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So I Read TFiOS

Posted by Sumiki , in Writing, Rants, Not Essays!, Life Jul 17 2014 · 186 views

There's a number of ways to word the first paragraph of this entry, but suffice it to say that I've been a fan of the vlogbrothers since late last year, when I stumbled across their educational videos and then to their main channel. The great thing about the Green brothers' work is that even if you're not watching one of their myriad educational channels, you still end up learning something. They have a passion and excitement about the world that, frankly, few others have.

The fact that people dislike John Green is not something that particularly bothers me - after all, no one will be universally liked or appreciated. Like everyone, he has flaws - but most of the criticisms I saw of him were blatantly untrue slices of Internet hearsay. Reasons given were illegitimate and that made me kind of sad.

But I really had to withhold judgement, I thought, until I had the chance to read one of Green's novels, books which seem to elicit sharply divided opinions. When I had the opportunity to read The Fault in Our Stars, I would have been remiss if I hadn't taken it.

So I did. I read the whole thing in about six non-consecutive hours. (I'm a pretty fast reader.)

The end result was just sort of ... meh.

Regardless of my positive opinions of him as a video blogger and person, I have to say that he's actually a really bland writer. I'm not going to comment on the story itself because one cannot blame the "problematic" aspects of a story on the writer (which is the origin of most legitimate-looking John Green hate)*, but I can comment on the characters.

Green's characters don't have individual voices. Sickly, bookish, introverted Hazel speaks with the same advanced eloquence as the public-high-school-educated Gus. But it's not just there - alcoholic Van Houten is as well-spoken as his continually frustrated assistant Lidewij, and the parents of the main characters - aside from the tear-prone father of Hazel are practically indistinguishable from one another.

I could legitimize Hazel and Van Houten - perhaps Lidewij as well - but the fact that the dialogue of any one character could be given to any other character with only a little bit of recontextualization is not a good sign. Throughout the whole book, not one person spoke in the way that normal people speak.

It was, by extension, impossible for me to feel any kind of sympathy for these characters. Granted, I haven't cried over a fictional character since I was about four years old, but I was kind of thinking that it would change because everyone always goes bananas over John Green's ability to wrench waterworks from the eyes of his readers.

It's not like I was expecting some kind of modern classic from whence quotes would be hewn for books whose publications are four hundred years distant. But for all the hullabaloo of John Green's writing abilities, I would be lying if I said that I wasn't a tad bit disappointed.

* TFiOS, for its shortcomings, does not romanticize cancer, or illness, or disease in general. I've lost two of my grandparents to cancer, and it's not pretty at any age. Given Green's background, which he has talked about extensively, anyone who claims that TFiOS romanticizes disease is hearing it from someone else and/or completely skipped the passages where the characters discuss just how disturbing/dangerous doing so is.


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Vorahk1Panrahk2
Jul 17 2014 11:51 PM

I haven't read the book myself, but my sister (who was excited to read it initially) had the exact same criticism with the regard to the dialogue. Specifically she said: "Teenagers don't talk like this." It's not just this one, either, as his novel Paper Towns has the same issue. His characters in that are also obnoxious and unrealistic.

 

I don't remember Looking For Alaska having these issues, though it's been a while since I read it. Despite how incredibly different the characters were from myself, I felt that Green's writing really showed their personalities, faults, and troubles in a way that I could understand. I can't promise you'll like it (maybe I wouldn't if I reread it) but it couldn't hurt to give it a chance if you want to try his writing again.

 

(Just skip Paper Towns.)

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I haven't read the book myself, but my sister (who was excited to read it initially) had the exact same criticism with the regard to the dialogue. Specifically she said: "Teenagers don't talk like this." It's not just this one, either, as his novel Paper Towns has the same issue. His characters in that are also obnoxious and unrealistic.

 

Teenagers, do, however, generally really wish that they talked like that (or at least I know precocious little self-aggrandizing I used to).

 

I once skimmed TFiOS and I tried to read Will Grayson Will Grayson (which qualifications I'm sure you'll find make me a bona fide John Green expert), and I've got to say that Green at least knows his audience very well.

 

As others have said, Green is rather crass and manipulative (I think "crass and manipulative" is a quote from the Guardian's review of the TFiOS film) in much of his oeuvre, in that he knows exactly what teens want to read and how to give them the "feels."  (Cf. also that stuff about teens wanting to talk like Hazel and whoever.)  Then again, I'm a real lit snob, so I find most accessible and popular books to be some synonym for "crass."

 

I also recall something about the Anne Frank House in TFiOS, and I recall that drawing some more moralistic outrage.  How do you lean on that issue?

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Tekulo in the Green
Jul 18 2014 03:08 PM

I haven't read the book, either, so I can't say I can relate to noticing those issues.

