Thursday, 2 July 2009

TwiSaga: Temptation vs Self-Control

A Guide for Parents and other Discerning Readers: Temptation in the TwiSaga

One of the biggest themes in the TwiSaga is that of temptation. The cover image for the first novel, Twilight, puts the idea of temptation front and centre with the image of hands offering an apple, and the frontpiece quote of Genesis 2:17. Then, Chapter 14 is titled, "Mind over matter", suggesting how the temptation is to be dealt with in the novel. Stephenie Meyer (quoted in Time) spoke of her emphasis on the role of choice in resisting or giving in to temptation in this way: "I really think that's the underlying metaphor of my vampires," she says. "It doesn't matter where you're stuck in life or what you think you have to do; you can always choose something else. There's always a different path." Free will is a critical and highly valued concept in the first three TwiSaga books, yet in Breaking Dawn, Meyer's characters begin to prefer the idea of their decisions being forced, rather than freely made.

Traditional visual interpretations of the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit (from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden) have often rendered the forbidden fruit as an apple. Of course, the biblical text does not use the word apple at all. Rather, it says in Genesis 2, 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." Then later, in Genesis 3, 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.The TwiSaga follows this pattern closely, with Bella offering temptation to Edward simply by her presence, as he is drawn in by the smell of her blood. Beth Felker Jones explains, For Edward, the lure of Bella’s flesh and the particular scent of her blood are uniquely tantalizing. So much so that, despite decades of practiced restraint, on meeting her he has to flee to keep from ripping her to pieces in high school science class.
This romance is founded in a visceral impulse to possess and to consume. The relationship unfolds as Edward works to master his desire to guzzle Bella’s blood. ... Bella, for the space of three long novels, literally begs him to bite.

Consider what happens when Edward first smells Bella (taken from the first chapter of Midnight Sun):
Bella Swan walked into the flow of the heated air that blew toward me from the vent.
Her scent hit me like a wrecking ball, like a battering ram There was no image violent enough to encapsulate the force of what happened to me in that moment.
In that instant, I was nothing close to the human I'd once been; no trace of the shreds of humanity I'd managed to cloak myself in remained.
I was a predator. She was my prey. ...
I was a vampire, and she had the sweetest blood I'd smelled in eighty years.
I hadn't imagined such a scent could exist. If I'd known it did, I would have gone searching for it long ago. I would have combed the planet for her. I could imagine the taste...
Thirst burned through my throat like fire. My mouth was baked and desiccated. The fresh flow of venom did nothing to dispel that sensation. My stomach twisted with the hunger that was an echo of the thirst. My muscles coiled to spring.
Not a full second had passed. She was still taking the same step that had put her downwind from me. ...
I tried to focus on the face I'd seen in her eyes, a face I recognised with revulsion. The face of the monster in me - the face I'd beaten back with decades of effort and uncompromising discipline. How easily it sprang back to the surface now!
The scent swirled around me again, scattering my thoughts and nearly propelling me out of my seat.
No. ...
I knew what had to happen now. The girl would have to come sit beside me, and I would have to kill her. ...
In a few moments, there would be nothing left in me that would reflect the years I'd spent with my creator, my mentor, my father in all the ways that counted. My eyes would glow red as a devil's; all likeness would be lost forever.
In my head, Carlisle's kind eyes did not judge me. I knew that he would forgive me for this horrible act that I would do. Because he loved me. Because he thought I was better than I was. And he would still love me, even as I now proved him wrong. ...
I leaned away from her in revulsion - revolted by the monster aching to take her.

This extended quote illustrates the depth of Edward's temptation as well as his revulsion at his fear that he will give in to it, becoming in reality the "monster" that he sees reflected in her eyes when she looks at him across the room. Edward is also confident that his father Carlisle will, motivated by love, forgive him, despite the horror of the offence.

