I teach introductory Composition courses. This quarter, I’ve been fortunate enough to teach English 102: Reasoning and Research. As part of the course, especially since I’m developing a new curriculum, I’ve decided to go through the writing and researching process with my students. And, for reasons I may never understand, I chose to write on Twilight.
This meant I would have to actually read the book. Yes, after all that I’ve heard about it and how horrifically it’s written, after all the fine literary minds I know (and many that I don’t know) panning it as a crime against the written word, I would plumb the depths (or shallows) of Stephenie Meyer’s first vampire novel.
Is it written well? No. Not even close. And perhaps it’s just the Composition instructor in me, but I stumbled across the first line (a textbook example of a misplaced modifier). Who is Meyer’s editor? How’d she/he let that one slip by?
Twilight is a travesty. It contains every adverb I’ve struggled to expel. It uses adjectives whenever possible: few nouns (and fewer verbs) are left to fend for themselves. No action is left undescribed. No subtlety is left unamplified. The novel, as prose goes, is just line after line of undeveloped, unliterary sentences. (Perhaps my favorite paragraph appears on page 267: “I smiled. He smiled ruefully back.”)
But is Stephenie Meyer a good writer? There are a few ways to answer this. First, any good philosopher will say, “That depends what you mean by good.” Good could refer to morality, to aesthetics, or to skill. Of course, by any definition, Twilight probably can’t claim being good.
Still, it’s not as easy as just saying Meyer’s a bad writer. She probably is, but that’s not the whole story. Twilight meant nothing to me. I wouldn’t read it again unless there was a four-figure paycheck attached. But it means something to a lot of other people. Yes, bandwagons are often wrong. I’m aware of where following a crowd will take a person. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something not-awful about what Meyer has done.
Meyer is aware of many of her deficiencies as a wordsmith. She simply isn’t controlled by those limitations. She doesn’t aspire to be a great writer. She does, however, desire to be a good storyteller, and that is a different — and perhaps more important — thing.
I’m not convinced Meyer is even a good storyteller yet, but I may not be the best judge of that. What is indisputable is that she has reached a part of the heart that thirty-something men aren’t aware exists. She found a soft spot in the market and the reading community that most of us are either ignorant of or too snobbish to acknowledge. And for that, Meyer deserves some credit. She found an audience that was waiting for her voice. And that — whether good writing or good storytelling — is a gift.
Meyer also did a few things that many of us aspiring authors have failed to do: she completed a 500 page manuscript, she sent it out, and she got someone to believe in her marketability. None of these are small accomplishments.
I will not be reading New Moon. I’m really not the audience. But I will be the first to say that Stephenie Meyer accomplished something that I’m a little jealous of: she has written something that is valuable to people. And for that, she deserves a little more credit than many of us would like to give her.