Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I am Disappointed in Stephenie Meyer: Let the Hissing and Booing Begin warning:adult content discussed

*NOTE: I am not a professional writer, nor am I an expert in Literature or the Doctrines of the "Mormon" church. I am someone who has strong opinions and has an easy forum for airing them. So, do you have your grain of salt standing by? Good, then read on...

I started reading the Twilight series maybe a couple of months ago on the encouragement of a very good friend who I consider to be a strong, active member of the church (read: Mormon=Christian). I enjoyed the plot line and characters. I like how the author created an entire new world with all kinds of new "rules" for vampires and people and other mythical creatures. I was slightly put off by what I consider to be a childish and "selfish" writing style; I'll explain what I mean by a "selfish" writer in a bit. I really got into the strength of the love and need the main characters have for each other. I always feel as if the "normal" populace are too complacent about loving and needing other people, and I was drawn in by their passion for each other. I felt like I was warned on the very 1st page of the 1st book, when the main character points out that her favorite shirt is a tank top. But I glossed over it. Many people are not as into modesty as I am, and it seems to be a gray area as to what modesty is anyway. OK, since you asked, I will tell you what I consider modest. If you are a "member" you will know what I mean when I say modesty means covering any part of your body that is covered naturally by your underwear (after you've been to the temple). If you are not a member of my church, this means that you are covered from about your clavicle in front (no cleavage), with sleeves, with your stomach completely covered (even when you reach), and your pants/shorts/skirts go at least to your knees. Also it generally means 1-piece bathing suits, or a 2-piece that looks like a 1-piece, no bikinis. Obviously this means no tank tops. So I figured, "I'm being nitpicky", and I kept reading.

I had no problem with the first or second books. I even glossed over the idea that her boyfriend is sleeping with her (literally, for those of you who haven't read the books), and holding her while she sleeps, because she makes it very clear that she is fully dressed under the covers and he is on top of the covers simply holding her and watching her while she sleeps (vampires don't sleep in this world). I very much enjoyed the 1st 2 books, and read them each in a matter of days. Then I was bored with the writing style, so I wasn't in a hurry to read the 3rd book. Let me define for you now how I define a selfish writer, sometimes I am a selfish writer, but I think I've gotten better (a little). A selfish writer writes to hear themselves write. They may be inspired in their story and/or characters but they insist on using cool words, big words that no one knows the meaning of. And usually those words just don't work. You've all read a book where you had to read through a sentence a few times, b/c it was just so wordy you didn't get what it was saying the first 5 times, right? (I'm sure my blog is like that sometimes, but for me it's more because I write so stream of consciousness, and it runs together, rather than that I am wordy). I often felt like these books are very wordy to be wordy, and they remind me of what your Junior High English teacher told you was wonderful writing, very expressive and used lots of good vocabulary words.

But I digress, I would have kept going despite the wordiness. I would have kept going despite the idea that this girl believes that it is OK to have a best friend of the opposite sex who is not her true love, and sneak away from her true love to go visit her best friend (did I mention he's a guy?!). I would have kept going despite her obvious prejudices against marriage (which really surprised me, b/c we believe (this IS doctrine) that "The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan."). This character is in her own world, and Stephenie Meyer chose that she has no innate morals. She chose to not take this great opportunity to preach to the masses. That was her sad choice.

No, what bothered me was the swearing started in the 3rd book (I guess it's a "Straw the broke the camel's back" thing). Again, I am no expert on doctrine and this is a gray area. Especially since the swear words were of the H and D variety. I winced and glossed over the 1st 2. I paused at the 3rd, b/c I try to tell my self "3 strikes, and that's it" in these situations. But I really wanted to know what happens! Curse these stupid soap operas that are so compelling. And I kept reading... then I got to one part where they were in bed together (every night) and they are getting really passionate and it's very much an analogy for sex. She describes in great detail him grabbing her thigh and pulling it around himself, and I started wondering if I was in the middle of a "romance"(read:sex/pornography) novel. That's when I thought, I can't abide this any more. So I skimmed (b/c, I admit, I wanted to know what happens) and came upon a part where the best friend is hurt badly and she describes his swearing using another character. The character says he was swearing like a sailor basically and then took the name of the Lord in vain. He said it very flippantly. And that's where I gave up on Stephenie Meyer. I cannot tell you how the wind was knocked out of me. Yes, it is rampant is our society today to say, "Oh, my God". But it is neither a prayer nor a call to Him. It is taking His name in vain, and it's one of the original 10 commandments! Hello! People! Those original 10 have not changed. I am sorry I allowed myself to get taken in by the relationships and characters.

