Paper Towns by John Green

Paper TownsBack in August we read Paper Towns by John Green and took our annual trip to the movies.  I’m sorry to say that we felt like our third field trip didn’t quite live up to the first two.

The consensus on the book was a bit ‘meh,’ but those of us who saw the film had definite and strong opinions about it. We agreed that there are often legitimate reasons for altering parts of books for a viewing audience, but in this case, the majority of the group found the majority of the changes unnecessary and detracting from the work.

The complaint for both book and film was that we didn’t much like the main characters. Seriously, if this book was about Radar and Ben, we’d be on board. It goes to show what kind of character the lead is that I can not remember his name. Ben and Radar, they were memorable, but Quentin (I did have to look it up) was just forgettable. Margo on the other hand was unforgettable, but not in a good way.  None of our group really understood Q’s fascination or could fathom why Becca was interested in hunting down her “friend.”  Margo’s just not very nice, even for a teenage girl.

Paper Towns movieMany of us enjoyed the book in chunks.  I liked the beginning and then it just fell off for me. Some said they’d enjoyed it up until the ending. Most of us weren’t fans of how Green finished it. I typically applaud Mr. Green for not finishing books in the predictable way, but this time, I thought he should have called this one a short story and ended it after about 25 pages. Both book and film promise a mystery that just isn’t all that mysterious or frankly very interesting.

The film’s lack of understanding of how long it takes to drive from Florida to upstate New York infuriated our PA crowd and we felt like the dropping of the group’s fear that Margo had died or was going to kill herself completely removed the incentive to find her and just dumbed down the whole experience.

The steepers who joined us for the filming were actually more entertaining than the film. Meghan sat to my right and used wild hand gestures and harrumphs to exclaim her displeasure at the numerous changes. My favorite experience came from Kristin. She sat stoically throughout the film, only moving to decline my offer of a raisinet (Meghan informs me that she believes that raisinets are just fruit masquerading as candy). The moment that the lights started coming back up, Kristin exclaimed, “Well, I hated that!”

She wasn’t the only one with such sentiments, while most of us didn’t love the film, Maureen’s vehement dislike was palpable. She admits that this in her 3 least favorite films of all time. That’s hardcore dislike, my friends. She also announced that the film sucked when Meghan was searching for the right word to describe her feelings about the film. She did, however, say that Paper Towns had seemed better to her than The Fault in Our Stars, to which Meghan replied, “Well, there is a lot less cancer.”

Overall, we gave this book about a 2.5 teacup rating and while we don’t rate the movies, this one would be pretty low on the list.

2.5 teacups

Forever

Forever logoSo, even though Pete Hamill has been very adamant that the television show with the same name as his book Forever is not a sanctioned adaptation (it does have many striking similarities), I thought that this banner for the tv show was actually a beautiful representation of the New York that Hamill describes over two plus centuries.  Also, I actually think the show isn’t all that bad, plus it has the added bonus that my friend, the lovely and talented Bridget Ori was in an episode as a 1930s heroin addict . . .

For our first meeting of 2015, Read It & Steep met to discuss Pete Hamill’s Forever, a novel that tracks one man’s experiences from his birth in Ireland in the early 1700s to his life stuck on the island of Manhattan through 2001.  I know I mentioned before how concerned the group was that this hefty book was going to take us forever to read, but most of us did complete it.  I’d say 2015 is off to a good start!

We all commented on how in depth Cormac O’Connor’s (I kept calling the poor character Cormac McCarthy instead of his given name) formative years are described.  While we thought his youth was interesting, Mr. Hamill speeds the narrative up exponentially after Cormac gets his strange immortality, sometimes skipping half-a-century or more.  We felt like it was almost like Hamill got tired of writing the story and jumped ahead by leaps and bounds.  It felt a bit disjointed because of it.

The form of immortality that Cormac is “blessed” with by his African Shaman friend is unique.  We all agreed that it was interesting that the terms of Cormac’s immortality included that he must truly live as opposed to simply existing in addition to the fact that he could not leave the island of Manhattan.  Now, I know that Manhattan is a pretty densely populated place, especially now, but I felt it was difficult to believe that Cormac was able to exist for two centuries without having multiple people discover his unusual nature.  Unlike most fiction that includes extraordinarily long life (usually vampire tales) the immortal moves around and at least changes their name to try to keep their secret.  In Cormac’s case, he maintains not only his name, but his residence for an extraordinary length of time.  Yes, we are led to believe that he does age very slightly (though this is never directly said, Cormac is about 18 when he gains immortality and is described as looking about 40 in 2001) I had a hard time believing Cormac made it through all that time with only a few confidants.

I also added that I found it impossible to believe that he would still have all his own teeth . . . I was reminded by my fine group that if we can suspend our disbelief that Cormac is still alive after 200 years, he could have found a way to not be counted in a census or achieve magical dental care. This also brought up a discussion of just how long is “forever.”  Our resident scientist, Kristin, quipped, “I mean are we talking heat death of the universe?! Cause that would be pretty bad.”  We agreed.  We also agreed that in fiction, the author is allowed to make up the rules and they also don’t necessarily need to share all of those rules with their readers.

Finally, we did wish more had been done with the storyline of Cormac’s need to avenge his father’s death.  As part of his Irish Celtic clan, he was oath-bound to end the bloodline of the Earl of Warren, the man responsible for his father’s murder.  Again, this is initially a heavy focus and then it’s like Cormac, or Hamill, forgot about it.  We all thought it would be so interesting to hear about how Cormac’s quest for justice must shift to accommodate modern advances in criminology, etc.  We all agreed that we would have been interested in exploring more about the Warren family and how they developed from the Earl.  We enjoyed making up our own little subplot where Cormac and Mary’s child married into the Warren family, creating an interesting ripple in Cormac’s revenge . . . that didn’t happen though.

Instead, the novel ended in what we thought was a sloppy description of 9/11.  Cormac’s home happens to be within viewing distance (through massive skylights) and he doesn’t describe how the fallout affected his home.  Plus, on the day of the attacks, Cormac makes phone calls and goes to a restaurant for lunch.  I was in West Chester, Pennsylvania on September 11th and I know that I couldn’t get a phone call to connect.  My university cancelled classes.  Steeper Melissa was in NYC that day and says that everything closed down in the aftermath.  Granted, Mr. Hamill has stated that the book was completed on September 10, 2001 and that he had to go back to add in the terrorist attacks.

Those of us who finished Forever by Pete Hamill agreed that it wasn’t quite the cumbersome task that we had expected and it had some nice moments, but overall we weren’t totally impressed.

Read It & Steep rates this book 2.5 teacups.

2.5 teacups

I seemed to have forgotten to take photos of the “New York” style cheesecake bites that I made for this book.  I’ll see if I can dig up a recipe!