Previous entries can be found in the directory.
Chapter 22, cont’d: Hide-and-Seek
Bella runs to the ballet studio, out of breath and nearly paralyzed with fear. There’s a hand-written note on the door in hot pink paper announcing the studio is closed for spring break. If James wrote that himself, it’s a nice touch. It also occurs to me that this blog has probably approximated the chronology of this book a little bit; spring break is happening for a lot of people now. Of course, this is 2010, and Twilight takes place in an alternate version of 2005 in which the internet and various other technologies have not developed beyond 1998. But still, kinda freaky!
Once inside, Bella again hears her mother calling her name. She runs to the voice, and then hears her laughing.
There she was, on the TV screen, tousling my hair in relief. It was Thanksgiving, and I was twelve.
It’s a video! That’s what clever ol’ James was up to with that VCR in Bella’s house. It’s kind of weird that no one really took the time to wonder about the particulars of that vision Alice had. It’s a leap, I admit, to guess what he might have been doing, but maybe if they hadn’t been so busy having drug-fueled sex in their hotel room for the last few days Alice, Bella or Jasper might have figured it out.
Bella is mostly relieved her mother is OK; James seems kind of let down she’s not more miffed about getting punk’d. Really, she should be upset, as now she will die for no reason at all, but I don’t blame Bella for not taking a lot of time to consider all the implications.
James gets philosophical before attacking—he’s one of THOSE villains:
“I will give your strange coven this much, you humans can be quite interesting. I guess I can see the draw of observing you. It’s amazing—some of you seem to have no sense of your own self-interest at all.”
Of course, we know the Cullens don’t ascribe to this Ayn Randian theory of the virtue of selfishness either, so we can see a glimmer of a moral theme emerging. Other vampires are raging egomaniacs, and our good vampires are not. Bella has been as of late shocked and stressed out at the appalling selflessness of the Cullens. James, Victoria, et al. want people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps; the Cullens are Great Society era Democrats. Maybe I’m reaching a little. It’s a subtle theme.
Speaking of subtle, did you know that James is nondescript? I’ve missed that so far.
He was so very average looking, nothing remarkable about his face or body at all…he wore a pale blue, long-sleeved shirt and faded blue jeans.
He has “white skin” though, so I guess we’re settled on the race question. S. Meyer was not avoiding sounding like a racist, she was just avoiding sounding like someone who is bad at describing things. This time, anyway.
James starts asking Bella if Edward will avenge her—he’s looking forward to it. Something tells me he’ll regret looking forward to it when Operation Enduring Bella inevitably drops on his fucking head in a few minutes, but for now he is disappointed when Bella tells him about her Letter from a Birmingham Jail (er—Phoenix Hotel Room).
They have a LONG conversation—Bella is perversely amused by how easy it is to shoot the shit with this “genteel hunter.” And he IS a talkative motherfucker. He proceeds to talk for most of page 446, explaining every single detail of how he found her. First of all, I think it would have been better to leave that to the imagination rather than have James come across like a Bond villain (or worse—A Scooby-Doo villain). Second of all, it wasn’t that difficult, James! When you boil it down it goes like this: “I found out where your hometown was because you said you were going there and I thought maybe you were lying but decided I should check anyway so I looked up your address.” That simple! Just get on with it, mother—[gunshot]. Okay, I promise to stop making Wire references soon. (No I don’t.)
"You know, Bella, you gotta think about what we got in this game for, man. Huh? Was it the rep? Was it so our names could ring out on some fucking ghetto streetcorner, man? Naw, man. There's games beyond the fucking game."
James finally shuts the fuck up for a fucking second and breaks out a video camera—it turns out he’s also a budding snuff film director—and then we finally get an interesting story. Turns out James is still smarting from a defeat a few years ago—he met another vampire who, like Edward, had a human girl he was quite fond of. This particular vampire had a job at an asylum. (It’s a living. Well, I guess not technically.) This girl was a patient at said asylum. Spooky. To paraphrase James Franco (shudder) this was the "olden days" of mental health care—shock treatments and dark cells, not pills and well-lit padded rooms. This was some Shuttter Island shit. But anyway this vampire was smart enough to steal his beloved out of the asylum and make her into a vampire straightaway, at which point James no longer wanted to hunt her—no use killing a brand new vampire and all. So he killed the older vampire “in vengeance.”
“A man's got to have a code.”—Omar
James says the girl didn’t seem to notice the pain. Uh, how would he know? Presumably he wasn’t there at her transformation, given that he was hunting her and all. Maybe he dragged the older vampire into a long, drawn out conversation like this one so he could get all the details after-the-fact. Or maybe he was there when she was bitten, and he got distracted talking to her about it for three days and forgot to kill her until it was too late. I’m sure that happens to James a lot. The girl suffered from terrible visions, as it happens. OH, I KNOW WHO THAT GIRL WAS!
“Alice,” I breathed, astonished.
Well, shit. That’s a big reveal! I don’t really know what the implications are, if any. But wow!
Finally James closes in, and Bella realizes it is probably not going to be quick and merciful the way she’d expected. He’s got a video camera; he’s probably going to put on a show. That’s usually what dudes are planning on when they break out the camera (see Edwards, John or Lee, Tommy. Well, don’t see them, please). Not usually in this way, though.
