Fifty-two days before it happens, Miles finds different ways to enjoy the Thanksgiving break with Alaska, and some of that involves getting in trouble. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Looking For Alaska.
fifty-two days before
All of the drinking I did in high school (and good lord, there was a lot of it) was done almost entirely in private. I straddled the line between drinking to be accepted, and ashamed to let anyone know how bad my addiction was, mostly choosing to hide the fact that it happened at all. Because of this, I didn’t really have the same discovery that Miles does here. Wellâ€¦okay, I don’t mean that I did not dig strawberry wine out of the ground. I’m just saying it wasn’t a social thing for me to drink. Maybe I would have been a social drinker if I had drank alcohol for the first time after digging out of the ground like buried treasure. Shit, why aren’t there more treasure hunts in my life?
I said last week that I like when things are nice between Miles and Alaska, and I still think that some of Green’s best writing is in these passages. I adore the scene where Alaska reads aloud from Cat’s Cradle to Miles:
As promised in the list, she brought a Kurt Vonnegut book, Cat’s Cradle, and she read aloud to me, her soft voice mingling with the frogs’ croaking and the grasshoppers landing softly around us. I did not hear her words so much as the cadence of her voice. She’d obviously read the book many times before, and so she read flawlessly and confidently, and I could hear her smile in the reading of it, and the sound of that smile made me think that maybe I would like novels better if Alaska Young read them to me.
I love these three sentences, and it’s fantastic how much Green is able to convey is so little words. It’s true that you can hear a smile in someone’s voice, but I’m even more drawn to the experience of admiring a person’s cadence. I don’t think I’ve ever articulated it, but the way a person talks can be attractive to me. It’s not necessarily what they’re saying or what words they use, but how that is processed into speech.
So this environment that Green describes feels very real to me, and it’s why I believe so very much that it feels perfect to Miles, that there’s something so beautiful about it that it only feels natural to turn to Alaska and confess how he feels. Personally, “love” is a bit too strong for me; I’m the type to wait a long time before saying it. But I also know that some situations just feel right to say it, even if one is not totally sure they feel that way.
Still, I must admit that I am surprised that this is happening so early. Well, to be fair, I don’t know what this is. Did Miles and Alaska make out? Did she not want him to ruin the moment of them simply staring at each other? Green cuts the chapter off before sharing this with us, and it’s simply left to our imagination.
fifty-one days before
There was something fun about staying behind at school during Thanksgiving Break my freshman year of college, and the vacancy of the normally-thriving campus was enthralling. It constantly felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there, that I’d been let in on some great secret and that secret was visible all around me.
Miles and Alaska start off this small vacation of theirs with a bit of snooping. Initially, Alaska’s planning revenge; what better time to enact it while everyone’s away for the holidays? And running through all of this is a new energy; whatever happened the night before seems to have revitalized both characters in a way that I’ve not seen from them before. I don’t think they did anything very serious, but it’s hard to ignore that they’re both simply having a good time with one another. On top of that, it seems the Eagle is nowhere in sight, so with the freedom from his all-seeing eye, the two of them enjoy what they can.
forty-nine days before
Well, that joy isn’t without a bit of inappropriate behavior. As someone who had their dorm room broken into, searched, and had personal items taken, I can’t say that I find Alaska’s and Miles’s porn hunt to be all that entertaining. The two are in a good place with one another, but that doesn’t really excuse what they do here: sneak about campus and rummage through the personal items of other dorms.
I do admit to being fascinating by what they discovered, but that’s mostly due to the fact that it feels so very realistic to me. That first year of college, when I lived in the dorms, we all gradually began to come to know the people we were living with or our friends were living with. And college attracted some strange people. One of my friends roomed with an honest-to-god drug dealer; another was roommates with a scrawny kid from Northern California who had a bunch of samurai swords on his walls and he only seemed to watch movies where lots and lots of people were gutted or had their limbs hacked off. (In hindsight, how the fuck was he allowed to have swords on his walls??? I was in a different building from all my friends, and we weren’t allowed thumbtacks. But swords are totally okay???)
And this is not to say I’m not weird (I AM) or that I wasn’t involved in some poorly-thought-out shenanigans and mischievous adventures. (I was. Even better? Almost none of them were at my school. My friends and I would go troll my twin brother’s school instead, and it was lovely because there was pretty much no way we could have ever gotten in trouble.) I certainly had a lot of fun testing the boundaries of what I could get away with. Though I was very familiar with that notion; for two years prior to my freshman year, I had been living on my own, estranged from my parents. That sort of freedom is immensely tempting, especially when your upbringing is so ridiculously strict. So I understand why this is here, and I’m not criticizing John Green for writing this in his book; it’s something I’m familiar with myself.
That being saidâ€¦damn, the porn scene is just fucking awkward. And it should be, and I’m glad it’s portrayed that way, but I’m beginning to feel increasingly bizarre about how Alaska reacts to situations, specifically when John Green is writing about her “feminist” outbreaks. It’s nice to have a character who is so outspoken about these sort of things, butâ€¦well, I guess I don’t know how to articulate what I’m feeling for once. It’s just that sometimes when Alaska is saying these sort of things, it feels forced. It’s not that they’re uncharacteristic things for her to say, though; I think it’s been established that it’s part of who she is. She calls out the people around her for the shitty behavior that she observes. It’s more of what Green chooses to have her say that bothers me, but I still don’t know exactly what it is about it that rubs me the wrong way. AM I ALONE IN THIS I DON’T EVEN KNOW.
forty-seven days before
Well, my affection for the Colonel just grew a whole lot.
As I’ve said many times before, I grew up poor. And John Green absolutely nails so many things about that experience, from the almost ingrained hatred of rich people (especially those that flaunt it about), to the way one is apprehensive about having people over, to the pride that can come from knowing your parents or parent managed to get you through it all anyway.
Most important of all, though, is that Green doesn’t use the text or the characters to poke fun at any of this, and that sort of basic respect is surprisingly absent from most depictions of poor people. It reminds me of the first time we saw the Burrow in Harry Potter, how Rowling used that sense of poverty to instead inspire a sense of wonder about the Weasley household. While there’s certainly a lot that’s familiar to me about the Martin household, it’s that joy of Miss Martin–ahem, I mean DOLORES–that makes me love this all so much.
God, this is just my favorite thing so far in all of Looking For Alaska. It’s nice to be able to gush without shame like this, especially since I’m so used to whining or yelling about shitty depictions of poverty.
When Alaska asked her what she did for work, she smiled and said, “I’m a culnary engineeyer. That’s a short-order cook at the Waffle House to y’all.”
“Best Waffle House in Alabama.” The Colonel smiled, and then I realized, he wasn’t embarrassed of his mom at all. He was just scared that we would act like condescending boarding-school snobs.
I LOVE IT. I know exactly what this feels like, and this fear is such a real goddamn thing for people who are poor.
forty-six days before
god john green are you trying to make me sob right now
And Dolores? She was grateful that her phone was back on, that her boy was home, that Alaska helped her cook and that I had kept the Colonel out of her hair, that her job was steady and her coworkers were nice, that she had a place to sleep and a boy who loved her.
Dolores Martin is the best character in this book.