Over Thanksgiving weekend I had a lot of free time: we were in La Jolla with the family, staying on the beach. I woke up very early one morning and read most of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. One of my nieces and I have been corresponding about it. Actually, I brought up the subject because I thought the guy playing the vampire was so cute. The book is actually very, very good. Of its kind – but I was a teenage girl once, I’ve read a lot of teen trash.
What Meyer did, intentionally or not, was adopt the conventions of the 19th century English gothics. There’s the remote and puzzling guy, the sassy but unappreciated gal, the social conventions that keep them apart, the lousy weather. The voice is nice, though not remotely credible as the voice of a seventeen-year-old. Tension is well-supported even though you’d have to be living under a rock not to know what Bella (gasp!) discovers about the handsome Edward. It’s jarring that after the climax they have to go to prom, but maybe that provides a framework of familiarity for the teens.
From there I picked up Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank which my mother-in-law is reading for her book group. Several women have recommended it and the woman in the aisle seat on my flight home was reading it. Historical novel about Frank Lloyd Wright’s mistress. Architecture plus love affair, what’s not to like?
It starts off right, with a compelling portrait of Frank. Horan makes him very charming, and you can see how Mamah Borthwick Cheney would throw aside her family for him – all the time telling herself that she wasn’t doing so. But the middle, when she comes under the sway of a Swedish feminist thinker, is pretty dull. Not another novel about a middle-aged woman’s search for self-realization! Oooooh nooooo! Then, bang, a sensational end. A historical novelist can’t manipulate the arc a subject’s life takes, but she is allowed to select for dramatic effect.