Saturday, November 22, 2008

Twilight twitterpation

I'm pretty perplexed lately about the excitement, particularly among adults, over the Twilight series. While working at the Peninsula Daily News and covering the small town of Forks, I was one of the first reporters to actually cover this story (back when Stephanie Meyer had still never even visited the many places in her books.)

I remember being assigned to cover her big visit to Forks where she was doing a reading of Twilight, which was nothing more than an event to create buzz for the book's sequel. Teenage girls flocked from all over the country and even Canada to meet Meyer and visit the coastal timber town of 3,000. It was the middle of summer with 80-degree weather and all of them came wearing rain jackets expecting to relive what they read in the book. Many of them were squealing with delight about visiting Forks High School and begging their parents to move to a desolate area rampant with poverty, isolation, and all the problems that come along with it.

I have to admit, I was less than impressed with Meyer and even less impressed with the portion of the book she read. Perhaps it was just the jealous writer in me feeling frustrated that a woman who never paid her dues in the world of writing got published with a book about a place and people she knew nothing about.

However, I was amused at the excitement this book created in all these teenage girls because the real Forks is pretty rough around the edges—to say the least. It's the sort of place where you go to a restaurant and, after placing and paying for your order, the waitress asks if you'd eat something else because the cook was having an off day and made the wrong item. When you kindly say no, because you want what you ordered and paid for, the waitress walks away annoyed and you end up feeling bad for being difficult in a situation that only Forks can provide. All the while, old-timers from the days of the timber boom with weathered faces and rough hands are sipping their coffee and looking at you like you're nothing but a city-slicker who can't roll with the punches.

So, when I saw all the giddiness in these girls' eyes over a small town that has seen more hard days than any town should, I felt compelled to purchase Twilight and see what all the excitement was about. The book reminded me of a candy bar. Something that you get a craving for, but then halfway through it causes a stomach ache from all the sugar. I couldn't even finish it.

I'm all for fiction and vampire romance, but it just didn't work for me.  It was desperately trying to have an air of authenticity, but it just wasn't connected enough to the reality of life on the Olympic Peninsula. The description of the area felt contrived, and as Meyer admitted—researched solely on the Internet. I also didn't feel an emotional connection to the characters, probably because I was an adult and not a teenager.

A few months later, to my complete surprise, this book and its sequel started flying off the shelves among both teenagers and adults. I was happy the attention was bringing some much-needed cash flow into the struggling town of Forks and its surrounding areas.  However, this happiness soon faded when I found out a movie was being made and it wasn't even being shot in the Forks area, much less Washington state.

If there was any part of the nation that needed revenue from a major movie production, it's the West End of the Olympic Peninsula. Hope and happy endings are scarce commodities in that area of the country. Jobs were and are hard to find, towns dying, timber mills closing, homelessness and drug rates climbing, and a slough of young people dying in horrible car and boating accidents and tragedies such as the war in Iraq.

So, I scratch my head and wonder—what's so appealing about this book and the author who produced it?