book review

Looking For Alaska

It is not a book about a man in search of Alaska. It’s about a boy, a girl, their friends and figuring out what the labyrinth is and how to get out of it. Let me get my facts straight – it is not a romantic novel where the book is so full of misunderstanding and French kisses, it is not a book of thrilling, electrifying guys in masks holding hostage, it is not book that has stonking magic spells/noseless villains and it is not a book where our future world is in ruins and it’s civil war every direction you turn and it is not a book where the leading lady has interminable sex with a copper-haired Grey. Plus, it is not a book where at least one person has cancer (you have The Fault In Our Stars for that).

Personally, Looking For Alaska is reality. Some (or mostly) books are written of unimaginable or too perfect circumstances. You have Hogwarts and Magic and School of America at Paris and congenial parents and Success + Happy Endings with a kiss. If you expect or crave these while reading a book then Looking For Alaska is not for you. The thing about this book is reality. Unfazed reality. You ache for Alaska with Pudge. You undergo the fear of being expelled and abhor poverty though knee deep in it with the Colonnel. And munch bufriedos with Takumi.

Maybe it’s my hormones but I languished to live the parts of Alaska and Pudge together be it reading Vonnegut after midnight at the soccer field or porn hunting or playing Decapitation. I want to live them. Why, John Green, why? Alaska has this big Question – figuring out what the labyrinth is and how to get out of it. She is a deeply sad person (by her own words), very smart; well, she teaches calculus to her mates, smokes and drinks hard and loves sex. Oh, did I mention? She has a rich boyfriend, Jake.

To write down one favorite scene/chapter/moment would mean doing the ten other scene/chapter/moment injustice. There are lots of brilliant lines to quote and fathomless thoughts to ponder over. But the one I love the most is

“There comes a time when we realise that our parents cannot save themselves or save us, that everyone who wades through time eventually gets dragged out to sea by the undertow – that, in short, we are all going.”

Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Russell, good job.

Matthew Quick, you had one job.

I saw the movie version of The Silver Linings Playbook few years ago after its red-letter mentions at the Oscars. I was satisfied with the movie a good deal; Bradley Cooper (YEAH!!), it was good to see Jennifer Lawrence in someone else’s shoes other than Katniss Everdeen and Robert de Niro played his role pertinently. The movie about two emotionally disoriented, screwed up people with a penchant for working out and running for hours together was indeed worth the two hours. I was quenched with the movie as it was; I even lent it to a couple of friends and recommended to the other few. But I chanced upon the book a week ago at a local book fair. Until then, I had no idea that the movie was based on a book. The placid yet matte finished cover page with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence and a summer yellow back with accurate description caught my eye and then I knew I would buy the book no matter if I had seen it ten times.

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It took me four hours straight to read the 289 paged book.

The first hundred pages are heavily filled with Pat Peoples, the protagonist talking about nothing but silver linings in the cloud (plus how much he hates pessimism and at an equal degree his belief in miracles), Nikki (who happens to be his beautiful wife who according to him is away for a reason), his workout: iron bench press, leg lifts, sit ups on the Stomach Masters 6000, bike riding, squash, knuckles push up, curls- the works (phewwwwww) and his NFL home team – the Eagles. The story per se revolves around these four wispy yet significant pointers. He runs into Tiffany, his best friend Ronnie’s sister in law whose husband died a couple of years ago in an accident. Tiffany is evenly lost as Pat is but unlike Pat she’s reached the point of accepting reality as it is where as Pat still believed in happy endings, silver linings and miracles. The author’s work is incredible as the book could easily pass for a disturbed person writing it but it is devoid of a stimulating plot that the movie compensates for.

The movie has more drama, racy ending, Pat and Tiffany actually get together (Pat and Nikki being divorced) and kiss (Pat gets his Happy Ending) where as in the book Quick closes with them deciding to be best friends who look up at the sky with the Cloud Chart besides them. And the author suffocates the readers occasionally with too much American football, Nikki and his obsession over optimism. But I think that is how a confused mind would work: over-thinking and obsessing. The movie spares you the over-thinking and obsession but you also miss out on cute parts where he instead of swallowing his pills he tucks them under his tongue and spits them out in the toilet later which he says is quite an adventure for him and the sweet sensation he describes when his boy Baskett scores a touchdown and little others things along the pages.

Apart from such limited grounds to read the book, the book was a good read indeed but the movie outsmart the book with its cast, slight but noticeable changes in the script and a decent soundtrack.

P.S. David O. Russell is the director of the Silver Linings Playbook movie.

Matthew Quick is the author of the Silver Linings Playbook book.