Another snapshot shows how Edward flirts with temptation (from the central chapter of Twilight, the "meadow scene", rather ominously Chapter 13):
And he was in front of me again, standing two feet away, still as a stone.
"As if you could fight me off," he said gently.
I sat without moving, more frightened of him than I had ever been. I'd never seen him so completel freed of that carefully cultivated facade. He'd never been less human ... or more beautiful. Face ashen, eyes wide, I sat like a bird locked in the eyes of a snake.
His lovely eyes seemed to glow with rash excitement. Then, as the seconds passed, they dimmed. His expression slowly folded into a mask of ancient sadness.
"Don't be afraid," he murmured, his velvet voice unintentionally seductive. "I promise ..." He hesitated. "I swear not to hurt you." He seemed more concerned with convincing himself than me.
"Don't be afraid," he whispered again as he stepped closer, with exaggerated slowness. He sat down sinuously, with deliberately unhurried movements, till our faces were on the same level, just a foot apart.
"Please forgive me," he said formally. "I can control myself. You caught me off guard. But I'm on my best behaviour now."
He waited, but I still couldn't speak.
"I'm not thirsty today, honestly." He winked.
At that, I had to laugh, through the sound was shaky and breathless.

While Edward is gradually exposing himself to the temptation of Bella's scent in an effort to fulfil his curiosity for her nature (for more on that, see my overview of Midnight Sun). As an outsider looking in, it is clear to the reader that what Edward calls love would be described by others as an unhealthy obsessive fixation on the object of his desire: Bella.

From her perspective, we see in the above quote how naively Bella welcomes the opportunity to flirt with disaster. She heads to the mountain meadow with Edward alone, having told others that Edward would be elsewhere, in order to provide him with an alibi if he should, after all, give in to his vampire impulses and devour her. While she is clearly frightened, her romantic notions that "love is blind" - and if it is not already, one must provide one's own blindfold, it seems - provide Bella with the perfect excuse to continue to put herself into dangerous situations. In a marked extension of Eve offering the forbidden fruit to her husband, Bella is eagerly offering her own self as a temptation to Edward.

Not too long after the events in the meadow, Edward seems to be confident of his ability to withstand temptation - a confidence that Edward later proves is well placed when he is able to suck another vampire's venom from Bella's blood and still stop before he drinks too much blood and kills her (from Chapter 14, "Mind over Matter"):
"But how can it be so easy now?" I pressed. "This afternoon ..."
"It's not easy," he sighed. "But this afternoon, I was still ... undecided. I am sorry about that, it was unforgivable for me to behave so."
"Not unforgivable," I disagreed.
"Thank you." He smiled. "You see," he continued, looking down now, "I wasn't sure if I was strong enough ..." He picked up one of my hands and pressed it lightly to his face. "And while there was still the possibility that I might be overcome" - he breathed in the scent at my wrist - "I was ... susceptible. Until I made up my mind that I was strong enough, that there was no possibility at all that I would ... that I ever could .."
I'd never seen him struggle so hard for words. It was so human.
"So there's no possibility now?"
"Mind over matter," he repeated, smiling, his teeth bright even in the darkness.
"Wow, that was easy," I said.
He threw back his head and laughed, quietly as a whisper, but still exuberantly.
"Easy for you!" he amended, touching my nose with his fingertip.
And then his face was abruptly serious.
"I'm trying," he whispered, his voice pained. "If it gets to be ... too much, I'm fairly sure I'll be able to leave."

From this moment, the temptation turns to a more ubiquitous one: lust. Not ten pages later Edward and Bella discuss for the first time the possibility of their having sex at some unspecified time in the future. Interestingly, although Edward seems to have conquered his inner monster with regard to his vampire urges, he tells Bella:
"I don't think that ... that ... would be possible for us." ...
"Your human instincts ..." I began. He waited. "Well, do you find me attractive, in that way, at all?" He laughed and lightly rumpled my nearly dry hair.
"I may not be human, but I am a man," he assured me.

This entire conversation only implies that the act of sex is what is being discussed. It begins with Bella asking Edward if, when Rosalie and Emmett are married, their marriage will be the same as it is for humans. Nothing more is said to make the topic of Bella's concern any more obvious (to a naive reader) than that. While in the fourth book Meyer had no scruples providing quite graphic details of Bella's caesarian delivery of her half-vampire offspring, including Edward cutting her open with his teeth, she is extremely careful not to use any erotic language here in this conversation. In general, while sensual elements such as physical closeness are included in the novels, all specifically sexual elements are omitted. Many, if not all, of the sensual elements would go over the head of many younger readers. I must admit, despite many a mis-spent hour reading adult romance novels before I became a Christian, I overlooked many of the sensual elements myself until I went back and re-read certain passages. Consider Edward's actions from the conversation from Chapter 14 I quoted above:
He picked up one of my hands and pressed it lightly to his face. ... he breathed in the scent at my wrist ...
On one level, that was about a vampire delighting in the scent of blood. On another level, it was about something entirely different. But it would probably take someone with sexual experience to identify most of those sensual elements for what they are. For that reason, I would not say that the sensuality of this novel precludes it from being read by impressionable young girls that make up the target audience.

