{divergence} Why I won’t apologize for liking Twilight

Yes, I’m over the age of 14. In fact, many of the book’s readers who are lined up for the midnight showings of Breaking Dawn tonight aren’t 14 anymore, either. But I still have an inner 14-year-old girl, and she likes reading about sparkly vamps.

But that’s not all I like to read.

I read Neil Gaiman A LOT. I cherish Neal Stephenson (even when his Baroque Cycle took me THREE attempts to get started). I collect graphic novels and out of print comic book compendiums. I think Erik Larson is a genius writer. DH and I have somewhere north of 1,000 books in the house, most of which are crammed into Ikea Billy bookshelves in the room we’ve designated as the house library – where I even went to the trouble of finding bookshelf tag systems so that we could easily show where the biography books are shelved (just above the shelf with the erotica). In other words, I read. We all read – a lot.

So why in the blue hell am I constantly being bombarded with tweets, FB posts and other words or imagery that place reading “Twilight” books somewhere below the literary equivalent of a trashy tabloid mag?

It seems that if you read books from the “Twilight” series, then you’re a moron, yet if you read “Harry Potter” books, you’re a genius. What if you read both? (I not only believe it’s possible, but I encourage it – and we own full sets of BOTH series…strangely not having been hit by lightning yet, I think that means it’s okay to have both.)

I remember arguing a key point of “Breaking Dawn” with a friend who had his nose high in the air when mentioning “Twilight”, and he was sure that a key plot point (which I shant mention, in case there are 5 people who read this who want to remain unspoiled) was complete nonsense. When I countered with a valid, point-by-point argument that led him right to where I wanted him, when even HE admitted that Stephenie Meyer was well within her right to have written that plot point as she did and that it could be perfectly rational and reasonable to assume it possible in that ‘verse, he STILL thought “Twilight” was crap. Why? Because it’s hip to do so.

Now, is it the best writing I’ve ever read? Not all the time. There are certainly some stretches of “New Moon” where I was thinking that her editor could’ve exercised some better judgment, but if we need to point fingers at female authors given too much license, can we ever take JK Rowling to task for a few hundred too many pages in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”? C’mon, let’s be fair.

So, why is it that I like “Twilight”? It’s easy: it speaks to my romantic side by showing a couple that’s willing to die to be together, where love is so strong that you can’t breathe without it. It’s fantasy, and I know that, but I embrace fantasy writing (as I did seemingly a thousand years ago, when I picked up my first Piers Anthony “Xanth” book). It’s escapist. It’s a breathless beach read or a book that makes me inadvertently stay up well past my bedtime, booklight blazing away while DH sleeps next to me. It’s hopeful about romance and happiness, when the world I see outside of the book – in my reality – has a 24hr news cycle filled with pain and poverty, death and divorce, inequity and power politics. Sometimes, I just don’t want to think about all of that stuff. Sometimes, I just want to escape into a book. So why do I have to apologize TO ANYONE for wanting that book to be from the “Twilight” series?

Lastly, and most importantly: it’s a book. My first job – ever – when I was just about 14 years old, was as a page at a library near my house. I wasn’t allowed to help patrons (though I often did, on the sly); I was just supposed to shelve the books and organize the magazines. I did it with zest, loving finding out about new books, new authors, new magazines, new sources of reading material. I’m both stunned and incredibly pleased that dd was reading before she turned 5, and I beam with pride to see ds constantly want to be read to. Their appetite for books continues to grow, and I think that’s brilliant.

Literacy is a gift, and it’s one of the most important gifts there is out there. The ability to read is a skill that reaps incredible rewards; I can’t imagine going through life with only a barely functioning level of reading. You’d miss so much. And I’m a reader with a voracious appetite – I love devouring 800pp novels. Once I got sucked in by Stephenson’s Baroque cycle, I couldn’t stop, even though it took a few months of reading at night and it was something near 3,000pp. So, if I choose to read a “Twilight” book…if I choose to be literate…whose business is it to say that my reading material is of less value than whatever they think is so much better?

So, here’s the thing: the biggest difference between JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer (aside from their net worths) is that one’s English and the other’s American. They both got people reading more. This is a good thing. They both created fantastical worlds with their own rules and their own spin on “reality”. Again, this is a good thing. Let’s hoist these creative ladies up together and stop bashing.

No one should have to apologize for liking to read, so I’m not about to start.

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