The New Gothic

The nineteenth century gothic novel has been recently revived by Joel Deane, Louise Welsh, and Chris Womersley whose work seems full of body parts, suspense, and gloomy atmosphere. Strangely enough, only Welsh confesses to being ‘quite self-consciously gothic.’ ‘I’ve never thought of myself as a gothic writer,’ Deane states at their MWF 2010 panel. Womersley simply wanted to write a story and find the best way to tell it.

It’s hard to believe, considering that all three novellists were influenced by the gothic classic Wuthering Heights, as well as individually finding inspiration in Emily Dickinson, the Romantics, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and Edgar Allan Poe. But they seem to have adopted the form in response to what Womersley describes as the ‘dominant mood in literary fiction’. For The Norseman’s Song, Deane didn’t want to write a ‘polite novel’, ‘novels that were navels’. He wanted to write about ugliness and violence, what killing does to people. Womersley adds, ‘The Gothic is all about the senses…[We’ve been] under the thumb of Raymond Carver [writing with]…not a lot of texture or deep emotion…A good gothic novel really smells.’

There can be pitfalls to such writing. Welsh cautions on the gothic excess, using Matthew Gregory Lewis’ The Monk as a cautionary tale. In spite of this, Welsh delights in how the gothic novel is ‘endlessly reinventing itself’, responding to social fears such as xenophobia (Dracula) and HIV (eighties vampire fiction). Having said such, she’s dismissive of Twilight with its case against premarital sex. But if Jeff Sparrow is to be believed in regards to the current abstinence movement in America, perhaps Twilight is a response to today’s social issues…?

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Letters to the Editor: Disgruntled about Fading Twilight

Dear esteemed debaters for Team Bella and the Anti Sparkly Vampire League,

I have listened to your arguments in regards to a ‘fading Twilight‘. They have been informative. For instance, I never knew that President Bush had pushed for sexy abstinence programs in American schools: ‘not only should you not have sex, but you should be sexy at the same time’ (Jeff Sparrow). Nor did I realise that many boys consider porn ‘educational’, that one in three teenage girls have been coerced into sexual acts by their boyfriends (Van Badham).

You’ve used smutty humour such as ‘sub-zero penises’, and ‘frozen sperm’ to point out that ‘promotion of abstinence…is outdated, out of touch, and insulting to women’ (Chris Flynn), and accused us of literary snobbery (Kate Forsyth) and Stephanie Meyer of bad prose (Ben Chandler) . You’ve even brought up my favourite topic of the month, Mr Joss Whedon, via musings on Angel/Angelus, a real vampire (Ben Chandler).

But only one argument came close to the debate topic, ‘Fading Twilight‘, and that was the number-crunching. Nineteen thousand Breaking Dawns being sold per week (Bec Kavanagh)? That’s suggestive of a here-to-stay phenomenon. If only you had produced evidence of unmitigated sales as well, instead of making vague references to the New York Times Best Seller lists, we might have all been convinced one way or another.

Unfortunately, you did not, and as a result, the debate on ‘Fading Twilight‘ had strayed completely off topic. Come on. Who cares if Edward’s a prude? Or how male-dominated the publishing industry is? And why on earth are we talking about ‘pink icypole penises’?

Instead, we should have been examining Twilight’s continuing impact on its readers and the rest of society. Has it improved the literacy rate in children and adolescents? Has it affected reading patterns? Kavanagh mentioned increased sales in Wuthering Heights; that’s a good start. Has Twilight become set texts in schools that promote abstinence? Has it been duplicated by other writers (YES), adapted for film (YES) and graphic novels (YES), and parodied (YES)? These are the questions that need to be answered in a debate about the staying power of Twilight. That little girl in the audience might have been laughing at your jokes but even she wasn’t convinced by the pointless rhetoric.

See, that’s the thing, esteemed debaters from Team Bella and ASVL. This debate was part of the MWF’s Schools’ Program. We’re supposed to be teaching kids how to make a proper argument, instead of teaching them bad habits. ‘So long as you’re eloquent, the devil may care’ is what they’ve learnt today, thanks to you. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

From,

Disgruntled

All vampired out

Phew, it’s been a long week of vampire-related activities. I’ve been working on a True Blood/Buffy comparison for kicks, as well as a review of Narrelle M. Harris’ The Opposite of Life on Estelle Tang’s request. Estelle Tang is now the online content editor of Kill Your Darlings, which is coincidentally launching its first issue tonight at the Bella Union Bar.

There seems to be a few literary events going down tonight. Etchings is also launching its latest issue, ‘Dusk till Dawn’, at Neverland (South Melbourne), and Willow Tales will be on again at the Willow Bar (Northcote). Christine will be nabbing (and hopefully reviewing) a copy of Etchings for me, but I’m bummed about having to ditch Willow Tales for Kill Your Darlings. I’ve heard some good things about Willow Tales and I keep on missing out. Bleh. I’ll get there one day.

Until then…