05 May 2014


Reading Diary: Talking to Girls about Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield

It's complicated, the way we use pop-culture artefacts in our day-to-day emotional relationships. The popular stereotype of this is the overbearing boyfriend who tries to get his girlfriend to appreciate free jazz, football, or World War II documentaries--but everyone knows it goes both ways. Consider Pretty Woman, a movie that only exists so that women can force their boyfriends to watch it. Your boyfriend has probably seen it more times than you have, once for every relationship. (Never more than once--unless something was seriously wrong.) And while you may kid yourself he thinks the women are hot, he's really just showing off that he's man enough to take the punishment . . .

But there's nothing at all wrong with an exchange like this. As a boy, experiences like this are part of learning girl languages. What else is pop culture for?

For the record, I have never made a man watch Pretty Woman with me! How can I when I don't like it much myself? =P And yet I know Rob Sheffield writes truth because I have made family and friends alike watch The Terminator with me! So if you have ever decided to watch the latter film because of something that you read on this blog . . . Congratulations! I will love you forever.

There have also been times when I had to learn to speak other people's languages. Most memorable was the summer when I visited some cousins I hadn't seen in about seven years, and I had to learn how to speak Clueless with them. (I wonder what they'd think of my Twelve Things review . . .) But they weren't equally successful in getting me to speak Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins or other American bands with them. Instead, I taught them to speak Oasis. A lot of Oasis.

"Taking to Girls about Oasis" doesn't have the same ring to it, though =P

But I'm not always such a good friend. Ten years ago, I was too prissy about my faith to fulfill a friend's longing to watch the reportedly anti-Catholic Chocolat with her . . . and I've been dragging my feet for at least two years with respect to L.O.S.T. (Are you still speaking to me, Christopher?)

The first time I realised pop culture could be a language was right after Stephenie Meyer's Twilight became a best-seller. A parent mused that he couldn't understand how something could be so phenomenally successful when it was so phenomenally bad (LOL!), and thanks to parallels I had already noticed between modern YA Vampire Romance and early-nineteenth-century Gothic novels, I was able to explain that Twilight had simply given young girls a language for talking about perfectly natural feelings and desires that they had hitherto been able to put into words. "Bella" and "Edward" are codes for the secrets in young female hearts.

Over the last few years, they have also become codes for the secret contempt you probably hadn't guessed the modern world had for young girls.

Last night, I started interviewing family members, asking them what their pop culture artefacts were. "What explains you?" I asked. That is, what explains you better than you can explain yourself, because it explained you to yourself first? My mother had the best answer--and not just because it was right out of the 80s.

"Taking to My Mother about Madonna" will be the title of my memoir,
in which I will explain, among other things, why I owe my life to this song

So cool to see that even posts that weren't written for the May Is for Mothers theme are managing to fit it!

I've decided to put Early Edition on hold while I do a series based on Sheffield's book. Coming up next from the decade that taste forgot but that I never will: The Go-Gos!

Your Turn at the Jukebox: What song (or book, movie, etc.) do you force subtly encourage your friends to listen to?

Image Source: Talking to Girls about Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield


Sheila said...

I definitely know what you are talking about. It's one of the top reasons for my social awkwardness -- I never read, watched, or listened to what my peers did. The TV, I mostly wasn't allowed to watch. Movies, I just never went to much. And music, I like my dad's music and can't appreciate a lot of popular stuff. So what the heck was I supposed to talk about with people?!

My cousin LOCKED me in her bedroom once to force me to listen to NSync. I haaaaated it. I did like another song she turned me onto ... Google tells me it's called All Star and it is by a band called Smash Mouth. I didn't know that, but it was nice to be able to sing it in high school along with everybody else.

What do I force people to enjoy with me? Eh, I'm not pushy with my tastes because I know they're not general. In fact, I usually don't share them at all, even with my own husband, for fear he will make fun of me. (Seriously, a guy who likes REO Speedwagon shouldn't be throwing stones.)

But here are a couple that I will throw out there, for you to take or leave, and expand your horizons if you want to:



I would say those are two of the songs that describe me. Along with basically anything by the Moody Blues.

I have met a total of ONE person in my age range, besides my own brother, who's into the same music I am. Sigh.

love the girls said...

I watched Pretty Woman with my wife not long after we were married. I thought it was a nice story of princess rescued from adversity. But if there was a language that I was supposed to learn, I missed it.

