November 25, 2008

Mormon vampire novels

What with all the publicity about the new Twilight movie, PixelFish wonders about stuffy Mormons "bemoaning the fact that Stephanie Meyers wrote vampire stories," and wonders as well "how you would write a story about Mormon vampires."

Well, as Chanson helpfully points out, Mr. Ms. Fish need wonder no longer. No, Milada isn't Mormon, but the rest of her world--unlike that of Twilight--is wall-to-wall with them. And not to give too much away, but a Mormon vampire does make an appearance.

Alas, perhaps that is what accounts for the relative obscurity of Angel Falling Softly, despite its "arguably better writing."

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# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
"Arguably better writing"?
Come on, Ive only read the first two chapters of AFS but you don't need to be so humble.

David West
11/21/2008 11:20 PM

# posted by Blogger C. L. Hanson
Actually, I think Pixelfish is a woman (though I've gathered up so many post-Mormon blogs now that I can hardly keep track of them all).

And sorry about the qualifier "arguably". The thing is that I don't want to end up in a debate over literary merit with Stephenie Meyer's legions of fans because it always ends with accusations of sour grapes and jealousy over her fame and success. So I prefer to leave open the question of the quality of her writing and not go on record with a strong statement about it either way. I salute her success and definitely cosider the Twilight phenomenon fascinating! :D
11/22/2008 2:24 AM

# posted by Blogger Eugene
It is a writerly conceit that the ability to churn out well-crafted sentences should overcome all the obstacles that stand between inconsequentiality and fame. At the end of the day, the audience remains the ultimate arbiter and cannot be dictated to. No technique or formula will replicate that mysterious ability to connect.

Over on A Motley Vision, I've pursued the thesis that when it comes to Mormon letters, there may be no there there. Writers like Meyer and Card who skate along the borderlines where religious Mormon culture meets secular pop culture have--and deserve--the most success and will definitely have the most influence.

Trees falling in forests and all that. In any case, there are better ways to spend one's time than to "trouble deaf Heaven with one's bootless cries . . . Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope." Besides, I really enjoyed Dirty Harry's take on the film: "old-fashioned" as the new new. Seriously, I think he's onto something.
11/22/2008 10:15 AM

# posted by Blogger Kate Woodbury
Interesting review--and it partially explains something that I keep puzzling over. I agree that reaching the reader, or audience, is the ultimate criteria when it comes to a book/movie. Communication IS all about connection. What has puzzled me with Twilight (the book) hasn't so much been the (as Dirty Harry says) old-fashioned fascination with the protective boyfriend (although I agree with those reviewers who think Edward is stalkerish; to be fair, he doesn't become really stalkerish until the later books): that's just evolutionary hardwiring. My bemusement has been over how Meyers' books accomplish that connection. I found the first two chapters of Twilight so mind-bendingly dull, I couldn't have continued unless I'd been paid or it was for a class (it was for bookclub, and I figured I'd read enough to participate). Bella also struck me as such a throw-back to passivity, even by, oh, say, Pamela standards (actually, Pamela is fairly gung-ho: Evelina standards, then), I couldn't see how anybody would care what happened to her for more than two minutes. And nothing seemed to happen to her for ages. Those two beginning chapters, I kept going, "Where's the plot?"

So what made people say, This book has it? Was it the writing? I actually think that might be one factor since I think immediacy (writing that leaps off the page) is a big factor in communication (active voice, people!). But Meyers' writing seems a bit furniture-moving-ish to me (then she walked up the stairs, then she bit her lip, then she picked up a cup of tea . . .) But perhaps people like that? My students are constantly confusing description using sensory adjectives with description that tells what a person did (they want to do the latter, not the former). Perhaps, despite years of "show don't tell" advice from English teachers, people really do prefer to be told rather than shown information.

Or perhaps the book supplies an immediate engagement with the heroine? Or the ability to take a single thread and keep the reader running with it, despite all other distractions?

Or--perhaps--the whole thing is just zeitgeist: something in the air: the right book for the right moment. Hit a nerve, make a million bucks. (Which isn't to take away any credit from those writers who hit that nerve. I may criticize Meyers, but I'm always happy when a writer "makes good.")

In any case, I will probably watch the movie! 122 minutes of boredom is much easier to handle than 544 pages. And I admit to a liking for the old-fashioned love story.
11/23/2008 6:12 PM

# posted by Blogger chosha
perhaps that is what accounts for the relative obscurity...despite its arguably better writing

Are you kidding? Seriously? You're actually wondering what it is that makes that book more popular. I laughed out loud when I read that.

Of course your book is better written. Duh. What you are missing is EDWARD. 90% of the people who bought that book are girls in love with Edward, or the idea of Edward, or someone in their school who is broody enough to be considered Edward-like. I know a seventeen year old boy who only read the books because his girlfriend is so into them and he said that even he feels like he's a little in love with Edward now. :):):)

I've read both. Yours is better.
11/25/2008 3:58 PM

# posted by Blogger chosha
Kate; to be fair, he doesn't become really stalkerish until the later books

Yeah...except for that whole 'standing in your room all night watching you sleep, even though we aren't even dating yet' thing. :)
12/09/2008 9:50 AM

# posted by Blogger Kate Woodbury
Actually, I agree with you, chosha. Apparently, the latter books in the series upset some fans because the whole "hey, he did it for love, so it's okay" theme gets really strong. I wasn't upset because (1) I didn't read the books, but also, (2) I never took the relationship seriously to begin with. I mostly thought it sounded dull. All that foreplay leading nowhere, and, as far I can tell from what I've been told, endless conversations between Edward and Bella about, well, Edward and Bella. Does anyone in the books ever say, "Hey, how about those Red Sox?" or "Hey, how about the latest political or literary controversy? Hey, let's actually have a conversation that revolves around something other than our oh-so-important lives?" Do they? (Maybe it's implied.)
12/11/2008 11:25 AM