Mind you, some critics would argue that even before the issue of sex publicly rears its ugly head, it is there below the surface. Caitlan Flannagan wrote in The Atlantic, Edward has been avoiding and scorning Bella not because he loathes her but because he is so carnally attracted to her that he cannot trust himself to be around her for even a moment. The mere scent of her hair is powerful enough that he is in a constant struggle to avoid taking—and thereby destroying—her. This is a vampire novel, so it is a novel about sex, but no writer, from Bram Stoker on, has captured so precisely what sex and longing really mean to a young girl.
The erotic relationship between Bella and Edward is what makes this book—and the series—so riveting to its female readers. There is no question about the exact nature of the physical act that looms over them. Either they will do it or they won’t, and afterward everything will change for Bella, although not for Edward. Nor is the act one that might result in an equal giving and receiving of pleasure. If Edward fails—even once—in his great exercise in restraint, he will do what the boys in the old pregnancy-scare books did to their girlfriends: he will ruin her. More exactly, he will destroy her, ripping her away from the world of the living and bringing her into the realm of the undead. If a novel of today were to sound these chords so explicitly but in a nonsupernatural context, it would be seen (rightly) as a book about “abstinence".

Lev Grossman wrote in Time, What makes Meyer's books so distinctive is that they're about the erotics of abstinence. Their tension comes from prolonged, superhuman acts of self-restraint. … It's never quite clear whether Edward wants to sleep with Bella or rip her throat out or both, but he wants something, and he wants it bad, and you feel it all the more because he never gets it. That's the power of the Twilight books: they're squeaky, geeky clean on the surface, but right below it, they are absolutely, deliciously filthy.

There is one further (major) point of temptation in the novels, one which is only resolved (to my mind, somewhat unsatisfactorily) in the second half of the last novel. Bella decides that because she loves Edward, and he will live forever, she wants to live forever as well, even at the cost of her immortal soul. And so she asks him to change her into a vampire as well. Yet Bella's exposure to temptation is insignificant, because while she desperately desires to become a vampire, her desires are stifled by Edward's determined refusals. She has the potential to struggle with temptation, but since the thing that she is tempted with is, in effect, unattainable, she never has to struggle to do the right thing. Actually, the next two novels detail Bella's efforts to coerce Edward into giving her what she wants. So, unlike Edward, she is not exactly a model of self-control. (And in the fourth book she seems to obtain immense self-control without any discipline whatsoever, simply as an odd by-product of her change to being a vampire.)
"Why didn't you just let the venom spread? By now I would be just like you."
Edward's eyes seemed to turn flat black ...
"You don't know what you're asking." His voice was soft; he stared intently at the edge of the pillowcase.
"I think I do."
"Bella, you don't know. I've had almost ninety years to think about this and I'm still not sure."
"Do you wish that Carlisle hadn't saved you?""No, I don't wish that." He paused before continuing. "But my life was over. I wasn't giving anything up."
"You are my life. You're the only thing it would hurt me to lose." I was getting better at this. It was easy to admit how much I needed him.
He was very calm, though. Decided.
"I can't do it, Bella. I won't do that to you."
"Why not?"

Of course, when she is dying in Breaking Dawn, Edward finds that he can. In doing so he admits that, from his perspective, eternal damnation is better than immortal life, provided that the one you love is eternally damned alongside you. Like I said, I wasn't totally satisfied with the final resolution.

Identifying the Mormon theology

Edward embodies one of the Mormon ideals: he is able to conquer the 'natural man'. According to Michele Harvey (comment #49 on this review): The Cullens become better and better as the series progresses. They essentially triumph more and more over their own nature through their own efforts. ... Edward is darn near perfect, far beyond Mr. Darcy perfect, and Bella becomes nearly perfect when she becomes a vampire. She doesn’t go on a wild rampage of thirst for human blood like other newborn vampires; she quickly masters self-control. In the end, the Cullens are a race of superhumans, instead of being monsters. I may be reading too much into this, but it seems to me that this godlike man, and the family he creates, are an image of a Mormon family, eternally together in “heaven.”

