Before reading Columbus: His Enterprise – Exploding the Myth I had to write two things I knew about Columbus. These were:

1. That he was a dick to Native Americans and
2. He thought he went to India.

Likewise, before reading (and sporking) The Fault in Our Stars, I shall write two things I know about John Green.

1. He is on Tumblr and there’s some drama with that or something
2. Almost everyone in the world (seriously) loves him and his book.

It’s hard to talk to someone nowadays who hasn’t read, watched, or heard of The Fault in Our Stars. At first, it was a few of my acquaintances, then some of my friends, then all my friends, then all the internet. To put it simply, The Fault in Our Stars has exploded. All of my friends were suddenly recommending me this book. I was apprehensive. Like always, I had checked out the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Usually a book that’s bad reviews consist of “had 2 red 4 skool and it waz boring cause i didnt lik it” or “I didn’t like when Matt died because I liked him” mean that the book was generally good. The bad reviews of The Fault in Our Stars seemed to have a lot of legitimate points. Still, my friends encouraged me, and I began to read. I did not like what I read. The dislike, along with the undeserved hyper-popularity of the series and claims of significance and depth, have led to this spork.

You’re welcome.

A lot of people like to start with the dedications, but I will start with the front flap. The front flap gives a short description of the story, a girl named Hazel has terminal cancer, then some guy called Augustus shows up and it “rewrites her story”, which is an interesting observation by whoever wrote this blurb, because as we see, Hazel ends up being a very passive character. It isn’t Hazel who rewrites her story, it’s someone else, who’s a dick, at that. Probably a coincidence, but still. Some verbs about the book and describing how great John Green is, and we’re at the dedication. Apparently it’s to Esther Earl, who I think was a friend that John knew who died of cancer, which is nice.

After the dedication, there’s a quote from An Imperial Affliction, which kind of sounds like a post-modern remake of The Emperor’s New Clothes. It features a capitalized Dutch Tulip Man, who I imagine to be a man with a tulip for a head. He says

Conjoiner rejoinder poisoner concealer revelator.

Apparently he’s talking about the ocean/water, but I’m not sure why he chose these adjectives. I can see how the ocean is a concealer, as in dead bodies. But none of those other verbs make sense to me. Conjoiner? How does the ocean bring things together. I mean, maybe, like water on sand or something, but even that’s a stretch. Rejoinder? I highly doubt he’s using it in the legal sense, but rather to mean “an answer to a to a reply”. Even I can’t come up with a bullshit ocean correlation for that. The ocean has never talked to me, and if it’s talking to this guy it’s because he’s been smoking something funky in his spare time. Poisoner? I mean, maybe, if you drown or something in the ocean, but that’s not poison, that’s you not knowing how to swim. Revelator? What?

Get used to this guys (An Imperial Affliction is actually a book John made up, meaning, obviously he wrote this quote). John likes to put random adjectives and declare them “deep”. Or at least get us to believe that they are. Also, apparently tulip-guys random-adjective-sans-commas word vomit applies to time. I would go over how these adjectives don’t particularly apply to time, but that would take up too much time and then it would be stupid, lupid, noupid, troupid.

On to the author’s note. John reminds us that this is a work of fiction (yes, thank you very much) and that no one benefits from trying to “divine” whether there are any facts in it. Well, I would hope that there are. I would hope that John doesn’t write that cancer is a type of horse and that days are 23.5 hours long. It’s silly to wonder if things that happened to the author are in the book. I mean, whatever, I think it’s quite interesting, especially since some people have noted that Esther Earl had thyroid cancer and so does the main character (which will matter later on) Okay, John, I’ll try not to divine. Time to put the tarot cards away, I guess sighs. Then, ugh, this:

Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species

Ugh. Just ugh. First of all, if an author says, “the scene where Fred commits suicide was taken in part by my experiences with my friend trying to commit suicide,” that doesn’t diminish the fact that the story impacts me. It doesn’t mean that another author who says “this story is 100% stuff I wrote, no correlation to my life at all or other people lives” will make me like their story any less.

And though “made-up” stories may not pull directly from an author’s life, they definitely pull from the human experience. Made-up stories still contain emotion, people, their lives. Those these things may not be something the author has necessarily experienced (the pain from breaking up with a super-demon from Hell), there are parts of the story that the author has likely experienced: sadness, regret, breaking up, breaking up with someone who sucked, etc. No story/idea is completely “made-up” or original. Also, I don’t think that the foundational assumption of our species is that “made-up stories matter”. I think that the foundational assumption of our species, is “I need to survive”. Long before there were stories, there were people trying to survive. So points for being “deep as the shallow end”, John.

