Caitlin Flanagan on the Twilight series

I don’t necessarily look to Caitlin Flanagan to explain, well, much of anything*. But I do think her recent The Atlantic article about the Twilight series is worth mentioning for the simple reason that she notes that reviewers of the books always mention Stephenie Meyer’s Mormon-ness but never quite know what to do with that fact.** And because I think she possibly gets at the appeal for some (especially teenage) Mormon female readers.

Here’s the relevant excerpt:

The erotic relationship between Bella and Edward is what makes this book–and the series–so riveting to its female readers. There is no question about the exact nature of the physical act that looms over them. Either they will do it or they won’t, and afterward everything will change for Bella, although not for Edward. Nor is the act one that might result in an equal giving and receiving of pleasure. If Edward fails–even once–in his great exercise in restraint, he will do what the boys in the old pregnancy-scare books did to their girlfriends: he will ruin her. More exactly, he will destroy her, ripping her away from the world of the living and bringing her into the realm of the undead. If a novel of today were to sound these chords so explicitly but in a nonsupernatural context, it would be seen (rightly) as a book about “abstinence,” and it would be handed out with the tracts and bumper stickers at the kind of evangelical churches that advocate the practice as a reasonable solution to the age-old problem of horny young people. (Because it takes three and a half very long books before Edward and Bella get it on–during a vampiric frenzy in which she gets beaten to a pulp, and discovers her Total Woman–and because Edward has had so many decades to work on his moves, the books constitute a thousand-page treatise on the art of foreplay.) That the author is a practicing Mormon is a fact every reviewer has mentioned, although none knows what to do with it, and certainly none can relate it to the novel; even the supercreepy “compound” where the boring half of Big Love takes place doesn’t have any vampires. But the attitude toward female sexuality–and toward the role of marriage and childbearing–expressed in these novels is entirely consistent with the teachings of that church. In the course of the four books, Bella will be repeatedly tempted–to have sex outside of marriage, to have an abortion as a young married woman, to abandon the responsibilities of a good and faithful mother–and each time, she makes the “right” decision. The series does not deploy these themes didactically or even moralistically. Clearly Meyer was more concerned with questions of romance and supernatural beings than with instructing young readers how to lead their lives. What is interesting is how deeply fascinated young girls, some of them extremely bright and ambitious, are by the questions the book poses, and by the solutions their heroine chooses.

What’s interesting is that although technically Flanagan is correct about Bella making the “right” choices, there are also Mormons who are uncomfortable with some of the other choices she makes. In addition, I’m somewhat amused by all the people who have felt (or been) compelled (and that includes us here at AMV) to write about Twilight and how much our reactions betray our attitudes towards certain feminist issues as well as literary value and Mormonism.

* This is no knock on those who do. We all have varying tolerance levels for gadflies c.f. Camille Paglia, Ben Stein, Noam Chomsky, etc.

** It’ll be interesting to see if Reading Until Dawn can get us beyond some of the basic reactions that tend to come up repeatedly.

Twilight on My Mind

Maybe you’re sick of Twilight by now; maybe you’re not.

Or maybe you’re just indifferent.

Whatever the case, I don’t think Stephenie Meyer’s going away any time soon; and with the highly anticipated release of Summit Entertainment’s Film–coming tomorrow to a theater near you!–it’s increasingly difficult to escape the hype. Continue reading “Twilight on My Mind”

OSC’s heirs: The Runelords and Mistborn series

If you are the type of reader who enjoys the Mormon-tinged/themed elements in the speculative fiction of Orson Scott Card, the best two post-OSC series to read right now are David Farland’s Runelords quartet* and Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy.

I would love to read some in-depth explorations of both of these works (and maybe even write it), but in the interest of sparking some discussion and hopefully getting more Mormons to read these books, I thought I’d post a few things. These are sort of spoilers, but not really. Continue reading “OSC’s heirs: The Runelords and Mistborn series”

Short-short story: Sister Watson challenges the Elusieve Decapede

I had trouble sleeping last night and wasn’t in the mood for any serious writing in my head so I came up with a few phrases that then turned into a short-short story on the bus this morning. Fittingly, the only paper I had on me was a rather large LDS Church magazine renewal envelope that had been inserted into our September edition of the Ensign and was in my bag to remind me to do the renewal online. So I tore open the envelope and wrote on the blank inside and, yes, this is a first draft with a couple of edits done just now in WordPress, but I don’t see myself taking it further. It’s not much of a story, but it’s a first attempt at exploring some issues that I find fascinating and a little scary (and that I’m actually not all that worried about, because we’re decades away from them). ~Wm

