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Monday, July 19, 2010

The Twilight Companion: The unofficial guide to the bestselling twilight series
By Lois H. Gresh, 1st edition, Pan Macmillian, 2008
Book review by Lizzy Bilogrevic

Lois H.Gresh writes pop science/culture books including those for the young adult market. In fact, she’s a very successful author of about twenty-one books. She writes speculative fiction (especially science fiction), or about it, published mainstream by Wiley and Sons, Random House and St Martin’s Press. She is the New York Times Best-Selling Author (2008 & 2009) and has received the Bram Stoker Award for "superior achievement" in horror writing amongst other prestigious awards. She has co-written with U.S author Robert Weinberg about superheroes, supervillians and Stephen King .Her short story titles suggest she has a quirky sense of humour—Let me Make you Suffer, Psychomildew Love, Algorithms and Nasal Structures and The Lagoon of Insane Plants . . .

Recently, Gresh pens unauthorised guides and The Twilight Companion is one. Clearly, she exploits Stephenie Meyers Twilight saga, and the romantic rapture fans harbour for Bella Swan’s fur and fang blokes. Some chapters are in unabashed Twilight debrief mode, with nifty tips about dealing with, or more preferably dating, stand-ins for Myer’s werewolf Jacob or vampire Edward. The chapters are also interspersed with morbid or alluring material from film and literary sources and adds to the gamut of factors for Monster Loving. These include using garlic other than for Master Chef creations, coffin management in vampire urban legend, black cape adornment that predated Harry Potter, and modes of decapitation. So hey, it’s a far cry from Mrs Beeton guiding us in Household Management!

Gresh’s great strength is her well-researched and at times scientific backtracking into iconic snippets of vampire and werewolf legends, history and their rendering in the media. These are generally intelligent and succinct. For instance, her linking the origin of the name Nosferatu and snake venom, the history of Vlad the Impaler and recounting of Haitian werewolf vampire beliefs are exotic and engaging.

But the turn off were those quiz fillers. Gresh’s humour is corny; the “guidance” is lame. Surely it is evident that a whopping supply of sunblock would be an essential for a vampire lover! Then there is the Sex Appeal Quiz of Werewolf versus Vampire. It poses inane questions about our monster preferences. Do you want two legs or four with that? And wearing plastic attire to combat werewolf blood splatter ran on empty for me. Then there was the Romance Quiz. Having to ponder the lengthy string of questions that asked if I was “a

submissive person,” or “a sweet and caring person” seemed like protracted water torture. I almost shouted, “Crikey! Here comes another drop!” Perhaps these quizzes were to keep the reader vigilant after the weary rehash of Twilight.

There have been are mixed reviews. Readers have complained about Gresh’s impeccable historical or folkloric inserts, the Twilight content being the same old same old, and that it took forever to read. It would appear then, that the book’s fragmented structure was not what they were after, despite the book’s brilliant marketing position. That is, pitched to a young, female Twlight fan base.

To be fair, though, Gresh’s guide is the forerunner of similar products such as Diana Laurence’s 2009 How to Catch and Keep a Vampire: a step-by-step guide to loving the bad and the beautiful. Laurence expounds on why normal people fall for such sinister beings. And more crucially, what should we do about it when we do. Laurence claims she is the guru to turn to in such pressing matters.
Maybe young women need to know how tough it is to date vampires and werewolves and be warned about their respective aversions to garlic and silver bullets. And that it’s for better or worse—in a different vein. Maybe the guide will console a friend who has everything except a diversion for her lovelife glitches.
Yet, despite Gresh’s book being humourless, I applauded the sheer audacity of it. Her attempt at melding the pieces together makes it innovative.
All the same, the guide didn’t help me solve the burning question of whether Monster Loving was a bonus or curse. Perhaps some readers could be forgiven then, if they try slipping into something more comfortable and warily dip their toes into Gresh’s Lagoon of Insane Plantts.
RRP $24.99

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