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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 26 March 2020

"Turtles All the Way Down" by John Green

John Green is the author of young adult phenomena such as Paper Towns (my favourite) The Fault in Our Stars (everyone's tear-jerking favourite) and An Abundance of Katherines.

He is superb at creating strong young characters and interacting them with superbly witty dialogue:

  • Narrator Aza lives in a state of permanent anxiety about her microflora, fearing that she will one day die of sepsis or some other microbial infection. She is so anxious that, having kissed her boyfriend and realised that she gas just imbibed an estimated 80 million of his bacteria, she has to go to the bathroom and drink hand sanitiser.
  • Her best friend Daisy writes very popular fan fiction about the romantic life of Chewbacca from Star Wars. She initiates the hero's journey by proposing that the pair of them investigate the mysterious disappearance of a local billionaire so they can get the reward money of 100,000 dollars.
  • Daisy and Aza therefore go snooping at the billionaire's house and meet Davis, his son. Aza and Davis begin dating (which is awkward when you don't like kissing).
I loved the idea of you not being you but rather a host to a whole ecosystem of microbes. This raises questions of selfhood: who are 'you':

  • The book starts with the narrator realizing "I might be fictional" (C 1) because her life is controlled by her school's timetable: "I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell. ... You think you're the painter, but you're the canvas." (C 1)
  • "Humans are approximately 50 per cent microbial, meaning that about half of the cells that make you up are not your at all. ... It often seems like I can feel them living abd breeding and dying in and on me." (C 1)
  • "If half the cells inside of you are not you, doesn't that challenge the whole notion of me as a singular pronoun, let alone as the author of my fate." (C 1)
  • "Self is a plurality, but pluralities can also be integrated, right? Think of a rainbow. It's one arc of light, but also seven differently coloured arcs of light." (C 8)
  • "There are all these things living inside of me that eat my food for me ... I'm not a human person so much as this disgusting, teeming blob of bacteria ... Which means that I have maybe, like, no more of a soul than the bacteria do." (C 8)
  • Even the outside environment is in control: "You never think much about weather when it's good, but once it gets cold enough to see your breath, you can't ignore it. The weather decides when you think about it, not the other way around." (C 17)

Other great moments:

  • "The whole problem with boys is that ninety-nine percent of them are, like, okay. If you could dress and hygiene them properly, and make them stand up straight and listen to you and not be dumbasses, they'd be totally acceptable." (C 5)
  • "I have the soul of a private jet owner, and the life of a public transportation rider." (C 5)
  • "Wait, oh God, I just said I'm in love. We've been hooking up for under twenty-four hours and I'm dropping L-bombs." (C 10)
  • "It's a weird phrase in English, in love, like it's a sea you drown in or a town you live in. You don't get to be in anything else - in friendship or in anger or in hope." (C 12)
  • "I like short poems with weird rhyme schemes, because that's what life is like. ... It rhymes, but not in the way you expect." (C 12)
  • "What I love about science is that as you learn, you don't really gets answers. You just get better questions." (C 14)
  • "My whole life I thought I was the star of an overly earnest romance movie, and it turns out I was in a goddamned buddy comedy all along." (C 21)

Great fun to read. Another brilliantly written and thought provoking book from John Green.

March 2020; 286 pages

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