Vampires

August 7, 2008 | 92 comments
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You are probably too erudite to discuss this, but I’m bringing it up anyway: vampire books. You know what I’m talking about.

Last week my 12-almost-13-year-old daughter was re-reading an unnamed vampire series in preparation for the release of #4. My cousin’s wife noticed, blinked, and exclaimed, “Oh, do you let her read those?” Um. Yes? Apparently she, too, allows her children to read a few select vampire books but has been roundly criticized around the neighborhood (read: ward/family) for doing so.

And I have to admit when my daughter brought home her first one from school two years ago, I did ask what she was reading. She insisted it was fine, but I was still a bit worried, mostly because I remember getting a bit obsessed with vampire books and other paranormal phenomena about that age and thought I should be ready to talk to her about it, if that’s where we were headed.

So I read it first, then handed it back and asked if the second one in the series was out. I find the concept of moral vampires interesting, and, frankly, after reading them, I am much more concerned about the quality of the writing than the evil aspect. Am I a bad mother? You don’t really have to answer that. But we could discuss the knee jerk assumption of evil some seem to have. Sometimes it seems we value locating evil more than celebrating good.

Perhaps it is easier to draw un-crossable lines in the sand than to analyze? I draw those lines, myself, so I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t. Rated R movies are out for me, along with romance novels, Victoria Secret catalogues (at least for as long as I have pre-teen and teenage boys), and violent video games. But it seems to me that lines in the sand don’t mean that everything on this side is of equal value or worth. Just because a book is in the . . . say . . . mystery section (my light summer reading) doesn’t mean all is well in Zion. Are all non-romance books worth reading? All PG-13 movies worth watching? All video games worth playing? I don’t think so.

Really, from a literary standpoint, I find it much more difficult to find contemporary LDS novels that are worth reading however “safe” they may be, though I have definitely found some.

What are the standards you use to decide what to watch, read, and wear? How do you respond to those who feel we should scrub books so clean from complexity (opposition? evil?) that the books are left boring, flat, and lifeless?

And could we brainstorm some synonyms for “cold” and “hard” while we are at it? (That was harsh. Forgive me. Perhaps I’m just jealous of the biggest 24-hour selling period since the Harry Potter release. Go Stephenie!)

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92 Responses to Vampires

  1. edwardisnthot on August 7, 2008 at 11:47 am

    i read through the first book in that series, and to me it read like a clean romance novel…i dont read romance novels so i wont read the rest of those books for that reason.

  2. Adam Greenwood on August 7, 2008 at 11:51 am

    the problem with most vampire books is that there isn’t also a brooding werewolf chieftain to compete with the strong yet vulnerable vampire prince for the affections of the headstrong, sassy heroine.

    With apologies to Theodore Beale.

  3. Matt W. on August 7, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    I basically lost interest in the books when I flipped open my wife’s copy and saw prom was in there. Men don’t read books that feature prom. It’s one of those “un-crossable lines”.

    Percy Jackson and the Olympians is good, if you are looking for a post potter fix. (Although it is very potter like at points)

  4. Matt Perry on August 7, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    \”And could we brainstorm some synonyms for “cold” and “hard” while we are at it?\”

    HAHAHAHA!

  5. tkangaroo on August 7, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    \”And could we brainstorm some synonyms for “cold” and “hard” while we are at it?\”

    And then we are into the romance novel language. . .

  6. Julie on August 7, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    “And could we brainstorm some synonyms for “cold” and “hard” while we are at it?”

    Thank you! This sums up exactly why I could not even finish the books. I almost made a drinking game out of it, every time she described Edward with one of those two words…take a drink. Would have made the experience way better.

  7. Count Dracula on August 7, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Allow me to introduce myself…I am…Dracula.

    I never drink….wine!

    Ah, the children of the night…what music they make!

  8. Jeremy on August 7, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Ha! I didn’t read the books, but sat next to my wife while she did. At fairly regular intervals she’d exclaim “He’s got GRANITE SKIN. AGAIN! AAAAAAAGH.”

    I did, however, like the term the NYT reviewer (as I recall) coined to describe the underlying emotional impetus of the books: “The erotics of restraint.” Can’t think of a better subtext to indoctrinate my tweener with while s/he’s reading light fiction…

  9. maren on August 7, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    I am interested to hear what people thought of the fourth book. I am not really a fan, read the first, got bored. But I had nothing against them, either. I am not one to censor much of anything, and figure talking with kids is the best approach.
    But…. I do not want to give away spoilers for those who plan to read it, nor do I think I have the right to say much, since I have only read reviews. However, if some of the things in the review of book four are true, I may have issues with a teenage daughter reading it. Perhaps it is the feminist in me. So, those of you who have read it, what do you think?
    Thanks

  10. Jonovitch on August 7, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    After the less-than-stellar reviews on Amazon, I tried to persuade my wife to return the full-price book she bought on day one and wait for a much cheaper online order (with gift card code) to arrive. All this without revealing that a lot of people think the book sucks. She didn’t go for it. I’ve never been a teenage-romance-novel fan anyway, so I might be a bit biased.

    Here’s how I stand on…

    — Movies —

    R-rated: almost never. (I have seen a handful of R movies, in all their splendor, over the years that I haven’t regretted. I have also seen “clean” versions of a few R movies that I did regret seeing. “Clean” doesn’t always make “good,” and “R” doesn’t always make “bad” — though most of the time it does. I try to see R movies in the theater, i.e., “out in the world” so that I don’t bring it into my home [other than the metaphysical bringing it in with me…different debate.)

    PG-13: increasingly not. This is probably the broadest spectrum of all ratings. Some are just out of PG range; some are borderline R. Some have actually successfully appealed to be rated down from R to PG-13 without changing a thing. Yes, really. Unfortunately, in the Church, since R is sinful, PG-13 is okay. I teach my deacons that neither of those are necessarily true. A bit complex for 12-year-olds? Not if they can’t wait to go see all the Adam Sandler and Wil Ferrell raunchy comedies at their next birthday. I once went to a PG-13 romantic comedy with my wife for our anniversary. One scene left us both uncomfortable (and my wife is European!); except for the camera angle, it was pornographic. I have seen other films that had no business being not R.

    PG movies: yes for me, no for my tiny tots. Most have scenes with too much conflict, anger, tension, stress, “playful” violence, or suggestive material. Really.

    G movies: yes for me, maybe for my kids. Again, really. Have you ever noticed the scene where Woody bashes Buzz Lightyear’s head onto the hard wood floor over and over again? Or any of the other violent moments? Slapstick, perhaps, but behavioral modeling comes easily for a 3-year-old. The first time I saw that scene through the eyes of my active, energetic little boy I was terrified. Not to mention all the “shutups!” and “stupids!” throughout. Monkey see, monkey do. Scary enough when he mimics what he sees with a doll. I became even more concerned when he got a little sister. So we don’t own any other Pixar movies (and I hide that one), despite how much I love them. Maybe when our kids are all older. For now they get Winnie the Pooh and other gentle cartoons.

    — Books —

    My wife goes to the library a lot with the kids. They brought home a book once about a boy with training wheels, which seemed at first glance perfect for our little boy and his new bike. Then I started reading it (and making up a new dialog as I went). I was appalled! The dad in the story kept saying “tough guy” things (read: emotionally harmful and upsetting) such as “your not afraid of a little bike, are you?” under the guise of humor. These negative reinforcements were on every other page and they kept getting worse. At the end of the story, when the boy finally gets up the nerve (despite the incessant negative remarks) to overcome his fear and ride fast and well to save a kitty from danger (or something like that), he bursts through the door and tells his parents his incredible story of accomplishment and courage ends with his awful dad accusing him of lying (“you’re not going to lie are you?”)! Horrible! I can’t believe some of the garbage that is actually published. How does it ever get past the editor? Or publisher? Or librarian?

