Saturday

2 June 2012

Asked during another discussion, directly of me, but meant in good humor. There wasn't one among us who had not felt the sting of snobby criticism—every writer is accused of writing crap at one time or another—but the truth is, I meant what I'd said. I did not agree with the sneering volumes of people poking critical sticks at Stephenie Meyer over her massively selling trilogy.

How in the hell can you defend the clusterfuck of writing that is Twilight?

Easy.

It's about the reading. It's about the kids who ate those books up like candy; and that's what they are, literary candy. Written chocolate with peppermint flakes and a gooey chocolate center. And really, there's nothing wrong with candy every now and then.

More than that...those books—like Maniac Magee and Goosebumps and Harry Potter—got kids excited about reading. Kids who otherwise would prefer to vegetate in front of a TV screen poured themselves into those books. They sat still, they soaked in the story, held their breaths at twists and turns, and squealed at how things turned out.

Poorly written? Maybe.

Did any of those kids care? No.

Would it have mattered to them if if did? Hell, no.

I'm in favor of anything that gets a kid to read. Pop fiction, comic books, the back of cereal boxes—if they'll happily read and it's not something that will harm them intellectually or emotionally, let them read and embrace the fact that they're willingly taking the time to read.

It doesn't matter if the grammar was off, sentence structure uneven, or even that Meyer's vampires sparkle in the sun and waste dozens of years in high school rather than spending that time trying to cure cancer. What matters is that a story was told that tapped into the interests of thousands of kids (and adults, let's be honest) and it brought them into the consumption of literature.

One treasured story tends to lead to a search for another, and then another; who cares if the writing was sloppy and the bits and pieces of the plot unworthy of Pulitzer consideration? These kids are reading. There's a good chance they'll keep reading.

The same can be said for a plethora of non-reading adults out there; they wanted to see what the big deal was, picked up the first book, and kept reading.

It's a good thing.

There's a style of writing, often referred to as Hi/Lo, that is specifically intended for adults who don't typically read for fun because their reading abilities hover between 6-8 grade. Hi/Lo books are usually adult-level novels written so that the average 12 to 14 year old can fall into the story without the struggle of comprehension. If you picked one up and started reading, chances are you wouldn't realize that the book you have in hand was meant for someone who hates reading because they simply don't have a high school level of reading ability. If the story is good, you'd fall into it, and it wouldn't be until much later that the style of writing was a little bit different. The intended target market, however, notices; they have in hand something they finally enjoy, something that doesn't feel burdened by the expectations of a bloated vocabulary and excessive narrative.

Give someone a book they love, and they'll seek out more. The more they read, the more their reading comprehension increases. The more they comprehend, the more the literary world expands for them, and along with that comes knowledge.

I don't see Twilight as being any different.

Forget the fact that it's not the best writing out there. It brings literature and literacy to the table, makes it accessible, and makes those kids want to read.

And wanting to read is never—at least not in my book—a bad thing.

9 comments:

Camie's Kitties said...

Exactly - while I didn't read the Twilight Saga (I don't like vampire and werewolf fiction), I agree that anything that gets someone to read is a good thing. I used to tutor kids in reading and writing, and the first book I would choose was Harry Potter because while it may have been controversial, it made the kids want to find out what happened next, and if I could hook them with the first book, I knew they would crave the rest of the stories.

Good article.
Tara

april said...

I agree completely. I loved Twilight, but I read it at a time in my life where I was battling some things and it was an easy escape. It will hold a place in my heart even though I recognize that it's not good writing. This argument is the same one I point to every time someone mentions an author that I truly despise (like James Patterson). Whatever gets people reading. I read so much and so fast that I don't always feel like I can be picky, but I will put a book down if I just can't get through the poor writing or if I can't suspend that for the storyline.

Cheysuli and gemini said...

Hated Twilight--not for the writing but for the story line. However, to quote Kris Rusch at you AGAIN (let us know when you are sick of it!), if you want to be a good writer you have to be a good story teller. Okay, maybe you aren't "literary" fiction that gets all the critics in rave, but you know what? Couldn't put the blasted thing down even though Bella and Edward clearly had no clue what a healthy relationship looked like. That's a good story teller...

Angel and Kirby said...

Kids do not judge a book by its authors skill but by the content and the authors ability to tell a good story! Any thing that will get kids reading can not be all bad!

Spikey's mom said...

Amen sistah!

caircair said...

I never read the Twilight series - it didn't appeal to me - but I have to defend all such books. My grandmother taught me the love of reading, and one of the things I learned is that a good bad book is quite enjoyable. Besides, unless you've read the bad stuff, how can you know when you read great writing? It's like hot dogs and filet mignon - they're both good in their own way.

David E. Francis said...

I'm with you on this: if someone picks up a book and reads it, they're more likely to pick up another book. If they like the next book, they'll pick up another; and then, another. What I look for in a book is characters that are believable, a plot that is understandable, and a story about the human condition. If the writer can get his description of what is happening in the story across clearly, I don't think it matters, or even really care, if the material is not written in formal English.

I didn't read the Twilight series because I find the whole idea of vampires, werewolves, and zombies as total fantasy. No human has the ability to transform their body into another form, (shape-shift). However, I did enjoy, very much, Stephanie Meyer's "The Host". In "Twilight" she wrote fantasy, in "Host" she wrote science-fiction.

Dee

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. Anything that gets people reading is good. I hate those Silhouette Romances,read one you have read them all. This is also the way I feel about Barbara Cartland books, too. However, if it gets someone reading, it is worth something.

I tried the "Twilight" books but I am too old for all that teenage angst. However, my granddaughter loves them and had read then, so, more power to them.

Judy (kenju) said...

I didn't read Meyer's books and don't intend to, but I agree with you - anything that gets people reading is good enough. Four of my six grand chilren are readers. One of the others was "forced" to read The Hunger Games (because all her friends were) and she found she really liked it. I have hope that she will read more often now.