Posts Tagged ‘John Green’

Hello there!

I’m going to go ahead and assume that you’re familiar with our blogging-routine (or our not blogging routine, really) once college reopens, so I’m not going to whip out all the old excuses*. But you should know, we don’t actually ever forget the blog entirely for weeks together. All of us have admitted to thinking up posts for the blog in the past. And sometimes, I go one step further and make a list of bullet points on things I want to write about. Sometimes, I expand on them (as in this post) , but most of the time, I just have a bunch of incomplete notes :

From my desktop

(Side-note: Does anyone else use Notepad? Anyone? Anyone? No? Ok.)

(1) Paper towns metaphor:

Before I go ahead and post my notes, here’s a brief outline of Paper Towns:

The lead characters of this novel are Quentin Jacobsen and his neighbour, Margo Roth Spiegelman, who grow up together as kids but eventually go their separate ways. Margo appears at Quentin’s window one night and whisks him along on a mad, vengeful one-night scheme. Not long after, she disappears, leaving Quentin a trail of clues that leads him to make a cross-country trip with his best friends, in the belief that finding her will restore their former friendship. Along the way he begins to question his conception of Margo and their future.

Now, for the metaphor:

John Green’s Author’s Note says: ” Agloe began as a paper town created to protect against copyright infringement. But then people with those old Esso maps kept looking for it, and so someone built a store, making Agloe real….The store that was Agloe no longer stands. But I believe that if we were to put it back on our maps, someone would eventually rebuild it. “

Thought:  So long as people go looking for a manic pixie dreamgirl/ other fantasy-figure (as in Margo), there will be people to provide it (again, as in Margo)? And also people who will be complicit in the lie through blind longing for something that doesn’t exist.

(2) Kavalier and Clay (From the book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay):


Josef ‘Joe’ Kavalier enters his cousin, Samuel Klayman (‘Clay’)’s life one night after having escaped from Nazi-infested Prague, leaving his immediate family behind. Upon discovering Joe’s skill with the pencil, Sam convinces his boss to give them jobs as comic book creators. Here, Joe’s training as an escape artist and his violent desire to inflict some damage against Nazi Germany, along with Sam’s repressed polio-stricken son-of-a-strongman self gain life in the superhero of their creation, The Escapist. Joe and Sam both grow and discover their true leanings in life even as their stories pander to the growing feeling against Germans and to their male demographic through objectifying women . The story follows through to the  end of the golden age of comic books with the Kefauver Senate hearings and the decisions the two cousins are faced with.


 Joe / The Golem/The Escapist–parallel figures: 

The golem is a creature encountered in Jewish lore, that was created by a rabbi from Prague using clay. Although initially created to protect the Jews, the story goes that it eventually went on a rampage as it grew in power. The rabbi alone could ‘deactivate’ the golem, which was then held safe to protect the community from future enemies.

At the start of  the novel, Joe escapes from Prague with this very golem in order that it not fall into the hands of the Nazis. And from then on it seems to be present in the tale in the form of The Escapist and also through Joe kavalier. Much like the golem, The Escapist is a symbol of hope for Jews everywhere, and as Joe’s personal anti-Nazi weapon, he is indestructible. Joe himself also comes across as being rather disproportionately gifted– his skill as an escape artist and general infallibility require real suspension of disbelief. Further, Joe has a little brother back home, and it is vital to him that he find a way to ship his brother to safety alongside himself. When his attempts to do so are in vain, he goes into a downward spiral (much like the golem! And the increasingly violent Escapist!), turning his back on everything he holds dear, and enlists actively in the war against Germany. In the course of his service, Joe is sent to Antarctica, where he attempts to kill a peaceful German scientist. He regrets this almost immediately, recognizes that his hatred has been blind and futile , and eventually returns home. Soon after he reaches home, the golem is shipped to him and he finds that it has reverted to dust. This is in keeping with the legend of the golem, which cannot serve another master and becomes powerless when taken off the soil of its homeland. Similarly, Joe’s anger is somewhat quieted. Interestingly, this also coincides with the end of The Escapist and the decline of the comic book industry, making The Escapist seem like yet another incarnation of the golem.

Bottomline:  The juxtaposition of clad-in-tights sidekicks and World War-II is unique and fantastically well done. You should definitley read this book if you can lay hands on a copy.

(3) hp72.txt contains a bunch of incoherent points at the moment. Also, I want to post reviews of a couple of other movies I’ve watched since. So, that’ll be another post for another time.

Or maybe not.

For having got through the rest of this post, I will leave you with this fun fact:

BWC trivia, folks.

        That’s right. I named my ipod. And what’s more, I named him Augustus Pod. On a related note, I am also co-author of a sort of event-log (of  amusing college-related events) named Jeff.

