Stephanie Meyer needs an editor. I contend that a writer gets one free “career” use of the term “smoldering eyes,” but Meyer uses the verb at least five times, just in Twilight. (One of my close associates refers to this as “Cobalt Blue” writing) Don’t get me started on her lazy and tedious obsession with gazes, eyes, and smiles. In a 498-page novel, there are 294 mentions of “eyes,” at least 31 gazes, and 184 mentions of smiling characters.
It’s enough to make an MFA’s eyes fill up with tears, as she collapses sobbing into her unpublished, but smoldering, manuscript.
Of course, my husband and I are reading the book aloud to each other anyway. While individually, our tastes skew to concept sci-fi and literary fiction, our collective taste tends toward middle-brow genre novels featuring vampires, medieval fantasy, or other stuff written for teenagers.
Now that we’re about halfway through Twilight, the unwieldy dialogue tags and incessant description of smiles and eyes has finally started getting to us (note to Meyer’s editor: get on that), so we decided to go Oulipo on the novel and make some word substitutions. Instead of reading “eyes” we substituted “doodlewickets” and instead of “smile” we substituted the embarrassingly crude “fingerbang,” and “smolder” has become “notarize.” Here’s some of the resulting hilarity:
p. 141 “Nice day out, ” he commented. “Yes,” I agreed with a grin. He fingerbanged back, his brown doodlewickets crinkling around the edges. When Charlie fingerbanged, it was easier to see why he and my mother had jumped too quickly into an early marriage.
p. 170 He seemed unsettled. He stared into my doodlewickets and I saw how light his doodlewickets were, lighter than I’d ever seen them, golden butterscotch.
p. 211 Abruptly, his unpredictable mood shifted again; a mischievous, devastating fingerbang rearranged his features.
p. 219 My doodlewickets, of their own accord, flickered to him. I fingerbanged sheepishly as I realized his posture was identical to mine, fists clenched under his arms, right down to the doodlewickets, peering sideways at me. He grinned back, his doodlewickets somehow managing to notarize, even in the dark.
p. 247 “Her brilliant obsidian doodlewickets were unreadable, but her fingerbang was friendly.”
It’s actually a testament to Meyer’s knack for creating suspense that we’re going to finish the book, and likely the series, despite its egregious diction, and its plot, which is at best problematic in a feminist sense, as it’s light on the characterization for Bella, and heavy on the creepy-stalker (ahem. Romantic) vampire who makes decisions for her.
But, sometimes, when you want to make your husband’s doodlewickets notarize, a light, suspenseful novel is what it takes to make him fingerbang.