"It's a metaphor" I have no doubt that you completely understand and stand by this statement that the act of putting an unlit cigarette in Augustus Waters' mouth is in fact a metaphor. But for some folks, we don't see it asa metaphor, we see it as situational irony, or a simple statement. Please explain how it is a metaphor.


Well, a character in a novel saying that something is a metaphor is not the same thing as the author of the novel saying that it’s a metaphor. Gus’s intellectual grasp often exceeds his reach (he calls a monologue a soliloquy, and misuses quite a few of the bigger words in his vocabulary). But I do think the cigarette is a metaphor, albeit a different one for us than it is for him.

Gus’s idea is that the cigarette is a metaphor for illness, and he keeps it unlit and in his mouth as an expression of his power over illness. “You put the killing thing between your teeth but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” Gus’s thinking here is that HE has the power. This is why he tends to use the cigarette when he’s feeling nervous or powerless. (He’s also using the most famous commercially available carcinogen to make this statement, so obviously there’s a connection there in his mind: Humans can prevent cancer by not smoking; cancer is something we can have power over; your job is not to give cancer the power to kill you; etc.) 

But of course Gus is wrong about all of this, or at least almost all of it. You may have SOME control over whether you die of cancer (you can choose not to smoke), but in most cases humans don’t have control over illness. “You don’t give it the power to do its killing” imagines more agency over illness than we actually have, because in the end much of the fault is in the stars, not in ourselves. So to us, the unlit cigarette is a metaphor for our false perception of control, and our urgent need to feel in control. It’s no coincidence, then, that when Gus’s life is spiraling out of control and he finds himself powerless before fate, he tries (and fails) to buy cigarettes.

"You can love someone so much...But you can never love people as much as you can miss them."
will you just... talk about this some?


Sure! This is one of the most-quoted lines from my novel An Abundance of Katherines. Let me begin with some context: Katherines is a novel about a child prodigy named Colin Singleton who has been dumped over and over again by girls named Katherine. Colin is an annoying kid who struggles socially, and he also—like many contemporary teenagers and adults—believes that the most important thing a human being can do is Be In A Romantic Relationship.

Our obsession with romantic (i.e., sexualized) love is really fascinating to me, because I think it is 1. relatively new, and 2. kind of distinctly capitalistic in a bunch of interesting/troubling ways. (Like, I think the romantic love obsession hinges at least partly on us being taught by every advertisement we see that real fulfillment can only be found in a romantic/sexual relationship. Advertisements tell us this because it turns out people are more likely to spend money on items for their sexual partners than for their nonsexual partners, which goes back to like base evolutionary calculations. You also see this behavior in lots of other animals, but right, I am DEFINITELY DIGRESSING.)  

So anyway I think one of the byproducts of our obsession with romantic love is that it ends up feeling as if *losing* a romantic partner—the process of missing them—is more intense and powerful than being with a romantic partner, because when you are dating someone, the contemporary culture would have you believe that you are In The Natural State of Things. When that relationship ends, you have been thrown out of Eden and find yourself lacking the one thing that is supposed to make your life worth living, which is of course a far more intense experience than Being In The Natural State of Things.

But this is not the only way to construct romantic love, and in fact you will probably find that no romantic relationship on its own can lead to a fulfilling life and that the vampiric romance novels and Hollywood movies (and to some extent, also the John Green novels) that indicate otherwise are telling you a pleasant and attractive and arguably-corrosive-but-also-arguably-helpful lie.

What Colin must eventually seek is the kind of romantic relationship wherein you love the person more than you will later miss them. (Such relationships do exist. I promise.)

In short, Colin Singleton believed in the validity of that quote in the middle of the novel I wrote about him. But that is not to say that I believe it, or even that the novel believes it by its conclusion.

All that said, novels belong to their readers, so my opinion isn’t that important. If people find something in my stories that they think is true or interesting or helpful, I am always grateful.

tl;dr: Many people (including the character in my novel) think you can never love people as much as you can miss them. I think in the end you can—and must—love others more than you could ever miss them. 

This is the real John Green’s tumblr.

If there is nobody that likes you, you still have you, God, and me. I believe you are beautiful, no matter what people said. Smile. Because you are precious.

If there is nobody that likes you, you still have you, God, and me. I believe you are beautiful, no matter what people said. Smile. Because you are precious.


I'm Agatha. Forever 17. I live in an imaginary world where music, movies and books collide into one. If you're lucky enough to be different, don't ever change!
Enjoy my tumblr. :)