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Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
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Maggie Stiefvater
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Neil Patrick Harris
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Bryan A. Garner
New Moon - Stephenie Meyer I know a couple of things about love. I know that when you meet the truelove, you “just know” because it’s like you walked with that person once upon a dream. Out to dinner one time, I overheard a man at another table describing this perfectly:

“I was at a bar the other night," he said, "and I looked across the room and suddenly noticed this girl. I felt like I had seen her before, but I couldn’t think where I might have met her, so I thought I was probably in love. You know, like they say, ‘The first time I saw her, I felt like I had seen her before.’ Then, while I was looking at her, my mouth started to water. So, I thought that’s probably what it’s like when you fall in love – your body just reacts to the other person.

"Then, I realized that she’s the girl who serves me at Taco Bell.”

That’s pretty much the story of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan as they walk on the scene in New Moon. The problem is, to continue the Taco Bell metaphor, Edward and his family are, like, ravenous fans of Mexican food. They’re like high college kids. And Bella’s not the girl who serves the tacos, she is the taco. You can see how that would be a problem.

I also know that it’s statistically proven that once a girl falls in love, if she’s ever away from the boy she loves, she goes into a coma. Traditionally, this used to happen because of the evil fairy who put a spell on the girl. Nowadays, it happens because of psychology, but this all becomes an argument in semantics, and who wants to have the dark fairy/brain waves fight again? Not me. Some go with faith and some with evidence, but let’s still be friends.

What I’m trying to say is that New Moon is an American girl reinvention of Sleeping Beauty. (Not American Girl with a capital ‘G’ – that would be way too creepy for me. This is just a vampire/warewolf story, don’t worry.) It’s American girl in the sense that instead of helpful, matronly fairies (so retro-Euro) our heroine in New Moon finds some smokin’ hot Native American boys to keep her company while she’s away from her truelove. Also, instead of baking a silly cake, they build a motorcycle – less tasty, but way more badass (in theory, if not execution). Otherwise, the stories are basically the same. They are especially similar in that the villains, not the heroes, are the stars of the show. The Bellrora (Aurella?) character is stupid, jumping off cliffs with no cliff-jumping training and climbing all through the castle to prick her finger on the only spinning-wheel needle around. You have to want to slap this girl. The villains, on the other hand, have pizzazz. Maleficent is the reason to watch Sleeping Beauty just as the Volturi are the only thing that make New Moon readable. Actually, these stories are not just read/watchable, I even really like both of them because of the villains.

The major technical place where the Twilight Saga went wrong, to my mind, was in staying with the Edward/Bella love story, which was mostly drained of any blood (bah dum tsss) in the first book. The more I got to know these characters, the more I realized that I didn’t much care for them in the first place, which is too bad because I would rather think I like them. It would have been easier to do so if Bella had undied in the first book, and Meyer moved on to tell the love stories of the other vamps in the Cullen club in the rest of the books. The thing I like the most about Meyer, however, is that she’s not ever crafting a story, she’s always just telling you what happened to her bf’s in fantasy land. She is so in love with Bella and Edward that she had to continue with their story. This has its obvious downsides technically, but it also has the major upside that nothing seriously bad ever happens to a Meyer character. Drama, sure, but no real tragedy. I hope she continues with this M.O. in the future because if you know that’s the kind of story you’re getting into, it makes for a really relaxing read. And it comes as naturally to her as perpetual frustration does to Joss Whedon or gettin in ur revew an makin ur awgumentz does to an LOLcat. I can appreciate all of them. I really hate it when I feel that an author ruins a character’s life just to prove something to the literati, and because a sad ending would be so unnatural to Meyer, I hope she doesn’t sell out.

So, there are these things I know about love from Disney and Stephenie Meyer (to recap: love at first sight, coma), but there are other things I don’t understand about love. For example, I don’t know why what I know about love would sound like a good idea to anyone. This plays out within the New Moon story in a way that is beautiful and even slightly profound, though almost certainly unintentional. The Twilight Saga is all about addiction and abstinence. Edward was unborn into his addiction to blood. Most vampires are so consumed by their desire for blood that they lose all control over their bodies when they smell it. Meyer venerates the Cullens for resisting human blood, in contrast, and clearly endorses their abstinence. Everything about Bella’s passion for Edward, however, has the same markings of crazy as the vampires’ blood addiction. She even loses it when he kisses her in the same way Meyer describes the vampires frenzying for blood. Without Edward, Bella basically dies. Meyer does not characterize Bella’s obsession as the evil addiction that highlights the Cullens’ good abstinence, though.

She probably doesn’t make the open distinction because it is a genuine inconsistency in the theme of the story, but I think it is less revealing of a flaw in Meyer’s writing than a true contradiction in American values. Don’t do drugs, kids, but when you meet your soul mate you will know because of the intoxicated feeling, and the best thing you can do is give up everything and live happily ever after. Maybe the idea is that drugs are a bad substitution for the natural high of intimacy. I’m not even scare quoting “intimacy” because I really do think the idea I’m talking about is sharing everything, not just sex. It seems to me, though, that both drugs and intimacy are a bad substitute for being an actual person. I’ve had friends who successfully avoid themselves by being obsessed with weed, and I’ve had friends who avoid themselves by being obsessed with their significant other. It honestly doesn’t look that different to me, and both end up being at the same time extreme and boring to be around.

The “happily ever after” message admittedly creeps me out a little bit. I appreciate how awkwardly it works out in New Moon, though. I’m not going to claim that Meyer’s satirical skills are what make this series a pretty wonderful satire on American culture, but nevertheless I do think it is one. I actually think it is a more successful satire for its lack of self-awareness and defenses. People react in disproportionate anger to it because of what it reinforces in our values, not because of stilted dialog and the anachronistic use of the Discman. While many of us grew up with different ideas about spirituality or politics, most of us have the commonality of knowing from Disney, our true cultural parent, that a girl sleeps until her truelove battles through the traps of evil to find her and give her love’s true kiss. I don’t think it’s bad for that idea to be out there, and I think Meyer mixes it up in a nice way by having the girls save the day once this book actually starts to get good. I don’t like or agree with the idea, though, and I regret most of the ways that I have let ideas like that influence my own life. I don’t like the idea that these stories encourage kids to think that love should look like addiction, but I also hope that reading a story won’t force kids to become co-dependent.

I guess I feel about Disney, and The Saga as its awkward stepsister, like that quote Augustine is attributed with having said, “The Church is a whore, but she’s my mother.” It’s probably possible to say that of anything deeply cultural that we struggle with but ultimately feel connected to. It has that level of, “I can say what I want about my family, but you’d better watch your mouth,” but also an acknowledgment that we can honor our roots and disagree with them at the same time. Sleeping Beauty isn’t a future that I embrace, but it is a past that I feel tender about. There is something so certain and easy about true love’s kiss that it is comforting, even though ultimately I think I prefer the brutal unpredictability of life. Less anemic. I don’t like for books to imitate life, though. There’s enough of reality everywhere without books forcing it on us. I like for books to be action-packed, hilarious, and melodramatic. It is nice when books can achieve some kind of insight into life even if the story is far removed from reality, but I don’t need that. I’m happy with crazy villains and unintentional satire, but if I read this again I plan to skip the boring part where Bella is sleepwalking. Sleeping Beauty is a more successful story in that Aurora knew to find a bed with a nice canopy and leave the action to the other characters.