For reasons probably passing understanding, I’ve decided to read the entire Twilight Saga, though at this rate it will take me the rest of my life. You can read part 1 here, and part 2 here.
Chapter 2: Open Book
So Bella goes back to school and Edward is MIA. This book being written prior to the H1N1 epidemic, I had to clear from my head the suspicion that it was only a touch of the swine flu. Something more mysterious is going on.
Bella is all nervous wondering if she is going to see him at lunch. She briefly entertains the notion of telling him off, and then confesses she is more a “Cowardly Lion” than “the terminator” (pg. 30). What did the Terminator do to Stephanie Meyer to not deserve capitalization?
So Edward doesn’t show up at lunch or in class. Bella has a nagging suspicion that it has something to do with her, but also realizes this is a very narcissistic conclusion to draw. These sort of details endear Bella to me; it’s too bad that these are also details that are largely un-filmable, which is probably why a lot of film reviews characterize Bella as entirely passive, a cipher through which female audiences can project themselves into Edward Cullen’s arms. For a criticism of the film this is valid; I’m not saying reviewers ought to take the source material into account—that lets directors and screenwriters off the hook. Of course, Twilight fans would probably eat filmmakers alive for trying to introduce a device through which we could see a little more of Bella.
What sort of device? Maybe like an actual FRIEND? After Bella goes home from the first day of Edward’s absentee streak, she checks her e-mail and has a grand total of three messages. This is after several days. Oh, and all three are from her mother.
Which is not to say that I come home every day to deluge of messages from my friends. Mostly I have copious Facebook updates and the occasional missive from the Obama Administration.
Speaking of the F-word, let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that Twilight was published before Facebook went public. I opened my account just before college, in 2006, when I believe you still had to have a "dot-edu" e-mail address to get in. In 2005, when Twilight was published, it may still very well have been Mark Zuckerberg’s personal directory of available Harvard women. (I’m not very well versed in the history; I’m waiting for the Sorkin/Fincher adaptation of Accidental Geniuses.) I am exceedingly grateful we don’t have a chapter about Bella agonizing over the meaning of a “poke” from Edward. I suppose the other books came after Facebook—I may have spoken too soon.
At dinner that night with her father, Bella inquires after the Cullens. We discover Charlie is very much a pro-Cullen partisan. He takes offense at the rumors swirling around town about them, praises their family values and the altruism of Dr. Cullen, who is apparently a very talented surgeon. Charlie Swan even seems to have a little man-crush on the good doctor, but maybe I’m reading too much into that.
So Dr. Cullen is especially good at his job. He should be. I imagine he’s had some years to develop his skills, even if the learning curve on a vampire is as slow as Edward would indicate.
Speaking of Edward being kind of an idiot, he eventually shows up in school again. I guess Forks High doesn’t really care if students disappear for a week at a time?
It’s snowing and as Bella peers at him nervously during lunch, he seems to be in a good mood. It’s his kind of weather. In class a few minutes later, he is suddenly friendly. Over the course of the class, he and Bella have a pleasant conversation while sorting slides into phases of mitosis. At one point she accidentally touches his hand, and it is freezing cold.
Do you have a snowball in your pocket or are you just a vampire to see me?-Bella’s interior monologue
Edward has a bad habit of freaking the fuck out every time Bella notices ANYTHING. In class she notices that his eyes are a butterscotch color when a week previous they’d been black. In response he changes the subject and clenches his fists again. This happens throughout the conversation—he veers suddenly from “laughing and friendly” to “T-minus thirty seconds-to-launch” at the slightest provocation. I think he would LITERALLY do it at the drop of a hat.
Much like Bella I find the literary incarnation of Edward Cullen to be largely more appealing—he can be friendly and funny and charming and basically nothing like Robert Pattinson. Pattinson nails the moody, sullen, crazy Edward, but not the half Bella could conceivably fall for. I don’t think this is Pattinson’s fault—so far Edward is bi-polar in the extreme. He rockets from Jekyll to Hyde and back again with alarming frequency, and how do you play that without it seeming like a joke?
It sort-of works in book form in part because these conversation scenes are very long. They would never be this long outside of a Tarantino film-adaptation of the book. The modern conventions of adapting a popular book to film usually seem to involve reducing key scenes of dialogue down about a minute and a half. This conversation is several pages in the book; it barely registered when I saw the movie.
It is dialogue so it reads fast, but it is LONG. Stephanie Meyer gets to use basically every emotional variant on the word “said” in a matter of pages.
I had a writing professor who asserted that you should never use ANY of the words you could theoretically substitute for “said,” the idea being that you should be able to convey the intended emotion through other context. So “‘Look out!’ he yelled,” is sort of redundant, because “look out” is the sort of thing you don’t just say in your indoor-voice, or ask like a question. In fact, her rule extended so far as “ask.” As in, questions in scenes of dialogue ought to be followed by “he said” as well, since a question mark indicates a question already anyway.
Stephanie Meyer does not follow this (admittedly dogmatic) rule. Lines of dialogue between Edward and Bella in this scene are followed by all sorts of verbs. Here’s a few from page 48: “he mused,” “I muttered darkly,” “he pressed,” “I said,” “he disagreed,” “Edward surmised,” “I half-smiled.” That last one is one of those lines where they substitute a normal said-verb for something weird, so you end up reading the line with irregular emphasis, falling on “smiled” like an anapestic foot. It’s a cool trick, but I don’t know if the aforementioned writing professor would allow it.
I suppose the substance of the conversation is sort of important. Edward mentions that he finds Bella difficult to read—usually he’s pretty good at that. Memo to Edward: if you are going to be so paranoid whenever someone remarks on your extraordinary attributes, maybe not so much with the bragging for you! Anyway he can’t resist the chance to psychoanalyze Bella:
“You put on a good show,” he said slowly. “But I’d be willing to bet that you’re suffering more than you let anyone see.” (pg. 49)
I didn’t know Edward wrote the lyrics for Matchbox 20. Bella opens up to Edward, and we finally get the back-story about her mother and the boyfriend we were probably supposed to get on page four. Bella goes to gym again and a guy named Mike talks at her for a while, but she’s distracted. Why DID she open up to this pale, lanky, sometimes black-eyed, sometimes gold-eyed, cold-handed, sometimes fist-clenching boy?
On the way out of the parking lot Bella almost backs into another car. Again—a very relatable moment for me; I once crashed a car into a boat. We are the same person, Bella.