Previous entries can be found in the directory.
We were somewhere near Phoenix, on the edge of the desert, when the vampires began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive…” And then suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screech and diving around the car…We had one energetic and eccentric Alice, and one calming and lethargic Jasper. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious relationship with a vampire, the tendency is to push it as far as you can. –Bella S. Thompson
Chapter 20: Impatience
This chapter starts out by jumping ahead a day or so and then hazily working its way backward—it’s the first moderately “structured” chapter we’ve seen. It leads to some confusion with past-perfect tense—Bella talks about things that “had happened” but lapses into regular past tense and then shifts back again—but that’s really ground we’ve tread before. It does, however, bring some form/content questions into the fold. That isn’t to say I have any answers, but it’s worth bringing up.
Like everyone, I don’t really know what we mean when we say “post-modern” but a good working definition is “pertains to a work of art that in some way calls attention to itself as a work of art.” Semi-self-consciously toying with vampire myths aside, Twilight is not a post-modern novel. Most YA Fiction is not, and in some ways it might be one of the last bastions of “non-post-modernism,” if that is a thing. To quote David Foster Wallace’s self-deprecatingly post-modern essay “Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky”:
Upon finishing Frank’s books, though, I think any serious America reader/writer will find himself driven to think hard about what exactly it is that makes many of the novelists of our place in time so thematically shallow and lightweight, so morally impoverished… why we seem to require of our art an ironic distance from deep convicting or desperate questions…[W]e now presume as a matter of course that “Serious” literature will be aesthetically distanced from real lived life.
So, okay, Twilight is not necessarily Serious Literature, and it is definitely “morally impoverished,”( profoundly so). But what’s key here is the fact that it does lack the ironic distance we are (supposedly) accustomed to. The Harry Potter series, books we can at least credit with skimming and appropriating most of the western cannon’s deep convicting and desperate questions, also lack this post-modern, form-over-content sheen. So why do we seem to exempt kids from the ironic distance we apparently require? Or is that what makes it YA fiction? (Is that why we like it despite it being YA Fiction? Aren’t we the ones who designated it YA Fiction in the first place?) Can the Great American Novel only be written by white men with post-graduate degrees?
Plenty of adult-fiction writers don’t write very well—John Grisham, to use an example DFW invokes in his essay. What makes Twilight for kids, exactly? Because it’s about kids? You can see how that logic would break down pretty quickly. Is it just a question of marketing, then? Adults like sexy legal dramas and kids like chaste vampires? As you are probably thinking, John Grisham is another one of those writers who lacks ironic distance, and he is not considered a YA writer. But he is considered a bad writer. Are we sure he actually is? Or is he just writing against the scholarly grain? Is the only thing stopping John Grisham from being a YA author the fact that he writes about the judicial system? In one way or another, it seems like we manage to find a way to relegate most of the new fiction not written by over-educated white men (like, it should be mentioned, David Foster Wallace) into one cultural ghetto or another. See also: Stephen King.
Are we sure Stephenie Meyer is a bad writer? If we limit the definition to “one who is able to structure dialogue properly, use capitalization and punctuation consistently, and avoid periodic Sarah Palin-esque syntactical train-wrecks,” then yes, she is a bad writer. But is that really the definition we want? Those are my most specific complaints with this book, but I was never making the argument that Twilight does or does not deserve to exist, nor whether or not Twilight deserves to be relegated to the intellectual dustbin. Adults who like Harry Potter do so with their own kind of ironic distance—you’ll find very few unabashed supporters the higher you go up the intellectual ladder. Why?
Let’s end the serious theoretical discussion here, but if anyone has an answer to the barrage of questions above, I’d like to hear it.
At the start of this chapter, Bella wakes up in a hotel room, unable at first to remember how she got there. She wanders from her bed to find the place trashed; Alice can’t find her pants, Jasper is missing a tooth, and there’s a tiger—okay well I made most of that up.
Bella does wake up in the hotel room dazed, after a marathon drive from Forks to Phoenix. Apparently she spent a good portion of the trip crying against Alice’s “granite neck,” and only remembers bits and pieces. They found a hotel near the airport in case they need to flee again, since we’ve already observed that their plan sucks and is doomed to fail. Alice dragged the still-half-conscious Bella to a bed; She’s woken up some undetermined period of time later. Bella eventually discerns that it is three in the morning, but isn’t sure of what day. Alice and Jasper are sitting in the other room, watching TV silently.
This chapter gives you the sense that being a vampire must be really boring most of the time—both of them are incredibly good at sitting completely still and doing absolutely nothing. It is suggested that they aren’t even really watching the TV, and that maybe they operate on a different time scale than normal humans do—their lives are apparently so uneventful that they’ve gotten used to just letting hours fall away, wasted.
