Sunday, August 24, 2008

In Defense of Stephenie

This post is a bit late since Little and Brown released Breaking Dawn nearly a month ago. Like the girls in prom dresses and the emo, fanged boys, I gathered for the local midnight release party on August 2nd. I actually stayed up until 3:00 A.M. to read about Edward and Bella's nuptials. When I went to bed that night, I had the vague, unsettling sense that this book was headed in a bad direction, but that there still might be hope. 600 pages later, I discovered that my first insticts were correct. The series that I dearly loved and had followed ardently had boarded a flight into the Bermuda triangle. The crash was of staggering proportions; its remains unrecognizable after the resulting conflagration. No, I didn't burn the book. I wasn't THAT into it, however I did find my faith in The Twilight Saga entirely decimated.

From out of those ashes, one can hear the collective moans of the disappointed fans. As a result, a new and grisly fandom has emerged: those who are equally obsessed with all of the miserable reviews. Those of us who, on the fansites and message boards, have assembled ourselves to stand back and watch it burn with a new found, morbid facination. What Breaking Dawn itself never established in visceral conflict, the reviews have compensated for. I have to admit I am rather like a morose spectator who can't take my eyes off the morbid spectacle in front of me. I am, admitedly, more taken with the bad reviews than I ever was the much anticipated novel. In short, it is a breathtaking failure.

In the wake of failure, there have been various attacks of against Stephenie herself. She has been accused of everything from being a racist/sexist to penning overly graphic sex scenes. I do not agree with this criticism from her once adoring fans. Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse, the books embraced by millions, had [nearly]as much over-protective Edward, insecure Bella, and their unapologetic sexual tension as ever. So what made the difference with Breaking Dawn? Why is Stephenie now under fire for creating a bad role model for teen girls? Simply because Breaking Dawn was so poorly written. Honestly, Stephenie's writing is not any more sexy or sexist than it ever was. It's just that Breaking Dawn side stepped the entire series and came into existance as a concentrated accumulation of the stumbling tripe that would occassionally crop up in its companions. The only difference was that we were compelled by the plot and empathetic with the characters in the first three books so we were willing to overlook all the cliche and the poorly used adverbial clauses.

I will not join the legion of Steph haters. I agree that she was full of herself to think that the publication of Breaking Dawn would recieve the same acclaim as her other books. It is well known that her publishers tried to warn her about some of its egregious flaws prior to publication and that she thought her judgement was so infallible she couldn't possibly go wrong. So why should I, a stay-at-home mom struggling to make ends meet by working three jobs, defend Stephenie in all her prosperity? Because, I, like many LDS moms relate to her plight. Her personal story is one of epic success. Because of Stephenie and the Twilight Saga, I started doing something miraculous: I took time for myself to sit down and read, something I had not done in nearly five years. I loved her for her sometimes awkward prose. As an aspiring writer myself, it was great to read a book that I wanted to edit myself. It gave me hope that someday, maybe I too, could sit down and write a New York Times bestselling novel. She gave me something to wish for and think about in the days numbering the count down to Breaking Dawn. So the outcome of the great rise and the epic defeat: we have The Host which had the ending The Twilight Saga should have and, for that, I will always love Stephenie Meyer.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tut! Tut! Looks like Rain.

The infamous monsoon season is upon us. Here in Havasu, we haven't had rain, but today is overcast and muggy. Today is also a small landmark: my oldest child's first day of kindergarten.

Like all parents, I anticipated this day and have done everything I can think of to create as smooth a transition as possible for my daughter. I have stayed at home with her the first 5 years of her life and now she will be gone the entire day. OK, I know it's not a big deal for many kids, but Katie is sensitive by nature. Sometimes, when we're just visitng a city park her face will cloud up.
"Katie," I ask, "why are you crying?"
"Mom, I'm tired. I want to go home."

You can see why the thought crosses my mind that today might be a little difficult.

My friend and a veteran mother herself, LouAnn, told me, "You'll drop your daughter off at kindergarten. She may or may not cry; but you'll cry."

Not me! I have always prided myself for my lack of sentiment. I didn't cry at my high school graduation! My friend, Michelle, and I even made up alternate words complete with hand gestures to "Pomp and Circumstance." I have to admit, however, there is something about motherhood that, for me, kicked in when I first held Katie in the hospital. There's this extra sappiness (I blame hormonal changes) that instills itself in the heart of each mother. For some, it happens as soon as they find out they are carrying a child, for others of us it takes something as momentous as childbirth to catalyize its onset. You know, its the kind of setimentality that allows you to use maudlin phrases like"the heart of the mother," and that makes you tear up over reality television programs about multiples being born. It's sort of disgusting, but it is an unstoppable force.

My daughter tries out her new morning routine. I mark large black x's in the chart I made to help her easily move through each task. She's dressed in comfortable (though adorable) pink capris. She has donned her new backpack that is teeming with school supplies I meticulously packed the night before (mostly to give the teacher the impression that there is a concerned and attentive parent attached to this child.)

My husband walks Katie out to the front porch for pictures. "Smile. Say cheese."
Katie never says "cheese" or smiles for pictures; she tends to shy away from cameras. To appease us, she strikes a pose and smirks at the ground.
I try to make her laugh so we can get something more natural looking. Katie is a huge Pooh bear fan. "Say Tut! Tut! It looks like rain." I tell her.
Now, a smile.

Brett loads her in the minivan and off we go to school. The parking lot is packed, so we find a spot down the street. I pull her across the crosswalk; the crossing guard greets Katie. In her traditional manner, she looks at the ground and says nothing.
"Hello." I explain, "She's a little shy."
"We'll take care of that here," he says.

We hear a whistle blow beckoning the kids to leave the playground and line up for their teachers. I drag Katie by the hand and dash toward the school yard so she won't be late. I line her up with the other kindergartners. The teacher is hovering over her new students and reading their name tags. Parents stand and watch like spectators as the kids get ready to walk into their classroom.

"Goodbye," I tell Katie and give her a hug and kiss. "I'll come back soon."
I turn to leave and look back one last time. Tears are streaming down Katie's cheeks.
I want to turn around and hold her and talk to her until she is OK with the arrangement.

Her teacher's voice sounds over the din of the other parents. "OK, Kindergartners, I will be your mom for the next few hours."

I ignore my impulse to comfort Katie. My years of experience as a babysitter have taught me that trying to talk her through it will only make matters worse. I blink my eyes a few times and turn to walk away a little faster. Tut! Tut! Looks like rain!