Sunday, March 20, 2011

New Moon Chapter 3: The End

1. The 3rd chapter out of 25 (the epilogue’s as long as a chapter so I’m counting it) is called The End. So it’s like the first episode of Red Dwarf or something. Except I don’t think Meyer wants me to laugh. Which is harder than if she was going for comedy.

2. “I felt absolutely hideous in the morning.” That could mean a couple different things. She goes on to describe how she didn’t sleep well and her arm hurts again, so that’s what she meant. With how she’s always berating herself for being plain and unworthy of associating with the Cullens, it could’ve just as easily meant that.

“I was afraid of the time I’d spent unconscious, afraid that he might have been thinking about right and wrong again while he watched me sleep.” With the way he and his family forced to her to attend a party, forced her to accept gifts, and how he conversationally mentioned how he came up with ways to kill himself, that does sound like something that doesn’t bother Edward a lot.

3. Geez I’m not even off the first page of this chapter and I’m up to my third criticism. “Edward was waiting for me at usual, but his face was still wrong.” Like the end of the last chapter, this would carry more weight if we had more of an idea of what his face looked like when it was “right.” When he laughs at and belittles her? That seems like the only time he’s ever enjoying himself. She goes on to add, “There was something buried in his eyes that I couldn’t be sure of--and it scared me.” Again, this works better if we have a basis for comparison. We don’t, because when we see them they’re just talking about how much they love each other at best, annoying each other at medium, or one or the other (mostly Bella) is facing death at worst.

It just gets me that Edward spent the entire previous book, right up until he was talking to her in the hospital in the last chapter, saying he was constantly fighting his vampire instinct to drink her blood. Months of story time have passed, and apparently not one minute of that time was spent thinking of ways to lessen that danger or how to react to it if it ever came to pass. Sounds like that summer was the happiest ever because they spent the whole time denying any downsides to their relationship as hard as they could.

4. Let one shimmer of doubt into her existence, and Bella lets it take over her mind. She gets so worried she can’t even remember how Alice’s powers are supposed to be so great she can use them to predict the stock market, instead wondering what she saw in “her strange, imperfect visions of the future”. If that’s what those visions are, why should it matter, because the Cullens would probably be in the habit of not paying attention to them.

“Was there a foundation for the tenuous, instinctive fears that I couldn’t seem to shake?” Love that “instinctive.” She’s so down on herself she doesn’t trust the perfect boyfriend who she loves more than anyone has ever loved anyone to help her find a way to straighten things out. What was I talking about all those times? Obviously this is a strong relationship based on true love.

“Edward remained aloof.” See? They’re working through this as people who understand and trust each other.

Sarcasm aside, I don’t see the slightest bit of trust, intelligence, or least of all love in this relationship. I can easily blame all the pitfalls on their relationship on them and not the cruel hand of fate. As a result (of this and because Stephenie Meyer's so brain-numbingly predictable), I’m not really biting my nails hoping they make it through this.

5. While Edward looks at “the granola bar he was slowly pulverizing between his fingertips” (great cover act there, Steph), Bella asks where Alice is. She’s with Jasper, who’s with that clan out in Denali that was mentioned briefly in the previous book. Another group of vampires (“good ones like the Cullens,” ha ha!) lives out there. Not much else is mentioned about them here except one of the members of that group is named Tanya.

But back to the original point. “ ‘And Alice, too,’ I said with quiet desperation.” Is she desperate because the only other Cullen who genuinely seems to like her is gone? Or is it because without Alice around, her only other door into the world of vampirism is closed? I honestly can't tell. Bella tries to convince herself Alice will have to come back at some point, but it doesn’t really shed any light on the source of her concern. Some might say being unsure about that for a main character we’re supposed to like is a problem. But since in this book even more than the last Bella mainly seems to see her “friends” in terms of what use she can get out of them, I’m leaning toward the second possibility.

Bella’s so clueless about people she calms herself down by figuring that Edward will probably remove the danger of his family members attacking her by taking her away and living together. Just because she’s willing to give up everything to be with him doesn’t mean he’s willing to do the same. As sort of implied by Edward talking about what a big sacrifice it actually is on several occasions.

6. When Bella gets home Edward’s there, but “Something was very wrong, maybe more wrong than I’d realized.” Apparently because instead of making her the center of his attention, Edward’s watching the game with her dad. Which game? Edward supposedly likes baseball, right? She doesn’t say.

I care even less about this relationship because this is immediately a source of anxiety for Bella. Maybe Edward’s just trying to make things go more smoothly by making nice with her dad. So Charlie might, you know, see that Edward’s an okay guy and not have problems with them going out. Jeebus Cripes, the next thing out of Bella’s mouth after she told her dad she and Edward were an item was “I hope you’re getting all this ‘protective parent’ crap out of your system now.” Maybe it’s weird because Edward and Charlie bonded so much already over summer vacation, BUT I DON’T KNOW THAT BECAUSE MEYER DOESN’T SAY A DAMN THING ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED.

