Friday, January 27, 2012

Existentially fraught free throws.

My throat is kind of hoarse from screaming at the book signing I went to last night. Before you get all flustered about that not making any sense, let me explain just what kind of book signing this was.

There was a puppet show. There was nerdy, acoustic rock music about particle physics, anglerfish, and Harry Potter. There was mild electrocution. There were a lot of screaming preteens. Okay, that last part was what I found to be weird.

Dear Twelve-year-olds,
Why are you reading these books? Hit puberty, and then we'll revisit the topic of your YA lit privileges.

Oh, but it was grand! John Green is touring the country, promoting his new book The Fault in Our Stars, which is quite lovely. I would say it's on par with Paper Towns. John Green, by the way, is the author of several young adult novels, including Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines. He and his brother, Hank, are the Vlogbrothers. I know I totally sound like an ad right now, but how else does one explain these guys to someone who doesn't already know? As a side note, Hank's the one who writes all the nerdy songs.

Speaking of Hank's musicianship, it would appear that he is really slow at tuning a guitar. One of my favorite parts of the show last night was when he asked someone (who shouted out that one of the strings was flat while Hank was trying to figure out why it sounded funny) to come up on stage and tune it for him. Since Hank's guitar is kind of legendary in certain circles, that was a real treat to see.

I was also rather a fan of the totally unrelated balloons on the ceiling.

This is all out of order. Oh, well.

The Fault in Our Stars is about a 16-year-old girl with terminal cancer. As John explained it last night, we always talk about how the deceased had lived long, full lives. But what if a life doesn't get to be long? He talked about ordinary heroes. He talked about how we get to choose what we think about, every second of every day. He talked about how the time we spend is spent in the literal sense of the word. It's gone. There will be no refunds. (That last bit is my wording.) We have to make a decision. Are we going to squander our time, or are we going to get the best use out of it that we can? Perhaps one of the most poignant points he made was that we were choosing what we were thinking about at that very second, as he was talking.

It's true. All of it. I know I'm frequently guilty of wasting my time, of blowing it on trivialities and mindless pursuits. But I'm supremely happy that, in that moment, I was thinking about something worthwhile.

John actually spoke at the beginning of the presentation, right after Hank's introductory puppet show. The profoundness he shared kind of got swallowed up in all the nerdy silliness that came after, but they brought it back around in the end. People often say that John and Hank look like The Proclaimers (kind of...), so as a finale they performed a slow, acoustic cover of "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)." I've really loved that song ever since the first time I saw Benny & Joon at age 9. They didn't slow it down terribly much, but something about the way the brothers Green sang it made it somehow sweeter, more TFiOS. Maybe this is weird, but I've always felt like there was something inherently nerdy about that song, so ending with it just drew the entire night together for me. 

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

Reading: The Iliad

1 comment:

  1. It doesn't seem at all weird to me that you would find that song nerdy. I'm not sure if it's the fact that I heard it for the first time with Joel's kids, or if songs that involve math (even a simple 500+500) always seem nerdier.