Paper Towns

January 9, 2009

papertowns-rightJohn Green’s latest and greatest novel. After an inspiring debut and a less relatable second novel, Paper Towns was a very pleasant surprise. It is definitely the best young adult book I’ve read this year; and it will be interesting to see if another will take its place as the year unfolds.

In the first part, the book takes us on a dizzying to-do list of adventures (I tend to like novels that contain lists). It promises to be a page-turner with tons of fun and no  deep moral. But the second part makes a character disappear, veering away from such a prediction completely. There is a lot of meditation on understanding other people, and in particular, on misimagining others by seeing them as idea[l]s.

The hunt for clues left by the missing person continues almost until the end, making this another novel for whose answer-in-the-lack-of-answers ending I feared. Although the characters do finally reunite, the message Green sends out is not one that inspires comfort. Basically, he puts Maugham’s tower of brass into words intelligible to the impatient Google generation. True and complete understanding between people is impossible; you cannot be someone else.

The novel ends with a brilliant metaphor about human suffering and understanding.

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Tonight

February 18, 2008

This
is my favorite time:
when the sun is down,
and the heat is gone,
and the night is young
and velvety.

Under the street lamps,
sharper are the shadows,
greener the leaves,
closer every sound.

Lights,
like blobs on an ancient film,
remind me
of what I forgot
when my age had a single digit.
Then,
all I had to do was
want
to move my hand,
and it would move.
What I want,
what I think,
I have.
I wish I could remember that.

Shadows
curl
at the edge of my vision.
They call to me,
but in full view
I find them still.
I wish I could relive that magic.

The green
is of a different kind
at night.
It’s alive
and hard
and raw.
Like I used to be
before I forgot who I was.
I wish I could remember that.

The city sleeps
and I can hear a leaf
turning to watch me —
an intruder on her silence.
I wish I hadn’t woken you up.

But the shadows are sharper,
and the green is greener,
and the sound is closer.
I am awake
in this collage
with layered colors,
clumsy lines
and muffled sounds.
And I have but shadows
and green
and sound
to show tonight to.