The main problem with Twilight isn't its sparkly vampires who lack all traditional weaknesses, or even its anti-feminist sensibility. When you get right down to it, the trouble is that the writing is terrible, filled with cliche phrases ("smoldering eyes"), repeated words (294 "eyes" in 498 pages) and the reductive characterization of its main characters (Bella is clumsy, and I guess she likes books. Or something).
On a recent car-trip with my husband and the writer Chip Cheek, we mulled over the question: What if great literary writers of the last 200 years had penned Twilight instead?
"Call me Bella." A tome about the length of the original series investigates Bella's monomanical search for the vampire who stole her virginity. There's an entire chapter devoted to describing the devastating whiteness of Edward's skin, and several on the physiognomy of vampires, starting with their skeletal structure outward.
The novel takes place over the course of twenty four hours, during which Bella is painting a portrait of Edward and reflecting on how her femininity circumscribes her role within 20th century society.
In the opening scene, Edward dashes Bella's head against a rock and rapes her corpse. Then he and Jacob take off on an unexplained rampage through the West.
Basically the same as the original, except that Bella is socially apt and incredibly witty. Her distrust of Edward is initially bourne out of a tragic misunderstanding of his character, but after a fling with Jacob during which he sexually assaults her (amusing to no one in this version) she and Edward live happily ever after.
Same as the original, but set in a theme park. Somehow involves gangs of robots, which distract the reader from the essential sappiness of Edward and Bella's story.
Bella stars as the alcoholic barmaid with daddy issues that Edward, a classic abuser, exploits. When Bella's old friend Jacob comes to visit and is shocked by her bruises, she thinks about leaving him, but instead hits the gin bottle. Hard.
Edward and Jacob defy society's expectations up in the mountains.
Bella takes acid and charts syllogisms.
Edward's rapacious love for Bella reflects the way globalism has pillaged Ireland. It's entirely written in Esperanto, with sections in untranslated Greek, except for Chapter 40, which is inexplicably rendered as a script page from the musical The Book of Mormon.
Bella writes a brilliant takedown of the latest school play, dates a string of men, and repeatedly attempts suicide.
Stifled by her marriage to Edward, Bella has an affair with Jacob and then drowns herself.
Edward and Bella exchange terse dialogue alluding to Edward's anatomical problem. Eventually, Bella leaves him for Jacob, a local bullfighter with a giant…sense of entitlement.
When Native American werewolf Jacob threatens her with death, Bella reconsiders her hardcore racism, and just for one milisecond, the audience finds her sympathetic.
Edward tells Bella that he intends to stop saving her life, unless she starts paying him in gold bullion. Hatefucking ensues, then Jacob spouts objectivist philosophy for the next 100 pages.
Tim O'Brien [Novelist Urban Waite adds this one]
It's all about the memories these vampires have carried with them for the past couple hundred years. Just think how much that would have deepened their characters. "Bella looked into Edward's smoldering eyes and knew all the pain he carried with him, the cross burned into the cleft of his muscular chest, 1 oz., the dash of his hair across his forehead, dangling ever-so, 5.oz, etc… etc… "
Haruki Murakami: [Added by commenter Benk]
Bella has sex with Edward, who is half a ghost. Jacob is a talking cat. Most of the prose is given over to descriptions of Bella making pasta.
Marcella Hazan: [Added by commenter Richard]
Edward prefers the center of Bella's right calf for his new braise, Osso Bella, but has trouble finding the Sicilian sea salt essential to its proper preparation.
Lizzie Stark is the author of Leaving Mundania, a narrative nonfiction account of LARP due out from Chicago Review Press in May 2012. Her journalistic work has appeared on The Today Show website and in The Daily Beast.
This post originally appeared at Lizzie Stark's blog — be sure to check out the amazing suggestions added by her commenters over there.
Thanks for the tip Dave!