Wednesday, October 25, 2006


I sifted through my questions for the most vital. "Why do you do it?" I said. "I still don't understand how you can work so hard to resist what you... are. Please don't misunderstand, of course I'm glad that you do. I just don't see why you would bother in the first place."

He hesitated before answering. "That's a good question, and you are not the first one to ask it. The others--the majority of our kind who are quite content with our lot--they, too, wonder at how we live. But you see, just because we've been... dealt a certain hand... it doesn't mean that we can't choose to rise above--to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted...."
Stephanie Meyer's Twilight, pg. 307

As I stumbled through this book, retching again and again at the writing, I couldn't help but draw comparisons between Edward's situation and my own. I hope that doesn't reflect an inappropriate fixation on sexuality these days--that I can't look anywhere and consider anything to be wholly irrelevant to this blog... ;-) I thought a few book club posts would be a nice diversion from the central topic of this blog, but U Dude expertly picked a book that is relevant in some respects.

The foremost, of course, is the matter of personal choice and identity. Is identity associated at all with inclinations or behavior? Is it something innate or something chosen? What part of us is us? What does our character have to do with our identity?

...We begin, then, with our thoughts and end with our eternal destiny. Our destiny is determined by our character, and our character is the sum and expression of our habits. Character is won by hard work.

Ernest L. Wilkinson, speaking to the students of Brigham Young University, said: “Character … is not something to be obtained by ease and indolence or being socially agreeable. It cannot be acquired by absorption or by proxy or on the auction block. It is a reward derived from honest toil in overcoming difficulties. We grow by mastering tasks which others consider impossible.

This isn't quite the quote I was looking for, but it does speak to the power of overcoming... of our character being a product of our behaviors. And, really, that's what I liked best about Edward, Dr. Cullen, et. al. Despite remarkably strong desires to do something they felt was urgently necessary, they mastered themselves to do what they thought was right.


Samantha said...

Okay, I understand I may get kicked out of the book club for saying this, but, I hate this book. I hate the horrifying writing, the grammatical errors, the...everything...gasp...ack...ugh.

And someone, I don't remember who, said I suggested it--which I didn't.

Couldn't we read a classic? Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"? Or if we want something lighter or more seasonal, Bradbury's "Halloween Tree"? I'd read Huxley's "Brave New World" again...

Okay, I'm done. And if I must be ostracized, so be it. My opinion is just that--an opinion.

johngalt said...

OK, I'm glad you agree about the WRETCHED WRITING because I can barely get through it. Not only is it about adolescense but this author WRITES like an adolescent! Enough snobbery. Because the truth is I'm riveted! Sadly though not because of any compelling storyline but rather because Bella and Edward's wet dream infatuation mirrors almost exactly what I've been living over the past two years. Which is DEPRESSING. Am I still in Junior High or what??

"I should have left long ago" he sighed. "I should leave now. But I don't know if I can."
"I don't want you to leave," I mumbled pathetically, staring down again.
"Which is exactly why I should. But don't worry. I'm essentially a selfish creature. I crave your company too much to do what I should."

Is someone re-writing my story into this pathetic teenage forbidden love tragedy?? We've had this EXACT conversation a dozen times. Maybe everyone has. I'm just still getting over my Edward.

Earlier in the story she says that she loves him more than he loves her, because obviously she is not trying to run away from him as he is running from her. His response is that his running away actually proves the opposite, that he loves her more:

"Don't you see? That's what proves me right. I care the most because I can do it. If leaving is the right thing to do, then I'll hurt myself to keep from hurting you, to keep you safe."

In the end, that was us. We were both hurting each other more by staying together. Our love was strong enough to walk away.

If you locked an alcoholic in a room full of stale beer, he'd gladly drinkt it. But he could resist, if he wished to, if he were a recovering alcoholic. Now let's say you placed in that room a glass of hundred-year-old brandy, the rarest, finest cognac - and filled the room with its warm aroma - how do you think he would fare then?"
"Maybe that's not the right comparison. Maybe it would be easy to turn down the brandy. Perhaps I should have made our alcoholic a heroin addict instead."
"So what your saying is, I'm your brand of heroin?"
"Yes, you are exactly my brand of heroin."

