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Twilight conquers the world, but is Meyer done?

November 17, 2009

This woman is 36? Clean living pays.

While I was fixated on Miami Book Fair International last week (it’s over?! awwww…), Stephanie Meyer was evidently taking over the planet, like preternaturally youthful Mormon Godzilla. Dan Brown? Small potatoes. Stephen King? A lightweight. Harry Potter? A piker.

In England, jolly old, the land that invented snobbery, literary and otherwise, Meyer’s chaste vampire saga, Twilight, has now become the fastest selling series in the history of Waterstone’s, a big British bookstore chain, reports the London Telegraph.

Twilight and its three sequels (New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn), needed only two and a-half years to sell a million copies at Waterstone’s, eclipsing the earlier record held by Harry Potter and his creator, J.K. Rowling.

“This is by far the fastest climb to a million sales I’ve ever seen,” said Sarah Clarke, Waterstone’s buying manager for children’s books. “Twilight was only published in March 2007 and it has taken off in a remarkably short time.”

News of Twilight’s U.K. triumph comes at a highly convenient moment for the Stephanie Meyers freight train. The author made a much-hyped appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show last Friday (I had to content myself with a mere Nobel Prize-winner, Orhan Pamuk, at the book fair).

What’s more, this coming Friday sees the wide release of New Moon, the second movie adaptation featuring Robert Pattinson as the moody but noble vampire Edward Cullen, and Kristen Stewart as his mortal teen soul mate, Bella Swan.

Not all is joy in Twilightville, however. Meyer, who famously wrote the first book as a non-drinking, non-smoking Mormon housewife with three kids and no previous literary experience, told Oprah she was “a little bit burnt out” on vampires, and plans to stick with the aliens from her first adult novel, The Host, at least for now.

Asked directly if there would be fifth book in the Twilight series, Meyer said, “I can’t answer it,” according to MTV.com.

“I might do something completely different — I’ve got to cleanse the palette,” she said. “I might come back to it. I did envision it as a longer series, but I wrapped up Breaking Dawn in a way that I felt satisfied with.”

I’m not the first to wonder if Meyer might still be smarting from the illegal Internet release of the first 12 chapters of Midnight Sun, the story of Twilight, when Edward and Bella met, retold from Edward’s point of view. Once the unfinished book was available to the world, Meyer abandoned it, saying she didn’t feel like it was hers any longer.

Meyer handled the situation with dignity. She explained her hurt, and the damage to her creativity, in a lengthy essay on her website. Then, in an astounding gesture of generosity to her loyal fans, she made the twelve chapters available for free. You can google it by title, or find a link at the end of Meyer’s essay.

I yield to no one when it comes to literary snobbery, so I have not read any of the Twilight books (vampire lovers who don’t have sex? What’s the point?). But curiosity regarding Midnight Sun got the better of me, and I have to say, after reading the first few pages, I can begin to to see why Meyer’s books are so popular.

Great writing? No, but not incompetent, either. The key point, though, is that even for a disinterested browser far out of the intended age demographic, I found myself with an almost instantaneous itch to know what happens next. That itch, by the way, is the popular writer’s best friend.

So while I’ll likely never read Twilight or its sequels (c’mon! There’s a new 1,000-page Stephen King on my nightstand!), I do hope Meyer will return to Midnight Sun. It’s a clever idea, and it will make millions upon millions of teenaged girls happier than a new pony.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Lory Reyes permalink
    November 17, 2009 3:37 pm

    I read the Twilight books and The Host. I couldn’t explain the appeal but I did enjoy them. The movie? Not so much – what a yawn.

  2. alexis permalink
    November 17, 2009 3:44 pm

    the whole twilight thing makes me want to vomit. and yes, i do say that without ever having read a word of any of the books. perhaps i am being snobby, but i do think think i’ll be interested in reading something my 12 year old kids are into.

  3. rachel permalink
    November 17, 2009 4:18 pm

    I agree with Alexis! And like Chauncey Mabe I don’t mind be snobby. I don’t quite know why I hate the idea of the Twilight books so much. I mean I will admit that I read the Harry Potter books and enjoyed them but I have no desire to read the Twilight books. Or even open one or even hold one in my hands. And the movie posters are just as bad.

    Even the picture of this woman makes me so annoyed that I want to do bad things. Like stab her eyes out.

