I like the rain. I want to have a spring bookworming rain party full out with wellies—but not those Hunter Boots; absolutely not—, with yummy airy things like puffed pastries, meringues, mini fluffy cheese cakes, mousse dessert, macaroon, biscuits, crepe, and Earl Grey tea, definitely Earl Grey tea. and Tillandsia. We'd have lots of "air plants". Lots! And We'd read, but not anything structured. We'd bring books, trade books, read out-loud, pass books around between sentences and paragraphs. We'd leave with books we hadn't discovered.
I like books like I like my Jazz; euphoric, dangerous, occasionally a bit manic, sorrowful, bleak, raging, mood-incongruent, mournful, unforgivingly ragged, symbolic in a quiet way, warm apple pie for the soul. Give me a Plath style. Yōko Ogawa, M. Roach,
Criteria: Not rated on likability of characters. Not objective. I like Moxie Soda; chances are you don't.
time spent in that before bed reading slot:
5-until blurry eye 4-Later than I intended, but I still kept to my extended, extended reading time 3-I really should have been to bed an hour ago 2-customary 30 minutes. 1-book. side table. eyes closed.
How are common themes handled?
5-With an aesthetic that repurposes everyday themes into something fresh. Think of Hole Celebrity Skin covered by Cat Power 4-there is a comfortable air of familiarly.
3-Deja Vu 2. No deviation from its mates 1. Devastatingly trite, redundant, and stale.
Where would you keep it post-reading?
5-Next to my bed. 4-it's the center piece of my favorite bookshelf 3. On my other favorite bookshelf, but it's a bit dusty over their 2-Great cheap bookends 1-It never made it out of the box marked 'moving'.
5- Where is my teddy bear? Emotional-hangover 4- If I wasn't so emotionally stunted I'd cry. 3. Did James Cameron co-wrote this? Artfully contrived. 2- calculative emotional manipulation. This was literally written by James Cameron.1- I…feel…..nothing.
Mechanics (plot structure, voice, presentation, word choice, sentence structure, characters, writing style, pacing, and consistency):
5-Chanel 4-Prada 3-J-Crew 2-Gap 1-Old Navy
So yah, the plot is rather basic....
Our primary character, Hazel, has cancer. This affliction has become part of her blood and sinew, tethering her in place. She spends her days being generally apathetic and reclusive. This is completely understandable, she has endured an insurmountable amount of health challenges, and when you get right down to it she is just really fucking angry. I think we often forget the power of being angry during difficult life circumstances. Sterilized and boiled down, anger has an element of rejection, and is the antithesis of submission. There is a reason that anger is second in the stages of grief (or third…. or whatever it's been a long time since psych 101). Even though she defines herself as a grenade, that doesn't define her. What she does have is an ample amount of personal integrity, strength, and resilience, with Augustus just sorta augmenting it. Along with this charmingly adorable fellow is An Imperial Affliction, a book that offers Hazel strength and guidance. Her humor! love it! so very cynical.
Then you have Augustus. His cancer has been in remission for years, and the chance of it returning is pretty darn slim. With the likelihood of sustained cancer-freeness comes a boat load, and often annoying degree of confidence. He has the sly ease of Logan Lerman with a whole adam brody look. He is scripted as this mature, deeply intellectual individual, and this definitely gets in the way. Regardless of his faults, I sorta have a man-crush.
Hazel is portrayed as relatable and Augustus as a sage. We didn't need a Harry Potter, nor did we need a Dumbledore life-coach.
Like any typical Lifetime, mid-noon soap opera cast with the same characters, Hazel thrives off of Augustus' energy, and Augustus swarms in as the adopted King Savior. The plot trudges along at this predictable, but still pretty lovely gait until we encounter those all too typical indicators of Green's work.
