Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Happiness is...unexpected poetry.

I love when poems show up randomly in narrative fiction.  Often I'm not brilliant enough to pick up on it and occasionally the authors realize that the lay reader won't be and stick a bit of translation in the text to help us out. 

So, right now I'm reading  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (the title, as he so kindly pointed out, is a reference to Shakespeare, not a poem actually but Julius Caesar when Cassius states, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/But in ourselves.") Anyway, Green is one of those authors that has collected a fan following of cult status. He has a particular way of writing that is akin to reading one of the heavier episodes of the Gillmore Girls. The characters all speak in these brilliantly convoluted sentences with vocabulary and philosophical grasps like no real teenager I've ever met.  I've read several of his books so far and enjoyed them alright but have not seen it necessary to launch myself onto the John Green train...until now.

I'm not even half way through this one so maybe it's too soon to speak but I must confess Mr. Green, I am in love.

The book is heavy, the main character is a sixteen year old fighting cancer and while there are plenty of realistic moments and tough discussions and situations going on Green's writing keeps it from becoming maudlin or depressing (so far!  I reserve the right to change my opinion if Hazel dies at the end!) Take this exchange for example:

"Swing Set Needs Home," I said.
"Desperately Lonely Swing Set Needs Loving Home," he said.
"Lonely, Vaguely Pedophilic Swing Set Seeks the Butts of Children," I said.
He laughed.  "That's why."
"That's why I like you.  Do you realize how rare it is to come across a hot girl who creates an adjectival version of the word pedophile? You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are."

Commenting on the thought "Without Pain, How Could We Know Joy?"

(This is an old argument in the field of Thinking About Suffering, and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries, but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not in any way affect the taste of chocolate.)...

And this comment when Hazel's newly acquired friend whips out a cigarette:

"The whole thing where a boy who is not unattractive or unintelligent or seemingly in any way unacceptable stares at me and points out incorrect uses of literality and compares me to actresses and asks me to watch a movie at his house. But of course there is always a hamartia and yours is that oh, my God, even you though you HAD FREAKING CANCER you give money to a company in exchange for the chance to acquire YET MORE CANCER. Oh, my God. Let me just assure you that not being able to breathe? SUCKS. Totally disappointing. Totally."

...and so far there are at least 8 poetic references! Way to sneak in some additional culture.

I confess, I haven't done a lot of poetry reading this month. I had great expectations for devouring Leaves of Grass and The Collected Emily Dickinson while exposing myself to new names and verses while perusing some anthologies and such, but, well, the best laid plans as they say.  So, many thanks, John Green, for giving me an extra dose of much-needed verse (and for making me laugh while appreciating the fact that my life could be a heck of a lot worse!)

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