 

I did see the movie, and I was thinking to myself "These characters seem a bit mature for their age" mostly from dialogue and how they acted, but I still enjoyed the story.  It didn't bring me to tears, but it did have a pretty big impact.  While the characters themselves may not have quite fit, I did like the way the story went.  It didn't end the way I thought it would end and it didn't treat its characters the way I thought the story would treat its characters.  (but then again I just watched the movie, so my expectations were based on the movie.  I've actually heard it's really accurate to the book, though).

 

So, I dunno.  My opinion is probably invalid, regardless.

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I haven't read the book myself, but my sister (who was excited to read it initially) had the exact same criticism with the regard to the dialogue. Specifically she said: "Teenagers don't talk like this." It's not just this one, either, as his novel Paper Towns has the same issue. His characters in that are also obnoxious and unrealistic.
 
I don't remember Looking For Alaska having these issues, though it's been a while since I read it. Despite how incredibly different the characters were from myself, I felt that Green's writing really showed their personalities, faults, and troubles in a way that I could understand. I can't promise you'll like it (maybe I wouldn't if I reread it) but it couldn't hurt to give it a chance if you want to try his writing again.

 
I'm actually about halfway through An Abundance of Katherines now, and - surprise! - it doesn't have any of the same issues as TFiOS. Not the best thing I've ever read, but at least the dialogue is more realistic.
 

As others have said, Green is rather crass and manipulative (I think "crass and manipulative" is a quote from the Guardian's review of the TFiOS film) in much of his oeuvre, in that he knows exactly what teens want to read and how to give them the "feels."  (Cf. also that stuff about teens wanting to talk like Hazel and whoever.)  Then again, I'm a real lit snob, so I find most accessible and popular books to be some synonym for "crass."
 
I also recall something about the Anne Frank House in TFiOS, and I recall that drawing some more moralistic outrage.  How do you lean on that issue?

 
The thing I like about John Green is that he admits that he's not a good writer and that there are things he can improve on, even going as far as recommending books from writers he considers better than himself. When opportunities come up for readers to vote on books and one of his books is an option, he always says that people shouldn't just blindly vote for him if they liked another book better.
 
I've never understood the outrage with the Anne Frank House scene. Green was - or was at least trying to - write complex characters. While intelligent, that doesn't exactly mean that they always do what they should do.

Like I mentioned in the entry, most people get fed up over the Anne Frank House scene because they somehow think the actions of Green's characters somehow equates to his personal views, which is blatantly ridiculous. No one says that Anthony Burgess was promoting ultraviolence in A Clockwork Orange any more than they claim Eoin Colfer really believes in technologically advanced subterranean fairies. There's no logical basis to it.

I'm certainly not against people objecting to the scene itself - though I don't, because it's a fictional story - but to say that it somehow reflects on the morality of its author is astoundingly stupid.

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I've never understood the outrage with the Anne Frank House scene. Green was - or was at least trying to - write complex characters. While intelligent, that doesn't exactly mean that they always do what they should do.

Like I mentioned in the entry, most people get fed up over the Anne Frank House scene because they somehow think the actions of Green's characters somehow equates to his personal views, which is blatantly ridiculous. No one says that Anthony Burgess was promoting ultraviolence in A Clockwork Orange any more than they claim Eoin Colfer really believes in technologically advanced subterranean fairies. There's no logical basis to it.

I'm certainly not against people objecting to the scene itself - though I don't, because it's a fictional story - but to say that it somehow reflects on the morality of its author is astoundingly stupid.

 

I think most people have the problem with the other characters applauding the kiss.  Depiction isn't endorsement, but uncritical depiction (i.e., characters do the wrong thing, everyone celebrates it by clapping and whooping) is at the very least severely flawed.  (The classic endorsement-versus-depiction example is Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, which despite being narrated by Humbert is more overtly critical of Humbert than Green is of the Anne Frank House kiss.)

 

Others object to the way Green draws parallels between death in genocide and death from cancer.  This parallelism seems mostly just clumsy to me, like Green didn't quite think through the difference between racism and illness.

 

- BioGio

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From what I'm given to understand, the scene was well-recieved by the folks at the Anne Frank House, and that they let the movie film there when other photographic/cinematic depictions of the house are banned.

Secondly, death is death, and while there is a big difference between death from genocide and death from cancer, they both have an underlying reason: bad luck. I didn't mind this too much because, whether or not this was intended, it went along with the titular concept.

