Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Fun with dirt and other readings

The best part of vacation is that I have a chance to do stuff that I usually don't because, let's face it, I'm not organized or disciplined enough to schedule these activities into my life. Unfortunately, the stuff that gets pushed into the margins and avoided are activities I really enjoy doing...such as *reading* a book. Not so this vacation.

So far, I went running in the mud, up and down hills, in a storm, and around the track, I went for a walk on the beach, and I read five books in the past two weeks. Of course one book that I read was for work (Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe - and I will share my thoughts on this book eventually, but I have much more to think about before I attempt to share those thoughts). The other four books I read, however, were for the sheer pleasure of being transported into another world.

You might have heard of the Twilight Saga - a four novel series by Stephenie Meyer of which book one was recently made into a movie. Honestly, I originally decided to read the first novel of the series since this is a popular novel with my students, and I wanted to know what all the fuss was. So although the story is marketed for teenagers, once I began reading, I was hooked; the teen audience intent didn't matter.

In book one, Twilight, Meyer introduces readers to the life of teenager Bella Swan who moves from Arizona where she lived with her mother to Forks, Washington in order to live with her dad for awhile. In Forks, Bella meets and falls in love with her soul mate, Edward. Of course her destiny with Edward is complicated by the fact that her true love might not actually have a soul since he is a vampire.

Love, vampires, battles, part myth and part mysticism, and the Northwest. I was totally sucked into the story from page one.

Surprisingly, what drew me to the story more than anything else was the setting. There is something undeniably mystical and magical about the coastal region in the Northwest. Although this story takes place in the Olympic Peninsula, the rugged beauty of the land, the dense, mossy forests, the typically overcast days, and the rain could easily describe more than half of the Oregon and Washington coastal region. My mom was born in Newport, Oregon, and most of her family still lives there now. Needless to say, throughout my childhood the Oregon coast was practically my second home - it's still one of my favorite places to visit.

Don't get me wrong - I know I could not live there again. But I have to admit that my soul sometimes aches to clear a path through the mossy forests and dense underbrush again. Maybe that's why I've taken to trail running this past year. I yearn to be there. And in particular, I feel that yearning more strongly when I travel from Corvallis to Newport. It's as if I'm entranced...or possessed...by an intense longing that I consciously know can never be requited. My creative side wants to be there. My logical side (do I have that side?) knows that living there would kill me. Literally.

Besides the setting, I was also intrigued by the plot of the novel on several levels. You should know that I am not a fan of romance novels or love stories. Still, the second draw to the novel was the love story. Sappy. Ridiculous. Close to home. I was 18 when I met Poetroad. I knew within a week that he was "the one." He knew it too. In Twilight, Bella is merely 17 when she meets Edward. From the beginning, she knows they belong together - for better or worse. I understood that. Of course their relationship is complicated - there is the whole human vs. vampire thing, for one. But I liked the symbolism (unintentionally written in?) of the type of struggles all couples face.

There is more to love about this series - realistic characters, intricate but believable plot, treachery, scary stuff, sad endings, happy endings. I won't spoil it for you any more than I have, though. You should know that these novels are more of a fun read than literary genius. Most of the complaints I've heard regarded repetitive language and metaphors. And even though one of the main characters is a vampire, there is a moral quality that constrains the plot. For example, when some of the characters finally do get around to it, the sex scenes are hinted at rather than described. Which is one other reason why I *liked* the series. It's a good novel to read *with* your teenager.


Dalene said...

Hey! Thanks for the Twilight review via an adult!! Of course, all of my students are talking about the series. I have so many other books on my list!!! Dang!! Seems like I'll have to read these too!!! Another friend of mine here in town read the series over Christmas break as well.

supergirl said...

Oh poo, I like reading the sexxx scenes. lol!

bluesugarpoet said...

SG - BOL...I'm sure you can imagine...:). Plus, M. kinda reminds me of what I imagined Edward to look like. You'll have no troubles filling in the blanks now!!!!

Dalene - glad I could be of help. :) The books are fast reads. Took me 6-8 hours for each book at the most, and I am a slow reader.