Sunday, July 19, 2009

I go to seek a Great Perhaps

This weekend I finished reading Looking for Alaska, my 3rd John Green novel in as many weeks and definitely my favourite. The novel is about a 16 year old boy named Miles (ironically nicknamed Pudge due to his lankiness) who is sick of the simple, safe life he leads and is obsessed with famous last words. After reading the poet Francois Rabelais' dying declaration 'I go to seek a Great Perhaps' Miles decides that he doesn't want to wait until he dies to start seeking his Great Perhaps, so he does something completely out of his comfort zone and enrols in an out-of-state boarding school - away from everyone and everything he knew before. It's at Culver Creek that Pudge makes the best friends he has ever known and falls in love with a girl named Alaska Young.

(*spoiler alert*)

About halfway through the book's tone completely changes as Alaska tragically dies in a drunk-driving car crash. The second half of the novel deals with Pudge's guilt, his love and his struggle to continue his way through the labyrinth without her.

There is a lot of brilliant writing and a lot of famous last words in this book. Here are some of my favourite quotes:

"...I jogged afterhim, trailing in his wake. I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. But for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me, just like comets need tails "

"You've got a lifetime to mull over the Buddhist understanding of interconnectedness." He spoke every sentence as if he'd written it down, memorised it and was now reciting it. "But while you were looking out the window, you missed the chance to explore the equally interesting Buddhist belief in being present for every facet of your daily life, of being truly present. Be present in this class. And then, when it's over, be present out there," he said nodding toward the lake and beyond.

“How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?” (Simon Bolivar)

"Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia"

"You spend your whole lif stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you'll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining the future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present. "

"For she had embodied the Great Perhaps - she had proved to me that it was worth it to leave behind my minor life for grander maybes."

"Everything that comes together falls apart"

"When you stopped wishing things wouldn't fall apart, you'd stop suffering when they did."

"It always shocked me when I realised that I wasn't the only person in the world who thought and felt such strange and awful things."

"...we had to forgive to survive in the labyrinth."

"I thought for a long time that the way out of the labyrinth was to pretend that it did not exist, to build a small self-sufficient world in a back corner of the endless maze and to pretend that I was not lost, but home. But that only led to a lonely life accompanied by the last words of the already-dead, so I came here looking for a Great Perhaps, for real friends and a more-than-minor life."

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