On the other hand, until this post it had never occurred to me that all the daughters watching movies with their mother was a teaching environment with their constant commenting on the characters.

Enbrethiliel said...


Sheila -- REO Speedwagon?!?! ROFL! But I'm not in the best position to throw stones, either . . . ;-)

A few months ago, I gave an English lesson to a French client who approached parenting with an intensity that I will never forget. She is a supporter of same-sex marriage, but the main reason she took part in la manifestation at the Eiffel Tower was so she could create a teaching moment for her daughter. She also deliberately chose a school for the girl where the latter could have "poor" immigrants for classmates, because she believes it is a better reflection of modern France than a more "elite" school would be. As for TV, she admitted that most French children's programming is downright awful, but she doesn't want to deprive her daughter of the "language" of the latter's peers. With that in mind, I'm genuinely curious about how your parents would answer your question: what did they expect you to discuss with people your age? It would be nice if we all were well versed in the classics and a literary canon, but that hasn't been the case for so long!

I already know Dust in the Wind, which is practically a standard here. Back in high school, I was drawn to it myself, for the bleak imagery and the harmonies--but I don't know if we like it for the same reasons! And I confess that I find it a surprising choice for you! Why were you drawn to it?

Hand over Fist is new to me, but I think I like it. I'll have to listen to it a few more times. =)

LTG -- As I've said, Pretty Woman isn't a favourite of mine; I also haven't seen it in years, so I'm not even sure why other women bond over it. (On the other hand, I totally understood what was going on in Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion when the two main characters were watching Pretty Woman and one of them said, "I just get really happy when they finally let her shop!" And I guess men should understand how horrible it is for a woman when she isn't allowed to shop. LOL--but it's true!)

Is there another movie you can think of that women have told you that you need to watch in order to understand women? Or a movie that you'd recommend to women who want a better foothold in their understanding of men?

love the girls said...

Miss E. writes : "Is there another movie you can think of that women have told you that you need to watch in order to understand women?"

Movies? No. Books? Yes, such as the Five Love Languages.

When it comes to movies I typically only manage to irritate my wife either because I like the girls no matter how despicable she thinks they are, or because she makes some comment I invariably make some reply which causes her to say something to the effect "I'm married to a complete stranger, how can you not see . . .?"

Enbrethiliel said...


Well, the Love Languages have entered pop culture. LOL! Which one is your primary Love Language? Mine is Quality Time! =)

Yeah, I've experienced discussing a woman character with you and having you defend her to the ends of the earth . . . LOL!

Sullivan McPig said...

Movies: Titanic and The Princess Bride.

I will confess I'm a Titanic nerd and make people watch the movie for the things going on around the whole love story. I do not care about Rose and Jack I'm afraid.
The Princess Bride: Inigo Montoya!

and I will confess never having seen Pretty Woman. I can't stand Gere and Roberts.

books: I try to force the books by Laura Bickle on anyone, just because I want more people to love and buy her books, so she'll get contracted for lots more. I might also do that with books of other favorite authors.

Also: Chocolat anti-Catholic? I think it's not so much anti-Catholic as it is trying to tell you to live your life instead of letting it be lived by others. But that's just my view on it.

Enbrethiliel said...


I'd totally watch Titanic again with you, Sully! =) Would you believe I've only seen it once?

When you say you're a "Titanic nerd," do you mean the ship itself or mostly James Cameron's movie?

wordsandpeace.com said...

great teaser! As for our culture, an awesome audiobook I listened to is Ready Player One, a novel I think everyone should listen to pertaining to our current society and what it could lead to

Belfry Bat said...

It's possible that Judi Dench may be anti-catholic herself, and she has certainly taken on a share of anti-catholic characters, as she did in Chocolat (anti-catholic, anti-prudence, anti-moderation, anti-doctor...). That's quite different from making the film anti-catholic, though. I suppose it depends on whether that storyline is read as naive-or-careless folks enabling a suicide or simply allowing Nature to operate in its ordinary way. I do like that in one of the other threads the happy ending is not running away from a happy union.