From what I have read on Mormon and ex-Mormon websites since reading this series and beginning to research it, Harvey is correct in her assessment. Jana Reiss, a Mormon, has spoken publicly to Mormon audiences about the Mormon symbolism inherent in the books, and she quotes Meyer's statement that The Book of Mormon had a greater impact on her than any other book, then argues, Her fiction shows this influence. "It is not just window dressing," Riess said.
The theology is embedded within the stories, according to Riess, but it is easy to spot.
One of the strongest Book of Mormon themes in Meyer's novels is "overcoming the natural man." It relates to overcoming sin through redemption.
Adam and Eve became mortal, which was, according to the Book of Mormon, the only way they could have children. It was a giving up of a mere immortality to have eternal relationships with each other, children and God. It would be a struggle to transcend human nature.
"In 'Twilight' the issue of our carnal and sinful nature is embodied and symbolized by the figure of Edward.

Another Mormon review, from the Association of Mormon Letters, came to a similar conclusion: there are no Christ figures in Twilight, but some of the novel's basic underpinnings are some of our most important doctrines as well: the importance of choice in the face of knowledge, and the need to triumph over the natural man.

It may be immature to say this, but these comments have reminded of the Bob the Builder theme song just a little.
"Bob the Builder, can we fix it?
Bob the Builder, yes we can!"

A Christian perspective

As a Christian, I can see that there is something missing in the story of Edward's successful struggle with temptation: the conquering, completed work of Jesus Christ and the regenerating, enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 2:12-13 says, 12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Self-control is not up to us. Overcoming temptation is not a battle we face alone, if we are Christians. We do have to make an effort, but it is God who works in us. Self-control is one of the fruit of the Spirit, according to Galatians 5:22-23. Complete victory in battling sin is not something that we may achieve ourselves, in our own power. if this was the case, we would never have needed a Saviour. Romans 3:22-28 makes this abundantly clear:

22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,[a] through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

Romans 6 has a lot to say on this as well, in particular that it is through Christ that we have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. There is no other way to be free from sin, as John 14:6 tells us. Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Beth Felker Jones says that, Meyer portrays the vampire desire for human blood as deep and strong. Yet, it is also portrayed as something that can be defeated. Before Christians claim this as an image of moral courage, we need to remember that human nature is very unlike this vampire nature because it cannot be overcome through effort or will. Human beings are trapped by sin. We need the grace of Jesus Christ if we are to hope for transformation.

Despite Reiss's claim that Bella is a somewhat clumsy Christ figure, I see no evidence that this is the case. Actually, I see her in a very different light (which I will get into in another post). Bella never offers to sacrifice herself for Edward, even when it becomes obvious that she has almost done so completely inadvertently (James tells Bella he has lured her to himself merely as a device to trap Edward). Unless Bella's not-quite-three-days of burning pain when she is changed into a vampire (with Edward's venom), and her enduring this pain without complaint, are to be seen as parallel to Jesus' silence at his trials and time in the tomb before his resurrection. (This may well be. I shall have to ponder further, because even off-hand I can see some parallels.) But even if this was to be the case, Bella in no way can be seen as saving Edward here, because it is Edward who "resurrects" Bella, using his venom to initiate the change. In that case, Edward would be taking the role of the Father (it was the Father who raised the Son to life), and so why would he ever have struggled with temptation? Perhaps what I see as confused and mixed-up Christian theological metaphors are simply Mormon distortions of Biblical truth. I don't have enough knowledge of LDS doctrine to work that one out for sure.

Justin Bruce (comment #18 from this review), argues, to be with Edward would mean that Bella is eternally condemned; she knows the price for having her desires, she doesn’t care, everything in her lusts to have what is forbidden and she will spend an eternity in Hell to get it, as Romans 1:32 says, they know the penalty for pursuing such things, yet they not only pursue, but give approval of all that pursue them as well (my paraphrase).
The other thing is no matter how “good” the Cullen’s are in not killing humans, their nature is wicked; no matter how hard they try, as Edward says, “I am a killer, I am designed to kill”. Two huge points for the depravity of man in both thirsting for sin at all costs, and trying to restrain from sin and be “good” when by nature they are wicked. Both sides, both Bella and Edward, reveal humanities rebellion against God.

