Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An Abundance of Katherines -- John Green

I liked John Green's Paper Towns, so when I saw An Abundance of Katherines on the shelves of the local library, I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did. Here's one good reason from page 99:

"Colin sneezed, and then noticed that Princess was following in Lindsey's wake. XIX had a dog, too -- a miniature dachshund named Fireball Roberts."

That's what we old retired English teachers call a literary allusion, and quite an unexpected one, too.

Here's another thing. I think this book should have been called An Abundance of Fugs, mainly because the word fug (or some variation thereof) is used about 7500 times (not that I counted). Green explains this by another allusion, this time to Norman Mailer and The Naked and the Dead. Unfortunately, he doesn't tell the famous story about Mailer and Tallulah Bankhead (or maybe it was Dorothy Parker). He also doesn't mention The Fugs, a lost opportunity if you ask me, which of course you didn't. Nobody ever does. Where was I? Oh, yeah, fugging around. I think you and I both know why why Green uses the word. His publisher must not have been comfortable with the idea of 7500 uses of the F-word. (It's a good thing Joe Lansdale's publishers don't feel the same way. But then this is a YA book, so that's probably different.)

All that aside, the book's the story of Colin Singleton, a child prodigy who longs to "matter." He wants to be one of those prodigies who fulfills his promise and becomes a genius, as so many don't. He wants to have his "eureka moment," but now he's graduated from high school, and it hasn't happened. About all he's succeeded in doing is dating 18 different girls named Katherine, one of them twice, and being dumped by all of them, one of them twice. So he and his buddy, Hassan, go on a road trip. They wind up in Gutshot, Tennessee, where Colin has a eureka moment that leads him to devise a mathematical formula that pertains to relationships. For you math geeks, and I know there are many of you reading this, there's an 8 or 9 page appendix that explains the formula. You can probably skip it.

This is a very funny book, and it even has feral hogs (I started using feral hogs in my books in 1985, and I'm still at it; Texas leads the way!). If you need a break from whatever it is you're reading now, give An Abundance of Katherines a try.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

What's scary is this: Tuli Kupferberg is 85 years old.

Jeff

Bill Crider said...

You can say it, but you can't make me believe it.

John Green said...

Mr. Crider, having read two reviews of my books now, I have to say that I'm very grateful to count you among my readers--I don't know that I've ever enjoyed reading someone's thoughts on my books so much.

Also, I suspect you are literally the only person who has ever read "Katherines" to make the connection to the Crumley novel.

Literary reference aside, it's just a great name for a dog.

Thanks again for the delightful posts.

Bill Crider said...

Thanks for commenting, John. I've really enjoyed the books, and I agree about Fireball Roberts. A fine name for a dog. Or a person, for that matter.

Gerard Saylor said...

I tried contacting Green to do an interview at ALA this past weekend. I never heard back from him. My respect for him has only risen because of that.

Patti O said...

I've got Looking for Alaska by John Green at my desk at work--not reading it, but it's there to haunt me until I do. I LOVED Paper Towns!!! Now I'll add An Abundance of Katherines to the ever-growing TBR list :)! Thanks Bill!