Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Why I am better than other people

March 12, 2011

Sometimes I worry that my stomach is not flat enough.  Sometimes I obsess about my teeth.  Sometimes I wonder if there is a way to accidentally break my nose which will result in it healing without the little bump in the middle.

One thing I have never had a crisis of confidence about is my skill as a writer.  Given my other insecurities, I don’t think this makes me big-headed – in fact I think I’m being pretty objective about the whole thing.  Most people have at least one thing they’re really good at, and my thing is writing big long rants about nothing and making them somehow entertaining.  The stats back me up here, by the way; ever since Wil Weaton retweeted some shit/genius joke I made about a garlic crusher named Wesley and I was famous on Twitter for about twenty seconds, my views per day have been hovering somewhere between 20 and 227.  Presumably some of them even like it enough to come back.  Hi, guys!

Anyway, my actual point is that my local paper, The Southern Daily Echo, appear to have awarded a man called Simon Carr the title ‘Columnist of the Year’.  What this tells me is that they must only have one columnist because I could write a more coherent piece of journalism than Simon Carr by the time I was seven years old.  That’s not an exaggeration, by the way – when I was seven I wrote a newspaper article about local youths leaving broken glass in my school playground.  My mum still has it to this day, preserved in a scrapbook, and last time I looked at it I was pleased to note that it was still superior to most of Simon Carr’s output.

Simon currently ‘writes’ (it’s a strong word) a column called Single in the City.  The ‘city’ in question is Eastleigh, and for those of you not from round ‘ere, Eastleigh consists of a railway station and three streets populated almost entirely by hair salons and kebab shops.  It is almost impossible not to be single if you are limiting yourself to Eastleigh.  Its Wikipedia page teaches us that Colin Firth went to college in Eastleigh, and the ‘Economy’ section is one sentence which I will reproduce here in its entirety, for your benefit: 

The B&Q head office is in the Portswood House in Eastleigh. The town was formerly home to a Mr Kipling bakery.

To clear something up, while we’re on it – B&Q head office is in Chandlers Ford, not really in Eastleigh itself.  I know this because I work there.  And factories which used to exist and now do not, really don’t count towards the economy of a place.

Anyway, Simon Carr is a 32-year old man who doesn’t seem to have realised yet that the reasons he is still ‘single in the city’ are fairly simple.  A:  He is the kind of man who, in his thirties, still perves over much younger women and calls them things like ‘fitties’.  B:  For all his whinging about being single and not being able to get a date with a ‘fitty’, he really likes going on about all the totally fucking stupid reasons he has dumped every woman who was ever dumb enough to go out with him.  C:  He is the kind of person who thinks an entire newspaper readership will be interested in the fact that he paid to upgrade on the train the other day.  This was actually the entire point of one of his recent articles, cleverly entitled ‘First Class Male’.  If this is what he considers interesting enough to put in a national publication I can only imagine how boring, arrogant and self-serving his normal conversational material must be. 

For anyone who’s going to trot out the old favourite “if you hate it so much why do you read it,” don’t be ridiculous.  People LOVE hating things, and I am no exception.  I used to love hating Liz Jones, although recently I have found myself warming to Liz – mainly because I discovered Jan Moir and realised I had to save up the great majority of my hatred for her.  There is something delicious about reading Simon Carr’s badly written, pointless articles about how he is a loser who hates everyone including his own friends, and thinking, my god I am so much better than you in every way.  It’s an ego boost and I love it. 

The point here, really, is that far from depressing me, Simon Carr gives me a great deal of hope.  If a publication with a fairly large readership deems him the cream of the crop, imagine the heights of success I could soar to!  I could be a younger, hotter, female version of Charlie Brooker.  Maybe.  I just need to find a newspaper that’ll put up with me cursing like a sailor.

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Why Stephenie Meyer is an irresponsible hack

December 20, 2009

There is something you should know about me before I commence this post:  I am a literary snob, and I am not ashamed of it.  When it comes to literature I have some strong, fairly obnoxious opinions and I’m certainly not immune to considering myself above people.  This article is heavily biased and perhaps even mildly venomous – so don’t complain about it, because I already know, I wrote it that way on purpose, and you were warned.  I don’t apologise, and I am definitely not sorry.

