Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner joins a long list of supporting players telling their own story

Coming out this June is a new Twilight related story by Stephanie Meyer,one that happens to tie in nicely with the Eclipse movie due to be out in theaters as well. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner focuses on a member of vengeful vampire Victoria's army of newborns who are recruited in her campaign against the Cullens in Eclipse and has a sadly brief moment in the spotlight towards the end of that encounter.

Similar to the Hogwarts guidebooks that J.K. Rowling put out between Harry Potters,a portion of the proceeds from the sales of the Bree Tanner novella will go to charity( towards relief for Haiti via the Red Cross). The book will also be available to read online,starting June 7th and ending July 5th.

While that's convenient enough for those who would rather just check it out rather than own it,some folks will still find something to squawk about here,namely the notion that stories about secondary characters are not worth the trouble of telling in the first place.

Having a supporting character tell their side of the story is nothing new in the fiction game and while not every attempt to get another bite out of the original story apple isn't always successful,this creative concept is not a wholly bad idea. One author whose had this done to her party of players numerous times over is Jane Austen.

There have been books showcasing the youngest Dashwood sister and the ward of Col. Brandon who Willoughby ran into long before he met Marianne,Lady Catherine and her daughter and even Col. Fitzwilliam from P&P has a book that makes him a matchmaker for his cousin Darcy.

One of the better received by both devoted Austen fans and critics alike takes on this subgenre is Joan Aiken's Jane Fairfax,which gives the reserved young lady from Emma more of a voice. Part of the reason for that book's merit is the wise choice of choosing a character like Jane Fairfax to expand upon.

Not only is she a key figure in more than one sub plot,she's also the object of much speculation by many of the other characters and being the kind of person who speaks only when deemed necessary, there's a heap of mystery surrounding Jane Fairfax even after some of the veil is lifted away from her secret life and loves:

On the flip side,even well established authors can stumble when setting their sights on a second string story character. Colleen McCullough's The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet has had so much scorn heaped upon it from all sides that it's almost become the literary equivalent of a box office bomb like Gigli or Glitter.

In a weird way,that reaction makes me want to read it just to see if it's as bad as everyone claims. Poor Mary;she's the odd one out in the pack of perky Bennet sisters who desperately craves to have her big moment.

Unfortunately for Mary,her artistic expressions in public tend to inspire stunned silences and hasty removals from the center stage,a jinx that clings to her solo fictional performances as well:

There have quite a few highly praised literary fiction offerings which open up the scope of classic novels from a character on the sidelines,such as Jon Clinch's Finn,March by Geraldine Brooks(which won the Pulitzer back in 2006) and Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea.

Most of them are not meant to appeal directly to a specialized fan base but it does help to know something about the source of the author's inspiration in order to appreciate their take on it fully.

While I never made it all the way through Moby Dick, Sena Jeter Naslund made the path to her inspired by the tale of the white whale novel ,Ahab's Wife, rather smooth sailing indeed. The true strength of the story is that even without that connection to Melville,the book is a completely compelling work of art on it's own merits. Naslund really set the bar high in this category but left the door open for others to follow in her wake:

Don't get me wrong, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is probably not going to reach such lofty heights but it may be worth a look and shouldn't be quickly dismissed. When push comes to shove,a character on the side lines of a story can have plenty to say and be more amusing than you think:

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