  4. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    November 17, 2009 4:27 pm

    My, my, what an outburst of spleen! Please note, when I finally read something by Meyer, I found it entertaining, much contrary to my preconceived notions. Let’s be careful to avoid practicing that foul habit, contempt prior to investigation. And besides, we all like things we know are guilty pleasures. It is unfair to treasure our own weaknesses while condemning those cherished by others. Not a one of us is without this sin. Let her among you who does not watch Heroes cast the first stone…

  5. rachel permalink
    November 17, 2009 4:55 pm

    But it is the exact function of guilty pleasures: to feel good, although guilty!, of your own while condemning others. I think it’s just kind of the way it goes. Plus I am sure other people enjoy them, but that doesn’t mean that I have to feel anything but contempt for Meyers or reality tv or John Mayer.

  6. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    November 17, 2009 5:06 pm

    I suppose my own previous comment restrains me from condemning you for taking pleasure in contemptuousness. But boy, do I want to!

  7. Karla permalink
    November 17, 2009 5:08 pm

    So from someone who has read the first two and a half (totally agaisnt my will, thanks De Etta) I really hope she does not continue with the Twilight saga. I really couldn’t understand after the second book how she squezzed two more novels out of it. Yes, they are entertaining, but they are such an easy read its almost not fun. And I really don’t like that she is trying to send a no sex, no drinking, no smoking message in her books. A book is for a story, to enjoy and escape from the real world for a lighttle while, not be brainwashed and told a message. And the love that Edward and Bella have is not a good, healthy love, its an obsessive, sick love that no one should ever be in. And never really happens. I do think though that the books would have been much more interesting from Edwards point of view. Bella gets extremely whiny and annoying after the first coupld of chapters.

  8. Karla permalink
    November 17, 2009 5:11 pm

    And Rachel Harry Potter was good and had a story. It was a glorified sickening love story hidden behind a werewolf/vampire story. And Harry Potter was written much better.

  9. November 17, 2009 10:15 pm

    Crap! If I have to write like her to become famous and make millions I AM SO SCREWED. My agent wrote me two days ago and said the latest novel I sent him made him want to get drunk. Isn’t getting drunk a good thing? He says as he sits here swilling his vodka.

  10. November 17, 2009 10:22 pm

    And by the way, my precious Partner has read all her books because her granddaughter insists (or so said Partner says) and they gabble gabble about the characters and watch the movie until they know all the lines by heart. So something’s going on there. Except Partner says she’s never read a set of novels that sooo needed a bright editor. The writing is way subpar but the story carries you along. She’s read me portions and truthfully I had twists up the toot toot and couldn’t stand any more. Maybe I’m just jealous?

    • RA Rycraft permalink
      November 17, 2009 10:52 pm

      Okay – so, as Duff’s Partner, it’s true. I read all 4 books because my 15 year old granddaughter, who doesn’t much care for reading, wanted to talk about the books after she read them in record time – about a month. Reading took about 3 weeks for me. I griped about the writing the entire read, but confess, I couldn’t put the story down. THEN I took Kelsi to see the movie – 5 times! She gave me a copy of the DVD when it came out, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched that. But what I can tell you, is that I can whip anybody’s butt at the Twilight Game or Twilight SCENE IT. Am I proud about that? NOT. But, I confess, when I watch movies on the big screen more than one time – it’s going to be because one of my kids makes me do it: like watching JFK with my son Kevin 3 times, like watching Independence Day (:-/) with my son Kevin 3 times, like watching Twilight a bazillion time with Kelsi – and I enjoy it. What more is there to say?

      • Kelsi Lewis permalink
        November 17, 2009 11:11 pm

        Okay- As RA’s granddaughter it’s true. I was introduced to this saga by mty best friend. I forgot my book own day in English and asked to borrow hers. After a few pages into the book i was completely hooked. I bought myself a copy and read it very quickly. I got throught the second book and told myself I was going to wait until Christmas to get the final 2 books. But my will power was weakened seeing the books sitting n the shelf at the store. I bought them and read those quickly also. I don’t understand my Nana’s problem with the writing, but the story is awesome. Team EDWARD!!!!!!😀

  11. Tommy permalink
    November 17, 2009 11:15 pm

    Green eyes are blind, and snobs are lonely creatures that cheat themselves.