    Most Mormon books are trash. (There I said it.) As the original post stated (and as I reiterated in a different context above), just because it’s “clean” doesn’t mean it’s good. Unfortunately the stuff sells, and therefore more of the stuff keeps getting churned out. This is probably because (1) “we” think we’re starved for good material and (2) “we” don’t realize that anything decent is produced outside the Intermountain West Bubble. (Yes, I said that, too.) “We” are wrong on both counts. There are plenty of good books out there (i.e., outside of the Bubble) and we are commanded to seek them out.

    Ditto for Mormon music and movies. Most of it is trash, but it sells (unfortunately) so more of it is produced. We can do better! We must do better!

    Conflict, complexity, tough choices, drama, obstacles are all part of our lives, and these are things we are told we should overcome. (You can’t overcome something that’s not there. It’s expected that we’ll have challenges.) We need to stop whitewashing our books, music, and movies, and start producing some honest, genuine, sincere creative works for entertainment, education, and even enlightenment. Richard Dutcher was heading in the right direction when he went of the deep end. The new Joseph Smith movie at the Church visitors’ centers around the country is surprisingly good precisely because of the drama, conflict, and genuine-ness. (It also has well-placed humor, to ease the tension at just the right moments.) The Emma Smith companion movie bored my wife and me out of our minds. It had such great potential, but ended up being a preach-a-logue set of vignettes that didn’t hold together at all.

    I could go on about the quality of the media we consume, but I think I’ve made my point.

    Jon

  11. sam on August 7, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    The best music is being written by non-Mormons. The best art is being created by non-Mormons. And the best books have been written by non-Mormons. And it will never be otherwise. That is the plain fact.

    Mormons tend to shove conflict under the rug, or at least wait until the “proper” moment arrives for talking about it (testimony meeting). The arts are institutions of mortality. They are granted to us to ease our suffering by making us confront suffering. When Mormons are REALLY willing to face our own mortality without requiring a happy ending, then we will write the next Tale of Two Cities, compose the next La Boheme, and paint the next Raft of the Medusa.

  12. Justin H. on August 7, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    This may sound cynical, but I’m genuinely interested to know more about the “contemporary LDS novels that are worth reading”. Other than a brief interest in Windwalker when I was a kid, I haven’t found much that interests me — but I haven’t looked very hard. If there’s some good stuff out there, I’d love to know.

  13. Raymond Takashi Swenson on August 7, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    The ratings assigned to movies are made by a group of anonymous people who are most likely NOT Mormon. We don’t know what their professional or educational or religious backgrounds are. The fact that they wanted to give “Saints and Soldiers” an R rating originally tells me that not all R ratings are necessarily meaningful. And clearly there are PG-13 movies that I would not want to see, let alone encourage my family to see (my kids are adults).

    There are two separate emotional complexes that are subject to manipulation by what we see and hear in a movie or novel. One is our fight-or-fight, fear-and/or-anger response. The other is our sexual/emotional response. To some extent almost all stories have some elements that provoke those responses–think of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and Jimmy Stewart’s love interest and the violence committed against the faux Boy Scouts who are supporting him back home, or “Arsenic and Old Lace” and the constantly postponed honeymoon and the serial killer cousin. Those movies are good, old-fashioned entertainment from the Golden Age of Hollywood, but they still have some “sex appeal” and some “scariness”.

    The other aspect of a novel or a movie is the fact that we, the audience/readers, are forced to be PASSIVE. We are told to FEEL the two kinds of extreme emotions, but we are FORBIDDEN from taking action. We are forced to participate as a witness to crimes or to sexual activities that we would normally either walk away from in disgust or intervene to stop. Especially if there is no character in the story that represents our own moral response to violence and sexual manipulation, our forced impotence or powerlessness is the most manipulative aspect of the experience. We are like the Malcolm McDowell character in Clockwork Orange whose eyes are held open so he cannot look away. Our brains are being trained to ACCEPT the violence and the sexual actions as normal and reasonable, and most specifically, our natural response of revulsion, to either escape or stop what we see, is deadened.

    To the extent that what causes us to object, to walk away or intervene to stop something we find revolting and awful, is our conscience, then the experience of reading such novels and seeing such movies dulls our conscience. It is precisely the same effect that the cruel “games” in the Roman Coliseum had on the Romans.

    When we take the Sacrament, we are promising to hone our consciences, to listen ever more closely for the Holy Ghost whispering to us. If we give ourselves over to an experience that effectively brainwashes us to dull our conscience, we are breaking our covenant with Christ.

    So there is no substitute for actually finding out what a book or a movie is about before we engage it, and reserving to ourselves the right to leave in the middle if we find it is in fact making us less sensitive to violence and less revolted by abusive sexual actions.

  14. Bob on August 7, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Re: Percy Jackson and the Olympians

    My 9 year old son was interested in them (as was I, since I’ve always loved Greek mythology), so I picked one up and enjoyed it as a good story, but found I couldn’t recommend it to my son because of the “backdrop” of dalliance and adultery. Obviously the stories wouldn’t exist without this backdrop, but I decided that I didn’t want to have to explain all that to him, or have him think that it was a normal part of life that should just be accepted as part of a story. Or maybe I didn’t want to explain to him that it really IS a normal part of life, sadly.

    Not saying I’m right for everybody, but it was right for us. Other than that, they are delightful stories.

    Thoughts?

  15. James on August 7, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    I’ve got a lot of admiration for Stephanie Meyer’s accomplishments. She was in the right place at the right time with a story that would sell commercially. And, the books are in line with a large number of SF & Fantasy novels which shy away from the lewd or purient. That works for me so I feel comfortable buying them for my daughter. Not that she wouldn’t read them if I didn’t buy them. She can always get her Twilight fix from members of the ward WY presidency.

    Books that we could categorize as great literature are fairly rare when we tally up the total amount of fiction that has been published. Maybe as much as one tenth of one percent of all books published if we are lucky. For the rest, publishing is a business and a form of entertainment. If the books make money, they get multiple printings and come out in mass market paperback and if they don’t they slide into obscurity.

    What to watch: not much out there that interest me. No R-movies although I agree with Kieth Merrill when he said that there are some R-movies that have that rating not because of sex or gratuitous violence but because of other factors like they may have combat scenes while still having positive messages of honor, perserverence, and integrity. Movies like ‘Glory’, ‘Schindler’s List’, and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ may come under those parameters.

    What to read: I’m a tech type and lean toward hard SF. One good thing about techno SF is that there are still a large plurality of authors in the genre who don’t feel the need to add sex scenes to sell their books. For other reading, C. S. Lewis and Tolkien with a smattering of Dickens and other 19th century British writers. Beyond that I read academic stuff related to my MIS research interests.

    What to wear: Like I said, I’m a techie. Sartorial elegance is not my strong suit. IF it were up to me, clean, fits, and is not stained, I’d be good. The “TLC What Not to Wear” crew would have a field day with me. Fortunately, my wife has worked to correct that character flaw and I try to emulate upper management in the what to wear zone.

  16. Jonathan Green on August 7, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    I’m glad we’ve finally found the Mormon answer to Stephen King. There are more skills required in novel writing than word- and sentence-level ones. Stephenie Meyer is good at some things, and very good at other things. (Of course, I haven’t read her latest contribution, and I suspect she may be better at writing novels than series.)