Also entirely lacking is any reproof for sin, and while there is the struggle to overcome sin, Edward's repentance for his previous sins is rushed over. Unless one views Carlisle, Edward's father, as representing God the Father, there is also no seeking of God's help in overcoming weakness; there is also little or no seeking forgivenness either. This is in stark contrast to 1 John 1:7-9:
5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

And now, just because it is hilarious, and to reward you for reading this far:


Meredith said...

Hi Sharon,

That's a big post!! What a lot of thinking you have done on this. I think of you every time I see these books in the shops now.

I am actually commenting (and can remove this later if you want as this is more a means of contacting you rather than commenting on this amazing post) to let you know that I was following you and now I'm not...but not because I don't like you or your blog!

I was fiddling in my own blog (I am such a novice) and sometimes I do things that I then have to undo and then I'm not sure whether I have fully undone them...

Anyway, in fiddling this afternoon I noticed that my photo had disappeared from your followers' box and the sillouette was there instead. In trying to put the photo back...and who knows if it was really missingin the first place...I did something that I needed to undo! And after a few more attempts I decided it would just be easier to terminate the subscription!

I will try to reinstate myself in a day or two and see what happens but in the meantime, this is not a rejection. I love your blog!!

Have a great holiday with everyone home in your nest. We are looking forward to our time at home together.

Love Meredith

Mrs. Edwards said...


It makes complete sense that a Morman would write a story that hinges entirely on the power of the will over wickedness. LDS theology, being of human origin, doesn't make a lot of sense, actually, but it imagines the struggle of good and evil, Christ and Satan, as a struggle between equals. Scripture, of course, teaches that even the power of Satan is unleashed only by the will of God. And that our own place in the struggle is on the side of evil until Christ's redemption is received. "God's work in us" as you say.

Since our last comment thread about the Anne books, I've been reflecting a bit about the "Gilbert effect" on my marriage. I didn't know it as a young bride, but all the literature I consumed as a teen--not to mention Hollywood movies like "Sleepless in Seattle"--that portrayed men in love idealistically influenced what I expected "love" to look like. (This is even in the context of my parents healthy marriage and a good, Biblical education as a child.)

In other words, when my own husband didn't seem to express his love by doing everything I wished, centering his world around me, wanting what I wanted above all, I thought he didn't love me! (I was so wrong.)

What to do (as a parent)? Gilberts and Edwards and Mr. Darcys can't be locked away from girls. I'm thinking a lot lately about how to help daughters nurture a healthy romantic ideal and yet have mercy and grace for a husband who is, after all, just another sinner being sanctified.

I don't know if this is making sense because my kids are talking with me about an entirely different subject as I type! We're rushing around to prepare for a day at the lake. (It is 4th of July weekend, Independence Day.)

One more thing about the Gilbert effect: Today, after 14 years of marriage, Mr. Edwards and I are more in love than ever. He gave me an iPod Touch yesterday, for my birthday, engraved with a romantic inscription. It was, for us, a completely extravagant gift and totally undeserved and unexpected. Just the sort of thing Gilbert would love to do for Anne, Mr. Darcy for Elizabeth, and so on!

I've got to go!

Sharon said...

Meredith: And I was so encouraged by seeing your face in that box, too. Don't worry, I don't feel slighted.

But do be warned, there will be more Twilight posts to come. At the moment I am thinking I should put them all together at the end and print them out as a "Primer for Discerning Parents discussing Twilight with their Tween and Teen Offspring" mini-book. I can think of at least three parents in our congregation who would be interested in a copy...

And Amy: Jeff says “stay away from those Janette Oke books they will screw your head for a lifetime of relationships!” You heard it here first!

I am getting a little concerned when I see the fawning over Mr Darcy in Christian circles in particular. Frankly, I just don't get it. He was a socially awkward snob. Sure, he was also capable of kind acts towards those he loved, but I want to say "come on, you people! He is just an ordinary man, written about in extraordinary words!"

I agree that girls end up with some very strange ideas about boys and relationships. I know I did. Perhaps one thing that any mother can do is to be open and candid with her daughters (and sons, for that matter) about the reality of marriage: the challenges and also the subtle, growing joy that comes from a love that deepens every day with every marriage-honouring choice that the wife and husband make. Let the kids see Mum apologising to Dad (and vice-versa). Let the girls see that Mum has been convicted of her sin when she has treated her husband in a manner unworthy of the faith she professes. Let them also see how much Mum has been blessed by the headship of her husband, their father; in particular how he has drawn her onwards in her faith. I do think we do a disservice if all our disagreements are behind closed doors, or if they are in full view but our apologies are kept private.

