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In defense of Stephenie Meyer

Sorry in advance for being all CAPSLOCK!-y on you today, folks.

So Stephenie Meyer, as you may know, is a producer now. Her production company’s first release (Austenland, hooray!) is coming out soon and she’s been doing the press tour for it and, as part of that press tour, she recently did an interview with Variety (as one does).

And in this interview, OF COURSE the interviewer goes there. And SM responded thusly:

DM: What about a return to “Twilight?”

SM: I get further away every day. I am so over it. For me, it’s not a happy place to be.

DM: Is the door completely closed on that?

SM: Not completely. What I would probably do is three paragraphs on my blog saying which of the characters died. I’m interested in spending time in other worlds, like Middle-Earth.

Whereupon the interwebs promptly exploded with the rage of the Twilight fandom. How dare she say she’s “over it”? How dare she write anything flippant about these characters? How dare she disrespect her fans this way? SHE OWES US. SHE IS NOTHING WITHOUT US. WE BOUGHT HER HER HOUSE DAGNABBIT! (language cleaned up for the sake of the tiny tots, obviously.)

And on Twitter at least, it wasn’t just the Twilight fans. Some writers were also upset, though definitely not quite to the same level. Their beef was generally along these lines: “If I ever say I am so over [INSERT NAME OF THEIR DEBUT NOVEL HERE] you have permission to push me overboard off of my yacht while I am drinking champagne.” (This part really reminded me of the mommy wars section of the internet: If you are not treating your manuscript-child with the same love and reverence with which I treat my own manuscript-child you are no proper author and you probably WROTE YOUR BOOK SITTING IN A COFFEE SHOP PUMPED FULL OF CAFFEINE INSTEAD OF WRITING IT IN THE LOVING ENVIRONMENT OF YOUR OWN HOME ALL NATURAL THE WAY GOD INTENDED.)

(Sorry for that digression.)

So I’d just like to take this moment to say to anyone who got upset with Stephenie Meyer for the above quote:

LIGHTEN UP.

I have several issues with this latest backlash against her, several of which were already summed up in various places on Twitter by talented authors, agents, and readers. Sadly, I don’t have links to all of these excellent comments. (If you really want to see a good sampling, though, check out Maggie Steifvater’s Twitter account. It’s a good place to start.) So let me just say a few things myself.

1. SM did not say that she hates the Twilight books, nor did she spit upon them, nor did she laugh at anyone who read them, nor did she insult her fans in any way here. She simply said she is over Twilight. Now, eight-ish years ago, the word “Twilight” would have meant this:

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These days the word “Twilight” encompasses much, much more:

twilight_breaking_dawn_part2_posterimages-3images-1images-2images-4images-5

And most particularly, this. (Out of respect for SM, these are the only pictures of this type I’ll be posting, but the attacks both against the books/movies and Meyer herself are myriad and staggering. Full disclosure, I do find some of the Twilight mockery to be hilarious if done well, but much of it is sheer malice and hatred for the sake of hating.)

And let’s not forget the fun of having her intellectual property stolen and leaked all over the internet.

Now, leaving all questions of money aside, imagine that level of both devotion and hatred was your life for the last 10 years. Wouldn’t you be over it, too? Wouldn’t you maybe agree that it’s not a happy place to be?

Now, even considering the money, as Maggie Steifvater pointed out, if you were offered $3,000,000 to be cursed at every time you did everyday errands like shopping, would it still be worth it? I’m sure SM is grateful for the blessings Twilight has brought to her. But you can still be over something and remain grateful for the blessings it’s brought you. Personal example: I’ve struggled with infertility for years. I’ve met great friends because of it. I love my son in a deeper and different way than I might otherwise have done. I’ve learned a lot and grown as a person, and I’m grateful for all these things. But I am SO OVER infertility itself. It’s not a happy place to be.