Somehow "Great Elephants!" has become a favourite exclamation, (as has the formula "[B]? What [B] do you think we have?" which must, canonically, be pronounced in an approximation of Christopher Lee's "mad" voice; try it with [B]="bacon", right now! It's not in the books, but... anyway)

... Not to mention "is it tasty? is it crunchable?" and "tricksy"... there are plenty of others that arise on appropriate occasions that aren't jumping to mind just now, and yet... It's not that I'd insist on anyone particularly reading them (there's a lot in them, and it's easy to get distracted), but if one hasn't, then those bits of my colloquy just won't click.

For Music, anyone hanging around my home will probably end up hearing a lot of polyphony, usually instrumental (a lot of organ music), and Flanders and Swann. And Widor's famous Toccata is always good for lifting the heart!

It also helps if you can talk Hudsucker Proxy.

Sullivan McPig said...

The ship. I've been fascinated by the Titanic since I was a kid. It tells so much about human nature and about the society at that time in history.

Enbrethiliel said...


Words and Peace -- Thanks for the recommendation. =)

Bat -- I read somewhere that the chocolate shop is opened during Lent and that the villain gets his a change of heart after gorging on chocolate on Good Friday. The filmmakers probably didn't intend to be anti-Catholic, any more than an FF writer I know (who got one hungover character to wash up in the baptismal font and snack on consecrated wafers pilfered from the Tabernacle, and who explained to me, "I think it's perfect that someone so committed to avoiding religion would accidentally give herself two of the sacraments!"). But it took me a long time to be comfortable reading or watching things that played fast and loose with Catholic symbolism.

You did use to send me a lot of music. =) I suppose there was a code involved, but I really didn't understand what those riddles wrapped in mysteries and tied up with enigmas were supposed to mean! LOL! 4nd I r3c4ll y0u t34ch1ng m3 s0m3th1ng th4t l00ks l1k3 th1s, but pr0b4bly 1sn't! =P

Sully -- It also occurs to me that although I'm very familiar with The Princess Bride, it is not part of my language. (I was more of a Labyrinth girl, I guess! =P) What is the one thing you'd like someone dear to you to take away from The Princess Bride? (If I had to answer the same question about Labyrinth, I'd say that I'd want people to take away a sense of magic and wonder, and also the moral that as diverting as fantasy worlds can be, they're not as rewarding as reality. These are things I feel and think on a daily basis, and screening Labyrinth is one of the best ways I can come up with of sharing these with others.)

Belfry Bat said...

Yes, wh3n yr 0ld kbd b0rkd! c4m3 1n h4ndy th3n, 3h?

Belfry Bat said...

I don't see what Russia has to do with it, though. ;-)

Sullivan McPig said...

@Enbrethiliel: I would hope that people would feel the same about Inigo as I do. See his passion and loyalty. He's so much more than a man out to seek revenge. To me he's the hero of the movie, not Westley.

As for Labyrinth: The message of Labyrinth is in the ending I think, when Sarah tells all the monsters and creatures she needs all of them once in a while. To me that means we should not let go of our imagination and our sense of wonder when we grow up.

Enbrethiliel said...


Bat -- If you don't see what it has to do with Russia, then you know how I felt whenever you sent some more music over. ;-P

Sully -- In that case, watching The Princess Bride with you will be a completely different experience! =D There have also been times when I realised that a "minor" character in a story was the true hero, and when that happened, I was eager to share the vision with everyone else, too.

You're right that the very ending of Labyrinth seals the moral, but for me, the real big deal is when Sarah can hold on to her love for her brother long enough to break the spell.

Sheila said...

My family has its own pop-culture language: Princess Bride, Monty Python, and Star Trek. Some of that works with other people .... some does not.

But what my parents thought I would talk to my peers about .... I honestly don't think they ever considered that. They didn't really consider I would want to talk to my peers at all, which explains the first nine years of my life. Sometimes we would go to a party at which there was another kid, and they would say, "See, a friend for you!" Regardless of whether the kid in question was five years older than me or five years younger. Or they would say I was being "socialized" because I was signed up for a one-hour ballet class once a week, at which talking wasn't allowed.

I am such a fan of homeschooling, but there are definitely some things I'd do differently .... :P

Dust in the Wind is just .... peaceful, I guess, and melancholy. And I love the violin bits. I used to get home from a long day teaching and just play it on loop.