Enter all things metaphoric, and forced attempts to be thought provoking. This is the part in most of his work where people say, in a tiresome tone, "Come the fuck on, Green". I would agree with these folk, however, from sitting on the T to working directly with this population, I have observed that teenagers do consider these philosophical questions about life, albeit from the perspective of youth. Yah, they aren't collectively becoming the next Plato, and their comments aren't going to find their way into a dusty book. I do acknowledge that it is all too flowery and concise, and in all honesty I don't think anyone talks like this:
“I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
Like anyone. regardless of age. no one. It's all to Romeo and Juliet. There is something there, though, right? Scalpel out all that fancy imagery and it's easy to relate.
An Imperial Affliction not only frames their relationship, it also rustles up in Hazel, with a lot of hand holding from Augustus, an acceptance to live in the present. It even brings them to Germany, where they track down the perpetually drunk author of An Imperial Affliction. Again, this portion of the book is overwhelmed with complex notions of the world and existence, but it works, because at the core of Green's attempts to show off, there is somethings we all can identify with; hope.
As we follow them back to America, Hazel forgoes, for the most part, her reliance on the over-wrought An Imperial Affliction, or at the very least stops deriving hope exclusively from its pages. Their trip to Germany is significant and is a catalyst for rejecting the reliance of a book for inspiration, and instead finding strength from within. You can't find the answers in a book dear Hazel, and that is rather jarring and scary.
Hazel and Augustus, on the firm ground of their real lives and beyond an arms reach of Rote grutze, attempt to further integrate their experiences abroad, particularly how one significant night under snowy flower peddles has gelled their relationship—this is one freaking beautiful scene! Hazel understands that her fevered attempts to reject shifts in her world-view are now just pieces of fiction fathomed up in her attempts to avoid happiness and the sorrow and hardships of vulnerability, and all that nasty human stuff. I think she starts to figure out that, while she regarded herself as a grenade and was comfortable with the prospect of exploding alone with no causalities, no one else around her adopted the same philosophy. She accepts all this, the whole bundle, from letting go of An Imperial Affliction to filling that gap with people around her, and unintentionally accepting the consequences. It really echoes Augustus' view of illness "its a metaphor, see: you put the killing thing right between your teeth but you don't give it the power to do its killing.”
The sum of its parts edge close to the cookie cutter, contrived way childhood diseases are often portrayed in contemporary literature.
Yes, I have concerns about the degree TFIOS romanticizes, and therefore trivializes cancer and other terminal diseases, but prefer it to the the alternative of making it a comedic affair, and "Red Band Society-ing" the subject matter. I would rather reduce all the fluffy, philosophical stuff down to the quotidian and have that as the lens of understanding Hazel and Augustus, than reject the notion that sickness is some pretty horrible shit.
While it may, at first, seem that the book is eager to portray terminal cancer as some sort of learning experience, at the end it solidifies itself as something so much simpler; cancer just makes you vulnerable as shit, just like most shitty life challenges.
We also see a shift from the notion that terminal illnesses, whether in remission or not, doesn't necessarily mean all this other stuff, like love, is more difficult. Somehow the book scrapes away the idea that these experiences are related to Hazel and Augustus' illnesses, and generalizes it in a way that is very familiar and has a high degree of relatability.
I can clap at the way it deviates from the traditional examination of terminal illnesses, while also accepting that the writing style dilutes TFIOS' full potential.
Get to know this book a little bit…..
“I pointed at the little kids goading each other to jump from rib cage to shoulder and Gus answered just loud enough for me to hear over the din, 'Last time, I imagined myself as the kid. This time, the skeleton.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t mind Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to my heart broken by you.”
“My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”
“Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”
"I want more numbers that I'm likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I can not tell you thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful."
“And then I crawled into his unmade bed, wrapping myself in his comforter like a cocoon, surrounding myself with his smell. I took out my cannula so I could smell better, breathing him and out, the scent fading even as I lay there, my chest burning until I couldn't distinguish among the pains.”
“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world,
old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”