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He's the lord of all strangeness. - Ignika: Nerd of Life

How awesome is Sumiki on a scale of 1 to 10? - Waffles
42. - Black Six

[He's] the king of wierd, the prince of practicality, the duke of durr! - Daiker

Sumiki is magic. - Cholie

Sumiki says, "Do I creeeeeeep you out?" Yes, he does. - Waffles

Sumiki is a nub. He's cool, but he's still a nub. - Ran Yakumo


"What is a Sumiki?" You may ask. But the answer to that is still unknown, even to the Sumiki itself. - Daiker


LISTEN TO SUMIKI - Cholie


Sumiki is best snickerdoodle. - Takuma Nuva


BZPower = Sumiki + McSmeag + B6. And Hahli Husky. - Vorex


What's a Sumi? Does it taste good? - Janus


I would have thought Sumiki wanted to reincarnate as a farm animal. - Kraggh


EAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH - Kakaru


Sumiki: the horse_ebooks of bzp - VampireBohrok


Everything relates to Sumiki. No really, everything. - Daiker


He's in worse mental condition than I thought. - Obsessionist


I'm just wondering why I'm looking at some cat dancing ... I suppose the answer would simply be "Sumiki." - Brickeens


I was like a beast, screaming through the mind of Sumiki at the speed of sound. I.. I wasn't strong enough to stop myself. What I saw was the end of infinity, through which one can see the beginning of time, and I will never be the same. - Portalfig


I imagine the 13th Doctor will be rather like Sumiki, at the rate we're going. - rahkshi guurahk


I was quite sure Sumiki had another set of arms stashed somewhere. - Bfahome


Note to future self: don’t try to predict Sumiki, he’s unpredictable. - Voltex


Let's be honest, I would totally have picked my main man Sumiki to lead my goose-stepping night killers anyway. We tight like that, yo. - Xaeraz


10/10, would Sumiki again. - Bfahome

     

Sumiki
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Every week, I post a new "Tuesday Tablescrap", a small MOC not worthy of a topic, but something to post and inspire me to build more.

10/25/11 - Duplo Flower
11/1/11 - Slender Man and Masky
11/8/11 - Bizarre Black Spaceship
11/15/11 - 2001 Monolith

11/22/11 - My Little Slizer 50
11/29/11 - Punching Bag
12/6/11 - Thunder and Escorts
12/13/11 - Three Concepts
12/20/11 - Kaxium Alternate
12/27/11 - None (Christmas Break)

    

1/3/12 - Daiker
1/10/12 - None
1/17/12 - Volant
1/24/12 - Nidman's Chute Shoop Shop
1/31/12 - None (Brickshelf down)
2/7/12 - None
2/14/12 - Atomic Lime
2/21/12 - Spearhead
2/28/12 - Glatorian Kahi
3/6/12 - Seeker
3/13/12 - Skyscraper
3/20/12 - Microphone
3/27/12 - Toa Vultraz
4/3/12 - Flammenwerferjüngeres
4/10/12 - Umbrella
4/17/12 - Lime Beetle
4/24/12 - Special - Flame Sculpture
5/1/12 - None (BZPower down)
5/8/12 - Purple Ninja
5/15/12 - The Original Sumiki
5/22/12 - 7/24/12 - None
7/31/12 - Tahu
8/7/12 - None (BrickFair)
8/14/12 - Special - Chess Set
8/21/12 - Heavily Armored Wasp
8/28/12 - Spaceship Drill
9/4/12 - Scuba Vehicle
9/11/12 - Orange Guy
9/18/12 - Strange Flying Thing
9/25/12 - Goblet
10/2/12 - None
10/9/12 - Aim .............................. Down
10/16/12 - Gold Bot
10/23/12 - Teal Mech
10/30/12 - Special - Teal Mech (#2)
11/6/12 - Bits and Pieces
11/13/12 - Two Spaceships
11/20/12 - TARDIS Interior
11/27/12 - Christmas Creep
12/4/12 - Toaraga
12/11/12 - Fireplace
12/18/12 - Abstract Duckling
12/25/12 - None (Christmas)
1/1/13 - Black Bot
1/8/13 - 1/22/13 - None
1/29/13 - Handheld Rhotuka Launcher
2/5/13 - 8/6/13 - None
8/13/13 - The Hinklebot
8/20/13 - Special - Post-Apocalyptic Piyufi
8/27/13 - 8/5/14 - None
8/12/14 - Another Chro Original
8/19/14 - Kanohi Zatth
8/26/14 - Miniland Hatpile

    

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Formerly known as the Bring Back Teal Club, the Unused Colors Society is a club that serves to promote colors that are little-used or discontinued, such as teal, old purple, or metallic blue.

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If you learn one thing in life, learn this:

You should never, ever question why demons would possess a soda.

just a heads up - Cthulhu would probably eradicate mankind before bringing back Bionicle

so yeah, all I'm saying is, please think twice about this okay

nothing gets democracy flowing like erratic capitalizatION

[the NSA] couldn't say no when I offered them an ostrich farm in exchange

Sumiki -- nice try but we all know Toa Mata Nui stuffs its bra




You have a great understanding of history, but don't forget, war, murder and other poor decisions are also huge characteristics.

Also a long line of really great hats.

Shhh, I'm trying to focus on the negative to justify my dislike of history.

have we mentioned hats

To be fair, I am the one responsible for the invention of Mafia in the 1320s by seventeen bored italians locked in a mine shaft.

It's a long story.

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