I like a whole lot of Rush. I heard the writer (Neil Peart) described as "the great lyric poet" the other day, and it made me happy. Rush is the band for English majors. Other particularly good songs of theirs are "The Camera Eye," "Available Light," "Time Stand Still," "Red Tide" .... okay, I'll stop. You could take the music out and just read it as poetry, and it's just as awesome.

I think The Princess Bride is chock full of christological parallels. Though I think the real takeaway is "love conquers all," what I like best about it is the way it can be a good fantasy movie while also making fun of fantasy movies.

I dislike Labyrinth. There's so much that's good about it, but David Bowie is so creepy and the concept of having a baby stolen is so terrifying that I simply can't enjoy it.

Nowadays it seems like the "force your boyfriend to watch it" movie of choice is The Notebook. I can't understand that. I do not want the relationship portrayed in that movie. I *have* made my husband watch When Harry Met Sally though. It seems to have a lot of wisdom in it.

Enbrethiliel said...


I wasn't homeschooled, but my big difficulty was that my family spoke only English to me when I was very small, so by the time I started school, people were asking me, "Were you born abroad?" =/ (Context: it was a huge status symbol back then to have a child who spoke English with an "American" accent. And to this day every foreigner I meet thinks I'm an American . . . except for the real Americans! Oh, irony!) It didn't help that the Filipino sense of humour is tickled by grammatical mistakes. I got laughed at a lot for trying to have conversations with my classmates, and I became really shy about speaking Filipino with them . . . while they were too worried I would mock their English to speak to me! =(

I normally listen to whole albums on loop, though I sometimes repeat favourite songs a few times. (And then I inevitably remember C.S. Lewis saying something to the effect that repeating a beautiful piece of music immediately after you hear it is to miss the point. =P) I'm a little embarrassed to say that the last thing I had on loop was a Richard Marx compilation album. LOL!!! I had always thought of him as mushy--and well, he is--but I started listening to some of his songs again when looking for easy resources for my trainees, and well, I guess I was in a romantic mood because even after I had found what I needed, I continued to listen!

Speaking of romance . . . what does it say about my romantic life that I think of The Notebook as the Girls' Night movie? ;-P I can totally see how it dethroned Pretty Woman, though! I'm not sure what Rom-Com I'd make a man watch with me, but The Terminator has some romance, so it will do again. ;-)

As for Labyrinth, it's too bad that it's not your thing, but I see where you're coming from. What I never understood was why so many people seem to think David Bowie is sexy in that movie! A friend tried to explain it to me once: "He's so powerful and he's able to create an entire fantasy world just for Sarah, because he's in love with her!" Nope, I don't see it. And I like Bowie. Personally, I think of the Goblin King as a "morality play devil" . . . but then again, I love morality plays!

And oh, yes . . . You've sold me on Rush! =D

DMS said...

The Princess Bride, Harry Potter, Madonna, and Neil Gaiman's books are my pop culture "speak". :) Of course, there are probably more- but these are the first that came to mind.

I have never read the book featured here- but I read Love is a Mix Tape by this author and it has stayed with me all this time. I will be curious to hear your thoughts about it if you decide to read it. :)

Enbrethiliel said...


The Princess Bride is really popular! I'm a little embarrassed that I know the book better than the movie. Does it give me an odd accent, I wonder? LOL!

Harry Potter is another good one! J.K. Rowling has definitely left her mark on pop culture!

I'm not surprised to hear that Love Is a Mix Tape was so memorable, because Talking to Girls about Duran Duran is great! I'd love to read anything Rob Sheffield has written. =)

Sheila said...

The book and movie are awfully different. My dad read the book aloud to us when we were little .... with different voices and everything. I loved Fezzik's backstory!

I am indignant at your parents not teaching you the native language of your country! And I thought MY parents isolated me. It's interesting too, because I read the blog of an Indian girl a few months ago who was in the same boat -- she spoke ENglish at home and wasn't even fluent at all in the local language. Sure, I am sure it opens some doors, but it must shut many others. Here, it is very "classy" to have your kids be bilingual, and it's something I thought I would do, but when it came down to it, I wasn't comfortable enough in either Latin or Spanish to try that. And John doesn't speak Spanish, despite it being his mother's first language!

I met a couple who was speaking to their toddler only in Latin. His mom confided in me that her Latin was so limited it meant that she didn't talk to her child very much at all. I tried not to be critical, but I was actually quite upset. Teaching your child a language, any language, during those crucial years is VITAL and can't be made up for later!