   If you like naming inanimate objects too, leave me a comment and gain one cookie!

*For anyone who doesn’t know, our big excuse goes something like this: College sucks. This makes us miserable and not want to blog. When we don’t have to go to college, we’re too happy to blog etc.

P.S.: I seem to have published this post privately before it was done. So, er, yeah. That too. :/

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Well, of course I love Looking for Alaska- it’s a John Green novel that deals with existentialism, the teenage experience and exactly why we continue to trudge through life even though ultimately, there is no beating it. In fact the only real question is which of the above factors I’m most suckered by!
It is this  quality of the story- it’s being replete with moments that are recognizably true– that makes it so endlessly fascinating. There is also that quick, unexexpected humour that is uniquely John Green’s that peppers the book and makes you realize simultaneously that this could so easily have been your story and that you could never have quite thought up that turn of phrase.

During my very cursory review of the book’s cover ( I really couldn’t wait to plunge in!), I noticed a comparison to the Catcher in the Rye (which, as you can guess, made me want to really stop looking at the damn cover and READITALREADY!). I see elements of similarity, thematically, but the lead characters and their specific grievances are  different, and the writing styles are nothing alike.* Also, while Salinger does not seem to welcome too much probing of his work,(In his dedication: “If there is an amateur reader still left in the world–or anybody who just reads and runs–I ask him or her, with untellable affection and gratitude…”), I can tell that this book is clearly drawn from John (who is one half of the Youtube sensation Vlogbrothers)’s own past and he seems to appreciate the extent to which an author’s experiences colours his choices for subject matter. Authorial influence is not always so apparent in books and lots of people seem to look upon this picking apart of books to get at the author’s own driving beliefs with distaste, but I really enjoyed drawing conclusions from this book and also having them coincide with what I know of the author from his videos.

As for the story itself, it revolves around young teenage misfit and collector of famous last words, Miles ‘Pudgy’ Halter, who moves to a boarding school in hopes of a second chance for happiness through reinventing himself. Culver Creek becomes a place of many firsts, for Pudgy. He makes friends with incredibly funny, larger-than-life characters who are, on first impression, exactly ‘the wrong sort’. In particular, he fancies himself in love with the intriguing, the elusive, the shrouded-in-mystery and lover-of-drama, Alaska Young. Even through the tragedy of  her life, Pudgy finds with new conviction, that  despite very real obstacles in the very real labyrinth of life, that the Great Perhaps he seeks is undiminished in its allure .

En fin, I find myself making an unlikely comparison with another book I read recently, which is Steppenwolf, by Herman Hesse. The latter is much more convoluted, but all the same, seeks an explanation for man’s desire to keep living despite life’s lack of nice, formulaic guarantees. And surprisingly, both authors find comfort in biblically rooted ideas of redemption and hope.

If I haven’t made a convincing argument for reading the book already, I’ll leave his brilliant words the job:

“When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”

[Rap by Alaska]: “Oh shit did you just diss the feminine gender / I’ll pummel your ass then stick you in a blender / You think I like Tori and Ani so I can’t rhyme / but I got glow like Ghostbusters got slime / objectify women and it’s fuckin’ on / you’ll be dead and gone like ancient Babylon.”

But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.

(Cheering at a basketball game)The Colonel led all the cheers.
Cornbread!” he screamed.
CHICKEN!” the crowd responded.
And then, all together: “WE GOT HIGHER SATs.”
Hip Hip Hip Hooray!” the Colonel cried.

“Have you really read all those books in your room?” Alaska, laughing- “Oh God no. I’ve maybe read a third of ‘em. But I’m going to read them all. I call it my Life’s Library. Every summer since I was little, I’ve gone to garage sales and bought all the books that looked interesting. So I always have something to read.”

“I hated cranberry sauce, but for some reason my mom persisted in her lifelong belief that it was my very favorite food, even though every single Thanksgiving I politely declined to include it on my plate.”

“Suffering is universal. it’s the one thing Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims are all worried about.”

“I am concussed.”

“But why Alaska?”, I asked her. She smiled with the right side of her mouth.”Well, later, I found out what it means. It’s from an Aleut word, Alyeska. It means ‘that which the sea breaks against’, and I love that. But at the time, I just saw Alaska up there. And it was big, just like I wanted to be. And it was damn far away from Vine Station, just like I wanted to be.”

*Edit: I do think the fox hat may have been a sort of wink at the reader (reminiscent of Holden Caulfield’s red hunting hat), if in fact the book was inspired by Catcher in the Rye, which (for the record) the author makes no mention of.

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Happiness is a John Green book in the  mail.


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