Sorry that I didn't post this yesterday. But hey! Fresh poetry should always be moved to the first place in line!
In order to understand this story you need to understand a bit more about my relationship with Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight books.
For a long time my emotions were mostly guided by mystification that books so widely considered to be poorly written could have been fasttracked to publication and zeitgeist. The usual result of such mystification is irritation, irritation that I can't catch a break when schmucks are making it hand over fist.
Then I read this by Mahonri Stewart and I realized that no matter the quality of Stephenie's writing (may I call her Stephenie?) she was a person and deserved kindness.
With this new prism of understanding, I began reading interviews with her and I have developed a great empathy for her. I can't say that we would be close friends but I do think I would like her very much should we ever meet.
Concurrent with this, I read Twilight and I'm sorry to say I didn't like it lots and lots. The baseball scene was terrific and it had some other high points, but overall it's kind of a morass. And I mean that in the nicest way possible.
I was afraid this might happen, which was why I had waited so long to finally pick it up and read. I wanted to look at Meyer as a fellow LDS fictionist, untainted by formed opinions of her work that, I was afraid, would be bad. But I wanted to write something for Reading Until Dawn so I did. And all my worst fears came true.
Well, no. Not all my worst fears. Stephenie may not be a master of prose, but she has great ideas. Army of evil undead infants? Best idea ever? May be.
As I said at Sunstone in response to someone's question (and here we get closer to the story--sorry this is taking so long), as Anthony Trollope said, "Success is the necessary misfortune of life, but it is only to the very unfortunate that it comes early."
I'm afraid this may be where Stephenie finds herself. She has so much potential as a writer, but her first book was published nearly editfree and she's since become such a cashcow it's hard to believe anyone will ever edit her again. Or that they would take her seriously even if she asked them too. (Aside to Stephenie: I would be happy to give you serious, honest and copious criticism for your next book. You can even pay me if you like.) And so I fear she will continue to write but that her improvement will only be what she can provide to herself, which is necessarily less than how quickly one can improve with the help of a loving teacher.
This was essentially the comment I made.
After my session, a young woman came up to me. She had been sitting in the back corner and, although attentive, had not had questions after the presentations. (Perhaps because most questioners felt the need to preface their remarks with, "I've never read the books but..."?)
She introduced herself (I won't mention her name for what will soon be obvious reasons) and told me that she was not Mormon, but her father teaches a class on LDS history at Stanford and had payed to attend the conference, but was suddenly unable to attend due to a family emergency. (I'm hoping this is vague enough to prevent anyone solving the mystery of identity. I did change one fact to make it a little trickier.) Anyway, he asked if she wanted to take his place. She said no but looked at the schedule and decided to drive over to Cupertino for my event because she's a huge Twihard (her preferred term; don't blame me, you Twilighters out there). And Stanford, apparently, doesn't offer many academic papers on the subject.
Anyway, she was more interested in what my respondent had to say (specifically the comparisons between Stephenie Meyer and Joseph Smith which were, I have to say, quite interesting), at least at first, but then she went into my Trollope quote and my estimation of Stephenie's current writing chops.
I was worried that she might want to lambaste me for this estimation, but she was quite forgiving of my heresy. She wanted to talk more and as I wasn't totally excited about the following sections I said okay and we went out to the hotel lobby to chat.
We got into a conversation and her questions led me to talk about the similarities Stephenie and I share:
- We were both raised Mormon.
We're both active Mormons today.
We both attended BYU.
We're almost the same age.
We were both married while attending BYU.
We are both writers of fiction.
She lives in Phoenix and I love Flagstaff.
Suddenly I realized we were silent and I glanced over to her. She had leaned quite a ways forward, the neck of her shirt drooping in a manner that For the Strength of Youth would certainly not a approve of. Her eyes were wide, the pupil and iris a black hole that was a little unsettling.
"And you're going to read her next manuscript?"
And I with, my casual and regular disregard for the truth answered, "Oh, sure, undoubtedly. You want me to email you a copy?"
Which was not really the correct thing to say, as it ends up. I don't know what people say about Stanford girls, but you can use this as a datapoint.
This is a little hard to say because it's weeeell outside my everyday experience, but she leapt out of her chair and into my lap and "kissed" my chin. I say kissed in quotes because I can't imagine this is exactly what she had in mind. Nor, indeed, what Hilton had in mind when they bought this particular armchair because it tips back way to easily. We fell backwards onto the rug and my paper's clip popped off and the papers went flying through the room. About half of them landed in the fountain (which is why, Cchrissyy, I couldn't show it to you). It took me a second to process having a twenty-year-old girl sitting on my chest, but I guess the young process things faster because she was gone before I started to stand up. One of the hotel workers helped me stand and gather what was left of my paper and clip it back together.
And this is why I was late to the Developing Personal Spirituality session.
This story, of itself, is bizarro and hard to make sense of (I didn't even tell Lady Steed until Sunday night), but if it had stopped there it would not be horrifying.
What makes it horrifying is the email I received Monday morning from Mary Ellen of Sunstone when I was halfway through writing Monday's post on the symposium.
You'll recall I mentioned that Sunstone will be putting some clips up on YouTube. I was under the impression that those clips would be exclusively from the This I Believe portion, but no. The camera guy also took a bit of footage here and there from other sessions (not mine) and some candid footage of people milling about.
He arrived late coming back from lunch and, "as fate would have it", was testing some settings by recording the lobby before rejoining the Sunstone throngs.
I'm sure you see where this is going.
So Mary Ellen asked me if I would mind them including the footage of the girl leaping upon me and, as she phrased it, "biting [my] face before sitting on it."
In my normal kneejerk First Amendmenty way I said, okay, but can I see it first? She immediately wrote back and said okay.
Then I thought better and called Lady Steed, then wrote Mary Ellen back to change my mind. But I have not heard back. (Unless you include the email with a video attached showing what appears to be the opening scene in a slapstick porno starring yours truly.)
So, for the record, I want to make this absolutely clear: I DO NOT, no matter what the evidence may suggest, encourage twenty-year-old coeds with low-cut shirts and no obvious bra to bite [my] face before sitting on it.
I hope that, when rumors about me begin to surface, you will correct them.
A P R I L F O O L S