  17. Amber on August 7, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Haven’t read the “in” vampire books. My sister says their good. I probably will get around to them. If you are looking for a few good books try The Walking Drum by Loius La’Amour (spelling may be wrong), and the Fishers of Men by Gerald Lund. All are excellent quality. By the way, The Walking Drum is not a western! Fishers of Men is definately fiction but it is the most uplifting and intriguing set of novels I have ever read. I would let my children read either of them, but they’re above their reading levels.

  18. Adam Greenwood on August 7, 2008 at 2:52 pm
  19. Jonovitch on August 7, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Woohoo! I got a bump from Adam! :)

    Jon

  20. Julie M. Smith on August 7, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Bob, you pretty much have to avoid all mythology if you want to avoid the dalliances. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, right or wrong, just that that’s the facts of it. I have read aloud all 4 Percy books (and attended the worldwide release party with Riordan) with my crazy boys, and i have to say that I thought he handled the many relationships as well and subtly as humanly possible.

    As for Twilight and the rest: the vampire angle is not something an LDS family should worry about–I believe that some books do encourage an unhealthy fascination with the occult, but this isn’t one of them. However, after hearing more than one staid middle-aged Mormon housewife say that her husband sure was glad that she read this book, I worry what effect the “erotics of restraint” might have on a hormonal teen. For squeaky-clean books, there is a lot of . . . sexual tension.

    And I think Jonathan nailed it: Stephenie Meyer writes horrible sentences but great stories. I’m 400+ pages into Breaking Dawn, and about every fifth page a sentence is so bad that it stops me cold and I have to reread it and gawk. But I still find that I get engrossed in the stories. They are ideal mind candy.

    I’m going to disagree with Amber: I think Gerald Lund’s fiction leaves a lot to be desired.

  21. bbell on August 7, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    OK,

    I confess to having read all three of the books whose name we cannot type. They are pretty good but enough of the dragging out the story already. I started getting pretty bored half way thru #3.

    The heroine needs to:

    Die and become a vampire and marry Edward already. For heavens sake. Then that tension that runs thru the series can relax and they can start arguing about real stuff like taking out the garbage and who gets the remote control.

  22. Wm Morris on August 7, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    “To the extent that what causes us to object, to walk away or intervene to stop something we find revolting and awful, is our conscience, then the experience of reading such novels and seeing such movies dulls our conscience.”

    I fully endorse creating parameters for media consumption as well as being very honest with yourself and your weaknesses (as well as not calcifying and being lazy with those decisions).

    I’m not entirely convinced thought that our conscience, that our gut reaction to artistic works is always 100% correct — or that it is the exact same thing as the Holy Ghost. I don’t endorse art that challenges just to challenge. But to be fair we are all conditioned in how we react to narrative forms [how a story is told] and narrative content [what stuff happens in a story]. I think this example gets overused (and used to justify stuff that I don’t agree with), but I’m still going to use it: there is some pretty strong stuff in the scriptures.

    Because of all that, I think that criticism (and trusted critics) needs to play more of a role in Mormon culture. It’s not just enough to have content warnings (and I think that there should be content warnings on Mormon fiction and music [although they can be misused and aimed for -- just like PG-13 is in the movie industry]. I think we also need criticism that explores the morality and depth and craftsmanship of a work.

    Media consumption should be work. Good, satisfying, fun work. But it’s all too easy in this day and age to stick with what we know.

    Oh, and I totally disagree with sam (#11) — that Mormons can’t do conflict/tragedy canard has been floating around for a long time. That may be true of some Mormons. And others may want to do it in ways that much more to the world’s liking. This world is tragic. In fact, maybe it’s just me, but it feels quite tragic to me. What we do here counts, after all. The flesh is weak; the spirit is thick and dull with mortality; and it’s hard to let go of pride and evil habits.

  23. Jonovitch on August 7, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Raymond (13), you just wrote what I’ve been searching for for years.

    I always knew there was something more tangible to the cultivation theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultivation_theory), but I couldn’t ever figure it out. The theory has been criticized since its introduction (vague psychological effects over time can be hard to test), but what you just presented makes perfect sense to me and might be a new and better way of looking at and studying the effects of mass media.

    This is one of the biggest light bulbs I’ve had in a while. Thank you, and I’d love to hear more, if you have it.

    A side anecdote: our deacons/Scouts activity last night was video games at my house (wife is at girls’ camp; I’m Mr. Mom all week). I told the boys to bring their games and consoles to plug into to my TV, but nothing with too much carnage — I have small children running around. We ended up with Star Wars Battlefront and Wii Sports Bowling on the TV, along with Moorhuhn (a funny German turkey-shooting game) and lego.com’s online games on the computer. We all had fun, and my kids didn’t see a splattering of anything the whole night. (Battlefront has slashing and shooting, sure, but I was impressed that the characters simply kneel down and fade out after they’ve been tagged enough times. George Lucas can’t write to save his life, but he certainly has good, clean entertainment down!)

    And now, with Raymond’s fight/flight/sit-and-stare theory, I know what my lesson on Sunday is going to be about, to tie it all together. Thanks!

    Jon

  24. Bro Jones (2) on August 7, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Re #10 on Movie ratings and mormon standards:
    I recall a time when “Airforce One” came out with Harrison Ford. It was rated R in the US, so it was not shown on BYU campus, and of course most students did not feel rebellious enough to see it elsewhere.

    When a bunch of Canadians went back home for Christmas, they found the movie playing at a University’s cheap theater with a PG-13 rating. So they immediately went and saw it with their guilt assuaged by the lower rating in Canada.

    The moral of the story is, “You still have to decide/think for yourself”

  25. cyril on August 7, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    “Mormons tend to shove conflict under the rug, or at least wait until the “proper” moment arrives for talking about it (testimony meeting). The arts are institutions of mortality. They are granted to us to ease our suffering by making us confront suffering. When Mormons are REALLY willing to face our own mortality without requiring a happy ending, then we will write the next Tale of Two Cities, compose the next La Boheme, and paint the next Raft of the Medusa.”

    Amen, brother sam.

    What also strikes me from the comments on this blog and in this thread is how much envy and pride there is among us, inlcuding my own.

    cyril

  26. maren on August 7, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    with the vampire books, I do not worry at all about the vampire angle. I love Harry Potter, and generally enjoy fantasies of any nature. What I am not sure I agree with is some of the sexual tension and expression, especially in the fourth book. I am not usually offended by sexual content, but some of the way it is written, I just don’t know. I would really love to know what people who have read the fourth book think.
    As for movies, literature in general, I like the way my parents did it. They would talk to us intelligently about content, explain whether or not they thought it was appropriate for our age, and tell us why. Then they let us make our own decision on whether or not we would watch/read. Sure I read/watched things they did not recommend, but I at least was prepared, and knew what to expect, as well as what they felt was appropriate.

  27. Researcher on August 7, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    While I have little or no desire to read teenage romance, I may eventually break down and read the vampire books just so I know whether to let my kids read them.

    (20) about every fifth page a sentence is so bad that it stops me cold and I have to reread it and gawk

    That’s a form of recreation in and of itself. Do you follow the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest?

    And just for the record, we read Percy Jackson. We actually bought all of them, a rarity for us. We read Artemis Fowl, including the potty humor. I also let my kids read the Bible: dalliance, adultery, ritual sacrifice, bloodshed, murder, and all.

  28. Velska on August 7, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    It’s hard to get you thinking about a moral question without exposing it. Therefore, the basic issues in life and death have to be dealt with in art.

    The biggest problem seems to me that we have become consumers of entertainment (I am hinting at a difference between entertainment and art).

    I read a book rather than watch a movie usually. I’m not really interested in fantasy literature, but I do like Tolkien. Go figure. I don’t trust ratings either way too much, nor do I rely too much on other people’s recommendation. Mostly you have to see it to know how you react (not always – the so-called adult themes are obviously not for me!). I’ve put down books that had too much graphic description.