If you would "make" a man watch Terminator on a date, you ARE a find! Perhaps you should introduce yourself with this information. ;)

People who find the Goblin King sexy probably are the same people who find the Phantom of the Opera and Edward Cullen sexy. Because kidnapping now equals true love or something. Ew.

Rush is one of those bands that, if you like it, you can't figure out why they are not insanely popular. I'm glad you like them. :D

Enbrethiliel said...


I'd want my children to know Latin very well, too, but I'd be happy to have them learn it from workbooks later on. And well, one of my homeschooling dreams is to get my children in a class for a language I've already studied but haven't mastered, so that I can both tutor them on the very basics and ride along when they finally get to the intermediate stuff. =P

The Phantom of the Opera is another one I don't get!!! I have always been "Team Raoul" and I will argue forever that Christine was, too! I'm also not crazy about Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, though I think Cathy Earnshaw was no catch herself: those two actually did deserve each other! On the other hand, I do call Jane Eyre the "secret template of my life," and Mr. Rochester does have significant things in common with the Goblin King, the Phantom, Heathcliff, and (Gulp!) Edward Cullen. =S But if this ever becomes an issue, I think I could make a very good case for his being a very different kind of romantic hero!

PS -- This comment was written with first Available Light and then Red Tide in the background. Thought you might like to know . . . ;-)

Belfry Bat said...

Since I know nothing substantial about those books, before I suggest something completely useless, is there a solution to the analogy Raoul:Phantom::??:Ed the Shiny Vampire?

Enbrethiliel said...


Not really. Bella's best friend Jacob also has romantic feelings for her, but since he's also a supernatural character (werewolf/shifter), there's no good analogy here.

Mike Newton, a normal human boy who is interested in Bella, is a minor character who is often used as a pathetic contrast to Edward and Jacob. Meyer's argument is: now that Bella has seen the world of vampires and werewolves, how could she be content dating an ordinary boy?

In fairness, it's not just the supernatural powers and unearthly good looks which make Edward and Jacob attractive. They're both more mature than the other high school boys in that they each live for a higher purpose defined by their families: the Cullens are committed to being "vegetarian" vampires, while the Quileute tribe are the ancient protectors of all the humans in Forks, Washington.

I'm actually reading the third book in the Twilight series now, and I was surprised at how much more plausible it became when I could think of the vampires and the werewolves/shifters not as species who hate each other but as religious adherents who vehemently disagree. In this set up, Mike is an atheist or agnostic--definitely not impressive to a teenage girl who knows for a fact that there are higher realities out there.

Right now, I'm halfway through the book. I have a sneaking feeling that when I'm done, I won't really want to rank Edward with the Phantom and the Goblin King any longer. =P

Belfry Bat said...

Hmm. Well, I had been working on a theory that what sets apart the Phantom and the Goblin King and this Mr. Cullen is that they plainly take an interest (of sorts) in their stories respective damsels, and put energy into showing it, which is something their young girl readers very likely crave for themselves (though I don't really know if the young boys around are less interested than usual.)

But I'm not committed to this theory at all.

Sheila said...

Yes, I think there's a desire to be SO desirable as to cause the men to go completely nuts .... especially if it's an edgy sort of hero to start with. It makes the girl feel special, even though we kind of get it stressed with Bella at least that there's nothing special about her.

I think Jacob is far and away a better choice than Edward. He *likes* Bella; he isn't obsessively trying to keep her away from everything. She could have a normal relationship with him, despite the werewolf stuff.

Nah, Rochester is the Bad Boy redeemed. While the other heroines we're talking about take the Bad Boy as he is, Jane REFUSES to make that choice. Even though she is attracted to the bad-boy-ness of him .... or perhaps some other quality .... she has principles of her own, and she listens to those first. Much more respectable! The Bad Boy has to be redeemed before he's good enough for her.

Apparently both Heathcliff and Rochester were inspired by the Brontes' bad-boy brother. Take that as you will....

Enbrethiliel said...


Bat -- That works, too. To quote one of Meyer's characters, "It's hard to resist that level of commitment and adoration." And that level involves the teenage boy knowing, within minutes of meeting the girl, that she is the one for him forever. So if you know a couple of boys who start thinking about building a home and putting away some money for the children they will have with two girls they've each just met, then you have a real-life Mr. Cullen and Mr. Black.

