Thursday, January 8, 2009

Everything I Underlined in Paper Towns

This is going to be long, but I am going to do it, because I love these words:

"Getting you a date to prom is so hard that the hypothetical idea itself is actually used to cut diamonds," I added.

She looked up at me, her face mostly revealed now, and she smiled just the littlest bit. "It amazes me that you can find all this shit even remotely interesting."
"College: getting in or not getting in. Trouble: getting in or not getting in. School: getting A's or getting D's. Career: having or not having. House: big or small, owning or renting. Money: having or not having. It's all so boring."

Margo managed to speak in her usual manic soliloquy without answering my question. "Did you know that for pretty much the entire history of the human species, the average life span was less than thirty years? You could count on ten yours or so of real adulthood, right? There was no planning for retirement. There was no planning for a career. There was no planning. No time for planning. No time for a future. But then the life spans started getting longer, and people started having more and more future, and so they spent more time thinking about it. About the future. And now life has become the future. Every moment of your life is lived for the future--you go to high school so you can go to college so you can get a good job so you can get a nice house so you can afford to send your kids to college so they can get a good job so they can get a nice house so they can afford to send their kids to college."

I stopped at the stop sign at the end of the street, and Margo said, "What the hell? Go go go go go," and I said, "Oh, right," because I had forgotten that I was throwing caution to the wind and everything.

Margo's beauty was a kind of sealed vessel of perfection--uncracked and uncrackable.

As I put my hand on the steering wheel, I noticed my pointer finger was blue. I held it up for Margo to see. She smiled, and held out her own blue finger, and then they touched, and her blue finger was pushing against mine softly and my pulse failed to slow.

"Here's what's not beautiful about it: from here, you can't see the rust or the cracked paint or whatever, but you can tell what the place really is. You see how fake it all is. it's not even hard enough to be made out of plastic. It's a paper town. I mean look at it, Q: look at all those cul-de-sacs, those streets that turn in on themselves, all the houses that were built to fall apart. All those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm. All the paper kids drinking beer some bum bought for them at the paper convenience store. Everyone demented with the mania of owning things. All the things paper-thin and paper-frail. And all the people, too. I've lived here for eighteen years and I have never once in my life come across anyone who cares about anything that matters."

"That's sweet," she answered, her voice trailing off. She turned to me and nodded softly. I smiled. She smiled. I believed the smile. We walked to the stairs and then ran down them. At the bottom of each flight, I jumped off the bottom step and clicked my heels to make her laugh, and she laughed. I thought I was cheering her up. I thought she was cheerable. I thought maybe if I could be confident, something might happen between us.
I was wrong.

All of page 61.


And for those two minutes we just stared at each other, and I watched the blue in her eyes. it was nice--in the dark and the quiet, with no possibility of me saying anything to screw it up, and her eyes looking back, like there was something in me worth seeing.

And I felt the unbroken line of me and of her stretching back from our cribs to the dead guy to acquaintanceship to now. And I wanted to tell her that the pleasure for me wasn't planning or doing or leaving; the pleasure was in seeing our strings cross and separate and then come back together--but that seemed too cheesy to say, and anyway, she was standing up.

She either trusted me or wanted to fall.

She raised her eyebrows finally, and smiled, and I believed the smile.

Best wishes

All of pages 104 and 105.

But I think about the circles kid sometimes, because I can sort of understand him. I always liked routine. I suppose I never found boredom very boring. I doubted I could explain it to someone like Margo, but drawing circles through life struck me as a kind of reasonable insanity.

[...]but I had--stupidly, embarrassingly--thought of finding Margo, and getting her to come home with me just in time for prom, like late on Saturday night, and we'd walk into the Hilton ballroom wearing jeans and ratty T-shirts, and we'd be just in time for the last dance, and we'd dance while everyone pointed at us and marveled at the return of Margo, and then we'd fox-trot the hell out of there and go get ice cream at Friendly's.

"Q!" he shouted over the music. "How good does this feel?"
And I knew exactly what Ben meant: he meant listening to the Mountain Goats with your friends in a car that runs on a Wednesday morning in May on the way to Margo and whatever Margotastic prize came with finding her. "It beats calculus," I answered. The music was too loud for us to talk. Once we got out of Jefferson Park, we rolled down the one window that worked so the world would know we had good taste in music.

The smell leaves me seized by desperate panic--panic not like my lungs are out of air, but like the atmosphere itself is out of air. I think maybe the reason I have spent most of my life being afraid is that I have been trying to prepare myself, to train my body for the real fear when it comes. But I am not prepared.

You will go to the paper towns and you will never come back.

In tenth grade, I once drank a bottle of pink "wine" at a band party. It tasted as bad going down as it did coming up.

He lowered the beer sword and tapped me on each shoulder. "By the power of the superglue beer sword, I hereby designate you my driver!"
"Thanks," I said. "Don't puke in the minivan."

So Lacey and I followed Ben downstairs, where he opened the door to Becca's room and said, "Your party kicked so much ass! Even though you suck so much! It's like instead of blood, your heart pumps liquid suck! But thanks for the beer!"

Lacey sat next to him, because "I should make sure he doesn't puke or beat himself to death with his beer hand or whatever."

All of page 199.


"Please stop," I said. "You're upsetting the black Santas."

I got up and walked over to the maps and tore them off the wall, the pins and tacks flying out with the paper and falling to the ground. I balled up the maps and threw them in the garbage can. On my way back to bed I stepped on a tack, like an idiot, and even though I was annoyed and exhausted and out of pseudovisions and ideas, I had to pick up all the thumbtacks scattered around the carpet so I didn't step on them later. I just wanted to punch the wall, but I had to pick up those stupid goddamned thumbtacks. When I finished, I got back into bed and socked my pillow, my teeth clenched.

It is so hard to leave--until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.

Ben put a hand on her elbow. "Well, but you can eat Grandma's cookies. They're not bad for you. They were made by Grandma. Grandma wouldn't hurt you."

And I can't help but feel that Whitman, for all his blustering beauty, might have been just a bit too optimistic. We can hear others, and we can travel to them without moving, and we can imagine them, and we are all connected one to the other by a crazy root system like so many leaves of grass--but the game makes me wonder whether we can really ever fully become another.

I tell her: we were dead, and then Ben managed to spin the car in just the right way, like some kind of brilliant vehicular ballerina.

Imagining isn't perfect. You can't get all the way inside someone else. I could never have imagined Margo's anger at being found, or the story she was writing over. But imagining being someone else, or the world being something else, is the only way in. It is the machine that kills fascists.

All of pages 301 and 302.


The grass will grow back soon enough. It will be for us the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

It is saying these things that keeps us from falling apart. And maybe by imagining these futures we can make them real, and maybe not, but either way we must imagine them. The light rushes out and floods in.

The last line.

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