It’s 7:30 on a Saturday night, first real day of spring break. The night is young, the cool kids are out partying, and I’m . . . sitting in my parents’ living room, wearing pajamas and preparing to engage for the fifteenth time with John Green.
Why do I do this to myself? Out of love for you, my darling readers, without whom I’d just be an insane person screaming into the night about how terrible The Fault in Our Stars is and wondering whether they’ll get to Amsterdam before my bones turn to dust.
Besides, the next episode of Rupaul’s Drag Race doesn’t air until Monday and there’s only so many times I can watch Season 6 before even I must admit I have a problem.
(Seriously though, how perfect is she?)
Okay, fine. I’ll write about the stupid chapter even though it makes me hate everything. Let’s get this over with.
We left off last week with our main characters doing something annoying, probably. Right, I remember: Gus was lying about his long absence, and they were finally about to get on the plane. There will probably be some sort of boarding delay that’ll keep them on the ground for another 6 chapters, but until that tragic moment, I’ll celebrate the slight progress as they slowly move toward their seats:
I could feel everybody watching us, wondering what was wrong with us, and whether it would kill us, and how heroic my mom must be, and everything else. That was the worst part about having cancer, sometimes: The physical evidence of disease separates you from other people. We were irreconcilably other, and never was it more obvious than when the three of us walked through the empty plane, the stewardess nodding sympathetically and gesturing us toward our row in the distant back.
Well, enough of that:
“The thing about eggs, though,” he said, “is that breakfastization gives the scrambled egg a certain sacrality, right? You can get yourself some bacon or Cheddar cheese anywhere anytime, from tacos to breakfast sandwiches to grilled cheese, but scrambled eggs—they’re important.”
“Ludicrous,” I said.
WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS?! Am I the only person who genuinely couldn’t give less of a damn about these stupid eggs?
Apparently not, because this conversation continues for half a page. I’m not including it here, because I love you. And John Green does not.
But it actually has inner meaning or something, because every conversation has to become about Sunshine’s cancer and/or the misery of the human condition (see the Potter Puppet gif above).
“You’re arguing that the fragile, rare thing is beautiful simply because it is fragile and rare. But that’s a lie, and you know it.”
“You’re a hard person to comfort,” Augustus said.
“Easy comfort isn’t comforting,” I said. “You were a rare and fragile flower once. You remember.”
Yep. That’s . . . deep, I guess. I can’t believe I’d almost prefer the egg conversation.
“Listen, sorry I avoided the gate area. The McDonald’s line wasn’t really that long; I just . . . I just didn’t want to sit there with all those people looking at us or whatever.”
I’d brag about how brilliant I was to have called that, but it was so obvious that it doesn’t seem like much of a triumph.
I carried my disease with me on the outside, which is part of why I’d become a homebody in the first place.
Okay, let’s be honest: that’s like 2% of why you stay at home. The rest is that you’re too good for everyone and are in general a narcissistic misanthrope. It’s not all angst, Sunshine!
“Augustus Waters, noted charismatist, is embarrassed to sit next to a girl with an oxygen tank.”
“Not embarrassed,” he said. “They just piss me off sometimes. And I don’t want to be pissed off today.”
Fun fact: “charismatist”? Not a word.
Also . . . why does it bother you so much? People stare; it’s what we as a species do. Hell, we have a billion-dollar industry dedicated to staring at people’s lives (real, “real,” fictional, or sitcom)! Sure, it’s rude, but I must admit it’s a little rich complaining about unwanted eye contact when you stared at Sunshine for a solid 20 minutes the first time you met her.
Oh thank God, they finally take off:
Gus stared out the window, watching the planet shrink beneath us, and then I felt his hand relax beneath mine. He glanced at me and then back out the window. “We are flying,” he announced.
“You’ve never been on a plane before?”
He shook his head. “LOOK!” he half shouted, pointing at the window.
“Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, I see it. It looks like we’re in an airplane.”