She tries to run and then James is in front of her. Then she’s flying through the air, crashing against and shattering one of the huge mirrors. Just when I was thinking to myself, that would be a very cinematic moment, James briefly adopts the voice of the author:
“That’s a very nice effect,” he said, examining the mess of glass, his voice friendly again. “I thought this would be visually dramatic for my little film.”
I see what you did there, S. Meyer. Bella starts crawling toward the door, and James steps on her leg, breaking it. I hope James has like, a wide angle lens or something. Where is his camera positioned that he could possibly get all this? I’ve got my priorities all wrong.
There’s a scene in The Sopranos where a guy gets unexpectedly shot sitting next to Silvio Dante in a restaurant. Later he tells Tony that he didn’t even hear the bullet until the guy next to him was already dead. There’s a lot of that sort of stuff here—James kicks Bella’s broken leg and she hears a piercing scream she only later realizes was her own voice.
James tries to get her to incite Edward to violence on video, but she won’t. So he throws her into the shattered mirror again, cutting her head badly. Covered in blood, Bella sees a horrible need and hunger in the hunter’s eyes and hopes the rest of it will be quick. She can’t keep her eyes open anymore, and the last thing she sees is James rushing toward her. She raises her hands to cover her face. And then Bella is dead. The end.
That was unexpected, huh?
Chapter 23: The Angel
Okay, just kidding. Bella does not die. She’s dying, an experience she likens to being under dark water. In her bloodied, half-conscious, fucked up state, she hears a second roar in the room, one that “rang with fury.” Oh shit James: the cavalry’s here.
Bella experiences a sharp pain in her hand, and then she’s pretty sure she’s finally dead and seeing an angel.
“Oh no, Bella, no!” the angel’s voice cried in horror.
Listen, Bella, I know you’ve lost a lot of blood, but are you a fucking idiot? That’s not a god damned angel. Bella hears a weird collection of other sounds, growls and screams and cracking noises, which is most likely James getting dismembered. He’s so nondescript even his death is vague.
Edward is irritatingly described as “the angel” as part of this narrative device for the first two pages, but luckily that aspect of it is eventually dropped, and then we have this cool situation where Bella (and we) are only half aware of everything going on around her. It’s probably the most detailed and subtle chapter, and it’s also the shortest. Carlisle tells Alice to hold her breath, and that’s the only suggestion we get that being in a room full of blood is probably testing the Cullens’ restraint. It’s also probably part of how Carlisle retains his composure in operating rooms.
Edward—I’m sorry, the angel—is freaking out and “sobbing tearless, broken sobs.” Okay, S. Meyer—you obscured it with a few adjectives-- but you definitely just wrote “sobbing sobs.” There is no excuse for that. Note also that vampires seem unable to produce bodily fluids. It seems like that should have implications later?
Carlisle is examining Bella and we learn she probably has some broken ribs, too. The pain in Bella’s hand is agonizing but she can’t seem to muster the energy to tell anyone. Finally she manages to describe a burning sensation down there (her hand, I mean), and Carlisle and Edward realize she’s been bitten. Fuck.
For some reason, by the way, Bella moans “Alice” apropos of basically nothing in the middle of this chapter. Revealing her true preferences, perhaps? Wishful thinking, probably?
It seems like maybe Alice is pushing for Edward to just let the venom make Bella a vampire. “Edward, you have to do it,” she says. Do what, exactly? Let it happen? Is there some other step we haven’t learned? In truth this chapter isn’t all that vague, but compared to the recent over-explication we got from James some of this stuff seems maddeningly complex by comparison.
Carlisle seems to be stitching up Bella’s head, and he tells Edward to try and suck the venom out. He’s understandably nervous about doing that. I don’t really understand why Carlisle can’t do it—someone else can’t handle sewing? He’s probably trying to test Edward, but this doesn’t seem like the time for that. As Edward equivocates, they’re running out of time. Man up, Hamlet!
He finally goes for it, and the pain gets way worse. Alice and Carlisle hold Bella down (HOT) and slowly her hand goes numb. Edward eventually announces that the blood is clean; he can taste the morphine. Um, hey Carlisle, I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but that seems like a lot of morphine you are administering! Edward tells Bella he loves her.
“I know,” I breathed, so tired.
As a child I was incredibly paranoid about what my last words would be to family members were they to leave home and suddenly die, so I was borderline fanatical about saying “I love you” and extracting an identical response from my parents. I now basically behave the same way with my wife, so what I'm trying to say is: that pissed me off.
Carlisle thinks to ask Bella where her mother is as she’s passing out, so she feebly explains the trick and remembers the story James told about Alice’s origin. She tries to tell them, but gets distracted by the smell of gasoline—they are burning James and (as it turns out) the whole ballet studio. Awesome.
By the way, is there a better “spreading gasoline around a building” scene than the one at the end of the third season of Weeds? That is a big-time goosebump-scene. That show strains my affection every year—the torch I carry for Mary-Louise Parker can only get me so far—but it always redeems itself at the end. The most recent season especially. No spoilers, but FUCK YES, am I right?