What you must understand is, I watch and hear these things all the time, from "normal" people. I am most disappointed b/c our church has enough trouble being considered Christian and that we are good moral people, and here one of our own is treading the thin line between choosing what is right and good and what is widely accepted as just fine. It's hard setting a good example and feeling like I have to be perfect for my "non-member" friends and family b/c I don't want them to think anything negative about the Gospel b/c of me. But put someone "Mormon" in the spotlight and people are suddenly calling me out the woodwork and going, "Oh, she's Mormon, is that what you believe?" I know there are people out there who believe that any publicity is good publicity (NOT ME). So here's a quick rundown of the basics of what we believe, and our views on family. These are both very short reads, and very concise.

So (I like the word so), to be clear, I know this is a work of fiction, but the potential there to make a clear statement was so great. I can't describe very well how I feel about this. It's so exciting to find an LDS (Mormon, btw) writer b/c you figure you won't be dealing with the smut (yes, I said smut, I'm 80 years old today) that is out there on the Bestseller lists. I am more disappointed b/c the author should know better. And I had to tell my 10 year old he could not finish the book. That was hard.

I'm just glad I read faster than he does.

Let's just hope tomorrow I choose a less controversial topic.


swedemom said...

You know, I didn't even noticed those things because I was reading so fast. But one thing that really bothered me was the clear pushing of the chastity law. Yeah, so he's a vampire but even vampires lose control of themselves. That was a thing that bothered me about Anita Stansfield's novels is that the characters pushed that barrier so much. Heavy necking and then breaking off before near intercourse. That's a problem especially because a lot of lds girls read it and think that its okay to go that far. And its not.

swedemom said...

I also like what you wrote of selfish writing. Very interesting.

I agree with what you wrote. Good thing the books will not be a hit when my daughter is old enough to read.

Lewis Family said...

Thank you. I agree.

JAntezana said...

Thanks for the info. I had been planning to read the "Twilight" series at the urging of my 20 year-old daughter, so I could tell her what happens in the story. (She loves books, not reading.) Now I won't bother. If she insists on reading the books, however, it could provide an opportunity to discuss the virtues of modesty, chastity, and propriety versus the popular values of youth today.

Speaking of LDS authors, I just spent the past week reading Orson Scott Card, the "Tales of Alvin Maker" books one through six. I would recommend the books, as Card has created an alternate American history that includes many references to early church history. There are many similarities between the main character, Alvin, and Joseph Smith. We know that Joseph Smith was often in situations where the people around him were cussing and cursing, and Card chose to include such language in his books. The bad language of these characters serve to accentuate the goodness of Alvin, who never uses such language himself.

Speaking of "Anne of Green Gables," I just read the book for the first time a few weeks ago, and was absolutely enchanted!

Ambrosia said...

I do wish that Stephenie Meyer would have used her books to be an example of a fun read and while keeping out the swearing and being a light to the world by setting a firm example of good morals for all the world to see. You are right that she could have used her medium alot better.

I particularly loved the first book but the 4th book was just pretty ok good for me. She is a good storyteller though.

I think you'd like The Host alot better. Have you read it yet?

Lewis Family said...

I wanted to b/c the premise seemed fascinating to me, but I am worried she will choose to add things of a questionable nature now that she has been given the license to by her legions of LDS readers. Perhaps I will read a synopsis or try a chapter and give her a chance, but if there is even 1 swear word or anything, she has lost me as a reader of anything she writes, unless of course she makes a big change.

Ambrosia said...

I don't remember any swear words--I just flipped thru it and found none.

You are one tough cookie--I hope you enjoy the Host.

Lewis Family said...

Oh, I wasn't clear. I don't think I found any in the 1st 2 books; it started in the 3rd, and it was the "tame ones" (D and H), so a lot of people overlook them.
And, I try to be tough when I can, 'cause then hopefully it cancels out my vices! That's a whole nother post!

Ryan and Tawnee said...

I was glad to read your thoughts on the Twilight series. I felt the same way, infact I think I was just plain mad about it. I felt stupid for wasting so much time reading them and disappointed that bought them all. I HATED the last book, it was not a page turner for me, I thought it was soft porn for teenage girls, you know baby steps to the big girl crap out there. All I can say for all the books...because you do get drawn in and just have to finish the story...waste of time and energy, on both my part and Mrs. Meyers.

James, Cameo, and Jacob said...

Hey first, I'm so glad you found our blog so now I can check yours out!! Second, um, hello, we live in Spring, TX!!! We moved here in May. When did you guys move? We live off Rayford Road, up toward the Woodlands. Third, I was equally offended by the swearing and smut of the last Twilight books, and VERY disappointed that Stephanie decided to go more in line with the way of the world instead of sticking out above it and being an example and showing that you can have creative, compelling storytelling without the muck!! Anyway, I've talked with a lot of people who have been very disappointed with her. Too bad, she has such a following that she could really make a big impact.