2. Fans: Stephenie Meyer does not owe you anything. You pulled this argument once before when SM said she wasn’t going to finish writing Midnight Sun after the incomplete draft was leaked onto the internet. She didn’t owe that book to you then and she doesn’t owe anything to you now. Neil Gaiman explained this pretty well in reference to George R. R. Martin and readers’ entitlement issues (slight language warning). Twilight fans: the deal was, Stephenie wrote the books, and you paid for them. That’s the end of the deal between you right there. Anything else she chooses to do to interact with you or as regards writing more words is her choice and hers alone. She does not owe you anything new because you haven’t paid for anything new. You paying her the money was you fulfilling your part of the bargain as reader. You’ve already gotten your money’s worth. She didn’t force you to buy her books; you did that freely. You have no more claim on that money, and no claim on her. Deal with it. I repeat: STEPHENIE MEYER DOES NOT OWE YOU ANYTHING.

3. Third, which I perhaps ought to have mentioned first: If you read her comments again, she never actually insults or disparages or says anything against or belittles or derides or really even mentions her fans. This is NOT ABOUT YOU.

4. Authors: maybe you shouldn’t make any snap judgements about how you would never, ever say you were over your debut novel (which, please note again, SM did not actually say) until you’ve spent the last ten years listening to people EVERYWHERE berate 1) that book you worked so hard to write, 2) those characters you grew to love, 3) the movies you were so excited to see because your characters would be onscreen, and 4) you yourself. I know every author faces rejection and frequently have to deal with trolls, but how many can say that the majority of public opinion loudly reviles them? How many have the distinction of being the “it” thing to hate?

5. Let’s also not lose sight of the fact that she is, in essence, never going to be allowed to move on from her first project. I think this article does a great job of laying this out. All artists want to grow and challenge themselves and explore new things. Actors leave TV shows to do new things. *coughDowntonAbbeycough* Authors write new books and new series. Musicians write new songs. Architects build different kinds of buildings. Really, this is how art evolves, by letting people try new things and keep moving forward. One of my favorite authors (whom I will not name because I don’t have the exact quote here) has commented in the past that it’s a bit difficult when someone says that her debut novel is the best thing she’s ever written. Not because she doesn’t still love that novel, and not because she’s not proud of it, but because if she peaked that early and hasn’t gotten better or learned anything in the last few decades she’s been writing, then what was the point of writing all those other books (aside from the burning need to write and tell stories, of course)? SM has been living and breathing her debut project for the last 10 years and now that she’s starting to pursue new things, people aren’t letting her move forward. Could this maybe, possibly, have been her more polite way of saying “PLEASE SHUT UP WITH THE QUESTIONS ABOUT OLD PROJECTS ALREADY can’t we just focus on Austenland? I am more than just a bestselling cultural phenomenon, thank you very much.”

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Anyway. I’ll get off my soapbox now. The bottom line? The internet needs to chill out and leave SM alone for just a little bit. Follow her example and get over it.

Oh, and you all need to go see Austenland. Because it’s delightful (I was fortunate enough to see it at the Sundance Film Festival and you can bet I’ll be catching it at a theater near me).

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Year of 52 Books #14-17: Moonspinners, Decide, Bridget, and 39 Steps

So. In the interest of catching up (really this time), I’m just going to post a few thumbnail-type reviews.

14. The Moonspinners, by Mary Stewart

****

I love this book, and re-read it every year around Easter time (yes, that’s how far behind I am with my reviews) and then spend the next few months dreaming of Mediterranean holidays. This book chronicles the adventures of Nicola Ferris, a secretary at the British embassy in Athens, who takes an Easter holiday with her cousin in an out-of-the-way village in Crete. She promptly stumbles into a mystery involving a pair of brothers, kidnapping, thievery, boats, crab-pots and both attempted and accomplished murder. The action is great, but what I love best about this book is the feeling of place that the descriptions evoke. I can easily picture myself into the landscape and always come out of the book slightly bewildered and disappointed that I’m no longer sitting on a patio in the Greek sunshine sipping mint drinks. Four stars.

15. How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer

***

This was another Kindle Daily Deal which I picked up on a whim because I thought, looking at the title, that it might help me with some of my less-decisive tendencies. In fact, in the author’s note on this book, he explains that he decided to write it because he was tired of spending fifteen minutes in the cereal aisle trying to decide between Apple Cinnamon and Honey Nut Cheerios every time he went grocery shopping. However, this book isn’t a how-to guide like you might expect, but more of a how-do guide to the brain and its inner workings. Lehrer opens each chapter with a fascinating story of a real-life situation in which a type of decision was made (such as the Mann Gulch fire, which Megan talked about in her review of Young Men and Fire), and then talks about what parts of the brain and which brain functions influenced, prevented, or made such a decision possible. Most of the time it was fascinating, although sometimes I admit I got bogged down in the super-scientific parts. But if you are interested in the ways the brain works and affects such things as panic, intuition, gambling, autism, serial killers, memory, addiction, etc., then you’ll enjoy this book. The writing style is clear and coherent so that even the super-technical parts are understandable, and the storytelling parts are, quite simply, riveting. Unfortunately, though, it didn’t help with my cereal selection process. Three stars.

