“Doubt kills more dreams than failure.”
Don’t read this post if you haven’t read, The Fault in Our Stars. OK?
When I started reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, I was drawn into the story by a tremendous force. I mentioned something to the effect that this story excited hope in my heart because, here was an example of the magic draw of a story written without the brilliant and polished prose that I’m basically not interested in (because I’m not talented enough with words to achieve it).
Then this morning I read a little further. Suddenly this magical writer without any wordsmith-type genius (that I had identified) writes this letter from one character to another.
Again I should say Spoiler alert… not primarily because the plot is revealed, but mainly because the shock of coming upon these words in this book is something you might want to experience for yourself. Anyway, at least the next six paragraphs, from “Dear Mr. Waters” through “Peter Van Houten” should be skipped if you haven’t read this amazing book yet. But if you have… Here’s the Quote:
I am in receipt of your electronic mail dated the 14th of April and duly impressed by the Shakespearean complexity of your tragedy. Everyone in this tale has a rock-solid hamartia: hers, that she is so sick; yours, that you are so well. Were she better or you sicker, then the stars would not be so terribly crossed, but it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he had Cassius note, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.” Easy enough to say when you’re a Roman nobleman (or Shakespeare!), but there is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars.
While we’re on the topic of old Will’s , your writing about young Hazel reminds me of the Bard’s Fifty-fifth sonnet, which of course begins, “Not marble, nor the gilded monuments / Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme; / But you shall shine more bright in these contents / Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.” (Off topic, but: What a slut time is. She screws everybody.) It’s a fine poem but a deceitful one: We do indeed remember Shakespeare’s powerful rhyme, but what do we remember about the person it commemorates? Nothing. We’re pretty sure he was male; everything else is guesswork. Shakespeare told us precious little of the man whom he entombed in his linguistic sarcophagus. (Witness also that when we talk about literature, we do so in the present tense. When we speak of the dead, we are not so kind.) You do not immortalize the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but does not resurrect. (Full disclosure: I am not the first to make this observation. cf, the Macleish poem “Not Marble, Nor the Gilded Monuments,” which contains the heroic line “I shall say you will die and none will remember you.”)
I digress, but here’s the rub: The dead are visible only in the terrible lidless eye of memory. The living, thank heaven, retain the ability to surprise and to disappoint. Your Hazel is alive, Waters, and you mustn’t impose your will upon another’s decision, particularly a decision arrived at thoughtfully. She wishes to spare you pain, and you should let her. You may not find young Hazel’s logic persuasive, but I have trod through this vale of tears longer than you, and from where I’m sitting, she’s not the lunatic.
Peter Van Houten
OK, I was way wrong. John Green is a master with words, not just with story. I apologize for my previous post where I jumped to an ignorant conclusion.
Mother of Mercy, anyway: “the terrible lidless eye of memory”.
Green pulls this out of thin air?
God help writers like me. Sincerely. But I’m not going to become discouraged. I ran into the following quote a week ago…
“Doubt kills more dreams than failure.”
Never doubt yourself, I tell my son.
I’m glad some good anonymous person wrote the same thing for me…
“Doubt kills more dreams that failure.”
M. Talmage Moorehead
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