    One thing with kids is they don’t understand satire or sarcasm until their teens (of course, there are big individual differences). So I think it’s okay to read/watch some stuff you wouldn’t let your kids read/watch.

  29. Kylie Turley on August 7, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    A few favorites: I thought Angela Hallstrom’s Bound on Earth was pretty well done (Parables, Woodsboro, MD, 2008). One of my all-time favorite LDS novels is Virginia Sorensen’s A Little Lower than the Angels (republished Signature Books, SLC, UT, 1997). Margaret Blair Young’s book of short stories, Love Chains, is also good (Signature Books, SLC, UT 1997).

    Percy Jackson books–read them all and liked them. Your 9 year old son must be smarter than mine; my two boys entirely missed the backdrop adultery, though my daughter did not. In any case, it got all of them going on Greek mythology, which in and of itself is rather racey. Frankly I felt better about the Percy books–who can feel bad when their 10 year old boy wants to name his kittens “Artemis” and “Apollo”?

    The “erotics of restraint.” I like that concept. Sooner or later some LDS author/musician/artist is going to have the talent to push a well-written, complex plot in a shockingly moral direction rather than in the same old boring immorality/violence/adultery. I wish it could be me. In the meantime, I have started a list of reasons why non-LDS characters I’ve read about have rejected premarital sex, vampire restraint heading it up. I love to be amazed by the credible reasons characters have for avoiding what everyone else is supposedly doing.

  30. Russell Arben Fox on August 7, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    I’m glad we’ve finally found the Mormon answer to Stephen King. There are more skills required in novel writing than word- and sentence-level ones.

    Except that Stephen King really is a fine writer; his use of descriptive terms and his pacing of sentences is wonderful. He’s not breaking any new ground, or taking the place of E.L. Doctorow or Kazuo Ishiguro, nor is his preferred subject matter for everyone. But just taken solely on the “word-and-sentence-level,” King completely blows Meyer, and a lot of the rest of the competition, out of water. There are many lousy writers that have become famous, riding on the backs of cool story ideas that have sold millions even though they’re actually crafted at a lazy seventh-grader’s level, but King is not one of them.

    As for the story itself, we have discovered on this vacation we’re on that Meyer may have done something unexpected with the final volume. Melissa dearly hopes so, and is anxious to read it, because she like another Mormon author to do good (not just well, but good), and as things stand, she finds the overarching moral arc of the Belle-Edward story to be simply appalling. (He’s basically a stalker, people, and Belle has about the backbone of a chocolate eclair.)

    As for vampires, I have yet to be persuaded that any vampire-related tropes can ever be used in any kind of story and not have the story ultimately be about sex. Zombies stories are about decay and rotting and contamination, werewolf stories are about the untameable id within us, and vampire stories are about sex. Bram Stoker knew that when he wrote the original Dracula (and what did you think was happening when Dracula’s wives “feed” on Jonathan Harker?), and things haven’t changed since. As such, I’d prefer the sex just happen, so the tropes can thereafter be used productively in the story, rather than just hanging around, unfulfilled, learing at you.

    As for the “erotics of restraint,” well…if there was no chance, no expectation, of that restraint eventually being overwhelmed, then it wouldn’t be erotic, would it?

  31. rondell on August 7, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    bbell,

    If only, if only. . .

    I really liked the Teilight series. Not that it was classic literature by any means, but an enjoyable story. Stephenie Meyer is a TERRIBLE writer, but a WONDERFUL story teller. Sometimes when I\’m looking for an escape, that\’s all I need. I went with my 15 y.o. and a few of her friends to a release party to get book 4. Probably one of the worst books I have ever read!!!!!!! I am convinced (tongue firmly in cheek) that either someone else wrote the first three or the last one.

    I love to read, and I am find that lately fiction seem to be polarized — either really good or really bad. I loved The Kite Runner. I find that the best stories are those that make me think, have conflict, and don\’t necessarily have a happy ending.

    I worked at an \”LDS bookstore\” (not DB), for a while. (same one as M, bbell) We got store credit for reading new books that came in. They were like Splenda — way too sweet with a weird after taste. There are some writers who are good, Kay Lynn Mangum is one of them, but most of the Mormon young adult writers seem to be far more concerned about a happy ending than a story that make one think.

  32. Velska on August 7, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    It’s hard to get you thinking about a moral question without exposing it. Therefore, the basic issues in life and death have to be dealt with in art. Art does indeed often need contrasts/conflicts.

    The biggest problem seems to me that we have become consumers of entertainment (I am hinting at a difference between entertainment and art).

    I read a book rather than watch a movie usually. I’m not really interested in fantasy literature, but I do like Tolkien. Go figure. I don’t trust ratings either way too much, nor do I rely too much on other people’s recommendation. Mostly you have to see it to know how you react (not always – the so-called adult themes are obviously not for me!). I’ve put down books that had too much graphic description.

    One thing with kids is they don’t understand satire or sarcasm until their teens (of course, there are big individual differences). So I think it’s okay to read/watch some stuff you wouldn’t let your kids read/watch. In much of what most people would see as “clean” I see promiscuous attitudes or a tendency to make violence seem fun and without too many consequences (except when bad guys are wiped out by the protagonist, but even then the ugliness of violence is often smoothed over).

    I almost forgot to state the obvious: There’s no accounting for taste. What bores one may exhilarate the other.

  33. Kylie Turley on August 7, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    “I see promiscuous attitudes or a tendency to make violence seem fun and without too many consequences.”

    I agree that this is a big problem. That’s why I would argue for a more thoughtful approach to entertainment and/or art. I am quite bothered by otherwise “clean” westerns (books or movies) where people shoot people and keep right on going. Just last week we were discussing how difficult it is to deal with death–you certainly wouldn’t know that from watching most movies. You can kill a person or have someone close to you die, and you’ll be just fine in a chapter or two.

  34. Velska on August 7, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    I didn’t even know I posted #28 (sometimes my mouse works by itself when I move it out of the way)! Sorry about being a hog…

  35. anita on August 7, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Re #9 and Maren– warning–potential spoilers to unnamed book–
    I’ve read them all, and as a mom of an 11 yr old and a SS teacher for 13 yr old girls, was pretty appalled by the fourth book. When an author knows that her audience consists of mostly Beehives, the idea of a vampire lover (even if they’re married) breaking beds, ripping lingerie, and leaving his wife covered in bruises concerned me. I thought there was a lot of sexual innuendo and unnecessary jokes (which my 13 yr old babysitter tells me didn’t go over her head, but then how would she know?) and it was not what I’d want set up as the romantic image for all these teenage LDS girls. (Besides the unrealistic nature of their marriage, pregnancy, motherhood, etc…) I read an interview with said author who wished that she could have had a warning label on it saying that it was for age 16 and above–but when you know that’s not the only ones who will read it, I think as an LDS mom herself she should have exercised a little more restraint. Even if eternal marriage is sort of her point :-)

  36. bbell on August 7, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    So Rondell should I go out and buy M the 4th book? I actually thought that the books were getting worse as I progressed from 1-3. So its no surprise to me that you found #4 to be not that great. Its hard to believe that you have a 15 year old girl. All the best to A. We are having #5 in a few months another Boy!!!!!

  37. quandmeme on August 7, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    I enjoy some of Card’s SF, but don’t consider it great literature. It’s a story. He has written a collection of essays (?) about being a story teller in Zion. Referencing the non-primary-friendly language used by his characters he mentioned the idea that fiction can is not just interesting when there is conflict, but it can be morally instructive. To walk through the evil deeds and the good deeds and to have consequences reinforces transcendent truths. Creating happiness through activities that are contrary to the nature of happiness, is probably the worst kind of “fiction.”

