Masters of the Universe. No word if Skeletor and He-Man were involved. I doubt it. That would have been interesting, and if it's anything these books aren't, it's interesting.
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Brian McGreevy on Vulture [for New York magazine] vomits forth a puerile lump of garbage with his opinion on popular portrayals of vampires in True Blood and the Twilight saga:

"Much has been made of the damage inflicted by the 'male gaze' in film, but what of the female gaze? It's taken the Romantic vampire and cut off his balls, leaving a pallid emo pansy with the gaseous pretentiousness of a perfume commercial. We are now left with the Castrati vampire: This is pornography for tweens, as well as a worrying reflection of our time."
 
Reading this screed, one can't help but think that McGreevy is just pissed that a vampire series written by a woman has become so popular. He seems to think that the Twilight saga is wretched just because it represents a young female character's point of view. I mean, God forbid that someone address a pillowy fantasy novel to the vast hordes of ravenous teenaged girls and young women who form the Twilight saga's primary audience! No no, books should be written by manly men only about manly male subjects, such as Romantic vampires with really big schlongs.

I never thought I'd be defending the virtues of the Twilight saga, a series that I find insidiously sexist and intensely problematic, but there it is. No, Mr. McGreevy, the sex of an author is not a legitimate subject for one of your irrelevant tangents about how biliously poxed with prejudice your brain happens to be. How the sex of an author informs his or her writing is indeed pertinent, but criticizing an author for being a certain sex just proves the source of the criticism [that's you, sir] to be a bloviating bigot.

New Moon

Nov. 24th, 2009 05:38 pm
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I saw New Moon this weekend. It was a damn sight better than Twilight, since it had more plot and more active characters. However, I picked out at least 5 times where it could have ended before it actually did. Also, unfortunately, Robert Pattinson was absent for the bulk of the movie, so I couldn't stare at his nose.
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What fresh poop is this? [Answer: It's actually stale poop.] Stephenie Meyer is writing an "official guide" to four books of whingeing and sparkling, complete with "genealogical charts," in case you haven't already figured out that the books are the bastard children of the worst romance novels ever. My favorite comments on this book come from this Amazon.com customer discussion: "Cash cow says moo" and "I'm pretty sure it's just Spackle for the plot holes."
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Everybody slurs their stilted speech as if they're all tranqed, at least until the last half-hour, when suddenly a chase occurs. The viewer realizes suddenly and irrevocably that no one has any talent in this movie except Billy Burke as Bella's dad and Robert Pattinson as Edward. The viewer ceases to be intrigued by the murky, pretty colors of the depressing, pretty scenery and falls asleep, despite the pointless chase scenes trying to compensate pathetically for the complete lack of plot. Danger and death do provide a certain illicit thrill, a primal libidinal allure that we cannot distinguish from fear because, at base, all our emotions are a type of arousal, but viewers will certainly find no exploration of the allure of the deadly in this movie. The vampires are not deadly in this movie; boredom is.
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My wife showed me this Jinx T-shirt, which is almost worthy of purchasing. I had a good laugh.
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So I watched the first 30 minutes of Twilight last night before my copy crapped out. It was so boring. I liked the pretty colors on the screen, very gloomy, dense and rainy, but the stupid, empty script, combined with the endless staring, drove me up the wall. Kristen Stewart may be hot, but she apparently has Jennifer Connelly Syndrome: an inability to keep her mouth from hanging open. Rob Pattinson has a fascinatingly angular profile, and his acting is a damn sight better than Stewart's, which, in this film of feeble performances, is not saying much. The movie Bella has all the personality of a piece of uncooked tofu, while the movie Edward is prickly, insulting, pissy and completely unattractive. I don't know what these characters see in each other.
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In the most recent Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan writes about "What Girls Want." Basically, she says that all girls want steadfast male devotion, like she did, which is why the Twilight series is so popular among teen female readers. She makes the horrible logical fallacy of assuming that her particular experience is universal; in doing so, she erases all possible variations of sexual maturation -- due to race, class, gender, socioeconomic status, size, disability, etc. -- that young girls experience. She especially erases variations in young girls' sexual preferences, assuming that they're all heteronormative. We ain't no monolith, you dipstick, and we don't all want slavishly adoring masculine suitors.
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On the eve of the movie debut of Twilight, much pissing and swooning occurs on the subject of vampires as depicted in this film. Lots of articles wonder about the attraction that the Twilight vampires have to their audience.

