Local Twihards sink their teeth into vampires

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It’s showtime for Twihards. “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” the latest movie installment based on Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” books, opens in theaters today. And the Twihards, hipster speak for fans of the romance series about a mortal girl and vampire boy, are anticipating the big-screen debut.

But what’s behind the morally themed gothic series, which sold some 22 million books in 2008, according to Meyer’s publisher? Why the Twi-love, which has spawned endless Twitter tweets, blogs, Facebook pages and area blood drives?

“I think that the vampire is a way that a secular culture like ours deals with spiritual issues,” said Craig Svonkin, an assistant professor of English at Metropolitan State College of Denver, about the phenomenon, “that there’s something beyond death.”

Svonkin pointed to the popularity of other vampire-themed shows and stories, such as “The Vampire Diaries” on The CW, and parallels to literature from the 1850s, which also dealt with immortal vampires in a mortal world.

“There’s obviously something in the culture that needs this,” Svonkin said. “Vampires don’t die.”

And in the case of the “Twilight” series, it’s resurrecting an interest in literature.

Jen Studebaker, a young adult coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library, noticed a surge of interest in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” with teens jotting notes about the book in their journals over the summer. Studebaker, who reads the journals as a leader of reading programs, was puzzled — and pleased — over the surge in interest. Then she spotted a journal line that tied the pieces together: “‘Pride and Prejudice’ is Bella’s favorite book, and now it’s mine, too.” Bella, as in Bella Swan, is the protagonist in the “Twilight” series.

‘Twilight’ spurs Parties, outings

“It’s part of that whole allure,” Svonkin said. “That somehow we’re living in an unromantic time.”

He added: “If it’s getting kids to read Jane Austen, that’s great.”

Like the Harry Potter craze before it, the Twilight books — and movies — have spawned a fan base that wants to become immersed in the fantasy, including dressing like some of the characters.

Hailey Bevins, a 23-year-old Vancouver woman, hosted a “Twilight”-themed masquerade party for Halloween. She and her husband dressed as Victoria and James, vampire characters in the series.

“It’s fun to relive those butterfly feelings of romance, adventure and the fantasy world of vampires and werewolves,” Bevins said.

Elisa Cotton, a Vancouver devotee who created a Web site dedicated to the story, talkingtwilight.com, recently threw a “Twilight”-themed birthday party for her daughter.

Her explanation for Twi-love: “For me, it was the first time in a long time that I really read a book that was mainstream, that so many people liked and had moral values. With my daughter, she likes the love story.”

Amanda Brown, a 27-year-old Vancouver woman doesn’t dress in “Twilight” regalia, but she and her eight girlfriends read the books together and are planning a “New Moon” movie date.

“We talked about eating mushroom ravioli” before the movie,” Brown said.

That dish is what Bella and Edward had on their first date in the first “Twilight” movie.