The Fault in My Hesitation

My reading list just grew by four books and my YouTube time is climbing exponentially. The root cause of this activity increase? John Green. People have been telling me for a while now that I should really check out John Green, that I would really like his books, that he makes these great videos, etc. I’ve been putting it off this whole time because the book people kept telling me to start with, The Fault in Our Stars, is notoriously sad. I feel like I need to be in the appropriate mental state to commit that kind of emotion to a book. I should have known better, however, since I have the exact same history with the movie Up. I put it off, then I put it off, and then I put it off some more, until I finally forced myself to hunker down one night with a big ol’ box of tissues and watch the damn thing. Obviously, I loved it. It’s a very lovable movie. I was so ready to be depressed that I was surprised when I felt so uplifted (I can’t decide if that was intended or not — seriously though, I was trying to avoid saying “inspired” twice in a row), and I barely touched the tissues (side note: did you know that Up is based on a true story? Apparently it was inspired by a little old woman in Ballard, Seattle who refused a million dollar offer to leave her home. Check out the book). 

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The Macefield House, Seattle

Anyway, needless to say, I loved The Fault in Our Stars.  John Green is indeed brilliant, and his writing embodies everything that I admire in teen fiction: charming wit, intellectual references, and genuine feeling. Yes, the story is intrinsically sad — The Fault in Our Stars is the tale of two young cancer patients who fall in love. Despite concocting a plot-line that is an obvious formula for distress, John Green skillfully navigates the intricacies of life as a teenager, and more specifically life as a teenager with a terminal illness, in a way that does not send you, as a reader, into a pit of darkness. The characters are not perpetually morose, but their emotions and reactions are very sober and real — far more real than those of the inspirational cheer-leading persona that we often like to attribute to valiant young cancer fighters (mostly to make ourselves feel better). Nevertheless, Hazel and Augustus maintain their humor and cleverness throughout, and their love radiates throughout the novel without ever entering mushy territory. I am eager to read the rest of John Green’s works (you’ll find no more hesitation here) and to follow his video blog, vlogbrothers, on YouTube. And while I will always believe in the book over the movie, I will definitely be seeing the film version of The Fault in Our Stars promptly upon its release next spring.

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The Eggers Epidemic

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like Dave Eggers is everywhere these days. I know that this phenomenon is probably just a product of my newfound awareness of his existence after picking up his new book The Circle, but frankly, it’s gotten a little ridiculous. Not only did he write this new novel (and previous novels, of course), but apparently this man co-founded an organization that I have admired ever since I moved to Seattle. 826 Seattle is a nonprofit writing and tutoring center that inspires young people to cultivate their writing, which I obviously think is a noble endeavor. When I discovered Dave Eggers was involved in the founding of this national organization, I’ll admit I was a bit impressed. Then it turns out he edits a short story collection that I have recently stumbled upon (also associated with this volunteer organization). Then I fly to New York, and a woman sitting near me on the plane wants to talk about Dave Eggers when she sees I’m reading The Circle — she read an excerpt of the novel in a magazine and wants to know what I think.  Then I go to a bar in New York, I say that I work in the books industry, and the guy I’m talking to wants to know what I’m reading right now. I tell him I’m reading The Circle by Dave Eggers.  He tells me he is great friends with Dave Eggers’s brother. And he has met Dave several times. He thinks the Eggers brothers are both geniuses. At this point I’m thinking there must be some sort of conspiracy going on.  This feeling fits in perfectly with the storyline of Dave’s novel too, in an uncanny sort of way.

The story itself, which resembles my life in so many ways given my own position at a tech company, is quite compelling. I think the Circle is a sufficiently creepy tech company, the main character Mae is both relatable and frustrating, and the whole scenario is eerily plausible, as you would expect from any effective dystopian novel. For me, the test for the recommend-ability of a book is whether or not I’m thinking about the characters and the story when I’m not reading, and also if these thoughts continue after I finish. The Circle? Check and check. I think that everyone in our generation should read this book, we should talk about it, and we should work to avoid a similar storyline.  In the meantime, I’m waiting on my next Dave Eggers encounter. Perhaps a random street sighting? One can hope. 

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