If I were the kind of person who could get away with such witticisms, I would start this article with “You know, the first time I read the word ‘mormon’ in a description of Mrs Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, I wondered for a moment if it was a typo of ‘moron'” – in fact, fuck it, I’ve already started the article with it now.  That may be a cheap shot, but honestly, I think it’s time I set out a clear, rational and definitive explanation of why I hate the Twilight series.  I think all my friends and acquaintances are fairly sick of not being able to mention the word ‘twilight’ around me without subjecting themselves to a ten minute rant full of expletives.

I’ll start by pointing out, probably controversially, that whilst researching this article on the internet, I’ve noticed that those forum posters and article commenters who are speaking up in support of Miss Meyer’s efforts generally seem to have more than a little trouble stringing a coherent sentence together.  They seem to have particular issues with the rules of capitalisation and punctuation, often believing that full stops and the acronym ‘lol’ are freely interchangeable.  The people making a stand against Twilight, on the other hand, usually demonstrate at least a secondary school level of education.

Now, I’m not saying that all smart people hate Twilight (although I may be implying that they should), but I am saying that they don’t tend to admit to it – and if they do admit to it, they at least know better than to try and defend it.

I’m going to admit right now, before you even get the chance to make this accusation, that yes, I do think I can write better than Stephenie Meyer.  I absolutely think that, and I’m fairly sure that every English teacher I’ve ever had would agree – particularly my fifth year teacher Mr Graham who, I am reliably informed, threw a copy of Twilight out of the classroom window when a student asked if she could write her Higher English essay on it.

The first problem I have with the Twilight books is the sheer amount of typos and basic spelling and grammar errors.  All of these are glaringly obvious, and if I can pick them out on a quick flick-through, any editor worth their own weight in shit should have been able to see and correct them in an average morning’s work.  While this particular problem is more attributable to lazy editing, I am going to take a personal shot here and say that I would be ashamed to have submitted something so riddled with errors even as a first draft.  And this is the edited version, so I can only imagine how awful it was to begin with.  How did these things ever make it past the slush pile?  I agree that a good writer may not necessarily have a shelf full of spelling bee trophies, so I might let Meyer off – if it weren’t for, well, absolutely everything else.

Bella Swan is an unlikeable character.  I’m sorry, but she is.  She is sulky, dull, clumsy, boring and contrary.  She might have irresistibly delicious blood, but she certainly has fuck all else going for her –  in fact if I was Edward Cullen (who I will get to in a moment), I would have killed her and been thankful for the decent meal, and done the world a favour straight off the bat.  Now I know  this seems like an indefensible point – “but millions of teenage girls DO like Bella!” you cry – but they don’t.  The reason they ‘like’ her is that they know that they would hypothetically be better for Edward than she is.  She is dispensable, and that’s why her character ‘works’.  If you have the misfortune of actually owning a copy of Twilight, take a quick skim through it.  Bella is barely described at all.  She is deliberately written as a shell into which teenage girls, and for that matter, supposedly-grown women who still think like teenage girls, can insert themselves, in order to play the leading role in the fantasy Stephenie Meyer weaves for them.

What I haven’t figured out is how, despite being entirely composed of poorly fleshed out and thoroughly unlikeable qualities, Bella still seems one of the most obvious ‘Mary Sue’ character I’ve ever come across.  I suspect it’s because, even though she is clearly a boring, irritating, wet-blanket bint, ALL of the other characters are for some reason enthralled by her, apparently seeing through her sullen exterior to some beautiful inner quality.  This would be a little more believable if Bella herself, through her narration or actions, gave us any indication of a spark of inner beauty but, frankly, she doesn’t.  Ever.

On a slightly more practical note, in the first book she nearly faints at the sight of some tiny drops of blood in a biology class.  A couple of books later, however, she is ceaselessly begging to become a vampire – a creature who survives solely by sucking the blood of others.  Excuse me, but… what?  I appreciate that this is a story about supernatural beings but let’s try to maintain some sense of continuity, shall we Stephenie?  Bella also cannot stand the idea of her own engagement and wedding.  (At this point, I start to wonder if Ms Meyer is indeed a woman, let alone whether she is actually married.)  So why does she bother to get engaged and married?  Because these are the only conditions on which Edward will agree to A: fuck her and B: kill her and make her a vampire.

