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Treasured Excerpts from John Green’s Turtles All The Way Down

You remember your first love because they show you, prove to you, that you can love and be loved, that nothing in this world is deserved except for love, that love is both how you become a person, and why.


She turned to her computer, shook her mouse to wake it up, and then clicked an image on her desktop. “I want to share something Virginia Woolf wrote: ‘English, which can express the thoughts of Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear, has no words for the shiver and the headache. . . . The merest schoolgirl, when she falls in love, has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry.’ And we’re such language-based creatures that to some extent we cannot know what we cannot name. And so we assume it isn’t real. We refer to it with catch-all terms, like crazy or chronic pain, terms that both ostracize and minimize. The term chronic pain captures nothing of the grinding, constant, ceaseless, inescapable hurt. And the term crazy arrives at us with none of the terror and worry you live with. Nor do either of those terms connote the courage people in such pains exemplify, which is why I’d ask you to frame your mental health around a word other than crazy.”


“I’m really not looking to date anyone.” I know people often say that when secretly looking for a romantic partner, but I meant it. I definitely felt attracted to some people, and I liked the idea of being with someone, but the actual mechanics of it didn’t much suit my talents. Like, parts of typical romantic relationships that made me anxious included 1. Kissing; 2. Having to say the right things to avoid hurt feelings; 3. Saying more wrong things while trying to apologize; 4. Being at a movie theater together and feeling obligated to hold hands even after your hands become sweaty and the sweat starts mixing together; and 5. The part where they say, “What are you thinking about?” And they want you to be, like, “I’m thinking about you, darling,” but you’re actually thinking about how cows literally could not survive if it weren’t for the bacteria in their guts, and how that sort of means that cows do not exist as independent life-forms, but that’s not really something you can say out loud, so you’re ultimately forced to choose between lying and seeming weird.


It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.


But“The problem with happy endings,” I said, “is that they’re either not really happy, or not really endings, you know? In real life, some things get better and some things get worse. And then eventually you die.”

Daisy laughed. “As always, Aza ‘And Then Eventually You Die’ Holmes is here to remind you of how the story really ends, with the extinction of our species.”

I laughed. “Well, that is the only real ending, though.”

“No, it’s not, Holmesy. You pick your endings, and your beginnings. You get to pick the frame, you know? Maybe you don’t choose what’s in the picture, but you decide on the frame.”


People always talk like there’s a bright line between imagination and memory, but there isn’t, at least not for me. I remember what I’ve imagined and imagine what I remember.


Whether it hurts is kinda irrelevant.

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