December 27, 2009

Since the dawn of self-reflection, I have been an inert gas,
Other atoms’ interactions mocking me, as I flew past.
Every time I saw two bonding, I would quickly look away,
My full outer shell reminding, solitude is here to stay.

Looking at those lucky ions, never did I see the facts,
Never did I grasp the science, one who gives, and one who takes.
Can the atoms both be merry if their dipole is so charged?
Or do their nuclei carry hearts that shattered into shards?

I have circled a few atoms, now that I can speak their tongue:
Those with brains looked unimpressive; those with good looks sounded dumb.
Those with both were cold and distant, their electrons long since shared,
Atoms much stronger than this one waiting for their chance with her.

Now you beckon me with riddles, and all of this is so new —
Our polarity is brittle, and I don’t know what to do.
But regardless of what happens, Heisenberg remains unkind:
One of two forever present: thirst of flesh, and thirst of mind.

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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