Ok....I've now caught up with the thread. I'm sorry to have missed so much the last few days -- thank you to Openhome for holding the fort in my absence! I'm sorry too, that we seem to have got off to a less than happy start, because this seems to me a topic with great potential. I trust we're on a better track now.
You will find that I have been back over the discussion with my blue pencil and made a few more edits -- I meant what I wrote in the posting rules at the beginning of this thread! To recap one more time:
• I expect courtesy towards author and fellow posters at all times, no matter what the provocation.
• The point of being on this thread is to have open, relaxed and non-confrontational exchange of ideas. If the discussion is pushing your buttons, it's time to take a break. Come back and join us when you feel able to have fun here.
• We're not here to argue or convince, we're here to probe and understand.
If I might also suggest....kindness is a much under-rated virtue. (This is actually a whole other fabulous topic I want to return to at some point -- apropos of Twilight, I mean, not board etiquette -- but that's for another day!). Especially online, where misunderstandings multiply like mosquitoes after rain, there's much to be said for being unnecessarily nice to the people around you. Commit senseless acts of random kindness....
And now...back to the discussion!
And oh, there are so many things I want to respond to! I think I’m going to have to address them glancingly for now. In no particular order....
Knives wrote:The way Storytelling approaches its themes and ideas has all the subtlety of a brick to the face.
Do you think this unsubtlety is essential to stories which appeal forcefully -- melodramatically -- to the reader’s emotions? Or is it just that such stories can operate unsubtly? I'm inclined to agree with Openhome that Storytelling can be more nuanced than you suggest.
Grayce wrote:Knives - Maybe you should read the posts again before you determine that this is not a conversation/discussion...
Grayce: a minor clarification -- I think you maybe misread Knives’ comment (“Grayce, the purpose of these discussion isn't an attempt at conversion - in fact, I've gotten the Mod Smack of Doom more than once for taking that tack”) and mistook “conversion” for “conversation”. I take it he was responding to your remark that:
Grayce wrote:Nothing we say or example we give is going to convince you to change your preference because your mind is set. No further discussion is necessary or desired because you can not be swayed to like this series that clearly has no redeeming qualities in your opinion. I apologize again for misunderstanding your goal.
...and noting (rightly) that this thread was set up on the clear understanding that we’re not aiming to persuade each other or change minds, but simply to understand each others’ views better. Precisely because the (overt or covert) desire to proselytize (and/or sound-off) makes for shriller discussion than a genuinely open-ended exploration of opposing views. (See the posting rules for this thread). So I think this was a genuine misunderstanding (no conversion/no conversation) between the two of you!
Knives wrote:Storytelling rules, everything is skin-deep, and any further inference is on the part of the reader alone (think of it like a meditation aid).
Twilight as mediation aid -- now this is an intriguing thought (possibly connected to our early, fumbling attempts at identifying something “mythic” in the Twilight story, to which readers are responding). Clearly, readers are taking Stephenie’s rather schematic (dare one say archetypal? Or if you prefer: merely stereotyped) story and characters, and projecting a wealth of personal associations onto it. Now maybe only the most highly imaginative readers -- skilled fantasists and fic-writers -- actually develop those associations to the point of being truly like a meditation with Twilight for its springboard. But your right that there’s clearly a significant accretion of reader-generated imagining getting layered over the bare bones of Stephenie’s story.
(Hmmm, I think I’m now turning your trope on its head, because you were picturing the successful Storyteller-Author as fleshing out the intellectual armature of their novel with the storytelling, weren’t you? Ah well, good thing that metaphor is a flexible and living thing!)
works where Authorship is the dominant force are often characterized by a profound command of the language, blunt, short prose (ironic that flowery prose - "purple" prose - is less subtle than simple sentence structures), and deliberately crafted dialogue.
Hmmm. Maybe these days. But, um...Henry James? I grant you that nowadays good elaborate prose is as rare as snow in June, but that seems to me a fact about writers not writing. (And it’s a real puzzle why it should be so -- another interesting question for sometime). Mind you, for all the melodrama of some of Stephenie’s purpler passages, I would hardly put her writing in the category of ornate and flowery prose. Seems pretty damn simple and, well, vernacular to my ear....