  38. rondell on August 7, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    bbell,
    get it from the library if she wants to read it. The general concensus seems to be that you either love it or hate it. It is definately more adult and full of sexual inuendo that seems appropriate for the many of the girls who read it. B, the 15 yo, has a guy friend who has read all 4 because he likes vampire stories. He liked #4, but thought there needed to be a better fight scene. (I agree there.)

    byw- I was talking to said 15 yo a couple weeks ago about how she had a little girl crush on you. Not, oh I love bbell, but ooh, bbell is the neatest person to walk the earth. :-)

  39. Lorell on August 7, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    I refuse to read the books. I decided this when they started having WEEKLY enrichment activities in my ward called \”Twilight Groupies\” where they met at McDonald\’s with their kids to talk about the book. That is when I decided to boycott. It made it just peachy to have that as an activity because the author is totally MORMON! (barf) This book represents all that I hate in women and Relief Society(well not all, but you get the point, right?). Sorry to be a Debbie Downer.

    Maybe in 10 years I will pick up the series, but for now…I shake my fist at them.

  40. MoJo on August 7, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    I didn\’t real all the way through every comment, so mea culpa in advance.

    The “erotics of restraint.”

    Yeah, I\’ve heard this. Can anybody here say dominant-submissive? I said in a comment on my blog in discussion about a different Mormon-vampire implosion: Put a collar on Bella and call it official.

    So the question is: Did Meyer write this on purpose? I say no. Her naivete informed by a traditional Mormon upbringing makes such male control attractive, especially to preteen and early teenage girls who are searching for their own identity and may not want to quite take control of their own lives.

    And also? Is the entire Mormon corridor unaware that \”vampire\” is code for \”blameless female sexual expression and enjoyment\”?

  41. Julie on August 7, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Mojo, thank you! I was trying to explain to my mother how much it bugged me that Bella seemed to be Edward’s little lap dog/child. He completely controls her and infanticizes (ok, is that even a word? you get what I mean) her. I couldn’t stand to read one more scene of her sitting on his lap or being sung a stinking lullaby. I found it very off putting to say the least. And it bugs me to no end that everyone finds it so romantic. You totally just explained what bothers me so much about these books. Thank you!!

    As for LDS young adult fiction, there was a book I LOVED when I was about 14 about a mormon girl that age in Berlin during world war II, its called Fireweed. I thought it was a great book when I was 14, but I would have to read it again to see if that still held up. I don’t remember there being a happy ending (I believe its based on true events maybe? People die, she ends up alone…its a very fascinating story).

  42. maren on August 7, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    35, Thank you. That was exactly my issue from what I heard of the book.

  43. MoJo on August 7, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Julie, my 13-yo girl self liked The Book Which Shall Not Be Named and found it shudderingly HOT. My 40-yo woman self didn’t like that it was kink disguised as a YA book. O, insidious work! I don’t know one LDS mother in my ward (in KC) who doesn’t get the subtext. My visiting teacher read it before her teenage daughter did and they sat down to have a thorough discussion about what E’s relationship with B really was (dom-sub/stalking/infantilizing/control), how it manifests, and what it really means. She also made sure to let her daughter know Bella is not in any way a representation of what a woman should strive to be, which is to say, weak.

    So when I hear that mothers out west are going ga-ga for this business–twilightmoms.com–WTF?) and that they have no idea what any of it means my mind boggles. Surely somewhere in the Intermountain West outside the creative writing department at BYU can spot this?

    Kate Woodbury and her friend Carole discuss it in depth here.

    Would I let my kid read this? You betcha. And then we’d go to lunch and have a looooooooooooooooooooooong talk. You can’t get better a better opportunity for instructing your girl about sex than this.

  44. maren on August 7, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    MoJo,
    I am so glad to hear that from you. I belong to a neighborhood of twilight lovers, and they all seem to not be bother in the ways you so easily describe. I am glad I am not alone.

  45. Kylie Turley on August 7, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    MoJo and maren, thanks for your comments. I’ve been having my daughter read these comments along with me (since she starred in the original posting), and your posts set us up for a great discussion.

  46. Sara R on August 7, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    I love the Twilight series (as mind candy, not high literature). But after reading book 4, I’m glad my kids are too young to have started reading it. The sexual tension is more than I’d want young teens to read, but there was also violence. I wouldn’t mind vampires-fighting violence, but this book also contained disturbing pregnancy- and childbirth-related violence. There was also a proposed wife swap. I’d definitely pre-read before giving it to a young teen.

  47. Sara R on August 7, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Maren wrote: [i]dom-sub/stalking/infantilizing/control[/i]

    I don’t think so. Bella is weak because she is a human in among supernatural creatures, not because of character flaws. (BTW concerns about her weakness are resolved in book 4.) Bella has her own opinions that disagree with Edward’s. Edward is on the paranoid/overprotective side, especially at the beginning of Eclipse, but he isn’t that way as much by the end of Eclipse.

  48. daveread on August 7, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    I read the first couple of chapters of the first book of the vampire series in question. Got bored and quit, but then I loathe vampire stories. My hat\’s off to She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, though, and I wish her well.

    Regarding Kylie Turley\’s statement \”Sooner or later some LDS author/musician/artist is going to have the talent to push a well-written, complex plot in a shockingly moral direction rather than in the same old boring immorality/violence/adultery\”: I know somebody\’s already mentioned it, but I\’d recommend some of the books by Orson Scott Card, for this very reason. Well-written books with first-rate plots, character development and finely-honed moral dilemmas. The protagonists often choose to be \”shockingly moral\”, and it doesn\’t harm the story a bit. Quite the contrary, in fact.

  49. MoJo on August 7, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    SaraR, I wrote dom-sub/stalking/infantilizing/control. Maren didn’t.

    And of course that’s what it is. He’s 99 years old. She’s 17. Where is his 99 years of experienced living? Why is he in high school? Is there a point to being in school at all and not being a productive member of society or at least being a lazy dilettante? High school? Really? Can he not get a woman who should be about his emotional age, say, 30? I didn’t see any explanation of why he hasn’t matured past the age of 19 or whenever he was turned. In fact, I didn’t see any explanation worth the pages it was written on that made a lick of sense.

    Bella is weak because she is weak. She has no sense of self at all. Her personality is completely vapid and then she assumes Edward’s personality (which isn’t that much deeper than hers). She is a cipher for Edward.

    At best, this is a codependent relationship, which isn’t saying a whole lot.

  50. Julie M. Smith on August 7, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    “When an author knows that her audience consists of mostly Beehives, the idea of a vampire lover (even if they’re married) breaking beds, ripping lingerie, and leaving his wife covered in bruises concerned me.”

    Yeah, but . . . not because he’s a sadist or whatever, but because he physically couldn’t help it. He was so horrified by it that he didn’t want to ever have sex with her again. That said, I agree with Sara R that the childbirth violence, etc. is very disturbing for young women.

    Re #43: I think it is one of the highest purposes that YA literature can fulfill to use it for this sort of discussion.

  51. MoJo on August 7, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Re #43: I think it is one of the highest purposes that YA literature can fulfill to use it for this sort of discussion.

    I do kind of wish my mom could have had the kind of discussion with me that I would have with my daughter, but she was (and is) far more naive than I and it wouldn’t have helped.

    I firmly believe that right now in our society that knowledge is power. I don’t intend to sugar-coat anything with my kids because I don’t want them to think that what their peers say is the truth. That’s why I’d let my kid read (well, at least Twilight because I wasn’t interested in the rest) and engage her in conversation. I don’t intend to censor her reading, but I do intend to keep tabs on it and read it, too, then step in with explanations when necessary.