Rosemary Black, New York Daily News: 1) Women are drawn to Byronic heroes. 2) We desire them because the intense fear provides orgasmic arousal. 3) They're the ultimate symbol of a chaste sensuality. 4) They're perpetually young, sexy and intensely devoted to their mortal lovers.

Kate Harding, Broadsheet [Salon]: 1) New York Daily News is full of shit. All the article's arguments represent tired stereotypes about female sexuality. 2) Women are attracted to the recent crop of vampires because they are written by women and /or because there's a focused on well-rounded female characters.

Henly 424, Salon commenter: The current iteration of the vampire, an intensely devoted, magical, eternally loving being with awesome superpowers, recapitulates the old fantasy that a supernatural creature can somehow rescue an ordinary kid from a life of boring normalcy and transform him/her into something powerful and stupendous, merely by association with the undead.

There's not anything particularly attractive to women as a whole about vampires as a whole. For women as a whole to be attracted to vampires as a whole, both women as a whole and vampires as a whole would require definition as monadic entities. However, women are diverse in their attractions; vampires are diverse in their manifestations. The idea that "vampires" can reveal something "essential" about "feminine sexuality" can just go to hell.

Even if we're talking about the type of vampires shown in the Twilight saga [which we probably are, even though it's never explicitly stated], the question is still not "Why do women love vampires?" The question is "Why are these particular characters extremely popular among a huge subset of U.S. readers who are mostly teenaged and female?" There's no ahistorical answer. I can't stand it when people can't frame their inquiries with appropriate exactness.

As to why the Twilight vampires are so popular with their audience, I think Laura Miller's analysis of Bella as Mary Sue is an insightful start.

The LHF vampires are amused about the amount of critical ink being spilled in an attempt to explain their attractiveness to mortals. :p

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This weekend, I returned to one of my guilty pleasures, the glamorous, cliched, convoluted and opaque BBC series Hex [2005-2007]. This gorgeous trash heap of magic + soft-core porn features fallen angels, lesbian ghosts, witch burning, time traveling, demons in the guise of priests, kinky nurse fairies, blah blah blah, all taking place on the isolated grounds of Medenham Hall, a boarding school populated by 6 sexy students, 2 or 3 teachers and gallons of moody mist.

Anyway, one of the tired plot devices trotted out by Hex is that of the fast-forward Jesus baby. As the result of a Divine Screw between a supernatural male and an ordinary female, the fast-forward Jesus baby develops alarmingly fast from conception to birth. Read more... )
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Leonard Sax argues that the great popularity of the Twilight series among hetero women <25  constitutes proof that we should abandon the ridiculous feminist ideal that men and women should be treated equally. He says:

The fascination that romance holds for many girls is not a mere social construct; it derives from something deeper. 

And what is this "deeper" something? It's an essentialized gender binary in which women are passive, cuddly and nurturing and men are aggressive, violent and death-dealing.

So basically his argument is that girls still like Twilight because they are biologically programmed to like it; ergo, feminism has failed.

The huge amount of interest in the Twilight books demonstrates only that romance is popular; it does not demonstrate the reasons behind the popularity. Sax' conclusions of romance as biologically innate and feminism as a stupid failure represent unwarranted leaps of logic. In fact, I could just as easily argue that the popularity of the Twilight series rests on the culturally constructed assumptions that the target readers -- hetero girls -- are expected and environmentally conditioned to like romance. 

Some people should actually learn how to formulate coherent thoughts before they're allowed to write for public consumption. :p

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Rereading Breaking Dawn, I discover many small moments of sheer badness that could not be effectively encompassed in my earlier rants [part I, part II, part III]. 
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In a 2007 Q&A in Alpharetta, GA, Stephenie Meyer addressed the possibility of Edward being a grade A douchenozzle an abuser. Meyer's response, transcribed below, illuminates her deluded perceptions of her characters and her dysfunctional relationship toward her fictional products. My comments are in regular face type.

Question 12: There’s been some speculation on the internet….. about Edward being an abusive boyfriend….. ?

Because he IS!

Meyer:  Yeah, yeah, OK. There’s a lot of stuff online that has, honestly, broken my heart recently. It is difficult to read things that take such a negative spin on something that is very personal and also makes a lot of sense inside your head. 

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Amanda Bussell nails the silliness of Twilight. Please note Edward's completely angular and impenetrable constipation and Bella's googly brainlessness. 

Jesus, there's an entire Twilight Sucks Web site.

For more mordant humor, look into her Headtrip manga-style cartoon about teenaged girls with sarcastic senses of humor. I enjoy the one-off jokes with recurring characters.
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otahyoni has a biting [hah!] parody here. It's gloriously silly if you haven't read the book and even better if you have. Thanks to roxyk630 for pointing it out.