About Tolkien... I’m interested that you include him in the ranks of the non-Storytellers. It’s true that he doesn’t have the realist novelist’s interest in (or gift for) creating complex characters, but I certainly found myself emotionally floored by his story -- at least as much as I was bowled over by the sweep and magnificence of his world-building.
Grayce wrote:Is that not, after all, the entire purpose of fiction lit? To escape into a fictional world so that your own problems or troubles seem insignificant?
I think Knives (and others) would dispute that this is the entire purpose of literature; but I have to agree with you that it’s one of the amazing things that literature can offer. Tolkien wrote a long essay in defence of so-called “escapist” literature, as being in its own way both more practical and heroic than realist fiction. Another subject for deeper discussion!
Knives wrote:I would like to note that both pure Storytelling and pure Authorship are inherently flawed; truly great works must have both, or inevitably they'll attract as many (or more) antis as fans.
Now this puzzled me -- and made me think that the phenomenon of “antis and fans” is one that deserves interrogating. On the face of it, it’s not obvious why disagreement about literary merit should harden into the formation of self-conscious factions “for” and “against” a book or author. I can see that to be great a work probably has to excel in both “Storytelling” and “Authorship” -- but I don't see why books that fall short of greatness (as most books of course do) should attract “antis”, as such. Unless by that you simply mean “people who didn’t like the book”. (Of course, even great books have their detractors too).
There’s no question that the phenomenon of stratospherically successful novels is roiling what seemed twenty years ago to be becoming a sleepy cultural backwater, viz: literature (or if you like: reading). Harry Potter and Twilight have catapulted books back into the limelight of pop culture, so I guess it’s not so odd that, at least with these “celebrity novels”, taking a stand for or against might seem necessary -- because (as you observed) it’s almost impossible to avoid them, so completely do they (for a time) pervade the culture.
It’s also true that passionate likes and dislikes simply burn high in some readers (and intolerance is the natural condition of the young: I was simply incandescent on the subject of writers I disliked twenty years ago). This compulsion to denounce despised authors can be hard to understand if you’ve never felt it (or have outlived it); I think a lot of the mutual incomprehension (and antipathy) between antis and fans revolves around this temperamental difference.
To you (for example) it’s axiomatic that contempt demands expression, and that bad books need criticizing. You’re prepared (grudgingly) to forgo the pleasures of really swingeing denunciation because I’m not going to let you write things here that are hurtful to the author or her fans; but you do genuinely think it’s vital that legitimate criticisms be aired. The idea of quietly disliking the damn books and going your own way bothers you. Even though we’re only talking about a pop teen romance (which will almost certainly peak in popularity soon and sink back into ordinary company of other popular novels).
Whereas to Jazzgirl (for instance) and many other fans, this driving need to take a stand against a slice of popular culture you personally dislike is mystifying. As JG says: “if you don’t like it, why not just move on?”. If one’s own impulse is to simply shrug one’s shoulders at other people’s foolish fancies, the anti’s need to voice their contempt looks a bit like sheer meanness. (“I don’t go trashing your favourite authors; why do you want to trash mine?”). In general, I think, Twilight fans are less troubled than antis by culture wars, the need to define literary canon, the establishment and defence of objective aesthetic standards etc. So it’s hard for fans to see why the antis are getting so het up about Stephenie’s writing except out of some kind of tribal antagonism (our people hate your people...).
Gah! Getting sidetracked here, and I haven’t even got to your original, very intriguing distinction between, if one could so describe it, books that appeal to the mind and books that reach straight for the emotions. You've definitely articulated something I wholly agree with (and that's been discussed here in passing before): Stephenie's preternatural knack for manipulating the reader's emotions so that they become immersed in Bella's immediate experience. But this is something I really want more time to think about: best save it for another post!
Ouisa...ditto, in spades! This idea that the niceness of Stephenie’s vampires in some way expresses a shift in our attitudes towards the dark and dangerous side of sexuality....oh, I really want to think about this more!