Good illustration of what Twilight craze is about
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/04/2010 (4692 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Graphic Novel, Volume One
By Stephenie Meyer, art and adaptation by Young Kim
Yen Press, 224 pages, $23
It may be easy for some to dismiss the Twilight series as so much teen-oriented twaddle.
The original novel, by midwestern American housewife Stephenie Meyer, became the biggest-selling book of 2008. The gist, for those not already familiar, is that teenage heroine Isabella "Bella" Swan discovers rival clans of first vampires, then werewolves living in her new home of Washington state.
Oh, yes, she also falls in love with one of them (a vampire, that is), named Edward Cullen. In the series’ first volume, he’s terrified of getting too close to her, lest he fang her. She doesn’t care — she loves him. Insert Freudianism here.
It may be even easier to dismiss a — wait for it — comic edition of the biggest publishing phenomenon since Harry Potter sliced his bread.
To be sure, if J.K. Rowling’s prose lacks a certain grace, Meyer’s style is — well, just consider this passage:
"First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was part of him — and I didn’t know how potent that part might be — that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him."
Gag. Surely, you might say, pictures would only be an improvement?
Well, yes, as a matter of fact. Bear along for a moment.
Even severely abridged, Meyer’s surviving text remains dreadful. But as with Rowling, there is something genuine, even elemental between the words.
Youthful longing is a heady mix of desire, love and idealism – and Twilight captures something of that sentiment. Great literature has been written about this, including but not even starting with Romeo & Juliet. For a classic modern treatment, there’s The Sound of Waves by the great Japanese writer Yukio Mishima.
Teenage mooning may induce eye rolls, groans, or derisive chuckles from grown-ups, but, c’mon — we were all kids. So can we grant such feelings the legitimacy they deserve? How easily age steals the memory of youth.
Which brings us to the reason this black and white graphic adaptation works so well: it lends the material gravitas. It reduces the story to a kind of mythic purity. The young lovers are impossibly idealized — as we all are in our romantic fantasies.
To that end, the conventions of Japanese manga suit the material. Korean Young Kim’s art is handsome, stylized and almost ethereal at times, conveying that sense of romantic bliss that, biochemically, is of course just so many raging hormones.
Manga is also often characterized by aloof, fey, narcissistic male characters, which Meyer’s dreamy Edward most certainly is.
His endless talking in riddles comes off as a rather forced suggestion of aged sophistication (Ed is about 100 years old). Still, it’s not hard to understand impressionable young women going for that.
And that’s the other thing about the Twilight phenomenon: the rather plain sexual subtext. Meyer is tapping into very real sexual feelings that many teens (and young adult women) may be bashful to openly express, even in this day and age. The story provides a tactful outlet for validation of such feelings.
Meyer has also pulled off the same neat trick as Rowling: the juxtaposition of identifiably real characters with appealing fantasy elements. The story is structured largely around the everyday details of high school life, into which the supernatural dimensions slowly creep.
Look, Shakespeare this isn’t. But the target readership should enjoy it, and for those outside that demographic, this provides a good illustration (ho ho) of just what the craze over the series is about.
Winnipegger Kenton Smith is a freelance arts and culture critic and comics enthusiast. He reviews movies for Uptown magazine.