7. Bella asks herself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” realizes that was the wrong thing to ask herself because she makes someone like me look like a dazzling optimist, and shifts to “what’s the worst I can live through?” Not seeing Edward’s family anymore, she thinks, but “Of course, he wouldn’t expect Alice to be part of that,” presumably to indicate she does think of Alice as an actual friend. I stand by Bella seeing Alice as a ticket to vampirism, though.

Bella then looks over her birthday presents from her parents and thinks about actually leaving her family to be with Edward. “Somehow, living without her for as long as I had did not make the idea of a more permanent separation easier. And Charlie would be left all alone here, abandoned.” Remembering just why you walked right into James’s trap last book, huh? And forgetting how Charlie somehow survived never seeing his family for years until Bella moved in with him again for her mom’s sake. “But we’d come back, right? We’d visit, of course, wouldn’t we?”

What part of the Cullens’ “abandon your old life” rule are you not getting, sweetheart? Also gotta love the lines “Change was coming. I could feel it. It wasn’t a pleasant prospect, not when life was perfect the way it was.” How could it be perfect when she’s not young and hot forever like Edward? Wasn’t that the point of the previous chapters? Even the end of the previous book?

8. Bella starts taking pictures with the camera her mom got her, which I’m really only mentioning because it’ll be a minor plot point later, and then Edward leaves, saying he won’t even sneak into Bella’s room that night. So why did he come at all?

9. The next day Bella thinks about how she’ll miss Forks, evidently having convinced herself at some point that Edward’s really decided to run away with her (where, I honestly don't think it says). Even though he didn’t stay the night before and left without even giving her a goodbye kiss. “Edward apparently hadn’t gotten over things during the night.” Welcome to the world of real relationships, Bells. You and your partner will have many disagreements, and they’ll only go away like magic if one of you decides it isn’t worth fighting over anymore and concedes the point just to get some peace. That’s Bella’s racket, not Edward’s. Besides, “My boyfriend’s brother almost ate me” isn’t an issue anyone with the brainpower Bella’s supposed to have would be pretending didn’t happen so they can get back to their chaste little cuddle. Not that Bella thinks so: “It was hard to even remember the reason for all this mess.” Page 66.

And just to remind us of the Romeo and Juliet comparison, Bella’s so caught up in her fantasies of running away with Edward she doesn’t realize her English teacher’s trying to ask her about Lady Capulet.

10. Edward parts company quickly after school and Bella accepts that maybe some time apart will help things settle down. Once again, welcome to real life.

On the way to work Bella drops off the film she took the night before (Bella’s mom got her a camera that uses actual film? Is she a hopeless romantic or something?), and admires the pictures after work. As usual she’s awestruck by Edward’s prettiness, but “his face was colder, more like a sculpture, less alive.” As I keep saying, the only time he seems really emotive is when he’s either mocking Bella or annoyed by her trying to be an independent thinker. He doesn’t sound like a really lively person.

11. Anyway, “He did beat me home.” Yeah, you’d kind of think so when Edward can jump in and out of school at whim and thinks any speed with less than three digits is too slow. Edward takes Bella for a walk in the woods and immediately all that effort she put into convincing herself Edward was going to elope with her for some reason goes to shit and she’s immediately sure something’s wrong. Also “he didn’t wait for an answer.” That Edward’s evidently still in the habit of forcing his will on girlfriend, I don’t know why that would stand out to Bella.

You know what happens next. He tells Bella they’re leaving, and she’s not coming. She brings up the theological stuff and claims she doesn’t care if she loses her soul by becoming a vampire or going out with him or whatever. I don't like talking about religious stuff, but you can't lose something you didn't have. The only higher being who'd be impressed by Bella is the one making money off her annoying love life.

“You’re not good for me, Bella,” Edward says as if driving his icy fist right through her heart.  “How well I knew that I wasn’t good enough for him.” Yes you are, Bella. You’re both equally big wastes of skin.

12. Edward exacts a last promise not to “do anything stupid or reckless. Do you understand what I’m saying?” Since I’ve been saying the fact that he’d come running probably had something to do with her acting that way…

By the way, for the rest of the book until they meet again and talk this out (you honestly think that's a spoiler?), Bella, queen of the gullible morons that she is, totally buys that Edward's leaving because he doesn't love her anymore. She never entertains the possibility that he's leaving BECAUSE he loves her and doesn't want to take the risk of spending eternity knowing the girl he loved was killed by someone else he also loved who just couldn't resist their nature. Even with him asking her to stay out of danger. Then again, she probably also buys that...

“I’m thinking of Charlie, of course,” Edward clarifies. “He needs you.” The books keep saying this, but the one thing they never bother to contradict is how he managed to oh yeah SURVIVE ON HIS OWN FOR YEARS WITHOUT HIS MORONIC DAUGHTER AROUND TO COOK HIS MEALS.