  52. Maren on August 7, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Yes, Julie, I understand the story line that Edward could not help himself, and that it horrified him. I have also worked with abuse victims and perpetrators who say that in a moment of passion they could not help what they did. I have seen Men cry and regret what they have done to their wives. But it does not change the image. It does not change what it portrays. And what bothers me most is that Bella turns around and begs for more.

  53. MoJo on August 7, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    And what bothers me most is that Bella turns around and begs for more.

    This is consistent with how she is in Twilight. On the other hand, if this were a grown woman we were talking about, one with a bit of living behind her and one with a backbone, I’d just call that her kink. But since it’s not…

  54. SilverRain on August 7, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    As a passing mythology buff, I find the entire modern vampire utterly idiotic. C’mon, they’re DEAD. DEAD IS NOT SEXY (unless you have some very serious psychological problems.)

    Whatever happened to the real vampire? I’m even okay with the Béla Lugosi alluring-but-tragic-and-creepy vampire. But this whole sunglasses-and-leather teenage vamp is stupid. Just . . . stupid. Words fail me.

    Rant over.

  55. Kylie Turley on August 7, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    I have a few theories about the allure of the modern vampire. Don’t you think he’s just Mr. Darcy all over again? Cold (there’s that word again), arrogant, haughty, flawed–Mr. Darcy before he’s humbled. Now if Bella were more like Elizabeth Bennett . . .

  56. Julie M. Smith on August 7, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    Kylie, I think the allure of Edward runs something like this for young women: they want a dangerous boy, but one who will not hurt them. They want a boy who is (almost) overcome by desire for them, so that they will have proof that they are desirable, but he has to resist that want, so that they are sure that he is not just using them. They want to be protected, because they know the world is a scary place. (And he’s powerful, rich, and gorgeous.)

  57. MoJo on August 7, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    I would agree with Julie’s assessment.

  58. Eric Boysen on August 7, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Cold + Hard = Cash

  59. Kylie Turley on August 7, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    You’re right, Julie. I’ve seen the same type over and over in mystery novels; in fact, I was just telling my husband about it last night. The hero is a manly man–strong, tough, even deadly, if circumstances require–but also tender, sweet and extremely protective of the woman he loves. As you mentioned, rich and handsome don’t hurt, either.

  60. Lupita on August 7, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    I’ve read the first two but the second left me cold. And hard (hearted). Regardless, I applaud Stephenie and wish her a very long and lucrative career. I read the books purely to participate in pop culture and do agree that the author tells a great story. My friend who’s a literary genius at Brown was disturbed by many of the points cited here about obsession, etc. I have to admit, I pretty much skimmed through and wasn’t that disturbed.
    What’s been interesting as I’ve heard various friends debate whether their daughters should read the book is that there are so many girls really obsessed with it. That kind of freaks me out. Women obsessing is bizarre enough but tweens? I sincerely hope there are some serious discussions taking place.

  61. MoJo on August 7, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    If you look in the dictionary, under “obsession,” the definition is “tweens.” ;)

  62. Thomas Parkin on August 8, 2008 at 12:10 am

    Silver Rain,

    Heh.

    I’ve known a couple people who think they are vampires, speaking of not sexy.

    Here’s a thing about the archetype. A vampire is the ultimate anti-Christ. Christ died so that others may have eternal life, a vampire kills in order to live forever. It’s a powerful archetype, totally given short shrift by its current incarnations. I did dig Buffy, though.

    ~

  63. KerBearRN on August 8, 2008 at 1:10 am

    I am getting ready to start reading the Twilight books simply b/c my teenager is into the story, and it is a big huge thing here in my ward (I actually heard a couple of the younger sisters in RS rather swooning over the name “Edward” on Sunday…). So I feel like I at least need to see what all the hubbub is about, and I want to get an idea of what he is being exposed to, feelings, ideas, etc., so we can talk on the same level. But I’m generally skeptical about YA or teen fiction (with the serious exception of Holes, which was just a wonderful book– and movie). BUT my few experiences with Mormon fiction left me worse than skeptical, absolutely disgruntled, I found it all pretty bland and predictable. So I am hoping this is at least a better diversion–perhaps good for another discussion of making choices? Heaven knows our teens are faced with so many.

    I do have to recommend The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It is more of a vampire HUNT, lots of interesting history thrown in (especially for this nearly-exclusive-student-of-Western-European-history), and a gut-grabbing melancholy that I felt perfectly fit the storyline. Some people called it boring, but I found it deliberate and often lovely, with wonderful imagery. (And Dracula, though well dressed (!), isn’t made to be glamorous or sexy. He is portrayed as the evil that Vlad was.) And the book, though there were a couple of parts that hinted at a passionate love, was quite clean (and not sensually violent, the way many vampire stories are).

    Just my two cents.

  64. Seth R. on August 8, 2008 at 1:40 am

    “the erotics of restraint”

    My guess is that most people who try that while dating end up with an embarrassing “incident” on the couch.

    If the two kids are lucky, LDS Family Services won’t be involved 9 months later.

  65. MoJo on August 8, 2008 at 2:04 am

    I’ve never heard the vampire-as-anti-Christ claim. Stoker created Dracula in reaction to the Victorian fear of female sexuality, i.e., that it was powerful enough to cause destruction and ruin and the fall of mankind. Subdue it, channel it, mitigate it somehow…

    The succubus myths re-arose around that time to explain things like nocturnal emissions and incubus to explain female “hysteria” (which, you know what doctors then did to cure that, don’t you?). The vampire is just a twist on the incubus.

    I’ve never read anywhere that the vampire is an archetype of an anti-Christ. While the way you’ve constructed it seems valid on its face, that’s not what the vampire is about or for. It’s about female sexuality. The whole act of penetrating with the teeth and receiving some pleasure with the pain is completely analogous to the sex act. It was deliberate on Stoker’s part, who was reacting to Victorian society.

    Chelsea Yarbro and Anne Rice gave the vampire new life.

    So to speak.

  66. MoJo on August 8, 2008 at 2:11 am

    And the Bela Lugosi Dracula is laughable. Nosferatu (1922 silent film) was terrifying and explicit in the sexuality of it.

  67. Thomas Parkin on August 8, 2008 at 2:46 am

    “I’ve never heard the vampire-as-anti-Christ claim.”

    That’s because I made it up. It’s not a claim, but actually a simple observation.
    The vampire kills to live, Christ died to bring back to life. Your comments on the vampire as a sexual agent are contained within my broader observation. A vampire is still a vampire without all the erotic trappings. I’ve observed vampires who believe they “suck the life out of you” just by being intensely in your presence – sort of psychic vampires. You might still feel there is an erotic element to it, but it is secondary to the motif of taking life to enhance one’s own: anti-Christ.

    ~

  68. Kylie Turley on August 8, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Thomas Parkin, interesting idea. You might be interested in reading James D’Arc’s article in BYU studies. Vol. 46, no. 2 (2007): The Mormon as vampire : a comparative study of Winifred Graham’s The love story of a Mormon, the film Trapped by the Mormons, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’m wondering if it doesn’t pull both the anti-Christ and female sexuality angle together, ie fear of both. Of course, in those cases, being Mormon was the feared thing (anti-Christian values, something to be saved from). Just an idea.

  69. Kylie Turley on August 8, 2008 at 11:08 am

    KerBerRN, if you ever wanted to try some well-written YA fiction by an LDS author, I would recommend anything by Shannon Hale. She is a fine writer–amazing description, great plots, and strong girl (and boy) characters. She’s one of the few “re-read” YA authors, in my opinion. But maybe I like her because her sense of humor cracks me up; her adult novel, Austenland, made me laugh out loud, starting in the dedication!