16. Bridget Jones’ Diary, by Helen Fielding

***

It had been several years since I’d read this, and flying out of my home state and hometown to move to a new city across the country called for something light-hearted. My Kindle offered me this. And it did what it needed to, in that I was distracted and diverted, but I was a bit disappointed to find out that I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first time I’d read it. Maybe it’s that I’ve gotten older and don’t have the patience for as much juvenile-type behavior as Bridget engages in. I don’t know. Despite my impatience with some of her antics, though, Bridget did manage to get in a few great lines, for which I must give her (and Fielding) due credit. My favorite lines this time around (in no particular order):

On the end of a relationship:

It’s no good. When someone leaves you, apart from missing them, apart from the fact that the whole little world you’ve created together collapses, and that everything you see or do reminds you of them, the worst is the thought that they tried you out and, in the end, the whole sum of parts adds up to you got stamped REJECT by the one you love. How can you not be left with the personal confidence of a passed-over British Rail sandwich?

On trying to set the VCR record function:

Feel exactly the same as feel when trying to follow signposts on roads. Know in heart that signposts and video manual do not make sense but still cannot believe authorities would be so cruel as to deliberately dupe us all. Feel incompetent fool and as if everyone else in world understands something which is being kept from me.

And of, course, the classic:

It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting “Cathy” and banging your head against a tree.

All in all, a fun read. Three stars.

17. The 39 Steps, by John Buchan

****

In the interest of full disclosure, I “read” this in audiobook format, which I still think totally counts, while pushing a napping toddler around the apartment complex. This book follows expatriate Scot Richard Hannay, who has recently returned to London from southern Africa and is about to die of boredom. He has determined to leave the country again when he is approached by a stranger claiming to hold information vital to the security of the nation, and who pleads for Hannay’s assistance in hiding him until he can contact the proper people. Hannay puts him up for the night but ignores the wilder flights of his guest’s tales of political plotting. However, when his guest is murdered, leaving Hannay his notebook, Hannay finds that he must not only believe the wild tales of his guest, but must also dodge both the British police (who suspect him of being the murderer) and a formidable force of foreign spies bent on silencing Hannay before he can thwart their nefarious plans.

Bottom line: great book. Lots of action, lots of intrigue, lots of close calls and lots of fun. I’d seen several film adaptations of this story so was excited to get the chance to discover the original. I think the original is of course the best, but was surprised by just how many universal elements from the adaptations were missing from the original book. For example, I kept waiting and waiting for the beautiful woman to appear so they would be forced to run across Scotland handcuffed together and outwitting dangerous spies and . . . nothing. No woman at all other than one or two throwaway characters like farmers’ wives and the like.

I was pleased to find, however, that the resourcefulness, daring and general awesomeness that characterize the Richard Hannay of the adaptations were all there and more. Definitely a character you enjoy spending time with, and certainly one you’d want to have on your side in a pinch. Four stars.

I loved the version I listened to (done by BJ Harrison of The Classic Tales Podcast). I highly recommend checking out his podcasts and audiobooks if you haven’t yet done so.

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Preview of coming attractions.

So I don’t know how many people are actually reading this at this point, but I just wanted to give all y’all a quick shout out to reassure you that I have not, in fact, given up on this venture. It’s just that I’m in the middle of a very sudden and unexpected (but good) cross-country move and haven’t had the necessary time or brainpower to write properly thought-out reviews of the books I’ve been reading. But at some point in the coming weeks I will get proper reviews written for the following books, so stay tuned:

  • #6: The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. (Needed something light and comforting and awesome after the emotionally harrowing experience that was Wintergirls. This is a favorite re-read of mine, and it had been a long time since I’d revisited it.)
  • #7: Midnight in Austenland, by Shannon Hale. (Read this in one sitting. I love anything by Shannon Hale, I loved Austenland, I love mysteries, and I loved this book.)
  • #8: The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins. (Hosted this book for my book club. Love the early mystery style. This is another book I revisit every couple of years or so.)

