Cristina's Library

Joie de livres

Category: Fall Life

Recap

It has been a wonderful year, a year of accomplishment, discovery, and change, and I’m so happy to wrap it all up in Montreal this weekend. Thank you to all who have been coming out to my bookish events throughout 2012 – it means a lot to me. And to the many random, supportive people who stopped to chat and pick up a copy, thanks for sharing your stories and reading mine. I’m thrilled to announce that this month I was awarded the City of Vaughan 2012 RAVE Award: Rising Star in the Literary Arts! It is such an honour to have been chosen, and I look forward to continuing to enhance the arts in my own community. Check out the article here. If you are in Montreal on November 19, come visit me at Paragraphe Bookstore (2220 McGill College Avenue) at 7 p.m.
Highlights from some of my events are below.
XO -cr

I.

I love all the things there are,
and of all fires
love is the only inexhaustible one;
and that’s why I go from life to life,
from guitar to guitar,
and I have no fear
of light or of shade
and almost being earth myself,
I spoon away at infinity.

Electric counterpoint

Sometimes I need music without the weight of words. Take a stroll outside the confines of your own mind, and enjoy.

New Moon

Surprisingly, I enjoyed this book. Why?

JACOB BLACK.

New Moon is a definite improvement for Meyer — not much, but an improvement all the same. There was a broody, melancholy feel to it, and I couldn’t put it down. It starts with Bella’s 18th birthday party, where Jasper can’t control his vampire tendencies and unintentionally tries to attack her after she gives herself a papercut. (Wouldn’t Alice have seen that coming? Hm.) Edward decides to leave Forks out of fear for Bella’s safety and soul, and out of love for her — he wants her to lead a normal human life, and carry on without him. Finally, he did something right. Except that the breakup goes something like this:

Edward says to Bella firmly, “No, I don’t want you to come. You’re no good for me.” And she basically agrees with him, thinking to herself that she is such a waste of space, and that it was all too good to be true. She then abandons all female dignity by racing after him in the woods, and laying down to cry in the mud.
Pull it together, woman.

In this situation, most women would grieve for some time, then realize it was for the best, pick up and carry on. Not Bella. Meyer portrays Bella as incapable of existence without Edward, morphing into a bleak, depressed zombie. I was waiting for the book to show that she can take care of herself, be her own woman, learn from this, gain some self-respect. Instead, months go by without change. 4 blank pages with the words October, November, December, and January depict this.

Don’t get me wrong — I do sympathize with her. It’s not easy for anyone to bear a breakup and, often, months do go by in a sad daze. But the screaming nightmares, dark, morbid thoughts, and suicide attempts were all a bit too much for me. I picture Bella as more of a fan than a girlfriend, and something in their relationship is lacking for me. What are the reasons Edward can’t live without Bella, and Bella without Edward? Why do they love each other? Nothing is given, other than he is beautiful and her blood sings to him.

But, like their weird and obsessive love, this series is inexplicably addictive.

The big change happens when Bella starts hanging out with Jacob Black, who essentially saves her from herself. He is a true and loyal friend. This is blossoming love to me: human warmth. Friendship. Little moments of connection that ring true. This is what she has with Jacob. I understood and loved their relationship, because he was real. He was an original character. I was pleasantly surprised with his characterization — he has a personality, a history, faults and triumphs. He is the only character who felt multi-faceted and normal. He’s friendly, warm, slightly cocky, good-natured and fun. He (for some reason) really cares for, and loves, Bella. She loves and cares for him. Jacob is the redeeming force of the Twilight series for me.

The book continues with Bella and Alice racing to Italy to save Edward from death at the hands of the Volturi (read: evil Vampire rulers). I was upset that there is hardly any detail to this part, which I thought was really interesting and poignant. The Volturi are wicked and evil and intriguing all at once, and it would have been nice if the entire event lasted longer than 1 rushed day. Meyer introduces a fascinating history, but really does not delve into it. It’s as though substantial writing is out of her comfort zone.

A few things bothered me while reading this book. One: Bella is extremely selfish. She spends time with Jacob in order to take her mind off of Edward — she uses him, and admits it to herself. She puts herself in dangerous situations just to imagine Edward’s admonishing voice, as her deranged mind starts to do. The Jacob plot becomes sadly overshadowed by the “I have such a huge hole in my heart, I miss Edward” whining for 200 pages. I felt so sorry for Jacob. He deserves better.

Two: Stephenie Meyer has the audacity to align her book with Romeo & Juliet in direct reference, and Wuthering Heights. Please.

Three: How can Edward and Bella kiss? It’s been bugging me since Book 1. I know it’s fictional, but it states somewhere that “in place of human fluids, there was venom“…isn’t there venom in his kiss, too? I’m just confused. The author really didn’t explain herself or think a lot of the details out. Sometimes it feels as though she wrote 50 pages in one sitting and never looked back on them to edit. She repeats herself so much, yet explains very little.