    I will remain loyal to my personal “Queen of Things that go Bump in the Night” Anne Rice.

    Twilight never caught my imagination and I have cracked the first book with the intention of giving it a fair read. Twilight (the small bit I read) did not seem spooky in the least. So, Rowan Mayfair over Bella Swan any day or night.

    Some Cortizone will help with that itch, Chauncey.

    I wonder what the L.D.S. thinks of all this?

  12. November 18, 2009 4:51 am

    At various points in my life I’ve read high-, middle-, and low-brow and I think I’ve learned something as a writer from most of it. But as a human being, I grow only from literature that honestly seeks to enter the darkness of our humanity and explore what is there rather than relying on melodrama or genre gimmicks. That itch which Chauncey described may be a popular writer’s best friend, but in the end entertainment delivers you on the other side with not much to show for the time you’ve invested in it. It’s akin to going into a dark movie house and sitting for two hours in the dark watching unreal, larger than life images on the screen,; then it’s over, and you go stumbling out and the unhappiness you went in there to escape is waiting outside for you. A great and serious book works with that unhappiness by enlightening you and sometimes rewards you for the remainder of your days. A serious literary work is not an escape — it is an enlightenment.
    That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

  13. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    November 18, 2009 11:14 am

    All I have to say: You’re all right!

    Let me suggest, though, after reading posts by Duff, his Partner, and said Partner’s granddaughter, that Stephanie Meyers should consider a new career as a family counselor.

    To Thomas Kennedy: You are utterly right, and express well my own feelings toward literature. But, for one thing, I have to acknowledge the thought has occurred to me that my elevation of literary fiction to the pinnacle of my personal Olympus pay owe in large part simply to taste. I enjoy that kind of reading most, so ergo/ipso-facto/therefore, it is obviously the best. Yeah, yeah, I know something like an objective argument can be made, but still.

    And for another thing, it is impossible for the human mind to be focused on serious things all the time. The mind, like a field plowed year after year, runs out and yields decline. Mindless entertainment has a valuable place on anyone’s cultural menu.

    Besides, once you allow yourself to dip into the genres, you may find bite into a Twinkie and find a hard little gemstone. A few bits of costume jewelry clinking musically in my pocket: H.P. Lovecraft; Ruth Rendell; Stephen King; Eric Ambler; Robert Heinlein; Dave Zeltserman, Dorothy Johnson, George Pelecanos, Laura Lippman, Thomas Berger. Just scratching the surface here, too.

  14. November 19, 2009 5:56 am

    Oh, I do agree, Chauncey — there is room in life for everything. And even the “best” literature is best when it is also entertaining — a great novel, like a perhaps less “serious” entertaining one, is best when it “makes ’em laugh, makes ’em weep, makes ’em wait,” but also “makes ’em think” — and think deep.

    One thing about genre work, though, is that, even as imaginative and exciting and entertaining as it may be, it tends to work on prefabricated form, about which I tried to write an essay some years ago entitled, “The Spy Who Gave Form to the Cold.”
    Also a diet of pure entertainment is something that I seem to remember gobbling exclusively at times of spiritual breakdown — I remember too well that winter in the late ’60s where I spent each and every night for about two months staring at the channel 7 re-runs of sitcoms and sinking deeper and deeper without a straw to grasp — until I shook it off and gave my TV away.

    But I have read and enjoyed all the genres as well and popular low brow fiction and really nothing is so cut and dried as all that — literary work sometimes slips into melodrama, genre work sometimes soars with the angels. And as mentioned, as a writer I have expanded my bag of techniques by reading all manner of writing.

    But my personal taste is best satisfied when a writer’s vision dictates its form rather than genre requirements doing so. But detectives, spies, and all manner of monsters can be lots of fun and also powerful art. I mean, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT is a great detective story, but also a GREAT novel. And Stephen King has written some novels that have taken up residence in my sensibilities as well.

    So I am neither agreeing nor disagreeing — only trying to add my two cents worth of experience and taste.

    By the way, this Duff Brenna fellow — his novels are dynamite of the highest and most precise order! I can only most warmly recommend any novel of his from THE BOOK OF MAMIE through TOO COOL through WILLOW MAN and beyond! He lived the life and came back to tell the tale.

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