For the past week I’ve been surrounded by all things Green. John Green, that is. I’ve been a fan since the Looking for Alaska days. I saw him speak at the Century Plaza shortly after I read that at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference. Quiet and unassuming, I remember. And funny. When I saw Fault in the Stars at B&N a few months ago while trying to decide how to use a gift card, I picked it up. Good choice.
Even though I write young adult fiction, when I read John Green he seems to be writing a different genre, more evolved somehow. He seems to capture something I find elusive and I’d explain what that is except since it’s elusive, I struggle. I often close his books, saying out loud to anybody who happens to be in the room, “You, John Green, are the master.”
And while I love his work in general, I think Stars is my favorite. It feels like it comes from a place of pain inside him. I since that with authors, when they’re holding back. I find it brave when it’s there. While he gives the author disclaimer in the front that it’s a novel and he made it up, the thing that doesn’t feel made up to me is the rawness of emotion.
When I picked up the recent Time magazine to read the fascinating cover story “The Transgender Tipping Point” featuring Laverne Cox from my all time fave, “Orange is the New Black” series, there he was again. (I’m looking at Orange and I get Green.) In the article, Lev Grossman wrote about how Green’s Stars emanated out of a stint he’d done as a chaplain in a pediatric cancer center. Yep. Pain.
Then came the film release which was an amazing adaptation. We saw it last night and I definitely cry-cried. You know, that gasping-for-air-as-silently-as-possible-while-wishing-I’d chosen-to-skip-the-mascara crying? That’s the one. I thought back to Grossman’s interview wherein Green was on set watching his novel come to life. When a scene happened, all eyes turned towards him to observe his reaction. While he said he didn’t play a role in input, that felt like collaboration at its finest to me.
In between the bookstore, the Time article, and the film, I happened to be watching Ellen and there was Ansel Elgort who plays Augustus Waters talking about the film. (How he got through the whole interview without mentioning John Green was personally insulting to me.) He talked about how as they’d go from city to city promoting the film hordes of people would be there. Green had both tapped into the young adult consciousness and become, along with his brother, a social media genius in the way he’d played out the book tour. (The movie “Chef” is a “how to” on that, by the way.)
Watching creativity manifest in this way inspires me. First, in the mind of a true artist like Green. Then, in the process of creating visual art with the film. Choosing what to play up and take out is such a skill. Next, in the acting of the character Green imagined. It’s pure magic to watch it all happen and I’m grateful for the artists that make it their lives to make magic.