The last book I read in two days flat was none other than the same author’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars.’ (I wanted to read the book before I watched the movie. Yes as always, the book was better. In the book the author’s wit flows freely and steadily but the movie only manages to showcase it in awkward spurts: charming but not quite the same as the book.) After reading both his books I can safely say having to choose between them for the better one is like asking a mother to choose which of her children she loves more. Implausible.
My favourite lines in this book are:
“I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.”
At the centre of ‘Looking For Alaska’ is the age old existential question of the meaning of life and its suffering and the afterlife. Like the character Alaska quotes “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?” That is the question the book is built around and explores beautifully through a fresh plot and endearing characters.
“Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.”
The more I thought about this and turned these words slowly in my mind, the more its truth became apparent to me. That is what all of us do isn’t it! Keep thinking of an elsewhere. Of the ‘Great Perhaps’ as Miles puts it. And that is what keeps us sane in the insanity of todays’ world where nothing is permanent.
If I had to pick out the single line that moved me the most in this entire book, it would have to be a question. The question was “What is your cause of hope?” that allows you to rather willingly endure all the suffering there is and this sent my mind into such a tizzy about my cause of hope (I am still working through that one)
I speculate that even the title of the book is a metaphor (I am getting a sense that this author guy has the hots for the metaphor) Alaska is not only the name of the girl in the book they are seeking, Alaska could also means this faraway place that could represent the Great Unknown. A place that seems scary and inviting all at the same time. At least that’s what Alaska means to me. Looking for Alaska represents a search for the Great Unknown.
What is truly charming about this book is the author unpretentious handling of these deeply moving dilemmas. The author seamlessly weaves in concepts from Buddhism and other religious orders into the plot in his exploration of the existential dilemmas through a course being attended by the main characters. The protagonist Miles’s obsession with last words is morbidly entertaining and so is the non-clichéd personality of Alaska Young who unlike any female in lead in all the love stories I’ve read to date ‘likes to have sex more than anything else’. Green spends two pages describing Alaska Young’s ‘curves’ with such elegance and humour that I have never encountered before. The ‘crooked’ characters who love each other with their ‘crooked hearts’ grow on you slowly and stay with you long after the last page has been read. So does the vaguest sense of meaning in the face of all the meaninglessness that the author leaves you with in his finishing lines:
“Thomas Edison’s last words were ‘It is beautiful there. I do not know where there is, but I believe it is somewhere, and I hope it is beautiful.’”
This book is a thing of beauty. *sigh*