I also think we need to pray: for our daughters and for any future husband God might bring into their lives, and do this in our daughter's presence as well as out of it. Talk to them openly about the things they should look for in a husband: things like a faith that is fruitful and growing, a life that shows they desire to serve others, a godly reputation. The vital Biblical pre-requisites: a Christian, not married, of the opposite sex; and what was the other one, now? Oh yes, that's right, these three are the only criteria the Bible gives for future-spouse suitability!

And, of course, to actually talk about the fairy tales and hollywood myths after you read or watch them together. Help them to see the ideaology behind the script. Why are all the husbands pathetically weak men, physically or morally? Why are all the single men stunningly handsome and physically majestic and intellectually gifted et al ? Why are all the single women over thirty desperate for a husband/"soul mate" in chick lit? Why are all the single women over thirty sleeping with their boyfriends? Why does the male protagonist talk to the female protagonist as if her were actually female himself? Why do so many women in movies have a best friend who is homosexual? And on the questions go...

~ Sharon

Meredith said...

You should definitely put all of this together into a booklet. In fact, what a ministry to provide this sort of commentary on literary fads as they surface. You seem perfect for the job.

And you will gather, if you check your blog stats, that I had another go at following you last night. Good for your stats - but not a result for me yet. I can't seem to get it to work without becoming a google friend (or something like that) which seems to hand out surnames, email addresses and all sorts! But in the interests of following you, conquering this dragon and connecting some more synapses by persevering at this problem I will keep trying. So if I seem to be hanging about in your stats, that is why! I'm not being a crazy stalker.

~ Meredith

Sharon said...


Don't worry about it at all. I just list the blogs I read under my "Blogs I enjoy" and "Friends who blog" sections in my left hand column. I just check there to see if there is anything new and open the blogs from there as well. You use that feature as well, I see. I very, very rarely use the google reader that pops up when I sign in to Blogger. I have only ever "followed" five blogs, and a while back I stopped following another in a very deliberate choice. Actually, I am wondering if I should perhaps cut that back even further; something to mull over.

I think your problem lies not with the following option at all, but with your profile. You can change that from the Blogger Dashboard, under "Edit Profile" next to your photo.

The thing to remember is that not all of these items are compulsory. Actually, as far as I can see only your Username (which is never displayed to others, as far as I know) and your Display Name (for example, mine is "Sharon", I don't give my last name. Amy's is Mrs. Edwards (and she really is Amy Edwards as per the copyright notice on her site). Deborah's is Mrs Adept, which is a pseudonym.

You don't need to give your first or last name, you don't have to include a photo (although I think it is helpful in allowing readers to visualise something of the author's nature), you don't have to specify gender, birthday, astro sign (ugh! That gets me when Christian bloggers list their sign, as if mere stars were in charge of their life rather than the One True, Sovereign Father God! [/end rant]), location, work, or any of the extended info fields. In the drop down menus, there is usually a "none" or "not specified" option.

So edit your profile and remove as much of that stuff that you don't want people to see. If Blogger doesn't have it, they can't pass it on to others. Having said that, I just realised that none of the blogs I follow has a Followers box on their blog, so I can't actually check that. So you will just have to try it and see whether it works using mine, again and again until something clicks right.

Of course, your could also see if you can find an appropriate article at the Blogger Help Desk...

~ Sharon

Meredith said...

Thanks for your help. I will keep investigating - I have tried to fiddle with the profile but yes, more to explore.

In the meantime, the list of favourite blogs is good. Thankyou for having me in your list and you are certainly in mine.

I recently added to that list on my blog and then wiped out all other blogs in my internet favourites list and I am much more careful about what I read, how much and how often. It is good to reassess every now and then.

Hope your kids enjoyed Kings Club today. (I know exactly where you are!) Our HBC had 25 children today and we know of three families (at least) who will come tomorrow. Alas our older boy vomitted last night so he was not able to attend and it made it all a bit fraught this morning with us needing to do stuff at church and also looking after a sick child. However he is picking up, I am increasingly confident that it was a one-off event and we are looking forward to tomorrow! And everyone was very helpful at church - they have a well oiled machine that we have had the blessing of parachuting into since we arrived here 18 months ago. This is our second HBC and WOW, it is a great thing to do.

Are you going to PWC this year?

God bless,
Meredith xxx