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8.30.2008

the inevitable twilight


I suppose I always knew it would happen. I work books, after all, and these things are the hottest things going. Of course, that reasoning hasn't made me pick up A New Earth or The Last Lecture, or even Stori Telling - but it does have some sway with my choices. Some. A little. Okay, the real reason I picked up Twilight the other day and started reading it in earnest (I am done now and moving on to the next book after work) was because I was talking to Chaeli on the phone while cruising up the 405 (Jenny B was at the wheel - no law-breaking for me), and Chaeli said: 'You have to read them. It is so good for people to be reading these books right now.' So I thought, 'Alright already. If they're culturally relevant, I'll read them.'

Let me clarify, I did not avoid these books because I thought they'd be stupid. I'd read the first few pages and knew the writing wasn't bad. And I was 100% certain I would enjoy them. That was half the problem. They are romance novels. Teen romance, at that. And I have been trying very hard to be grown-up about my emotions and ideals.

But a culturally relevant novel is very different from a teen romance novel. A culturally relevant novel is very different from a popular novel (I can see my flatmates scowling at me). And so I read Twilight from beginning to end in less than three days. I know, I could have finished it in one, but I had to work some of the time.

Just as I predicted, the writing was harmless, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I fully intend to purchase an 'I Heart Edward Cullen' t-shirt - mostly for the irony, but also because it is completely and utterly, ridiculously, marvelously true. Like a girl can help it. He is a nearly perfect being. And it is not just his appearance that is flawless. Muscles and shimmery skin are, like, whatever. It's more than that.

And that's just where I got Chaeli wrong. She wasn't saying it was culturally relevant. She was saying it's important for people. Because in the most simple language, and in the most unintentional way, this book is about unconditional love: agape. I closed this book, not with fantasies of demigod vampires spinning around my head, but with a renewed, impassioned love for Jesus. Edward Cullen (and you may quote me) is like Jesus. He is beautiful as the angel of the Lord, more human than those around him - not less - as C. S. Lewis's heaven-dwellers in The Great Divorce. He knows the hearts and minds of all around him - and yet few ever acknowledge him. Most of all, he loves a completely ordinary, unsuspecting girl. And his love makes her extraordinary, unique, and worth a heck of a lot of trouble. He calls her by name. He listens to her every word, whether the news is new or not, as though it is the most important thing for him to do at that moment. He loves her not for her appearance (he often admires her in her muckiest, bruised, or groggy states), but for something essential to her being. Yes, yes, her blood - this is, after all, a vampire story. But is that not also like Jesus? He loves us for the very things that make us human.

I could go on for a good long while, but I don't want you to think I picked this novel apart with all the force of my Christianese, desperately trying to fit it into a formulaic gospel-box. I was not looking for Jesus in the pages of Twilight. I have also not read the next three books - for all I know (though I strongly doubt it), Mr. Cullen could completely destroy my epiphany in the first chapter of New Moon. I just wanted to say that when I put down the book, I saw Jesus staring down at me from the cross with the most intense concentration - seeing me, and desiring my intimacy to such an extent that he would sneak himself onto the boards of my execution (it was very sneaky - my demons had no idea till it was too late). Even then, stretching my pain between his hands, he looked down at me - holding a silly teen book in my two hands - and he called me by name. And he said, 'I would do it again. I would go to hell and come back again.' He saved my life.

I have a feeling I would fall in love with any man who saved my life. Certainly with one who died to keep me alive. So far, Jesus is the only one who's done it. I know Edward Cullen is a fictional vampire. I am not waiting even half a second for him to come knocking on my door. But I am stunned to silence and tears with love for one who's far better - being real, and very much a man.

I made a soundtrack for the Breaking Dawn party before I'd read anything more than inane quotations and fan gushings. According to Jenny B, it is a very fitting soundtrack. But I know now, having read the first of them, that I left out three essential songs. They are from Coldplay's X&Y album. I listened to these three songs almost exclusively the summer after I graduated, when I lived with Megan. I don't know how to post MP3s, so I will let you hunt them down for yourselves if you feel at all inclined: 'Fix You,' 'A Message,' and 'Til Kingdom Come.' These songs represent my first dawning realizations that the love Jesus has for me is more personal and intent and intense than the love of a man for a woman or a father for a daughter or any other dichotomy of affection you could conjure.

I have run out of words and still not spoken anything of what I mean. Not a breath of it. Blur. Just read the book yourself, then.

2 comments:

  1. I didn't read your post; in fact I'm a little annoyed with it. You've wrecked the pleasure of looking at readers of these books with sheer condescension. Today, I overheard a girl who is above me at work expressing her love of these books. And I wanted nothing but to think, "You may make more money than me, but you read shitty books." But then I thought of you, and walked out of the room.

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