  70. Julie M. Smith on August 8, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Yes–Shannon Hale rocks.

    The fact that my anti-everything-girlie boys let me read a book called _The Princess Academy_ to them–and they loved it!–speaks volumes of her abilities.

  71. Chet on August 8, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Comment 39 makes me think this whole phenomenon is problematic. Stay tuned for -

    Husbands who know…want their wives to read Stephenie Meyer.

    Ironically my wife learned of the series when it was recommended by the wife of the Stake Pres.

  72. Linus on August 8, 2008 at 11:54 am

    \”as mind candy, not high literature\”

    \”I read the books purely to participate in pop culture\”

    I think this phenomenon is far more interesting than the books themselves; that people who read something, and like it, feel they must apologize to, well, to SOMEONE, for liking it, or at least have a really good reason for having appeared to like it. I have never read a book thinking \”into what category shall I put my motives for reading this book\” or \”however shall I justify this one to the peanut gallery.\” Then again, I\’m a snob, so, you know.

  73. sscenter on August 8, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I do not enjoy LDS fiction. It is generally terrible. Take the work and the Glory, which was a good read but really, every character felt, to me, as a stereotype. Very little in the way of interpersonal conflict. One of the things that I dislike about this type of fiction is that so few characters face the real internal conflicts that actual human beings face. The heroes, are always heroes. Every time a revelation is needed, it is timely and achieved without struggle.

    One example of this is that in Tennis shoes Vol 3 Jim Hawkins and his children meet with some warriors, (I can’t remember if they are lamanites or nephites) but they have dinner and the soldier blesses his food for fifteen minutes. I cannot express how much that bothered me and how fake and insincere that sounded. The degree of expressed spirituality in these books is just shocking and insincere.

    In real life, it took about twenty-five years of praying and fasting by prophets to recieve the revelation of the priesthood but that kind of struggle is just not reflected anywhere in lds lit.

    On the business of this vampire books, i find that i cannot deal with Meyer’s description of Bella during dialogues. Edward says a sentance, Bella has a strong emotional reaction that is completely described. Then he says another sentance and she has another reaction that is just as strong and just as completely discussed. I like the books, love the stories but can’t help but feel that the ongoing romance between these two is written for really young girls, just waiting for Edward to get baptized so he can take Bella to the temple. Plus, I think that Meyer’s puts and inordinant amount of conversation in her books, just drives me crazy.

    So i do most of my reading of fiction by non-LDS authors. I do believe it is coming, a great advance of LDS literature, but we may still be some time away from that. Meyer’s helps because she shows that you can be an LDS author, not write LDS fiction and be successful and keep the standards. However, I had the same hope about movies with Napolean Dynamite and that seems to me a one-hit-wonder, so we will see.

  74. Ri on August 8, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    I read Twilight and liked/(sorta)loved it, enough that I bought everything else Meyer wrote. Still, I found numerous problems with the fact that as a character, Bella isn’t a good example as a young woman. She lies to her father about Edward, she lets him sneak into her room, and soon she just lets Edward become her whole life, in an unhealthy way. So, when New Moon rolls around and he leaves her… She’s devastated for months on end and seriously can’t get him out of her mind.

    When I got Breaking Dawn, and read it. Calling myself a fan was over. Everyone was out of character and the plot made me want to go return the book. But I’ve already read it, so I can’t do that. Bella has too long been the heroine who depends on someone else. You can’t gain without some sacrifice. And when you officially state that ‘Oh Vampires can’t do this because…’ you can’t have Bella have that happen to her because she’s human. If you set rules, you can’t ignore them. Breaking Dawn had so many things wrong with it, I was amazed that I actually liked Twilight. When I reread Twilight, I guess I woke up.

    Breaking Dawn was a very Love It or Hate It book, but I appreciate Meyer putting her heart into this book very much. Best wishes to her.

  75. Jonovitch on August 8, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Kylie and Julie (69 and 70), I was surprised you mentioned those two books together! My wife is currently listening to Austenland on CD (she’s a Jane Austen junkie), and on our road trip last month, she brought along Princess Academy on CD. Being only familiar with the Princess Diaries movie (ack!), I thought the book was going to be awful (guilt by title-association), and I wondered why my wife (who usually has good taste) would even be interested in it.

    With much hesitance, somewhere between Minnesota and Utah, we started listening to the “pretty, pretty princess” book on a portable DVD player with small, tinny speakers in our noisy car. And I started to get into it. I was actually disappointed when she went back to reading something else (don’t tell her that, though!) and I liked how each character was voiced by a different person, kind of like an old-time radio show.

    Anyway, I had no idea that Princess Academy and Austenland were by the same author, or that the author is LDS, or that they are both pretty good, so it was pretty cool to see you both recommend then. Now I’m going to have to (secretly) check them out from the library (and maybe secretly sell back those crazy vampire books).

    I’ll have to keep an eye out for more from Shannon Hale. If for no other reason, I also have a bit of Hale blood in me, and we’re certain to be (very distantly) related. I have to help out the family, right?

    Jon

  76. Eugene on August 8, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Hey, I wrote a book about vampires and Mormons, Angel Falling Softly. And I mean, with a Mormon as the protagonist. These vampires are not dead. Everything about them has a naturalistic explanation (including their \”immorality\”). Most of them spend their long lives trying to improve their lot in life. None of them are in high school. They can be ruthless and do wicked things, but are no more intrinsically evil than anybody else. There actually is an \”embarrassing incident on a couch\” (restraint wins). But it doesn\’t always. Moral conflicts are not swept under the rug. The real temptations have nothing to do with sex. The first ten chapters can be read at http://www.eugenewoodbury.com

  77. Kylie Turley on August 8, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Jon, I hate to even bring this up, but Meg Cabot, the author of the Princess Diaries book, is actually a great writer with a pretty wicked sense of humor. I doubt you want to read the books, but your wife might. Her 3 mystery novels were another “laugh out loud” type of book for me: Size 12 is Not Fat, Size 14 is Not Fat Either, and Big Boned–see, the titles alone crack me up. Great heroine, plots with twists in them, some sexual tension (oops–book one might actually have a “scene” in it), and humor.

  78. Kylie Turley on August 8, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    But you can’t go wrong with Shannon Hale, in my opinion. Her next book comes out in September.

  79. MoJo on August 8, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Eugene, for shame! Are you trying to trick people and tempt innocents to explore beneath every evil unturned stone? Are you trying to be a wolf of any species to chip away from within?

  80. Jonovitch on August 8, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Oops, I mixed up “Princess Diaries” (an okay, sorta, movie) with “Ella Enchanted” (totally agonizing, with a dance scene at the end! aaarrgh!). But I’m sure you can see why I mixed them up.

    Jon

  81. Eugene on August 8, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    But of course I am! Though through chapter ten, the worst I can offer is Kamilla describing her sister using a certain five-letter word, and Milada answering the door not fully dressed. The “unrestrained erotics” don’t arrive until chapter twenty.

  82. Lupita on August 8, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    #71 Huh. I frequently categorize a book before I read it. There are many books that don’t sound terribly interesting to me but that enough people read that I feel like I should (e.g. The Da Vinci Code, etc.) In fact, most popular fiction falls into this category. Then there are books that I know I should read because I know I will learn a lot from them (e.g. Rough Stone Rolling, many biographies, most academic stuff). And, of course, there are the books that come highly recommended by certain friends that make me wish I could get stuck in an airport for half a day, with no kids and only dark chocolate and gourmet cheese to sustain me.
    I wasn’t trying to justify. Not really. Okay, maybe just a little bit.