Warning: Not for insecure Twilight twits. [And by "twits" I mean those unreasonable fans who think that critical reviews of Breaking Dawn are a betrayal to Stephenie, or that people shouldn't take the Twilight Saga seriously as an object of literary analysis.]
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Part I is here. Part II is here.

All right, I've fired my first salvo: to wit, Breaking Dawn breaks rules of good fiction by being inconsistent with the logic established in earlier books. Now my second reason for despising Breaking Dawn shall be detailed here. As I mentioned earlier, I find Breaking Dawn "philosophically objectionable." 

Oh look...more spoilers, not to mention a well-reasoned argument impervious to twits! )

 

 
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Part I is here.

Okay, I've argued that Breaking Dawn is structurally flawed, for which I loathe it deeply. More serious, however, is its thematic bankruptcy, for which I find it philosophically objectionable. To all those twits who read this review and criticize me for taking a mere teen romance too seriously, let me tell you something: 

 

 
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So, just in case you couldn't tell from my capsule reaction last night, I deem Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer the worst book in a horrible series. I have two major reasons for calling Breaking Dawn the turd of the series.

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...and I would just like to say that it didn't just jump the shark. Instead, it jumped an entire fleet of sharks, while shooting fireworks and kazoos out its ass. Then it pulverized the sharks, crashed into an oil tanker and set the resultant spill ablaze, choking the world's entire population of seagulls to death with its smoke. Immediately afterward, it reached land, where it pulverized and shat out Gozilla AND Mecha-Godzilla. At last sight, it was lurching toward the New England Aquarium, intent on fusing together a tankful of innocent sand sharks into one unholy cartilaginous sea monster, with which it was somehow hoping to scale the exosphere, hop over the Oort Cloud and land in the vicinity of Antares.
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...that the Loch Ness Monster is involved in Breaking Dawn. Wow. If that's the case, I might need to actually purchase a copy of this train wreck for my very own, instead of just signing it out from the library.
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Last time I wrote about the Twilight series, I elaborated about two types of fictional universes. In the multiplicative type, the inventiveness moves outward from its source, creating more characters, more locales, more magical powers, more spells, more generations. Multiplicative universes are immersive by virtue of their breadth; the sheer variety of their many elements makes them seem like small parts of the actual, teeming world.

The other type of fictional universe is the reductive. The inventiveness here moves inward from its source or focus. There are few characters, few locales. In fact, there are usually only 2 or 3 characters and 2 settings at the most. Reductive universes are immersive by virtue of their depth. They go deeper and deeper into the psychological twists of the small cast until readers feel as if they really know the cast members. 

Anyway, those media outlets that compare Twilight with Harry Potter miss key differences between the franchises. 

 

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With the final book of the Twilight Saga coming out on Saturday [woo hoo!!], Laura Miller takes a critical look at the immensely popular glurge. She correctly notes that Bella's extreme lack of personality makes her a Mary-Sue-shaped costume which the typical fan, a young teenaged heterosexual girl, can climb into so that she can have virtual smoochies with Edward:

She is purposely made as featureless and ordinary as possible in order to render her a vacant, flexible skin into which the reader can insert herself and thereby vicariously enjoy Edward's chilly charms...Edward, not Bella, is the key to the Twilight franchise, the thing that fans talk about when explaining their fascination with the books. 

Read more... )
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[Error: unknown template qotd]First of all, that should be "your favorite fictional character" with an "r" goddammit. My favorite fictional literary character is Willa Rahv from Early Disorder by Rebecca Josephs. Nominally about a 15-year-old's struggle with anorexia, Early Disorder is actually more of a slice of life for a young girl as she tries to find her place in her overbearing, perfectionist family, a fast-paced, overwhelming school and a city that teems with life that she would like to be a part of. Witty, pretentious, oversensitive and insecure, Willa embodies many of the strengths and fallacies common to young teenagers. However, her sarcastic, keen-eyed first-person perspective evinces a deft sense of humor and a maturity that she eventually grows into. I find the theme of coming into one's own eminently relatable, and I've always found Will a sympathetic protagonist over the decades during which I have cherished this book.

I'm also really keen on the eldest princess in A.S. Byatt's short story "The Story of the Eldest Princess" [available in The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye] because she's smart and assertive and reflective. She realizes she's in a skewed fairy tale and forms her own happy ending, which does not involve happy hetero marriage.

