4 Following

Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
Twilight - Stephenie Meyer, Stephenie Meyer I got so tired of receiving Twilight questions on the Never-Ending Quiz that I went out and bought a copy. It's about as good as I had expected, but I have already managed to answer a few questions correctly.

An anecdote which I at least found amusing. Shortly after buying it, I was invited to an eighteenth birthday party (our next door neighbor's daughter). I had the following conversation with Cate:

"So I suppose you read the Twilight books?"

"No, what are they?"

"You know, those vampire books. I just bought the first one."

"Oh... right. Can I borrow it when you're finished?"

She wasn't just teasing me... when I left, she checked to make sure I remembered. So somehow I've ended up supplying Stephenie Meyer to 18 year old girls. How did that happen?


OK, now I've finished it. I still don't understand why this is apparently the greatest publishing phenomenon of the post-Potter world. Here are a few hypotheses:

Sex. Don't underestimate sex, everyone knows it sells books. And there are some pretty steamy, graphic descriptions of kissing and snuggling, which could conceivably get a suggestible pre-teen all hot and bothered. I'm not a suggestible pre-teen, so it's a little difficult to judge.

Style. Often more important than people realise. It's a first-person narrative, and yes, it does read as though it had been written by a shy, bookish, 17 year old girl, whose main literary output to date had been essays about Macbeth and Jane Eyre for her English class. You can positively hear her congratulating herself every time she uses a polysyllabic word. (Well done, Manny, "polysyllabic" is bound to net me an extra point!) So I guess this says something about the author's skill, or helps teen readers identify with the heroine?

Paedophilia. You're constantly reading about all those creepy paedophiles who lurk in chatrooms, pretending to be teenagers and trying to groom unsuspecting victims. This is, formally, a romance between a 17-year old female virgin and a centenarian. You can see how useful it would be. "I just love Twilight! It doesn't bother me at all that he's so much older than her! I think he loves her just as much as she loves him!" Excuse me while I throw up, I got too far into character there for a moment.

Unfortunately, none of these explanations really convince me. I must find someone to ask! Well, having now finished the book, I'm going to lend it to Cate across the road - in fact, she and her parents are coming to dinner this evening. But I think Cate will be as mystified as I am. How about my goddaughter Sophie, who's only 12? My first thought is that she'll find it too unsophisticated, but perhaps I'm overestimating her. Stay tuned for further updates.


Those further updates I promised. It's only a sample of two, and I would love more data, but so far I am not convinced that all young womanhood in the Western world is infected with the deadly Meyer mind-virus.

As I said, I lent the book to Cate-across-the-road (just turned 18, cute, party animal). I was indeed a little apprehensive when she asked to borrow my copy. But when I saw her today and asked for an opinion, it rapidly become clear that she hadn't even looked at it - she has better things to do than read this trash. She was relieved when I made it clear that I was the opposite of offended.

I also polled my goddaughter Sophie (almost 13, smart, voracious reader, into chess and any kind of sport). When I dropped by for our usual Sunday morning chess session, I asked her if she had read Twilight. There was a brief moment of mildly embarrassed silence, which I interpreted as: why is he asking me such a dumb question, that's not like him? Then she shrugged and said no, she hadn't, and we went back to looking at the Slav Defense.

It would be reassuring to hear more stories like these, though...



I couldn't resist the temptation to post this question on the Quiz. So far no one has flamed me, but it's early days yet.

Come on, Twilight fans, you afraid of a fight?


I hardly got flamed at all. Damn! Sorry, Twilight fans, you are as insipid as your heroine.


Another update. Oh dear. Cate finally gave back the copy that she'd borrowed several months ago. I'm afraid to say that she's not merely read it, she loved it. Now she's going to read the whole series. What have I done?

Not only that, Sophie saw the movie and thought it was "great". I was doing my best not to succumb to hysteria before I'd had a chance to evaluate the facts for myself, but now I'm starting to feel seriously concerned. Maybe the Meyer mind-virus really does exist.