That wraps up this installment of The Fault in Our Stars spork. Next time: the pitiful first chapter wherein we meet Hazel, her whining, August, and some guy who had testicle cancer or something.

Until next time!

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Comment

  1. Potatoman on 17 July 2014, 02:09 said:

    I think I’ll love this spork. I’ve always wondered what the hype about TFIOS was about.

  2. The Smith of Lie on 17 July 2014, 02:17 said:

    It is probably due to me living on the other side of the pond and then some, but I have never heard about this book. Still, let’s see where that leads us.

    I have one point in defence of the stupid quote about ocean – the poisoner is actually a one that fits. Ingesting sea water can lead to hepernatremia and in consequence be lethat. There is a reason why you always take fresh water/filters when on sea journey.

    Other then that I find the whole musings about trying to distninguish which parts of the book may or may not be based on facts as a) pretentious navel gazing and b) trying to bring them to the attention of the reader. I don’t know, maybe it is just me, but I don’t really look for the author in his books, I am here for a story about characters and not for tabloid gossip about the writer. So, if someone feeds me with lines about story being only fiction and tells me not to look for real connections it stinks of, pardon my language, attention whoring.

    But again, that’s just me.

  3. me on 17 July 2014, 07:03 said:

    Please, please learn what lexical categories are. None of the words the Tulip Man uses is an adjective. None of them is a verb. They are nouns. Please use terms correctly, or if you don’t know the correct term for a lexical category, just use “words”.

    I want to enjoy your spork, I really do, but if you start out with misusing words as blatantly as this, I can’t shake the feeling that maybe you just didn’t understand the words in the book, either, and thus didn’t actually read what the author wrote, only what you think he wrote. I haven’t read the book myself, so if I am to learn about it through your spork, I need to be able to trust you.

  4. Epke on 17 July 2014, 08:08 said:

    Never heard of this book, to be honest, and it doesn’t sound that original. I recall some book I read as a child with a similar premise, too.

    trying to “divine” whether there are any facts in it

    Would you like your neon sign saying “DIVINE IT” in flashing or blinking lights, Mr Green?

    Please, please learn what lexical categories are. None of the words the Tulip Man uses is an adjective. None of them is a verb. They are nouns. Please use terms correctly, or if you don’t know the correct term for a lexical category, just use “words”.

    While you are correct in that Resistance used the wrong words (adjectives/verbs over nouns), the point he raises still stands: how is the ocean a rejoinder, etc? Knowing which word class is which isn’t easy if you don’t think about it too much, so I don’t mind the mix up (I don’t know if Resistance is a native English speaker): I do however, somewhat mind the conclusion you drew from a text with only two errors, because if you really wanted to enjoy the spork, you wouldn’t try and guilt the sporker.

  5. Juracan on 17 July 2014, 10:57 said:

    Oh goodie! I was worried that TFIOS was going to get a free pass on this site. Now I won’t feel bad about making jokes about it.

    In all seriousness though, good luck; from what I’ve seen the pretentiousness of the book can get maddening.

  6. pug on 17 July 2014, 11:27 said:

    Does the “S for Sarcastic” rating mean that you actually liked the book, and are only writing this for fun? (Much like the Lord of the Rings “spork” someone else did on April Fool’s?)

    My only experience with The Fault in Our Stars is from Goodreads quotes, but from what I have been exposed to, it’s tremendously pretentious. I know for a fact that teenagers to not speak to each other like that, and this lack of character believability turned me off to the idea of taking my own friends’ recommendations.

  7. Resistance on 17 July 2014, 15:27 said:

    I have one point in defense of the stupid quote about ocean – the poisoner is actually a one that fits.

    True! I never actually thought of it that way.

    So, if someone feeds me with lines about story being only fiction and tells me not to look for real connections it stinks of, pardon my language, attention whoring.

    Again, very true. I think that all books pull a little from the author’s life in some way. If you have to tell the reader “this is not facts, it is a story”, that’s weird. We know fiction is namely, fiction. Why would John have to warn us not to look for facts if they’re not there. It’s like telling someone not to look for assassins on their way home from work. Why would you say that unless you think assassins are going to be there?

    Would you like your neon sign saying “DIVINE IT” in flashing or blinking lights, Mr Green?

    ^ This.

    None of the words the Tulip Man uses is an adjective. None of them is a verb. They are nouns.

    Waking up this morning and reading your comment, the first thing I though was “oh, shit” s/he’s right. I think when I was writing this spork I called the words adjectives because they were being used to describe the ocean, forgetting that the words themselves were nouns that the ocean was supposed to be. I don’t know where “verbs” came in, that’s probably just being tired on my part. English is my native language, but grammar isn’t always my strong suit. Sorry for the mix-up, but I hope it hasn’t completely undermined your trust in me or the points I made about the words. I’ll look out for grammatical errors the next time.