In TV or movies, my favorite characters are Jareth the Goblin King from Labyrinth [details at Jareth's Realm], Frank from The Rocky Horror Picture Show [details at The Frankenstein Place], Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer [details all over this blog] and Dean Winchester from Supernatural [details all over this blog].

In fiction that I have created, my favorite characters are Will and Anneka because they have pink hair and no fashion sense. I also really like Mark because he's such a  dweeb, Chow  because  he's  probably  the only wise character around and Viktor because his constant attempts to screw anything that moves are amusing.

In any medium, I dislike whiny characters who do not stand up for themselves. Three particularly egregious examples are Sarah from Labyrinth, Harry Potter from the seven books concerning him and Bella from the Twilight Saga. Make that EVERYONE in the Twilight Saga.

EDIT: BWAH HAHAHAH. I notice that Edward Cullen, abusive personality extraordinaire of the Twilight Saga, appears most frequently as a favorite character, clearly nominated by people without critical intelligence.
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Several weeks before Breaking Dawn crawls out of the coffin [August 2, baayyyyybeeee!], New York Times columnist Gail Collins examines the appeal of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Jessica Valenti and Courtney Martin, both of Feministing, a blog I check frequently, provide input. Valenti and Martin observe that lusty and repressed Edward represents a chaste and non-threatening affection, sexually speaking. [We won't address the fact that his emotionally manipulative and controlling acts make him a prime example of an abusive personality.] His cuddly sexlessness represents one extreme that today's teen girls are pulled toward. 

Courtney Martin, the author of “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters,” spends a lot of time on college campuses and says students seem to be torn between anonymous sex and monogamy — “either hooking up with no expectations or you’re basically married. You stay home and watch movies.” 

The implication is that a balance should be struck, that young women who are growing up and exploring their sexuality should not be bound to emotionally involving but sexless chastity or anonymous, promiscuous activity without emotional connection. Ideally, these young women should find sexual identities that incorporate both human drives to be understood and get laid. The Twilight series, with its extreme insistence on sexual repression, does no justice to the variety of human experience. And this is only one of the reasons it's so bad.

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In The Changeover by Margaret Mahy, as in Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, a young schoolgirl meets an older, wiser, handsome young man. She, with her sharp-tongued asperity, and he, with his awkward remoteness, both lack social graces. Both distant from the usual flurry of teenage life, they are attracted to each other. The girl discovers that the boy is magical and that he lives with a family that are just as supernatural as he is. Increasingly intimate with the boy, the girl struggles with her attraction not only to him, but to the magical power that he and his family represent. Will she choose normal life or an isolating life of power beyond her wildest imagination?
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Eclipse is a big fat turd, mind-boggling in its display of authorial ineptitude. I'm seriously stupefied by the abounding incoherence. In Twilight and New Moon, the characters had some consistency, no matter how repulsive and stupid they were. In New Moon, however, said consistency went out the window, with Edward and Jacob suffering the most. Also I the reader suffered when Bella took her stupidity to new lows.
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After reading Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, I needed to wash my brain out with a vampire novel of higher quality. Since I've practically memorized Carmilla and Dracula at this point, I chose instead a modern classic: The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause. It tells the story of petulant, artistic and sensitive Zoe, 17, who feels as if her world is imploding because her mom is dying of cancer. She meets Simon, a sympathetic badass vampire bent on vengeance against his brother for killing their mom. Simon helps Zoe deal with her mom's demise, and she helps him achieve revenge.

Good things about The Silver Kiss: Klause writes in a fast-paced style, but with frequent flashes of poetry in her use of unexpected adjectives. From the title onward, she creates a fascinating atmosphere of magic and melancholy.  Her portrayal of the grieving Zoe's mood swings is accurate and compassionate, anchoring the book in a drama that readers can easily identify with. Unlike Meyer, who can't write an appealing, active character to save her life, Klause shows both Zoe and Simon as broken-hearted characters who think way too much and thus have a common bond that explains their attraction. Finally, Klause's use of vampires as a metaphor for the grieving process illuminates both Zoe's stories and vampire myths in general, offering a believable reason that such deadly humanoid parasites could be sympathetic.

