I should probably be talking about ‘Turtles all the way down'(2017) but I have only started reading it. While I am at it though I shall let you in on “Fault in our Stars”(2012).
There are children who dream big, who are driven by ambitious parents or by their own satiating thirst to climb a ladder, and to get somewhere on the top.. They zoom past so fast that the years between age one and three, four and seven, eight and ten, eleven and thirteen, fourteen and eighteen would seem like a blips on a radar.
Green’s kids in ‘The Fault in our Stars’ are solemn, are attempting to survive cancer and have their own benchmarks, like how many more days would they get to live than the other. They open up a new world to people who have no idea about it. There is one reality and there is another, both running parallel to each other.
There is no reason why anything more needs to be told about this book other than Augustus Waters’ eulogy to seventeen year old Hezel in his letter to Peter Van Houten.
Here’s the thing about Hazel:Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark up on the world. Bequeathing a legacy. Outlasting Death. We all want to be remembered. I do, too. That’s what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease.
I want to leave a mark.
But Van Houten: The marks humans leave are too often scars. You build a hideous minimall or start a coup or try to become a rock star and you think, “ They’ll remember me now”, but (a) they dont remember you, and (b) all you leave behind are more scars. Your coup becomes a dictatorship. Your minimall becomes a lesion …
… Hazel is different. She walks lightly, old man. Hazel knows the truth: We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either.
People will say it’s sad that she leaves a lesser scar, that fewer remember her, that she was loved deeply but not widely. It’s not sad, Van Houten. It’s triumphant. It’s heroic. Isn’t that the real heroism? Like the doctors say: First, do no harm.
There can no other truth than just this – as soon as we are born, our clocks are set . We don’t know to what date and time. It keeps ticking in the reverse until time runs out and we die. Everyone is born to die. Everything that happens other than moving towards death is but a “side effect of dying”.
Paranoid by not wanting to be forgotten we aim high to connect with people.As we grow older, we ‘settle’, afraid to let go of established territories. Saints, scientists, travellers, artists are all people who seek new and undiscovered things, yet when they learn, they feel the need for an audience.
Not even sixteen year old Helen Grace Lancaster, as Augustus says is really free of this since her yearning to know the what happened to Anna’s parents in The ‘Imperial Affliction’, a novel within the novel which Hazel calls her bible, only shows how she herself is unsettled at the idea of oblivion.
“Fault in our stars’ abounds in symbolism. It announces that right at the beginning with ‘water’ being the all pervading symbol.
As the tide washed in, the Dutch Tulip Man faced the ocean: ” Cojoiner rejoiner concealer revelator. Look at it rising up and rising down, taking everything with it.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Water,” the Dutchman said “Well, and time.”
– Peter Van Houten, An Imperial Affliction
There are ‘faults in our stars’. There always will be. Can we though, become heroes like Augustus and Helen, who make their own choices, who live and love and endure and persevere beyond their disease? Yet can we also leave a lesser scar on the world like them ?
When you are done musing over that, let’s check what’s spiraling down Green’s latest work, as the cover indicates. Can’t wait to find out, right ?!