Monthly Archives: August 2009

Twilight and Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer

I didn’t bother with the middle two books of the series because I’m like that. Normally I go right to the end of a book, read the last few pages, and see if I still want to read the whole thing.  Twilight was surprisingly enjoyable.  Breaking Dawn not so much.

I never ever planned on reading any of Stephanie Meyer’s books, for the same reason I never plan on watching any Monty Python.  Self respect.  I liked the movie Twilight well enough, and the book was on the kindle, so I thought “what the heck.”  It was my inner team girl’s dream come true.  The bad boy liking the unique, special girl I identified with, even though their love is wrong.  Steamy kisses, a lot of staring into each others’ eyes, and the promises of love forever.

It had part mystery, part love story, part action.  I liked the back story explaining away most of the popular vampire myths.  It never made sense why vampires would need to sleep (or in coffins for that matter).  Sleeping is when the body heals, vampires are dead, so why sleep?  Why should they be harmed by crosses, holy water, or the sunlight?  Other than someone said they should in another book.  I did like the streamlined version of a vampire Stephanie Meyer offered.  More animal like, more instinct and hunter driven.  It made Edward and the gang more likable and the story more believable.

The only problem with Twilight, and this is a big problem, is that Stephanie Meyer can’t get beyond the use of simple adjectives like perfect, beautiful, and angelic, and she has an insane amount of adverbs in there.  “Edward was so inhumanly, unbelievably, undubitably, bippitly, boppitly perfect.”  Even my inner 14 year old rolled her eyes.  Stephanie Meyer was an English major too, so I can’t understand the repetition of lame descriptions that goes on.  This is the only book I’ve ever read where I groaned out loud from the ridiculousness.  My boyfriend who read the book as well said it felt like Stephanie Meyer herself has an unhealthy obsession with Edward.  Agreed.  It does get weird.

I didn’t bother with books two or three because, well, I don’t like to read.  My boyfriend told me nothing happens in book two, they get engaged in book three, so I skipped to book four thinking that was where all the good parts where.  Breaking Dawn may be one of the few books I wish I could somehow unread.  A few days after I saw Harry Potter 6, I had the urge to see it again.  Not because it was good, but because my mind refused to believe that was it.  My mind did the same thing with Breaking Dawn.  For several days after finishing the book, I kept thinking I had to read the rest of it, but that was it.

Stephanie Meyer was so descriptive with the touching and the kissing in the first book that I thought, yeah, finally gonna get some vampire lovin’.  Nope, I didn’t even get that.  Just lame “intertwining of limbs until we became one.”  The first section detailing the marriage and honeymoon was a quick read.  The pregnancy was slightly intriguing.  But when the book switched over to Jacob’s point of view, I could have cared less.  I thought he was supposed to be a great romantic rival to Edward, but it seems he became their house dog.  He literally because their pet.  I skimmed the pages and if it didn’t mentioned Edward, Bella, or the stupidly named Renessme, I just went to the next page.

It was interesting when Bella finally became a vampire, but where Stephanie Meyer could have let Bella really develop into an amazing powerful fighter, she holds back because Bella’s “power” is self restraint.  Ugh.  Those were really the only interesting chapters.

The final section of the “great” end battle was like watching curling or chess.  No matter how you tell it, they are not exciting sports.  They are thinking games.  Not how you end a book series.  I wanted epic, instead there was pink shields, shimmery mist, and a lot of hissing.  One forgettable character died.  There were no stakes, no tension.  Just mind reading, looking fearful without any real reason to be.  Total fizzle.  I am all about romance and happy endings.  I want all of my movies to end with the lovers together and the bad people punished, everyone living happily ever after.  But the syrupy sweet ending of Breaking Dawn felt like I got cheated which made me not care about Edward and Bella’s happy ending.

I’ll still go to watch all four movies because hopefully Hollywood won’t disappoint me and they’ll make Edward and Bella work for their happy ending.  Or at least kill off way more people on the way.

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The Art of Selfishness by David Seabury

I love me some self help books.  Anything to give me the tiniest hint of how to be a happier person, I will eat up.  My boyfriend thinks all self help books are a marketing ploy for lonely, low self-esteemed housewives.  That it’s just the same message over and over, and  when boiled down to its basic message, it’s just “Are you sad? Don’t Be!”