Naturally Bella is not so content, and she basically spends the chapter wandering back and forth from the bedroom being eaten alive by anxiety. She’s also a little suspicious about her protectors, who seem to be A) keeping something from her and B) as much concerned with controlling her and keeping her in one place as they are with protecting her. Bella thinks the weirdness and vague stress in the room has something to do with the fact that Carlisle hasn’t called yet and probably should have by now. Jasper doesn’t understand why Bella is afraid, as they are keeping her safe—none of the vampires seem to be able to grasp the idea that Bella is worried they themselves could get hurt trying to save her.
“What if something goes wrong, and they get separated? If something happens to any of them. Carlisle, Emmett…Edward…” I gulped. “If that wild female hurts Esme…”
Notice that Bella apparently could give a fuck if Rosalie dies. Alice tells her they are concerned for her basically because this is the first time Edward has been happy in a hundred years, and if anything should happen to Bella now no one will want to deal with the kind of super-asshole Edward will surely become for the next hundred. She says it in a nicer way than that, I’m just cutting through the bullshit.
Alice calls down to the front desk and tells them to ignore maid service for a while, and they proceed just sit in the hotel room for hours more. What must that look like to the hotel staff? Putting aside for a second the fact that three underage kids could even get a hotel room—two girls (one of whom was barely conscious) and one guy check into a hotel room and ask to not be disturbed for the next few days? Either it’s a serious drug binge or a serious orgy. Really, I’m surprised one of them hasn’t suggested doing either of those yet. They are really just going to sit in the room and do nothing? I feel like they should at least fool around, just for something to do. Maybe the drugs are in the subtext somewhere—Bella talks a lot about tracing abstract patterns in the wallpaper to pass the time, so she must be stoned right?
Bella knows that Jasper is controlling the emotional climate in the room—he’s basically got Bella on magic telekinetic vampire Quaaludes—and she doesn’t want to be sedated anymore so she decides to go back to bed to get away from him. Alice casually follows her into the bedroom. Cue porn music, but not really. Alice has no real sense of personal space, and because she’s a girl she thinks she can just follow Bella into the shower or whatever. It becomes abundantly clear that she is not going to be leaving Bella alone anytime soon.
They talk, and Bella gets Alice to explain how vampires get created, despite the fact that Edward apparently didn’t want her to know. Vampires have venom, which is meant to incapacitate their prey. Alice calls this “superfluous”—which is a weird concession to the theory of evolution, when you think about it. Vampires have a bunch of redundant abilities, sort of like how snakes have vestigial limb bones. It flies in the face of Edward’s earlier contention that humans and vampires must have been intelligently designed. I hope we get some kind of ideological tension in later books, like Edward is the Kirk Cameron of vampires and Alice is the Richard Dawkins (I’m Team Alice). But the use of the word “superfluous” as opposed to say “vestigial” leads me to think that S. Meyer actually wasn’t thinking about it that much and maybe would have changed the line if she knew it could be construed as a nod toward Charles Darwin.
So the thing with the venom is, if someone manages to get bitten by a vampire and NOT killed immediately thereafter, then after three days or so the venom goes all the way through his or her body and they have become a vampire. Apparently this process is rare, because A) few vampires have the self-control to do it, as in not just kill the person they’ve bitten, and B) it is also very painful. But Alice doesn’t remember her transformation, so she doesn’t really know how painful. She reminds us that she has no memory of being human at all. Why do I feel like that’s going to factor into the plot soon?
So something happens while they’re sitting on the bed—Alice gets a vision of the tracker in a room with a lot of mirrors. Then she sees him a room operating a VCR. Has he traveled back in time to 1996? Jasper explains that the vision means the tracker has changed course, and has now embarked on a series of actions that will eventually lead him to a VCR. So naturally no one has any idea what the fuck that means or what to do, whether they should call Carlisle and tell him to hang out at Blockbuster or just do nothing. Then Carlisle calls and talks to Alice, and then she puts Bella on the phone with Edward. Weirdly, this is the first time they’ve talked on the phone, right? I feel like they are missing out on an important rite of passage. Edward tells Bella they’ve lost track of the tracker, and she’ll be safe, and he misses her. Bella tries to be flirty, and Edward’s voice gets “hard,” but not in a good way. He’s too busy thinking about the tracker to have phone sex, which is too bad for him.
Alice starts sketching the vision she had of the room with the mirrors, and Bella points out that it looks like a ballet studio. In fact, it looks like the same dance studio she went to as a child, which is right around the corner from her mom’s house. Then everybody’s like, oh shit, but then they think for a little longer and they are all like wait, why would you go to a dance studio now? And they dismiss it outright, so I’m sure nothing will happen at all involving Bella and a dance studio for the rest of this book.
And that, I think, was the handle - that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of old and evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Phoenix and look west, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark - that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.- Raoul Swan