Aww, that’s actually kinda cute. Nice to see Mr. Psycho has some relatable emotions for —
“NOTHING HAS EVER LOOKED LIKE THAT EVER IN ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY,” he said.
There’s relatable emotion, and then there’s going over-the-top in order to be extra “cute.” And then there’s this, which is so far on that latter side that it doesn’t even resemble human behavior. 5-year-olds are rolling their eyes at how melodramatic he’s being.
But apparently I’m the only one to find this annoying:
His enthusiasm was adorable. I couldn’t resist leaning over to kiss him on the cheek.
“Just so you know, I’m right here,” Mom said. “Sitting next to you. Your mother. Who held your hand as you took your first infantile steps.”
“It’s friendly,” I reminded her, turning to kiss her on the cheek.
Not you, too! I can’t believe I have to say this again, but please don’t kiss people and then try to pass it off as “friendly” in order to avoid sexual harassment complaints!
“Didn’t feel too friendly,” Gus mumbled just loud enough for me to hear.
Stop being so creepy, dude. Do I have to get Rupaul in here to slap people around again?
When surprised and excited and innocent Gus emerged from Grand Gesture Metaphorically Inclined Augustus, I literally could not resist.
Except that you haven’t exactly been “resisting” so far. I get what Green’s trying to do here, but he’s bad at it. He tells us what we’re supposed to think about these characters, while showing us the exact opposite! Sunshine can go on and on about how Mr. Psycho is so “different” now that she’s falling in love with him, but she already said she fell in love with him in Chapter 8, making this somehow both redundant and incorrect.
Are we sure this is the book everyone loves?
Well, they decide to stop that idiocy in favor of watching a romantic comedy, something I wouldn’t expect either of them to enjoy, but clearly we’ve thrown consistency out the window, so why not?
Augustus and I timed it so that we started watching the same romantic comedy at the same time on our respective screens. But even though we were perfectly synchronized in our pressing of the play button, his movie started a couple seconds before mine, so at every funny moment, he’d laugh just as I started to hear whatever the joke was.
. . . Why is this here? Is this some deep metaphor about their relationship? If so, what the hell does it symbolize? If not, why include this entirely pointless digression?
Furthermore, who cares? It affects nothing, enlightens no one, and is just a blatant attempt to try and end the scene with some profundity. Color me unimpressed.
They decide to all take sleeping pills in order to be well-rested when they arrive in Amsterdam, because . . . I guess people do that? But our heroes are too perfect for modern medicine, so they stay up and stare out the window:
“‘The risen sun too bright in her losing eyes,’” he said, a line from An Imperial Affliction.
The more excerpts we get from this book, the more I hate it. I mean, “her losing eyes”? I can’t be the only one who thinks that should’ve been axed by a competent editor within seconds of reading it.
Anyway, they flirt and say more stupid things and play whatever the knee equivalent of footsie is (kneesie?), until they decide to watch yet another movie, because “several hours later I was woken up by the jarring of the plane hitting tarmac” would just be too easy.
The movie they choose is 300. Obviously Sunshine will hate it — not because it’s boring or plotless or the dialogue sounds like it was written by a ten-year-old boy high on sugar and violent video games, but because it’s a boy movie.
300 featured a sizable collection of shirtless and well-oiled strapping young lads, so it was not particularly difficult on the eyes
300 is an ugly movie. Regardless of what you think about the plot or characters or whatever, there’s no denying that from the muted, muddy colors to the hilarious violence —
— nothing in this film is “easy on the eyes.”
But Sunshine is more worried about the moral implications of the film:
The bodies of the Persians and the Spartans piled up, and I couldn’t quite figure out why the Persians were so evil or the Spartans so awesome. “Contemporaneity,” to quote AIA, “specializes in the kind of battles wherein no one loses anything of any value, except arguably their lives.” And so it was with these titans clashing.
