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.”
When I was a kid, my father would take me to his friend’s book shop at Lakshmi Complex and I would browse through immense titles and run my fingers along the spines of the books just for the thrill of it. The aura of bookshops is the pretentious fact that there are hundred other people inside those books at different places and vibrant state of affairs at different worlds altogether. That distinct fact is truant in the case of online shopping of books. Panoramically, I would say that book shops and libraries are macroscopical engulfment of fabricated lives. There was a time when I would select my books by fervently glancing at the four-lined description given by the publishers and literally sway on my toes while my father too reads it for approval before purchasing it. Later on the way home, there is an irresistible tingle of anticipation to start reading the book. I would take a few hours or a maximum of two days to finish my book that always leaves my mother with a look of stupor that says – “We just bought you that book.”
The flush of exhilaration when I’m at a book shop is unaccountable. There would be infinite books facing me and the sweet pain is that my parents allowed only a couple of books to purchase at a time. Ergo, the selection was arduous. The best part was beholding the vivacious cover pages of each book. They ranged from titles engrossed cover pages, glossy cover pages, minimal themes and so forth. They played a major role in my book selection at the book shop and hitherto they have not let me down.
Through my early teens, I enrolled in a library owing to my rapidly growing need for books. While reading the library’s copy of The Great Gatsby I stumbled upon dried, yellowy tear drops embedded on the page where Gatsby dies. Then I noticed that physical books – unlike virtual books – absorb anthropoid feelings. Similarly, in a copy of a Stephen Kings novel at an electrifying phase, I found the page gently crumbled. Some books are dog-eared, some are not, some books are filled with remarks along the margin and some are highlighted; Books define the reader. Poring over literary collections virtually is something that I have not been able to wrap my head around.
But lately, I have been consecrating my time reading e-books and PDF versions because they are mostly free of cost and easily portable within an app of my phone unlike the considerably dense books. The perusal of virtual editions of books has brought a tardily evolving eye pains and headaches. Hence, I decided to go back to the hardbound copies and paperbacks. It is after sometime that I realized how bereft I have been of the papery texture, the compressed spine, the myriad of curves through each page and the evident fragrance of each word. Books on Kindle, laptops and phones are well movable but the bends and curves of a physical book are pertinacious. I hope this occult war between physical books and e-books come to an end because it is understandable that each variation has its own rewards and limitations. Yet I sense an abstract compulsion to impel my view that a ‘book’ regardless of its definition, is bound by stacks of papers filled with stories to tell and wisdom to impart.