Salon writes about the phenom that is the Twilight series:
July 30, 2008 | A minute past midnight on Aug. 2, bookstores across the country will for the first time repeat a ritual once reserved for a single author: J.K. Rowling. They’ll stay open late and begin selling copies of “Breaking Dawn” by Stephenie Meyer, the fourth novel of the Twilight series, at the first moment they’re officially permitted to do so. Tens of thousands of fans plan to congregate for these release parties, message boards have shut down to guard against leaked spoilers, and as many as a million readers will be blocking out an entire weekend to bury themselves in the book.
The preceding three installments in the series — “Twilight,” “New Moon” and “Eclipse” — occupy the top slots in Publishers Weekly’s bestseller list for children’s fiction (they are categorized as Young Adult, or YA, titles), and are among the top five overall bestsellers on USA Today’s list. In May, Publishers Weekly reported that 5.3 million copies of the Twilight books had sold in the U.S. alone. When a movie based on the first novel comes out in December, expect to see book sales jump to numbers that approach Rowling’s eight-figure numbers.
Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula was the English bourgeoisie’s nightmare vision of Old World aristocracy: decadent, parasitic, yet possessed of a primitive charisma. Though we members of the respectable middle class know they intend to eat us alive, we can’t help being dazzled by dukes and princes. Aristocrats imperiously exercise the desires we repress and are the objects of our own secret infatuation with hereditary hierarchies. Anne Rice, in the hugely popular Vampire Chronicles, made her vampire Lestat a bisexual rock star — Byron has also been called the first of those — cementing the connection between vampire noblemen and modern celebrities. In recent years, in the flourishing subgenre known as paranormal romance, vampires play the role of leading man more often than any other creature of the night, whether the mode is noir, as in Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series of detective novels or chick-lit-ish, as in MaryJanice Davidson’s Queen Betsy series.
The YA angle on vampires, evident in the Twilight books and in many other popular series as well, is that they’re high school’s aristocracy, the coolest kids on campus, the clique that everyone wants to get into. Many women apparently never get over the allure of such groups; as one reader posted on Twilight Moms, “Twilight makes me feel like there may be a world where a perfect man does exist, where love can overcome anything, where men will fight for the women they love no matter what, where the underdog strange girl in high school with an amazing heart can snag the best guy in the school, and where we can live forever with the person we love,” a mix of adolescent social aspirations with what are ostensibly adult longings.
I confess I’ve never read them. I’m not sure I’d want my preteen daughter reading them either. I like books where the girls aren’t helpless.
Posted in Vampires
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