Now, I don’t care if Meyer is using this plot point as a vehicle for some Mormon message about not having sex before marriage.  Fiction has been used to convey religious or moral messages since the beginning of time, and I don’t see a problem with that.  I’ll even go so far as to say that as far as hidden messages go, “don’t feel obliged to fuck everyone you meet” is certainly not the worst message you could give to today’s impressionable teenage girls – but that’s where Stephenie Meyer’s useful suggestions for the modern teenager end.

To explain this point, let’s take a look at some of the basic plot points of the book.  Bella Swan is seventeen.  Edward Cullen – while he may LOOK seventeen – is, due to his vampiric nature, considerably older at one hundred and four.  In America, where the legal age of consent is 18, this could be seen to constitute paedophilia.  In all fairness, I live in t he UK, where the age of consent is 16, which I happen to think is about right.  I wouldn’t consider sex between two seventeen year olds to be wrong in any way.  I would, however, see sex between a seventeen year old and a hundred and four year old as pretty creepy, legal or not – and quite frankly, at the age of only twenty one, I already can’t stand the company of most seventeen year olds.  Edward on the other hand, with his century of worldly experience and wisdom, for some reason wants to spend eternity with one – and by all accounts, not even a particularly pretty or pleasant one.  Sorry, but if he was that gorgeous and stupidly rich, he could – and would – do better.  And don’t give me that ‘soulmate’ shit.  I would consider my fiance Chris to be my soulmate, if forced to use the word – but if he was as lacking in personality as Bella is, I wouldn’t stuck around long enough to even get a glimpse of his ‘soul’.

So now, we move on to Edward.  Dear, perfect, gorgeous, 104-year-old immortal sparkly Edward.  Oh, how I hate him.  Can you give me one genuinely good quality in Edward Cullen?  He doesn’t suck human blood.  You know what, neither do I, but I don’t see an army of 13 year old girls jizzing themselves over me.  (I suppose I’m also female, mortal, and decidedly un-sparkly, but still.)  In fact, you know what else I don’t do?  I don’t sneak into people’s houses at night without their permission and watch them sleep, whilst wondering if they’re dreaming about me.  I don’t follow people around and interfere in their lives.  I don’t fall creepily, desperately in love with sulky teenagers because they smell nice.  Edward, on the other hand, does all of those things, and he is worshipped as some kind of uber-boyfriend.  You know, I feel incredibly sorry for the adolescent boys of the world who have to attempt to match up to this ideal. 

When you get right down to it, what Twilight is teaching young girls is the idolisation of a controlling and mentally abusive man.  The way Edward tempts Bella and then attempts to reject her is nothing short of emotional abuse, and it goes without saying that breaking into someone’s home and watching them sleep crosses several boundaries which normal, decent people wouldn’t even think about crossing.  And there seems to be nobody out there telling these young girls, LOVE IS NOT LIKE THIS!  PLEASE SEEK SOMETHING BETTER FOR YOURSELF! 

It saddens me to see these kind of relationships being idolised.  Yes they are dramatic and drama is too often confused with romance… but they are not healthy.  The kind of love Twilight fanatics are lusting after is nothing more than that – lust.  Do we ever see Edward and Bella chowing down on a takeaway and then snuggling up on the sofa to watch CSI marathons?  Do we ever see them sitting through a chaotic family dinner, both separately longing to go home and play video games?  Do we ever see them doing the grocery shopping on a Sunday?  No.  We see them swinging back and forth towards and away from each other, declaring their love and then fearing for their lives, fighting ancient battles and facing immortality. 

I am not saying that there is no place in the world for fantasy.  I am not saying that we shouldn’t read books about ancient battles and dramatic relationships and tragedy and romance.

What I am saying is that the overwhelming adoration of the Twilight books by young teenagers is worrying because nobody is there to give them the message that although it may be exciting to read, it is not what you should hope for for yourself, and it is not an accurate representation of love.  This may seem petty but I’ve talked to some young girls who have some very strange, and occasionally very disturbing views of relationships – and they have learned them from the Twilight books.  So let them read them, because escapism is escapism.  But also, let them know that real love is not that exciting, but it will make them much, much happier.

Of course, what I am ALSO saying is that Stephenie Meyer is a talentless hack, and all that money should be mine.  But, hey.  Can’t win ’em all.