I try to explain to him that lumping all self help books into one generalized category is like saying, “I don’t like science” or “I don’t like colors.”  In science you have chemistry, physics, biology, zoology, anatomy, psychology, and most words that end in -ology; in self help, you have the categories of relationships, how to relate to your children, how to relax, how to meditate, how to fix your marriage, how to get married in the first place, how to go through a divorce, how to be happy in general, how to be more organized, and many more.  I don’t really care about the relationship section but mainly focus on the happy in general section.

I had heard about David Seabury’s book from several different sources before actually deciding to read it myself.  I went to the book store, but it’s not in print anymore.  I went to four libraries that didn’t have it either.  Eventually the interlibrary loan got me a copy.  A very old copy.  Most people think new agey, law of attraction, manifestering, and happiness books are all from 1980 forward, but apparently like Ronda Burns found out when writing the Secret, the secret is actually a really old concept.

David Seabury originally wrote the Art of Selfishness in 1933.  The copy I got was another edition his wife put out in the 1960’s, in which she attempted to update some of the concepts.  I was fascinated to no end at the differences in language and tried to figure out what this book was saying, but in the end I didn’t really get anything useful out of it except a few chuckles.

Seabury’s main concept is that most people in 1930’s society hide behind a mask of religious and social constructs that prevent them from being the best version of themselves.  An example is the wife who has to always have dinner ready when her husband gets home and make the kids behave instead of taking care of herself first.  (Authors have been booed on Oprah for saying the same thing today.)  Or the husband who goes to work all day and comes home to be nagged by his wife and relatives.  Or doing something you don’t feel right doing because “they’re family.”  Seabury’s advice focuses around trying to get the reader to see that being selfish at the right time, no matter how uncomfortable to those around you, benefits everyone.

He uses many anecdotes that demonstrate how being selfish helped people (he was a psychologist).  One such example was a husband who kept his family living in the stone ages.  He expected his wife to do everything while he went to work, he yelled and chased boys away from the house that his daughters would bring home, and he wouldn’t let his sons get driver’s licenses.  And when he got home, he yelled because the temperature of his food wasn’t right or someone left a light on in the other room.  The wife went to Seabury for advice and he told her to treat the husband like it was the stone ages, and everyone in the house had to play along, no exceptions.  While the husband was away at work, the wife and kids turned off the electricity, gas, and heat, threw away all the food,  and got dressed like peasants.  When the dad got home, they let him have it.  He was basically stunned into submission and gave the family no further problems.

Another story was of a husband who wanted to move to the west coast and follow his dreams.  But his wife was bedridden to the point his mother-in-law had to move in with them to take care of her.  There was nothing physically wrong with her; her sickness just started  when her father died.  Anytime the husband mentioned moving west, she would go into fits of hysteria and he would feel so guilty.  Seabury told the husband to take acting lessons, especially learning how to be hysterical, and then go see his doctor and come up with an incurable illness of his own.  The doctor was in on Seabury’s plan with the husband.  Slowly the husband started to act sicker and sicker, eventually going to the doctor and telling his wife it was quite serious.  She started in with the hysterics, but the husband matched her.  The husband then told his wife that the doctor said the only cure was a warmer, dryer climate out west.  What could the wife do but go along.  They moved out west, without the mother-in-law, and the wife became a whole new person, wanting to travel all over the world.

Most of Seabury’s anecdotes left me stunned at his advice and the lengths his patients went to attain what was “best” for everyone.  Most of the means seemed shady, sneaky, and underhanded.  But every case seemed to have justified ends.

There were many bullet point lists that sprung up on the pages and didn’t necessarily have headings as to what the lists’ topics were.  One of the funniest lists involved how to put others at ease, with one of the points being to not have impassive faces like Asians since their faces rarely show expressions.  When things weren’t borderline racist, they were classic passive aggressive.  Seabury lightly dances around such modern terms like alcoholism for example.  He doesn’t say “raging alcoholic” or “abusive relationship”, instead he says someone is weary from “the drink” or giving someone “what for”.  So many times I found myself laughing out loud from the terminology.

There are many more current self help books that cover the same topics and are more understandable.  Some of Seabury’s lists on the right kinds of being selfish and the wrong kinds were interesting, but for the effort needed to get a copy of this book, you can get the same info elsewhere.

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