A little more than a year ago I went on a road trip that wound through some of the more spectacular scenery here in the Pacific Northwest. We took in the view from Hurricane Ridge, watched orcas cresting in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and felt our own insignificance beside ancient trees in the Hoh Rainforest.
One sight that we more or less breezed through on a pit stop was Forks, the tiny hamlet on the edge of the Olympic Peninsula which, since the release of the film version of Stephenie Meyer’s chart-breaking bestseller Twilight has become something of a tourist hot-spot, especially for families with adolescent girls. Visitors now can enjoy seeing the high school where Bella, the awkward heroine, first encounters Edward, the sensitive but extremely macho vampire. They can also see other sites touted to be the actual places these fictional events occurred, although true Twilight aficionados will tell you the film was actually filmed in British Columbia, but it’s the thought that counts, right?
At the time of our road trip the Twilight books were selling like hotcakes, and I had brought the first volume along for something to read, and to see what all the fuss was about (and this was before the fuss really got its game on). As we drove slowly through Forks we saw one homely sign that touted a “Twilight Special” at a local motel, but that was about it. The Twilight fans had not been hit with the image of Robert Pattinson yet.
Not long ago we had dinner with some friends who have a daughter in the target market age, and they regaled us with an enthusiastic account of their recent pilgrimage to Forks, where they saw not only the house Bella lived in, and the school she attended, but the truck she drove, the house Edward’s family lived in, etc. etc. Clearly the Twilight tide has lifted many boats in Forks.
It’s become fashionable in certain literary circles to sneer at Stephenie Meyer’s writing, as if anyone could have done what she has, such as land a $750,000 contract during a pitched bidding war with the first book she ever wrote. Hah. I suspect most of those sneering may be feeling just a wee pinch of envy at the 75 million books Ms. Meyer has sold so far with her Twilight saga.
I read the entire series eventually, although I slowed down after the second book because it looked to me as if we were headed toward a conclusion that no mother could love (although Meyer is the mother of three sons, so clearly the ending felt right to her). But, although the end of book four ties things up squarely for the most part, my criticism remains. Perhaps some mothers would be pleased to see their daughters become vampires and suck happily ever after. But while I yield to no one in the readiness with which I can suspend disbelief in the most improbable fictions, when it comes to a mother’s love, I’m less flexible. I didn’t enjoy Toni Morrison’s Beloved, for instance, because it was just too painful, but I wouldn’t deny the power of her observation and the truth of the emotions she puts on the page. The mother in Beloved commits a horrific act, but one that is consistent with a mother’s passion for her children. There’s a lot of passion in the Twilight series. But a mother’s love is nowhere in it.
Still, that hasn’t hurt sales. And the cross marketing continues to boldly grow where vampires have never gone before. This Christmas the hot Barbie dolls are the “Twilight” series, Bella and Edward in plastic, proving that reality still tops fiction for sheer wackiness.