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VIEW: The Dawn of Twilight (Introducing the world of Stephanie Meyer)

By: Afrah Jamal
Published in The Post Dec 2008?

Till September 2008 it was easy to be oblivious to the Twilight phenomena. That was before a determined salesperson went around citing bestseller status to foist all four books on the credulous; before its movies’ theatrical trailer hit the internet in HD and definitely before the (magnificent) soundtrack made its unofficial debut. Since then the time has come to set aside any prejudice against young adult novels and enter the world of Stephanie Meyers, bestselling author of the Twilight Saga.

Given Twilights’ alleged crossover appeal (it was initially submitted under both A - Adult and YA - Young Adult) and the fact that all four books along with a Complete Illustrated Movie Companion are perched atop Amazons best seller list, this should not require major compromise. Even so the series is brought home more for the (ignoble) purposes of forensic examination in a (cynical) bid to determine its professed entertainment value if any, than actual interest in yet another presentation of monster piece theatre. Before long however, cynicism is tossed out the window as wonder sets in with the revelation of Meyer’s true genius for turning a vivid dream that inspired Twilight Book-I into a heartfelt tale spanning four more, on a subject powerful enough to resonate with any age.

Set in contemporary times, this emotionally charged drama takes place in Forks Washington and has a delightfully interactive feel from the outset for it is told from 17 year old Isabella Swans perspective. Forks, with its small town status would ordinarily be seen as a social death sentence for any teen. Instead, it ends up as the pivotal point of Bella’s life, beginning after an encounter with that very enigmatic Cullen boy. From here onwards, Meyer builds the story around Bella and her new found obsession with just enough intensity to keep the tension alive all through the 450 or so pages of Book I.

Casting implausible relationships in a familiar mould makes Meyers characters and their tragic dilemmas surprisingly easy to empathize with. Stephanie’s take on some monsters is also a definite improvement. They are neither sinister nor vile and come with devastating good looks and traditional values - which means that where instant gratification is the norm, they at least know the meaning of good old fashioned restraint. Perhaps the story’s appeal is as embedded in the touching bonds forged in defiance of nature as it is in Meyer’s ironic depiction of a model relationship with the one who serves as the embodiment of an ideal human being and lives on the fringes of what is considered human. In the end, this character ends up being every bit as compelling (for some of us) as the heroes created by literary giants of yesteryears.

Bella’s story does not end with Twilight and the compulsion to read ‘New Moon’, ‘Eclipse’ and finally ‘Breaking Down’ gets even stronger after the initial instalment. Stephanie Meyers special gift to spin a supernatural fantasy into a beautiful, if macabre love story can be fully appreciated only after going through the entire Twilight Saga.

Granted, not everything in Meyer’s world can be embraced as readily; in fact, not everything will be. For some the existence of monsters may be more believable and less misleading than Meyers (flawless) representation of ‘true love’ (however desirable that may seem), while others will be blindsided by Bella’s troubling decision in Book 4. Nevertheless, the series would be considered tame by modern standards, except for the final ‘Breaking Dawn’ which has its share of dark and disturbing parts and the darkness barely works even in the context of that world. But somehow even this is unlikely to weaken the hold these beloved characters have upon readers and the absorption with their fate continues long after the series has ended.

Since Stephanie Meyer has decided to tell the story from Edward Cullen’s perspective in ‘Midnight Sun’, fans will get another chance to re-live the events of Forks. For now the fixation with Bella, Edward and Jacob has reached fever pitch with the casting of Kirsten Stewart (played Jodie Fosters daughter in Panic room), Robert Pattinson (Cedric in Harry Potter 4) and Taylor Lautner (Shark boy….in, er.. Shark boy!) in the movie adaptation of Book I that also features a brilliant soundtrack thus paying tribute to the musical influences on Stephanie’s writing.

All four books are available in bookstores now and come November, the much anticipated movie version will be finally released. Many think that now would be the perfect time to capitalize on the immense popularity of these books and let fans ‘experience’ Twilight – the movie in Pakistan in its intended cinemascope format instead of some wretched bootlegged edition.

The End

Twilight was never released in Pakistan. Folks ended up watching the bootlegged edition after all.

Update: The Second Short Life of Bree Tanner is out now. 05 June 2010

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