So Green continues describing the movie and how poor Sunshine is horrified by all the violence — but Mr. Psycho loves it. I repeat: Mr. Psycho, who will repeatedly lose a game in order to save prisoners, loves watching the brutal mutilation of others.
Makes about as much sense as anything else.
The movie ends, and Sunshine can’t stop thinking about death:
“Like, how many people do you think have ever died?”
“I happen to know the answer to that question,” he said. “There are seven billion living people, and about ninety-eight billion dead people.”
And why is this important? Because something something deepness something profundity something something this book sucks.
“There are about fourteen dead people for every living person,” he said. . . . “I did some research on this a couple years ago,” Augustus continued. “I was wondering if everybody could be remembered. Like, if we got organized, and assigned a certain number of corpses to each living person, would there be enough living people to remember all the dead people?”
“And are there?”
“Sure, anyone can name fourteen dead people. But we’re disorganized mourners, so a lot of people end up remembering Shakespeare, and no one ends up remembering the person he wrote Sonnet Fifty-five about.”
- I hate you. No, that’s not a question, but enough about Sonnet 55 already!
- You know that being able to name 14 people isn’t the same thing as remembering them, right? Like, I can rattle off 14 U.S. Presidents (probably; please don’t ask me to do that), but that doesn’t mean I know anything about them.
- How do we define “people”?
- Are Neanderthals people?
- How do you remember people who are unnamed — assuming we have the archaeological evidence for their existence, which we certainly don’t?
- Why am I reading this conversation?
- Is it relevant in any way other than building angst?
No? I didn’t think so.
Geez, we’re not even close to the end. This is going to be a long blog, because apparently I didn’t split this chapter in half as well as I should’ve.
That conversation apparently over, they decide to read. This entire chapter is just a list of things happening.
I was reading this long poem called Howl by Allen Ginsberg for my poetry class, and Gus was rereading An Imperial Affliction.
Of course. Wait . . . what class teaches both Emily Dickinson and Allen Ginsberg? Insanity in Poetry? American Poetry? How do you get a class from one to the other in roughly 2 weeks? I’m guessing Green never took English classes or he’d realize that they’re usually organized chronologically, or by genre, or in some other logical way that keeps you from name-dropping famous works with no other connecting thread than that they make your main character sound cool.
Mr. Psycho wants Sunshine to read to him, because that’s something people enjoy, I guess:
“This isn’t really a poem to read aloud when you are sitting next to your sleeping mother. It has, like, sodomy and angel dust in it,” I said.
“You just named two of my favorite pastimes,” he said.
“Okay, read me something else then?”
“Um,” I said. “I don’t have anything else?”
“That’s too bad. I am so in the mood for poetry. Do you have anything memorized?”
I do! Uh, I can do “Richard Cory,” or Sonnet 130, or . . . Oh, I know! “There once was a man from Nantucket —”
“‘Let us go then, you and I,’” I started nervously
So she rattles off “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which I’m not convinced she knows the actual meaning of (hint: it’s at least in part about sex) and there’s no way she memorized the entire thing. But she doesn’t get a chance to get past the first stanza:
“I’m in love with you,” he said quietly.
“Augustus,” I said.
“I am,” he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
To be fair, it has been an entire couple of weeks since they met.
We’re 500+ words past my normal limit, so I’m not going to go into all the details of why that speech is so obnoxious — “I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things”? How many times did you rehearse that one? — so we’ll just end this chapter with her response. Since she just kissed him and said she’s in love with him as well, I’m sure she’ll be absolutely swept away —
“Augustus,” I said again, not knowing what else to say. It felt like everything was rising up in me, like I was drowning in this weirdly painful joy, but I couldn’t say it back. I couldn’t say anything back. I just looked at him and let him look at me until he nodded, lips pursed, and turned away, placing the side of his head against the window.
Well. That’ll be an awkward few days. I hope you’re looking forward to the drama as much as I am, kids!
See you next week!