Hmmm... sounds familiar? When something you LOVE is DANGEROUS? That is the theme of this story so far and it parallels perfectly with our struggle against same-sex attraction. That's why it hits me with such force. The truth is that love - in this obsessively physical and infatuated and WONDERFULLY fulfilling sense - is the most dangerous thing we could be confronted with. Damningly dangerous to our our families and our eternal souls.

And also, there is just the madly in love part, regardless of the forbidden nature of it:

"I was stunned by the unexpected electricity that flowed through me, amazed that it was possible to be MORE aware of him than I already was. A crazy impulse to reach over and touch him, to stroke his perfect face just once in the darkness, nearly overwhelmed me. I crossed my arms tightly across my chest, my hands balling into fists. I was losing my mind."

Yep. That electricity is the most powerful chemical reaction on earth. I've lost my mind as well.

Waiting to see him again she hopelessly trys to distract herself from him: I fluctuated between anticipation so intense that it was very nearly pain....and what was my other choice - to cut him out of my life? Intolerable. Besides, since I'd come to Forks, it really seemed like my life was ABOUT him."

OK, was Stephanie reading my mind while writing this? It's funny because I'm now realizing that I NEVER read this type of modern romance fiction...i'm sure it's very commom. But it's a first for me (and the LAST).

There are so many parallels I don't want to take up your entire blog with them :-). But that is a start.

I'm on page 267. And can't wait to be finished with this nonsensical nostalgic heart and brain-sucker.

Sorry Unusual Dude :-). In truth, it's a perfect choice for this book club because it deals with our struggle in a different light, which I think could help people understand our plight better, in an allegorical way.

johngalt said...

Thanks Samantha! My suggestions are either The Razor's Edge by Summerset Maugham or The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Chabon. I think Heart of Darkness would mean a book club attendence of 3. Of Human Bondage by Maugham would be great too. Or anything by John Irving, maybe to lighten things up? I just finished the Corrections which is too depressing. Let's find a good one though!

johngalt said...

Oh, and by the way Samantha, it was me who originally thought you had recommended this book. I have to say my opinion of you was SHOT :-). I was SO happy to be corrected. Sorry Unusual Dude - it's less disappointing because you're a guy, lol.

Scot said...

“Our destiny is determined by our character, and our character is the sum and expression of our habits. Character is won by hard work.”

“It [character] is a reward derived from honest toil in overcoming difficulties.”

From where does the desire for doing particular work come? From where does the want for a certain eternal destiny come?

To me it sounds, at first glance, like “character builds character”.

Here, again:

"character being a product of our behaviors... Despite remarkably strong desires to do something they felt was urgently necessary, they mastered themselves to do what they thought was right.”

How? It’d seem to me because they’d have had to have experienced desires that were stronger than the first, as that’s how we choose behaviors. (I’ve not read the book [blush], but sounds like I dodged a bullet :-))

-L- said...

I thought of all the disparaging fun I could have with this book, but I didn't want to offend U Dude. Since he also criticized the writing, I figure we're free and clear. Plus, he's gone on vacation now (hence the early posting date), so we're all set! ;-)

JG, your life should be a book. Your writing is much better and I'm a lot more affected by the emotions you convey.

Also, you'll be happy to know that the second half is much more tolerable, in my opinion.

-L- said...

Scot, that's just the trick. We don't have good character by wanting to be good, we have it by actually being good. At least, that's the way I understand it.

Unusual Dude said...

For the record: I'm not offended in ANY WAY by the criticisms of this book. If I'd read it before recommending it, I may have withdrawn my recommendation. The writing is really awful. I'm glad I read it because of the allegorical ties I found to SGA, and the interesting things to think about, but I honestly couldn't stomach reading it again. On the other hand, since I have read it, I think discussing it IS fun, and doesn't make me want to retch.

So, how could I take offense? I'll own up to suggesting it, because I hadn't read it before I suggested it. Neener.

Isn't this fun? Welp - off to my conference. Happy discussion-ing.

Unusual Dude said...

Samantha, I think you're just upset that my suggestion won over yours.

OK, I'm kidding. You did suggest "And They Were Not Ashamed" at one point didn't you? Or maybe that was AtP. I think you should pick next month's selection.

Kengo Biddles said...

Though I won't be reading, can I suggest 1984, Animal Farm or Fahrenheit 451? Especially in light of our post 9/11 world, it would be interesting discussion.