Yesterday was my two-month blogiversary. The number of people reading my posts is creeping up, and I've acquired a follower (okay, it's my son, but I'm totally counting it). So in order to celebrate, I'm going to do something it seems I haven't done for a while, which is to write about young-adult books. Some months ago my daughter (age almost 16) asked me to order her some John Green novels, saying that her friends had been talking about this author. I'd never heard of him, so I googled him and liked what I read. I ordered "Looking for Alaska" and "Paper Towns," and then I read "Paper Towns" while she was still working her way through "Alaska," and then over the next month or so, while she was watching TV or playing video games, I read "Alaska" too. Then when "The Fault in Our Stars" came out last month and got fabulous reviews, I ordered it too, and since my daughter is still reading "Paper Towns," I read "Stars," and finished it yesterday. So here's my take on John Green. He's a very gifted writer with an uncanny ear for dialogue and a killer instinct for the descriptive phrase. But I think there are two John Greens locked inside the same body and brain, and they're constantly engaged in a pitched battle with each other. There's the John Green who wants to be writing novels, and there's the one who wants to be creating roleplaying video games. I think that conflict between the two is probably part of what draws teenagers to him, but for an old fart like me, it creates a whiff of disconnection. In the world of John Green novels, events which are presented as reality could not in fact occur in reality, at least not in any reality I have ever experienced, and I have to say that in my years on Earth I've experienced a wide range of them. Also, in his novels, randomly encountered nurses and stewardesses and cabdrivers are often only one or two levels less witty and insightful than the main characters, and sadly, that has not been part of my life experience either. I sometimes get the sense, reading his novels, that the people in them are fully interactive, in the way that characters in a really brilliantly-designed video game can be interactive, but that they're not actually interacting, in the way that flesh-and-blood human beings do. And I believe that might be because both John Greens are about 35 years old and, while they are extraordinarily high-functioning (if attention-impaired) 35-year-olds, they still have a lot to learn about life, and they also need to finish working through their issues about falling helplessly in love with a larger-than-life person who, voluntarily or involuntarily, ends up leaving. Both of which I have no doubt the John Greens will do, and move on to explore other equally life-altering kinds of experiences, and then they will be truly awesome in every way.
Happy Presidents' Day. Washington was an exceptionally skilled CEO, but Lincoln was The Man. And here is my blogiversary present to you. Follow this link and you won't be sorry: www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/08/russia_in_color_a_century_ago.html. Enjoy!