Monday, November 17, 2008

Early Impressions Of Twilight

The novel... of course.

Before I begin, though, a link to the official movie site.

spoilers alert

spoilers alert

spoilers alert

spoilers alert

I did say I'm fascinated by the vampire folklore, but my exposure has been mostly limited to films and TV.

Books-wise, I currently count maybe 4 such novels that I've read so far -- Bram Stoker's Dracula ( a must-have ), Anne Rice's Interview With The Vampire ( long-winded but superior to the movie adaptation ), one more with a title and author I can't even recall ( wasn't very good, obviously ), and now, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight.

After a single weekend, I'm at page 360, and eager to pen my thoughts prior to hitting the finale.

First, to answer the more straightforward questions:

1) Is it as good as everyone says it is?

I find this a tough call. On one hand, Meyer is not a strong writer in many ways. Her vocabulary ( for someone with a college degree in English literature ) is rather lacking, but then again I have to consider the fact that the story is told from Bella's perspective, and she's a 17-year-old high school student, so what should one expect?

However, having just completed Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, which is "narrated" by a pubescent girl, the language difference is massive. I don't think Mary Boleyn was that sophisticated, but Gregory's style is 100 times more graceful, with much more complicated plotlines and extremely compelling dialogue.

Twilight, in comparison to something like that, doesn't stand a chance. Although I agree it's hardly fair to hold the former against the latter, considering the markedly different genres and target demographics.

On the other hand, it's been such a long time since I've spent a whole afternoon and hours past bedtime glued to a book, defying exhaustion and choosing this over a much-needed nap. I've even brought it to work so I can continue when the shift quietens down -- now that's never happened before.

After beating around the bush, do I have a final verdict?

In terms of writing style, no, it isn't as good as I thought it would be.

But the story and characters are pretty special.
More on these later...

2) What irks me?

As mentioned earlier, the writing is a little lacklustre. Though a college grad, Meyer has since become a full-time homemaker with 3 young children to care for. During an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, she admitted to balancing her infant on her lap while typing out the manuscript. Little wonder the prose came out this way. :)

In the first 250 pages, I was immensely irritated by her repetitive use of certain words, e.g. beautiful, gorgeous, grimaced, smirked. I found it unnecessary to hammer home the point that YES, Edward Cullen is drop dead gorgeous ( pun intended ). Meyer's breathless descriptions about his runway model looks started to grate on my nerves, and this wasn't helped by Bella's infatuation, which I found childish, in view of her supposed superior intelligence ( she's in an advanced class back in her hometown, reads Chaucer, listens to Debussy, and is a whiz at English and Biology ).

The high-tension scene where Edward saves Bella from being crushed by a van ended up confusing me, as I struggled to understand the sequence of events and eventually failed to make sense of it.

Also, Bella's awkward clumsiness kept getting played up at every opportunity, with her tripping all over herself and accidentally crashing into or whacking people during gym class.
And yet, despite all this, she gets pursued by 3 popular boys AND catches Edward's eye.

A bit melodramatic, no?

However, I pressed on...

3) What was the turning point?

Chapter 13: Confessions ( page 260 ).

This, IMHO, is the novel's brightest spark, keeping me up late on Saturday night.

I actually started my reading session a couple of chapters earlier, but got a bit of a jolt when, in Chapter 12, Meyer placed Bella in her bedroom, listening to Chopin nocturnes as she attempted to sleep before a pivotal outing with Edward the next morning.

I happened to be plugged into my Discman that instant, enjoying music from a new classical artiste I'd recently discovered -- a young Polish pianist named Rafal Blechacz. Guess what he specializes in? Chopin preludes.

I literally froze when I read Meyer's words, coupled with Blechacz's album blasting in my ears. Eerie, man.

Anyway, I've gone off track a little. Chapter 13, for me at least, turned the whole experience around. After 25 pages set in a meadow of wild flowers, featuring a no-holds-barred conversation that explains almost everything I needed to know, I found the initial annoyance I felt dissipating completely.
It really was quite remarkable.

4) What comes next?

Unfortunately, the following chapters don't measure up to number 13. There's a high-speed baseball game in a forest clearing that perhaps aims to be Quidditch's equivalent, but again, Meyer's writing fails to convey its power and exuberance ( JK Rowling's first 3 Harry Potter books are truly spectacular in this respect ). Predictably, a group of villains is introduced to spice things up. The usual plot tricks.

5) Will the movie be better than the novel?

I strongly suspect so. The actors handpicked for the lead roles have good acting credentials. I can't say that Robert Pattinson ( who plays Edward, and is best remembered as Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter 4 ) fits Meyer's mould to a T, since he isn't that conventionally handsome. But I believe he has the depth and personality to make the character his own, perhaps even surpassing the author's vision and fan expectations.

Kristen Stewart suits Bella very well. Let's hope she does a good job with the acting part.
I've seen short clips of the scene where Edward first saves Bella's life. Doesn't seem to match what the book depicts, but that's okay.

There's also a sneak peek of a bedroom scene ( got this in my DVD of Penelope - which stars James McAvoy :)) where Edward jumps out Bella's window with her on his back -- don't recall reading about this in any of the chapters. A bit of screenplay tweaking?

Then of course, there's a big fight scene, and lots of lovey-dovey bits where the two protagonists get intimate ( but remain chaste ) with each other. Should be very interesting.

6) Will I read Book 2?

If I can get my hands on it, then yes. Took me a while to obtain a rental copy of Twilight, and Books 2 and 3 are currently unavailable. Will stop short of buying them, since my conscience won't allow it, heh.

Was telling L earlier today about how Twilight has been stirring up some memories for me. I may be twice Bella's age, but many of the novel's themes and a few of its memorable scenes made me reminisce about people I've met in the past, places I've been and things I've done.

They made me smile at times, and caused my heart to ache at others. Amazing how a fictional work filled with teen angst can have such an effect on me. There's hope after all. :)
Catch the trailer and various clips here.
I can't wait to see it at the cineplex. :)

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