  83. Tatiana on August 8, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    My standards are just that I read and look only at stuff that uplifts me and not at anything that I feel degrades me. This translates into no television at all. Every time someone swears to me that really this show is excellent, I need to watch it, I try it only to find out that it’s only excellent in comparison to other television and doesn’t even come close to even mediocre books. So I don’t watch television. I don’t even have a television now.

    I do watch movies, though, and plenty of R-rated movies have made the cut. Kung Fu Hustle was rated R for violence but the violence was cartoonish and the overall story was funny, sweet, and profound. Nothing by Disney passes my test. It’s trite and boring, and they’ve trashed so many of my favorite stories from childhood that I can never forgive them! Disney’s version of The Jungle Book is a travesty. Their Winnie the Pooh has none of the charm and personality of the original. Their stories give me the creeps.

    My standards are aesthetic as much as moral, I think. I guess to me, bad aesthetics ARE immoral. I like good books, and so I’m spoiled. If the characters are dumb, or if the plots are predictable, or if there are stereotypical characters who degrade my sense of what it means to be a human being, I won’t care for it. After all, I could be reading a good book with that same time! And there are far more good books than I’ll ever have time to read, so there’s the opportunity cost to consider.

    Someone mentioned Victoria Secret catalogs, and I like their underwear so I get the catalogs but I toss them out when they arrive cause they insult my intelligence. Worst of all was a catalog for Delia’s, where I ordered some clothes on my niece’s Christmas list. There are so many inappropriately sexualized pre-teen girls in there it really makes me angry and nauseated to look at it. Thankfully, they don’t send them anymore.

    As for books, I tend to find authors I like then read all their books. Some of my favorite authors are Nevil Shute, Michael Innes, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Mark Salzman, William Faulkner, Jane Austen, Thornton Wilder, Steven Jay Gould, Douglas Hofstadter, Richard Feynman, Freeman Dyson, Roger Penrose, Jorge Luis Borges, Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur Clarke, Ursula K. LeGuin, Orson Scott Card, Octavia Butler, Richard Adams, and Douglas Adams.

    I’m pretty particular about what I watch or read, being willing to pass up plenty of pop culture if I don’t think it will feed my spirit. But I cherish silence too, so I don’t mind seeing or reading fewer things. The sounds of birds or crickets chirping is also edifying. =)

  84. Kristy on August 8, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    The Percy Jackson books are delightful, and I also like Shannon Hale. My kids also love the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull, and books by Mette Ivie Harrison every bit as much. Both are LDS authors. I happen to think that thanks to Hale, Mull, and Harrison, this is a pretty bright era for youth fantasy books by LDS authors; perhaps some day fiction for grownups will also improve.

  85. Bob on August 8, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    I’d have to agree on the Fablehaven books. I even thought that it had an interesting discussion in book#3 regarding what makes creatures good or evil (whether or not they are magical beasts). The Candy Shop War was also an interesting read. Haven’t heard of Mette Ivie Harrison – have to check that out.

  86. Kent Larsen on August 10, 2008 at 12:18 am

    Julie (#41):

    I looked but couldn’t come up with your Fireweed book. Are you sure it was a Mormon girl?

    The Mormon Literature Database doesn’t show any books by that title, and a check on Worldcat doesn’t yield any with an obvious Mormon connection (i.e., not published by a known Mormon publisher).

    If it is in fact about a Mormon girl, I’d love to identify it better.

  87. John David Payne on August 10, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Can’t believe no one has mentioned Brandon Sanderson, an immensely talented young LDS writer. He mostly does epic fantasy, but he has also written a very fun and very funny book called Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians. Great stuff. For grownups, I recommend trying Mistborn. I can’t recommend his books enough. I was introduced to his books less than a year ago, and I now own everything that he has published, and have given lots of his books as gifts. Keep your eye on this guy. He’s going to be a huge star.

  88. WillF on August 10, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Do you think I could deduct something from my donations if I give my once-read copy of Twilight to the ward library?

  89. Rose Green on August 11, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Another couple LDS YA writers on the national market: Ann Dee Ellis (What I Did: pub. by Little, Brown, the same publisher as Stephenie Meyer’s, only this is a contemporary isses book), A.E. Cannon, Kimberly Heuston (historical fic), and coming soon, Lindsey Leavitt, who just made a 3-book deal with Hyperion (tween, humorous light fantasy). The first comes out in 2010, called Princess for Hire. And regarding Shannon Hale, if you don’t know her, you really should. She won a Newbery Honor a couple years ago for Princess Academy.

    I don’t know about adult books, but the children’s/YA book scene is pretty rosy with LDS writers right now.

  90. Stephen Carter on August 11, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    It might interest you folks to know that Zarahemla Books recently published an LDS vampire novel. It\’s called Angel Falling Softly and can be purchased on Amazon.

    It\’s like nothing you have ever read. It it without a doubt, a vampire novel. But it is also without a doubt an LDS novel (though an adult LDS novel – in other words, LDS adults will have the maturity to deal with the content, while their children wouldn\’t). It is without a doubt, a mainstream novel. But it is also without a doubt, a literary novel.

    It\’s adventurous and philosophical. It takes Mormonism seriously. And the language is absolutely beautiful.

  91. Lisa on August 12, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    I was so gald to fund this blog and to read all of these opinions. This whole new \”series\” and the response to them has fascinated me. I would not describe myself as super spiritual and I have definately read my share of stupid, less than uplifting books–but vampires??! Really??! I find myself at a loss when I try and figure out why \”fine, upstanding, LDS-Christian\” people even picked it up??!! I love Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis–so I know my revulsion is not to fictional characters or even sci-fi. I have 4 daughters and 3 of us went to see Chronicles of Narnia–Prince Caspian the other night. I loved it. Afterwards we were discussing the different ways that the movie mirrored real life and if we were a character–who would we be? I will not go off on that discussion. But we were all drawn to the battle of good vs evil and how in real life the battle can be very messy and very long and it can seem that all is certainly lost–and then in the darkest hour–the Light appears-we rally-and good does always win. We were all 3 inspired when Aslan asks Lucy why she hadn\’t come to him and Lucy replies,\” I was afraid to come alone\”. That and those scary identical masks the soldeirs for the evil king and how we need to be very careful that we are fighting for the right thing. All that lead us to the Twilight series. I DO NOT think Stephanie Myers is evil. That said— none of my family is reading them. I know that the \”poop in the brownie stories\” and the \”frog in the heated water stories\” are told over and over again but I think there is a reason. I do not think Satan tries to bring us down by throwing absolute evils in our path anymore, He achieves his successes with shades of grey and one link in the chain at a time. I think that if he can convince a generation or two of women, young and old, that true and wonderful love is erotic and dangerous–that if you really love someone you will sacrifice your soul for them——that because an author is of your faith and your YW president is reading it–you should too–he will be making giant strides on the battlefield.
    I do not watch \”R\” rated movies, some PG-13. I like all sorts of genre\’s of books but try very hard to not view anything on the screen or on a page that degrades or villifies that which I hold true and correct. I think that the line in the sand sentence is interesting and agree that you need to make very sure that the side you are standing on is the right one. I DO NOT believe that anyone should have the right to \”white-wash\” books or movies. BUT I think we as a people should always have the right to choose whether we pick the book or movie up.Sorry for the rambling, misspellling and bad grammar if it occured–I am grateful for the opportunity to add my voice to this issue. And I appreciate others taking the time to post their views as I have found this whole thing very unsettling!

  92. Ray on August 12, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    Here’s a fascinating take on Breaking Dawn (and the series in general) by a teenager:

    http://templeboundparadox.blogspot.com/2008/08/because-paradox-believes-in-happy.html

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Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.