In which John continues the Nerdfighter Book Club’s discussion of Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Are there unambiguous victories? How should we approach our understanding of and relationship with charities domestic and international? I look forward to reading all of your thoughts in comments when I get back.
Q:I think this whole transition with the ads is really cool, and I like that you're doing it. However, seeing people make it their business to know what exactly you do with however much money you make kind of irks me. Nerdfighters can be so enlightened and caring, but does it ever frustrate you how intrusive they can be, analyzing every statement you make and now even analyzing your money?
Why We Read The Fault in Our Stars
I wrote about cancer, writing, and friendship for the LA Review of Books.
I loved this essay about The Fault in Our Stars and supporting a young person with an incurable cancer diagnosis. It’s the best review of the book I’ve read.
A. O. Scott wrote a brilliant and troubling review of the TFIOS movie; Hopper’s essay is a kind of response to it, and one that I found very encouraging. It helped me to think about what books ought to do, and what they can’t do.
Q:I read The Orphan Master's Son based on your tweet about it and just wanted to say thank you! It was easily the best book I read this year, possibly ever! Got any more recommendation? :P
If you liked The Orphan Master’s Son, some other books I recommend:
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
Each of these novels (like Orphan Master’s Son) takes us to a place most of us don’t know well and makes it rich and vibrant and complicated and human.
WHY is Hank Punished? The Answers!!
Ok, so in this video John mentioned that both he and Hank had outstanding punishments and he proposed a challenge - if nerdfighteria could loan a million dollars before vlogbrothers got to its 1000th video, they’d to the punishments, if not, no punishments.
We did, of course (never underestimate nerdfighters). And someone pointed out that John’s deal wasn’t totally fair, so he had agreed to go double-or-nothing
So then a couple weeks later Hank and John started Brotherhood 2.0 week and made videos back and forth every day for a week, thus completing one punishment each.
They now owed us both one more punishment. John put out this very intriguing request but nothing ever came of it.
In the meantime, John made this six-minute long video, which nerdfighters decided was not exempt because it was not “educational”. So in this video, he accepted his punishment. And in this video, Hank gave him the chosen punishment: eat a gross meal Henry came up with. So he did that here.
So, they still each owe a punishment!
As we have researched and looked into everything last night, this seems to be the general conclusion. One punishment owed each!
In which buttons are confusing, but sometimes helpful.
I’m so bad at buttons.
Perk Update: John Green Writing Sneak Peak
If you donated for the John Green Writing Sneak Peak, you should find it winding its way into your email inbox very soon! Thanks again for donating to the Project for Awesome 2013 and for your patience in the delivery of this perk.
Not received it yet?
Please triple check your inbox, trash/junk folder and deleted items to make sure it didn’t get lost, if you still can’t find it then email email@example.com and we’ll sort you out. When emailing please make sure you either email from the email address linked with your IndieGogo account, or forward a copy of your IndieGogo receipt. We’ll need this before we can provide you with a new link.
In which John discusses his forthcoming trip with Bill Gates (yes, that Bill Gates), his health anxiety, the worldwide threat of mosquito-borne illnesses, health anxiety, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, the tyranny of Hollywood in re haircut frequency, and the arrival of pre-roll advertising on the vlogbrothers channel.
Q:"It's a metaphor" I have no doubt that you completely understand and stand by this statement that the act of putting an unlit cigarette in Augustus Waters' mouth is in fact a metaphor. But for some folks, we don't see it asa metaphor, we see it as situational irony, or a simple statement. Please explain how it is a metaphor.
Well, a character in a novel saying that something is a metaphor is not the same thing as the author of the novel saying that it’s a metaphor. Gus’s intellectual grasp often exceeds his reach (he calls a monologue a soliloquy, and misuses quite a few of the bigger words in his vocabulary). But I do think the cigarette is a metaphor, albeit a different one for us than it is for him.
Gus’s idea is that the cigarette is a metaphor for illness, and he keeps it unlit and in his mouth as an expression of his power over illness. “You put the killing thing between your teeth but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” Gus’s thinking here is that HE has the power. This is why he tends to use the cigarette when he’s feeling nervous or powerless. (He’s also using the most famous commercially available carcinogen to make this statement, so obviously there’s a connection there in his mind: Humans can prevent cancer by not smoking; cancer is something we can have power over; your job is not to give cancer the power to kill you; etc.)
But of course Gus is wrong about all of this, or at least almost all of it. You may have SOME control over whether you die of cancer (you can choose not to smoke), but in most cases humans don’t have control over illness. “You don’t give it the power to do its killing” imagines more agency over illness than we actually have, because in the end much of the fault is in the stars, not in ourselves. So to us, the unlit cigarette is a metaphor for our false perception of control, and our urgent need to feel in control. It’s no coincidence, then, that when Gus’s life is spiraling out of control and he finds himself powerless before fate, he tries (and fails) to buy cigarettes.
The nerdfighter community is the new back of shorts sponsor for League 2 team AFC Wimbledon and today I went SW to see the shorts IRL, on players and all! Team pics were taken with the nerdfighter stadium hoarding as backdrop. So so so cool. Whatever I do with my life, this will forever be a career highlight.
Can’t wait to have an AFC Wimbledon kit with DFTBA shorts.
Are you overwhelmed by the plethora of art and art-related activities going on in the world? We’re here to help! Here are some ideas for how to learn about what’s going on in the world of contemporary art.
I’m also pleased to announce The Art Assignment Book Club! The first read will be Dave Hickey’s Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy. Try to read it by August 1, and we’ll discuss it in a video soon after.
If you missed it, here’s my list of online art resources.
If you don’t want to buy Air Guitar or borrow it from your library, you can find a link to the titular essay here, and and another essay, “Romancing the Looky-Loos,” here. You can also read an interview with Hickey in The Believer.