Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Thursday, January 3, 2013

On the Bookshelf—Interview with John Green

NUVO did a great interview with John Green recently. It's a fairly long interview, so below are some of my favorite excerpts. I particularly like when he talks about how the high brow/low brow literature/genre distinction isn't valuable.  Also, I passionately hate dream sequences in books. I think they are useless and boring. Writers, find better ways to express your characters' mental and emotional states!

NUVO: A representative quote about your work: "Adult readers need to look in the teen section if they're tired of what passes for literary fiction."

John Green: I like adult literary fiction a lot, and I feel bad when people say to adult readers, "You should also consider this novel, this novel and this novel" which are published for teenagers because adult literary fiction is bad. Much of it is—there's no question that a lot of it has become very disconnected from emotional reality, but also very disconnected from this kind of pleasures and consolations of storytelling and story reading. But not all of it; I mean there's tons of it. There's no shortage of good, living, American novelists who write great fiction for adults.
That said, I like being published for teenagers. I don't want to be published for anyone other than teenagers; I don't want to write any other kind of books. But most of my readers, of this book at least, are adults. And I like them, and I'm grateful for them, and I'm glad that the book is finding so many adult readers. In the end, a really good book, if it's a good book, it doesn't matter. My friend said something that at the time I thought was a little bit pretentious, but now I find myself agreeing with it. He said, "When someone reads my book, and then puts it on their bookshelf in their home library, I don't want it to go into the young adult fiction section or the adult fiction section. I want it to go into the 'my favorite book section,'" and that is true. That is what you want.

Green: I don't like flashbacks and I don't really like dreams. I wrote one dream in Alaska. I still kind of regret it. ...

NUVO: Your assistant says your favorite movie is Die Hard 4?

Green: (Laughs as his assistant comes in to confirm that he did actually make such a statement in public, at VidCon 2012.) Well, for the record, my favorite movie is not Die Hard 4. I say that because...they expect me....

NUVO: Like David Foster Wallace picking Tom Clancy as one of his favorite novelists?

Green: Exactly! When Hollywood people ask you who's your dream director and then they mention this very mediocre independent film that came out five years ago. But what would be really great is if Bruce Willis was in [that dream movie]. I say that mostly because I want to make the point that I want my books to be fun to read, and I don't buy this whole high culture-low culture distinction. I'm grateful my books are taken seriously but I really don't like it, particularly in Hollywood, when they're like, "This is a high culture book so it has to be a certain kind of movie." I did like Die Hard 4 very much; I like The Expendables too. I like pop art, and I don't think it's bad just because it's populist. I always say that. My actual favorite movies are Rushmore and Harvey, but I can't say that because they'll think...well, of course, Wes Anderson...


Green: I think [Indianapolis is] a very American city, which is a very good place to live if you're an American writer writing about America, as opposed to New York or Chicago, which are very different from where most Americans live and from where American life is really taking place, in my opinion anyway.

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