The way she pressed on through his miasma of reluctance amused him even as he was baffled by her insistence that he must incorporate himself without delay for some outmoded buried alive ritual involving water and that it couldn’t wait for the next time he condescended to take on flesh (which would probably be never — 11 being a nice number to stop at) and yet he let her go on even though she was so annoying that he wanted to flick her away streaming layers of avatar behind her — send her packing back to her plane full of meatspacers with low budget rendering and didn’t the Mormons have money for better gear or maybe they had been too slow converting their physical holdings to virtual ones but he was too lazy to look it up and perhaps it took more resources than he thought to make their massive temple virtually unhackable (and my but how he still enjoyed that worn out joke — the only nostalgia he allowed himself these days) and maybe it would be amusing to toss a leg or two at it for another attempt and now he was kind of bored with the earnest tone and yet there was a certain gleam in her voice as though she though she thought she was getting through to him or maybe even making fun of him for letting his guard down and allowing her cheap filter buster to bring her through to his magestic presence because he was in a weird mood to see what the code would drag in and he even batted away a particularly nasty amoeba that had trailed in behind her and was about to swallow her and maybe he should just swallow her and really did they think that he was going to hand over ten percent of his processing power and didn’t she know that he had started religions with more adherents than the entire LDS — meatspace included — and yet he would like a peek inside that temple although maybe they hadn’t changed the ceremonies much since the last leak and still she rambled on and he could tell she thought this latest tactic was her ace in the hole but really why would he want to die on the off chance that he could become a god in some other ‘verse when he pretty much already was one.

The Art of Friends, Not Rivals: Shannon Hale and Stephenie Meyer

Several months ago my lovely wife Anne and I had the privilege to go to a retreat hosted twice a year by the Mormon Artists Foundation. Founded by James Christensen (rightfully famous for his art of fantasy and his fantastic art) and Doug Stewart (playwright of the groundbreaking Saturday’s Warrior), it’s always one of the chief highlights of the year for my wife and I. An uplifting experience, not because of the number of recognizable names on the roster (which was a little intimidating at first, until their relaxed manner and cheerful comradery told me that they were only human and weren’t looking down on my comparatively pitiful contribution to Mormon Arts), but because of the focus it brought to the spiritual aspect of our art, and the complicated ways our religion informs and doesn’t inform our Art. It was a true inspiration to see all of these gifted Mormons from the visual arts, literature, film, drama and music band together for a weekend of reminding each other why they’re artists and why they’re Mormons, and what a wonderfully strange and beautiful mixture that is. Continue reading “The Art of Friends, Not Rivals: Shannon Hale and Stephenie Meyer”

Mormon Theater Review: Dial Tones

Note: Despite what I have mistakenly written in this review, Dial Tones is still running at Covey Center for the Arts on Provo Center Street,every Thursday, Friday and Saturday through December 22. If you’re in the Utah Valley, or even Salt Lake areas, it’s not too late to see this wonderful show!

I preface this review with a confession: I’m an unabashed fan of romantic comedies. I’ve read/viewed more Jane Austen stories than even my wife; the semi-recent film The Holiday made me cry; Two Weeks Notice was a turning point in my life and I consider While You Were Sleeping one of the most charming movies of all time. Continue reading “Mormon Theater Review: Dial Tones”

BOOK REVIEW: “Brother Brigham” by D. Michael Martindale

Brother Brigham, a supernatural thriller by D. Michael Martindale, is one of Zarahemla Books flagship titles for the year (in fact, one of its first titles). It is a book whose title I have heard bandied about for quite some time, had even read a segment of it which Martindale had put a teaser on the internet, but the novel seemed to be having a hard time finding a publisher to give it a home. And I can see why. It certainly has what I would deem very mature material, espcially for an LDS novel. A good deal of sexual material, a scene of Satan worship, drug use, spiritual possession, polygamy– yeah, it’s not going to be on the top of Deseret Book or Covenant’s acquisition list.

Fortunately, the newly christened Zarahemla Books, under their commitment to publish “adventurous” Mormon fiction, has taken a chance upon this book, to test whether there is a significant audience for daring Mormon fiction. Martindale certainly pushed my own sensibilities beyond a few limits. I didn’t mind that there was mature material, but I did think it could have been toned down a bit– sometimes a little too much detail for my taste. However, that being said, in the novel there is always a reason for vices to be included– ironcially, almost always a moral reason. Evil is never presented as good, and for every wrong decision a character makes, there are consequences– severe consequences. In many ways the novel is a morality tale. A warning against sin. Yet don’t expect some syrupy, cliched piece of propaganda here. It is skillfully written, creating a realistic, complex, difficult world where everything is not as it initially seems. It’s a page turner, the novel is a real heavy weight. Brother Brigham is a significant, thought provoking, faith affirming, intelligently written novel. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: “Brother Brigham” by D. Michael Martindale”