Oh yeah, and Victoria is still around, wanting revenge against Edward & Bella for James’ death. She’s loosely giving this series a plot, but we hear very little about her. On to Eclipse…

Twilight

At the end of November of this year, I challenged myself to read the entire series by December, and I did it. I went in with an open mind, and it took me 10 days of consistent reading, but I did it. My feelings were up and down — there were things I liked and things I didn’t. My review of Book #1:

Twilight – It’s not a good sign when I feel like I need to push myself through a book. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. Meyer’s writing is actually awful in the first book — the dialogue is stilted and painfully awkward, there are inconsistencies, and attempts at suspense were lost with random Bella-thoughts. Ex. *after talking to Edward* “So few questions had been answered in comparison to how many new questions had been raised. At least the rain had stopped.” …What?? What does one have to do with the other? I won’t mention the number of words used unnecessarily and out of context. It felt more like I was reading the day-to-day diary of a boring teenage girl. I don’t know if I feel this way because I read it at 23 instead of 18, but it just had me rolling my eyes.

Bella, our main character: There’s hardly any description of her — except that she’s plain, average in every sense, and doesn’t relate well to people. Somewhere later on, it’s mentioned that she’s a brunette. We surprisingly know very little about her. Yet, somehow, every guy in school is craving her attention and in love, for apparently no reason — she is unbearably insecure, has no social skills, and hardly speaks. She sees Edward Cullen in the cafeteria and feels drawn to him because he is a beautiful creature. A few days later, she falls “unconditonally and irrevocably” in love with him for the same reason. Admittedly, I was interested to find out why Edward was ignoring her, and what was going to happen, but those feelings slowly dissipated. 3/4 of the book consists of sappy fluff between Edward and Bella. It felt romantic at first, but then got annoying and redundant. He is always giving her a half-smile, or acting cold and furious.

I tried so hard to understand their love, but I didn’t. The only reason given for Bella’s love is that Edward is beautiful, and the only reason given for Edward’s love is that Bella’s blood smells good. Edward is described in meticulous and painstaking detail, including his breath. That would have been acceptable, except that a part of him was described every few pages. I get it — he’s stunningly beautiful. Bella is constantly in awe and confusion over how this creature, or any boy, for that matter, could be interested in her. There is no plot until page 450.

Meyer then tries to build their relationship and help us understand why they love each other with a long slew of interrogation about each other’s lives, disguised as “conversation”. Honestly, I did like Edward and I thought he was interesting, but the Edward-Bella romance felt patronising, paternal and creepy. He chuckles at her comments, treats her like a little girl, and watches her sleep. It’s all portrayed as normal behaviour. Bella is so completely and pathetically dependent on him that it’s mentally crippling to be without him. It’s unhealthy, and was hard to read. Some Bella quotes:

*One day, Edward is not at school* “I’d lost my appetite – I bought nothing but a bottle of lemonade. I just wanted to go sit down and sulk.”

*Later in the day, he’s still not at school* “Angela asked a few quiet questions about the Macbeth paper, which I answered as naturally as I could while spiraling downward in misery.”

*The day is over and he didn’t come to school* “Desolation hit me with crippling strength.”

THIS IS BEFORE THEY HAD EVER EVEN SPOKEN.

Meyer creates Bella as such a weak and helpless female character that it’s hard to sympathize with her. Bella has no ambition or confidence; the only thing important to her is being with Edward. I would have liked her more if there was something, anything, that she had in her life, or about her character, that was completely her own, that she truly aspired towards. She doesn’t. She doesn’t seem capable of doing anything right (except for cooking and cleaning — female stereotype?), as she herself often bemoans, and needs to be saved by Edward (who follows her around) every few pages. She literally cannot even walk straight lest she falls down because she’s oh-so-clumsy.

Some messages that Stephenie Meyer conveys through Bella: It’s ok to have no goals or aspirations other than being with someone. Physical attraction is love. Boyfriends are overprotective and jealous because they love you. In fact, as you can see, life is bland and lacking true purpose without a boyfriend. Once you have a boyfriend, it’s ok — and often better — to distance yourself from your friends.

Things I did like: Meyer’s take on modern, contemporary vampires — it’s not the usual coffin/garlic stuff we’re used to. They are compassionate, they drink animals’ blood, not humans, and they are devastatingly beautiful. They’re a family. It was different, and I appreciated that. Also, the book definitely got more interesting towards the end, and became a real page-turner. I stayed up until 2 AM to finish it! The Cullen family is very intriguing, and I liked them all, especially Alice and Carlisle. I will read the rest of the series because I’m interested and curious about the overall story and I have a lot of questions: why can’t Edward read Bella’s mind? What is it about her that makes her blood smell so good to him? None of these are explained at all; we’re just expected to shrug, accept them, and be on Team Edward.

At the end of the book, I was hoping that New Moon would be better, Bella stronger, characters would have personalities, and there will be a concrete plot. Stay tuned for my New Moon review.