The catch is that what girls clearly want in books, they don't seem to want in real life. I have known several women who have had a man say to them, after a handful of dates, that they were "The One" and that the man wanted to commit to them exclusively and immediately. And they all said that they considered it a big turn off.

This came up in another recent conversation of mine, with a male friend who blogged about men falling in love faster than women do. I asked him, "What if he tells her that and she says that it's too soon for her to know how she feels about him?" He replied: "Doesn't know how she feels? Leave it to a woman to say something like that . . . He's going to ask her what exactly that means, because to a man that makes no sense at all." (LOL!)

I bring this up now because Stephenie Meyer is usually criticised for creating such unrealistically perfect leading men that the average boy would never be able to live up to them (See a related discussion of unrealistically perfect places like Stoneybrook, Connecticut with Sheila in another thread); but in this respect, at least, she seems to have got it exactly right.

Sheila -- What I like about Jane and Mr. Rochester as a couple is that they recognise each other as being from the same planet, if you take my meaning. All their lives, they've been lonely and isolated, even in the middle of crowds--and Mr. Rochester has only "dated" women who think they understand him, but really have no idea how deep he is because they themselves are so shallow. So when Jane and Mr. Rochester meet, they know very soon that they belong together . . . even though Mr. Rochester wants to play a few games first. =/

Of course, having that kind of unique connection doesn't excuse what Mr. Rochester wants to do. And in fairness to Mr. Cullen, he gets that. If I remember correctly, he was a serial killer for some time after he became a vampire, and one reason he is initially so reluctant to have a relationship with Bella is that he doesn't think any girl should date someone with such a history.

I can't believe that I'm defending Edward Cullen . . . What has happened to me???

Sheila said...

I hate the very idea of love at first sight. What better way to tell someone, "I only like you for your body" than "I know literally nothing about you besides your looks, and that is enough for me to fall for you"?

But in books, it seems you don't have to know WHY the guy falls for the girl. It's this magical ineffable thing. I don't find that very romantic. Romantic is a guy who sees in me all the things I most value about myself, plus perhaps some things I never appreciated about myself, and is able to articulate, "THAT is what's so special about you." Then I know it won't change, whereas magical feelings (and physical attraction) are both subject to change without notice.

I think the reason authors don't do this is because they are trying to make it so you can put yourself in the place of the heroine. But if the only way to do it is by removing all identifying details .... that just makes it lame.

But then, I don't like romance. The only one I can think of that I liked (if you don't count Jane Austen, and I don't) is Addition, which is about a girl with a compulsion to count everything. And in that one, you really can tell that the guy is actually into HER .... not a gorgeous face, which would leave him disappointed when he finds out she has crippling OCD.

You're right about Rochester and Jane .... they are very well-suited, and we're shown reasons for that from their first meeting.

But the "bad boy not wanting to get close to girl because he could be bad for her" trope? I have mixed feelings about that. It seems to be a kind of reverse psychology, or at least it worked that way when it was used on me: "Oh, no, you're not bad for me! We could be great together!" Men should stop saying this if they actually DON'T want to be together .... I don't know many women who wouldn't try to prove that reasoning wrong, if they otherwise liked the guy.

Enbrethiliel said...


I have an aunt who likes to say, "I believe in love at first sight . . . and love at second sight . . . and love at third sight . . . and love at fourth sight . . ." ;-)

The main reason I personally am amenable to the idea is that I've experienced making a lot of my own "snap judgments" about people within minutes of starting to interact with them. And I usually turn out to be right. This doesn't mean that I know absolutely everything there is to know about them; but it does mean that I have a pretty good handle on whether or not we'll get along, and if so, how well. So it's plausible to me that someone would be 100% sure, very soon after meeting someone, that he could spend the rest of his life with her--and also that he'd be right.

As I've mentioned, I've been revisiting the Twilight series and noticing once more the utter lack of detail. While I do see how that would appeal to girls who aren't too satisfied with their own lives and want to escape into Bella Swan's as easily as possible, I also think it's a literary device with its own merits. The primary driver of everything in the novel is the characters' emotions, so everything else fades into the background so that these may be most prominent. And trust me, the emotions are incredibly, intensely specific! Even when I don't like what Bella is feeling, I have no choice but to accept it.