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It's hard to know where to start, especially when I'm not sure where this will end.
But I've loved Twilight, and I've cheerfully defended it from various accusations, including:
- bad writing (it's inexperienced and very uneven, but certainly not uniformly bad)
- passive heroine syndrome (Bella is my favorite character, natch [well, except for Carlisle])
- Creepy Obsessive Stalker Romance (okay, our Ed has his moments—but immortal is not the same thing as aged; otherwise, Arwen Evenstar would be a cradle-robbing cougar [see also: It. is. a. STORY])
- "This book is evil because ________" (I've been a Potter fan too long to have much to say to that one)
It has, however, been harder for me to read Twilight this time around. I think the primary culprit behind that is one of my... oh, maybe Theta* readers: he made me a better writer, but he also left me hyperconscious to the point of anxiety about my own word choices. Which made me a lot more jumpy about everyone else's, too.
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My biggest problem with defending Twilight: it means I should think twice before getting snarky at Catholic hymns from the sixties and seventies. (Which I should probably do anyway if I want to keep composing sacred music.)
|But the lyrics are so bad.|
And yet, so many people love this song so much.
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That said, pop culture successes are almost never academically satisfying—and as long as I'm not looking right at one of Meyer's overblown word choices, I still rather love the story—and I have characters to stand up for and story bits to talk about—so let's do this. Here's some pop culture to get in the mood. Thanks to Laura for this link; the song is just perfect for Edward:
At the moment, I'm planning to work through the story more or less by character, rather than by chapter or plot, because I think the characters have the most conversation to offer.
I never read Midnight Sun, but Edward has always fascinated me as the character who most obviously displays the aspect of being human that the story revolves around: the battle between desires and conscience. Edward's dueling passions for Bella are drawn up against his Carlisle-formed conscience in an intense and prolonged war that only begins to resolve peaceably as he learns the ways of love. And I don't mean romance: I mean good, old-fashioned caritas.
Right now, I'm only halfway through the first book (you know holiday busyness is insane when I can't even get through Twilight in a week)—but I'm seeing that beginning resolution in his understanding that he couldn't live with himself if he ever hurt Bella: an understanding that could easily lead someone with his personality to despair, but which guides him to gentleness and self-restraint. He's got a lot of growth ahead of him, but it's a good place to start.
|Art by Eldanis|
But Edward's character, despite his having been a vampire for a century or so, is not so fixed that he cannot learn. Knowing he's a monster and knowing he doesn't want to be, he has practiced to perfection a near-infallible control over his passions, and I respect that. He's also remorseful, and while that tends to manifest in unnecessary brooding, it also changes him: he's gotten good at not doing what he knows he'll regret. And despite occasional severe regressions, he spends a lot of time learning to hope.
Quite apart from the whole vampire thing, Edward is not someone I'd have been likely to fall in love with. The dark-and-broody type doesn't do much for me, and I'm not fond of the guy's gracelessness toward humanity in general.
But I have always loved his battered-but-gritted will to do the right thing, as well as his delight in real purity and goodness wherever he finds it: his reverence for Carlisle, his honor for Seth. And I admire his appreciation for the extraordinary in the unsettled, uncertain, fairly ordinary Bella—because I like Bella, and because half the fun of romantic love is in building a unique and exclusive bond with someone who, to the rest of the world, is just one of the billions.
Here's my glass—well, clay coffee mug full of blueberry tea, because I have a cold—raised to Edward Cullen, then: a monster with flaws who is interestingly and likably human. Love you, Ed.
P.S. I wanted to address the matter of his fitting into vampire mythology, too, but honestly, I can't summon up enough energy, possibly because of the aforementioned cold. If I knew vampire mythology the way I know the Bible, I'd probably have developed the same annoyance I felt at Anita Diamant's messing with Genesis details in The Red Tent. As it is, however, I've only read Dracula, and I wasn't offended by Meyer's blowing off that myth; which means, I guess, that I don't have the information to speak to it, any more than the will. This also means capitulation to Masha's much more knowledgeable points on the subject... but this is popular fiction, and if nothing else, I thought Meyer, in mentioning and then discarding the overall mythology, was within reasonable bounds of poetic license for her genre. Feel free to argue with me in the combox.
* I am way beyond having beta readers with the A.D. story... am probably near the middle of the Greek alphabet at this point.