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Another fine mess

Reader fan critic teacher reader fan.

Currently reading

Ottessa Moshfegh
Knife Fight and Other Struggles
David Nickle
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
Andrew Solomon
The Good Lord Bird
James McBride
Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More (New Edition)
Derek Bok
Dissident Gardens
Jonathan Lethem
Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s
Kim Newman
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
James Gleick
Complete Novels
Dashiell Hammett, Steven Marcus
Twilight - Stephenie Meyer, Stephenie Meyer Well, what in hell could I possibly say? Reviews too numerous and too varied: snarky and pitch-perfect parodic and intensely thoughtful and OMG!!exuberant and WTF!befuddled and affirmative and derisive and ... yeah. I suppose I can walk into the desert and toss a couple grains of sand, but I'm not sure anything could make even an impression. So I won't even try.

This doesn't suck.

I could try to channel my inner 14-year-old girl, and find some way to embrace the lack of embraces and the noodling rehash of ye olde smoldering Romance and (even!) the close at the Prom, or I could scold that inner 14-year-old girl, for buying so readily into misogynistic hogwash. But there's more here for her to do than at Hogwarts, and anyway what a ludicrous fiction that this 42-year-old boy could ever know what it's like to be that girl, to enjoy the taste of licorice, when he patently knows it's awful stuff, when the taste and desire for what this book serves up are so far afield from what he relishes...

It strikes me that good pop culture--effective pop culture--works best when most enthusiastically tuned into the contradictions and confusions which shape us. Take desire, for instance -- here's a book both celebrating female adolescent sexual agency and blithely subordinating it to the boy's (dangerous, unquenchable) thirsts. We preach the virtues of abstinence, wring hands over teen pregnancy, scorn (from both sides of the political aisle) the pornification of youth culture, all the while hand over fist (ahem) reproducing lad mags and naughty panty-less pop icons and the hot-schoolgirl motif. Lust and lecture complement one another -- why on earth shouldn't Meyer's book be as befuddling in its evocations, too? And why wouldn't such a perfect storm of contradictions hit every sweet spot for young (and old) readers so attuned to the messy promises and lies of gender & sexuality in the good ol' USA?

I don't trust reviews that read this all grrl power nor reviews that bash its celebration of stalking. Not that those reviews are wrong--they're just incomplete. I assume that Meyer's many readers are not just doing interesting things with what's in the book--I bet the house that they're doing interesting things together, talking about the book, using it in their own social networks and local communities, things that are powerful and productive for the complexities and contradictions that shape their individual and collective identities. In short, I don't think there's much I should or would want to say about the book. The most interesting thing surely has to be trying to engage honestly and fully with readers and how they really use the books. (And, yes, I'm channeling the suggestive possibilities in Janice Radway's work on romances or Tania Modleski's stuff on soaps or the many great readers of [women:] readers/viewers out there. The book doesn't matter at all, anymore, if it ever did. Now we're into the nitty-gritty: what do people do when they read, what do they do with what they read, how do they use this tool in the making and remaking of their daily lives? I'm at a loss--but it's sure an interesting question....