Title: The Twilight Mystique: Critical Essays on the Novels and Films
Editor: Amy M. Clarke and Marijane Osborn
Genre: Non-fiction, Literary Criticism
I didn’t mean to request this, but when I finally got it in the mail I was looking forward to it. I saw that because I thought, “Hey, there are people actually trying to treat this as a literary work and not media juggernaut.” I’ve read more than my fair share of literary criticism during college and for enjoyment. So, I expected essays that have original ideas that cause the critic to explore the deeper levels of the work. Essays that teach me something that I wouldn’t know if they had not written these criticisms. This book missed that by half. That is not to say that it is completely without merit. In fact there are a couple of great essays in here. But in total, I think a high school english class would have the same amount of academic thought.
For the content at the beginning and the end of the book, most of it comes off as either apologetic or various to make hundreds of years of understanding and knowledge of english literature seem like new discoveries. I almost added this to the First Chapter Fail club when, in the introduction, the editor berates those that read at most the first book. Immediately after she states that, she acknowledges the fact there are major flaws. Flaws, if you would ask me, would stop a person from wanting to ever read another book from an author.
Oh but that doesn’t matter because “the truth is few first novels are ever published, let alone read by millions” says Clarke. As a writer this is insulting as a writer, I know that the rest of use try damn hard to not have huge flaws in our story, and we hope that our editors and crit partners/readers group/beta readers will help us out on that. To make a blanket excuse is not academic at all, that is just fandom speaking. This is what sets the tone for the collection.
The next three essays are supposed to be explorations into the literary influences of the Twilight series. All they boil down to is, “See this here in the Twilight series, here is where Stephenie Myers got it from.” Now, I have to state, it not like Meyers plagiarized anything, but she used well known ideas and themes in much the way authors before her did. And that is key because writers are influenced by what they read, there is going to be melding of ideas. So I wasn’t upset about that. In fact, having gone through high school freshman english, I new most of it already. What was so upsetting was there was no real exploration of what her version of these ideas and themes meant. I wanted to know what did these changes to both her story and the growth of english literature. You know, critical essays.
But then there is a sharp turn when you get to “Eco-Gothics for the Twenty-First Century” by James and Emma Kathrine McElroy. This had everything I was looking for, and more as I never knew there was even a approach to literary criticisms that is about the environments of the stories. I was fascinated throughout the whole thing. The next one, “Noble Were-wolves or Native Shape-Shifter?” by Kristian Jensen is another great piece, this one exploring the Quileute traditions of reality and in Meyer’s stories. These two are probably the best pieces in the entire book.
The next section of the book deals with the how Mormonism influenced the story. They were enlightening, especially as my knowledge of the religion is fairly scant. I don’t know if I would but them at the same strength of the McElroy or Jensen pieces, but they are much stronger than the rest of the collection.
The end was disappointing because after a number of good essay, it seemed like we went all the way back to the beginning, and down some as the very last few essays felt more like blog posts than serious academic work.
In the end, while there are some interesting pieces out there, I would just try to find a copy and photocopies those select few. I wish I knew who this book was target for, because scholars will find it barely useful and casual readers I don’t think will get that much out of it.