I notice I haven’t mentioned it yet, but Charlie’s been acting a bit more gruff towards Bella than he did in the last book. Not that she doesn’t deserve worse, and maybe it’s because of that stupid little tirade she threw not getting explained.

As he vanishes into the green, Edward himself promises “It will be as if I never existed.” That would only be humanly possible with someone who can shut off parts of their brain at will. Then again since he’s never really gotten to know anyone outside the family in his century of life and most of them don’t seem worthy of interaction, maybe he doesn’t know brains don’t work like that for most people.

He gets in one last insult at Bella as he goes. “You’re human--your memory is no more than a sieve. Time heals all wounds for your kind.” And not his kind? “Memories fade”? Anything? Oh wait, he gives us this too: “I won’t forget. But my kind…we’re very easily distracted.” Dammit Steph, can you stick to anything?

Bella realizes that Alice isn't coming back either, and I still don't know which possibility is the one Bella's more upset over.

13. Realizing that all “Love, life, meaning…over,” Bella goes wandering around the woods numbly until she realizes it’s strange that no moonlight seems to be filtering through the trees. “Tonight the sky was utterly black. Perhaps there was no moon tonight--a lunar eclipse, a new moon.”

That doesn’t sound shoehorned in at all! I can’t even imagine how Meyer planned to work “Midnight Sun” into the narrative. I could get into what exactly a new moon is, but I’m 21 pages into this mess and I’m not even done yet. Dana can handle it.

14. Bella returns to reality when someone finds her and carries her home. “Some part of me knew this should upset me--being carried away by a stranger. But there was nothing left in me to upset.” When was there anything in her in the first place? Besides the hormones that drove her into Edward’s embrace against any actual thinking?

Turns out pretty much the whole blamed town--even some of Billy's friends from La Push--turned out to comb the woods when Bella didn’t come home. Because this mopey little puke matters so much to the town.

Bella overhears her dad talking to some of the search party about how the Cullens left town suddenly because Carlisle got a sudden offer in another city. “ ‘A little warning might have been nice,’ Charlie grumbled.” I don’t see why Carlisle would feel obligated to clear his plans with Charlie. It’s not as if Meyer bothered to portray them as friends or even knowing each other that well. Remember how Charlie got Edward’s name wrong when he found out his daughter was going out with the Cullen boy?

“I didn’t want to listen anymore,” Bella groans and pulls a quilt over her head. Feel free to tell me about one time she wanted to listen to anything that wasn’t Edward explaining vampires.

15. Charlie gets on the phone with Billy and thanks him for sending the guys from La Push. “You were right--they do know the forest better than we do.” Because that’s not stereotypical at all. Then again what do I expect from a woman who wrote a book set in the 21st century who seriously had a Native American teen call white settlers “pale faces”?

Turns out that people up at La Push have been lighting bonfires in celebration of the Cullens moving away. Bella reiterates briefly how the Quileutes, the tribe that lives at La Push in case you forgot and who can blame you, have legends about “the cold ones,” the enemies of the tribe. I can’t help but notice how she talks about the legends without saying anything to acknowledge that they aren’t “stupid superstitions” at all. Almost as if they sound as dumb to her as they sound to Jacob.

16. After escaping from her father and the people who came out to look for her, Bella goes up to her room to find the CD of Edward playing the piano gone, plus the pictures she took the other day with him in them. But not the caption she wrote underneath one of them: “Edward Cullen, Charlie’s Kitchen, Sept. 13th.”

I’d like to remind everyone she actually took that picture the day after her birthday and move on.

Move on to her remembering Edward’s parting words: “It will be as if I’d never existed.” Nice job disposing of the evidence, genius. I don’t like to get ahead of myself, but soon we find out Bella pulled the new stereo out of her truck so he left that too.

After some more pseudo-arty narration, Bella sinks into the sea of despair. “I did not resurface.”

Then that part starts. You know, the one where there’s four pages with just one word on them. October, November, December, January. What exactly is this story supposed to be again? It’s told in the past tense so it doesn’t feel like a stream-of-consciousness narrative. If she’s telling it to someone, wouldn’t you think sooner or later, probably sooner, someone would stop her and say “Yeah, yeah, we get it, Edward Cullen is good looking! Yeah, you felt really miserable when he dumped you! Do you have to take all night explaining one thing, only to spend the next night explaining the same thing again?”

Or, here’s what I think, Bella Swan really is the Stephenie Meyer of her dimension, like Jake Stonebender’s the Spider Robinson of his (does that mean I'm the Madeleine Moore of my dimension?). And despite professing to know so much about the classical romances, she records her story like this because she doesn’t know a damn thing about engendering sympathy or keeping a narrative from bogging down either. Maybe because it was never meant to be read. Yumpin’ yiminey…

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