Thanks for your patience, and I hope to be back to regularly scheduled blogging (well, regular ANYTHING, really) as soon as possible.

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Bibliophilia.

The first book I can remember loving was Miffy in the Hospital, by Dick Bruna. I don’t remember right now if my mom checked it out from the library for me specifically in preparation for my tonsillectomy at age two and a half, if she’d already read it to me many times before then and just revisited it on the eve of my own trip to the hospital, or if it actually came later in my reading life and I’ve retroactively superimposed it onto my memories of getting my tonsils out, but the fact remains that Miffy was a major part of my childhood book experience. It was a book-love that I shared with all of my younger sisters, and I’m pretty sure the library’s copy spent more time on our bookshelf at home than it did on the library shelves. 

I’m sure I (or my mother) shared Miffy with my older brother, too, but being a boy I don’t know if he connected to the little girl rabbit on quite as deep a level. He did, however, connect deeply to the second book I can remember loving: The Great Steamboat Mystery, by Richard Scarry.

This was another book that we could have easily made a case for ownership-through-adverse-possession, and it was a dark day indeed in our house when the librarian told us that their copy had been lost, and they couldn’t replace it because it was out of print. My siblings and I all cried, and I’m pretty sure my mom shed a secret tear, too, although she put on a brave face for us children. We eventually moved on with our lives, as people do after great losses, but every now and then one of us would say, “Do you remember The Great Steamboat Mystery? I miss that book.” It was a book we loved, and had therefore become a fundamental part of our identities.

(Incidentally, this was how my husband managed to finagle his way into the good graces of my family right off the bat, back when he was only my boyfriend. I had told him in passing about these two lost books of my childhood—the library’s Miffy having eventually suffered a similar fate as Steamboat, also marked by many shed tears—and he had stored the information away for later use. Later use, of course, being that he got on eBay as soon as he got home and tracked down a copy of each, and then had them delivered to my parents’ house for me to open on Christmas. The peasants all rejoiced greatly, and Husband was pronounced to be a great guy. My copies of Miffy in the Hospital and The Great Steamboat Mystery still occupy important spots on my bookshelf to this day.)

I guess my basic point is that I love books, and they affect the way I shape my relationships to this day. My closest friends love books like I love books, which is to say like I love sunshine and goodness and breathing (Scout Finch’s proclamation notwithstanding). I once had a boss who bragged that he had never finished reading a book in his life; you can imagine how well that work experience went.

I love books that are well-written, books that are horribly written (although for different reasons), books that are classics and books that are fluff, and pretty much anything in between.

I love the feeling you get when you fall in love with a book. I don’t mean a little fleeting crush or a passing attraction, but honest-to-goodness, life-changing love. While I’m reading a book like that, it gives me a rush of excitement every time I think of it. When can I slip away to meet it again? What’s going on behind that cover? Does it like me, too? (Okay, not so much that last one. Okay, I lied. I totally anthropomorphize books and pretend they love me back and we’re involved in an epic love affair. Only, you know, clean, because I’m married and love my husband and all.)

This response is so intense sometimes that I find myself, after finally reading the last sentence and closing the back cover of one of these love-of-my-life books, hesitant to pick up a new book and start reading. It won’t be the same—the characters will be different, the pages won’t feel right, and most of all, it feels like cheating on my newfound love. In order to get my feet back on the ground again, figuratively speaking, I have to spend time with a book that’s an old friend first, one where the relationship is already easy and established and comfortable as an old pair of shoes. Re-reading is the only thing better than reading, just like old friends are the only thing better than making new friends.

And that’s why I love books. And that’s the reason for this blog.

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Welcome.

Hi.

I’m Ellie. I read, I write, I edit, I breathe (usually). I love old movies, and I love new movies. I spend most of my time hanging out with my toddler son and my husband. In short, my life is fairly ordinary, but I love it.

Welcome to LitGroupie. This is where I will geek out about books, movie adaptations of books, authors, writing, book clubs and the like.

Please feel free to pull up a comfy chair and join the discussion.

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