Bad things about The Silver Kiss: Zoe does not read as a 17-year-old to me. Even making allowances for her grief and general strain, I find it hard to believe that her constant whininess and snappishness would come from someone over 15. Klause should have made her 15; I don't think the story would have suffered. Relatedly, I sympathize with Zoe because I've experienced death and know how it can punch one in the gut, but still...while sympathetic, Zoe is a hard character to like and follow along with. Simon is a bit better, although Klause tries too hard [e.g., in the scene where he beats up drunken doofuses and steals one of their leather jackets] to make him edgy. These lapses are forgivable, though, when compared to the main problem of the book: the ending. I accept Simon's suicide/sacrifice, but I reject Zoe's sudden confidence and lack of fear about dying. All along, Klause depicts grief as a tangle, and it's never unknotted so simply and completely. Even if Klause had written that Zoe "wasn't SO scared any more" instead of "wasn't scared any more," that would have been better.

Nevertheless, The Silver Kiss is a vivid, nuanced novel about vampires.

New Moon, the sequel to Twilight, is, however, not. It's just more of the same sluggish melodrama that we saw in Twilight. A coworker who borrowed Twilight from me summed up my feelings toward this series well when she said, "I finished Twilight. I stayed up late reading it." Thoughtful pause. "I didn't like it very much."

Next up: Blood-Sucking Fiends: A Love Story by Christopher Moore.
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Twilight is fan fiction, and from this fan fictional identity derives both its strengths and its weaknesses.

While fan fiction may be strictly defined as unauthorized literary activities with someone else's characters, I would also define as fan fiction a self-insertion story where the writer uses time-worn literary devices to stick him- or herself into a story, thus fulfilling his/her wishes. This definition of fan fiction thus includes Twilight.

 

 
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Lev Grossman describes the style of Stephenie Meyer, whose garbologous vampire train wrecks are the object of my current mini-obsession, as "pillowy...distinctly reminiscent of Internet fan fiction."  A beautifully evocative adjective, yes? Still rather vague in this sentence, though. I think of a "pillowy" book as one you can take to bed: a comfortable, predictable story that leaves you feeling warm, unchallenged and happy. Since "pillowy" literally means "like a pillow" or "soft," Grossman seems to have something in mind more along the lines of "squishy, sentimental and lacking in true substance." I'd argue that Meyer's books are "pillowy=comfortable and soothing" because they are "pillowy=sentimental and light."

I also think "pillowy" should be removed from its derogatory relegation because it's perfect for so many other things: the warm rounded curves of the Green Mountains, the gentle hills of cumulus clouds on a summer day, the layered mounds of petals in a rose flower, the frothy and cool sensations of Key Lime pie, the undulant stillness of floating in a calm body of water, the comfortable portions of a loved one that you like to rest your head against and, of course, the yielding mountains of bedclothes upon which you drop into dreams.

Previous entries in the Stephenie Meyer series are here: #1, #2, #3 and #4.
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Having acquired my own copy of Twilight, I can now revisit its wonderfully horrible fan-fictional melodrama any time I wish. HUZZAH!!!

There are some very unintentionally revealing articles about author Stephenie Meyer that I want to analyze, but I can't do it now, so I'll just link to them:

Stephenie Meyer: A New J.K. Rowling? by Lev Grossman, Time, April 24, 2008.

Stephenie Meyer [The New Time 100: #74] by Orson Scott Card, Time, May 5, 2008

The Story Behind Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, stepheniemeyer.com
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I am firmly convinced of this. I just saw the teaser trailer for Twilight [previously mentioned here and here], in which Bella, a mortal, falls in love with Edward, a douchebag vampire. Because the trailer usually provides a condensed view of the movie's tone, cinematography, plot and acting abilities, I have no faith in the upcoming film. It appears that it will consist of people standing around looking dyspeptic and occasionally making hammy, passionate proclamations, all with portentous special effects and no sense of humor whatsoever. Regrettable, really, when Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are each young actors known for actually doing some good acting.

Wait...I take back what I said about there being no good vampire movies. Nosferatu is good.
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I eagerly devoured Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, which I mentioned in a previous entry, and hoooooo boy, it was even better than I expected, which is to say that it was gloriously horrible!
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I vaguely remember when Twilight came out that it was popular. People thought it was really good. Never read it, but liked the cover! 

I'm thinking I should investigate it, not because I really WANT to, but because some people think it's full of Mary Sueish soppiness and stupid women in danger always rescued by saintly vampires, and also because it's going to come out as a movie at the end of the year. Okay, cross that out -- I actually DO want to read the book, primarily because of this vehemently scathing review on Amazon.com. Reviewer concludes:

Hey vampires are awesome, but not so much when they're turned into superhero supermodels who wear way too much glitter body lotion. 

Will says, "I'm a vampire, and I like glitter, and there's NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. :p"

I have a weakness for poorly written books. They show me what NOT to do.

P.S.  I am interested to read Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde.

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