    Now I won’t feel bad about making jokes about it.

    I was worried too that people here may have liked it and I would incite a flame-filled rage as I’ve seen on other sites, but to my luck, the good folks of ImpishIdea do have brains in their head and realize how utterly pretentious it is.

    Does the “S for Sarcastic” rating mean that you actually liked the book, and are only writing this for fun? (Much like the Lord of the Rings “spork” someone else did on April Fool’s?)

    I think you’re talking about Rorschach’s April Fool’s spork, which is quite spectacular. But I put the S for Sarcastic rating because of the sarcasm which I use (though I probably should update the next few with T for Torture because that’s what this book is). In short, I did not enjoy the book and though I’m writing this for enjoyment, I’m also writing the spork to point out what’s wrong with the book, which is a lot.

    I think I’ll love this spork.

    Thanks for all the, well, thanks, hopefully Chapter 1 should be coming out soon.

  8. Apep on 17 July 2014, 16:19 said:

    T for Torture

    You could always go with P for Pretentious.

  9. Resistance on 17 July 2014, 16:28 said:

    You could always go with P for Pretentious.

    This is what I will be using from now on.

  10. Juracan on 17 July 2014, 16:32 said:

    If you have to tell the reader “this is not facts, it is a story”, that’s weird. We know fiction is namely, fiction. Why would John have to warn us not to look for facts if they’re not there. It’s like telling someone not to look for assassins on their way home from work. Why would you say that unless you think assassins are going to be there?

    I think it’s in part because John Green’s rather strongly for the literary theory “Death of the Author” which more or less says that the author’s life and opinions shouldn’t contribute to how one reads the text. Or put simply, “don’t try to apply the book to the author, just read it on its own.”

    I’d rather not get into my own opinions of that literary theory, but I’ve noticed that whenever someone criticizes John Green’s work and he gets wind of it, he’s rather quick to say, “No, that’s not what happened at all, what I meant was this.” And I think that rather undermines his insistence that books belong solely to their readers.

  11. Resistance on 17 July 2014, 16:49 said:

    I’ve noticed that whenever someone criticizes John Green’s work and he gets wind of it, he’s rather quick to say, “No, that’s not what happened at all, what I meant was this.” And I think that rather undermines his insistence that books belong solely to their readers.

    Yeah, that doesn’t really sound like “sticking to what you believe in”. And you’ve got to really believe something if you’re putting it in your author’s note.

  12. pug on 17 July 2014, 16:52 said:

    Mr. Green is also, as I see it, a hypocrite of spectacular fashion. I refer specifically to the hour-long talk he gave at the college he attended in his own youth, where his most important argument is summed up as: “Wanting to be an author for the glory and the money is bad. The only moral way to write is to do so for the sake of sharing a story with others. You have to want to share something.”

    Basically, you’re not allowed to write for yourself, because that would be selfish. But I wonder: how can one be passionate, truly invested in his writing, if he does not enjoy the task to its fullest?

    Does this explain why he’s written the same story so many times? (“Alas, poor [dead ex]! I knew him, Horatio…” the slightly goofy sidekick, the snarky protagonists…) Possibly. Tumblr is certainly giving him his fair share of mentally ill teenaged girls to appeal to. What bugs me is that his vlog gets hundreds of thousands of views per video and he’s more than happy to capitalize on his fame, while ordering his “nerdfighters” not to have oneself as the motivation to write. To me it reeks of do-as-I-say.

  13. Resistance on 17 July 2014, 17:15 said:

    “Wanting to be an author for the glory and the money is bad. The only moral way to write is to do so for the sake of sharing a story with others. You have to want to share something.”

    Chuck Wendig had something fabulous to say about this. I agree that your main motivation for writing shouldn’t be fame or money (like our compatriot Gloria Tesch), but also, writers have to pay the bills. The motivation should be balanced parts of “I need to feed my kids” but also “I want to say this about life” and “writing is my passion”. And you need to have passion and drive to do anything well. If you don’t have the passion and drive, and you’re doing it for the money, you’re going to end up with something like Maradonia as your end product.

    Basically, you’re not allowed to write for yourself, because that would be selfish. But I wonder: how can one be passionate, truly invested in his writing, if he does not enjoy the task to its fullest?

    What about writers who create stories to deal with pain they’re feeling (I’m not talking about self-inserts who cry about their feelings over their love interest, but an author who wants to express the feelings of grief one feels when mourning a loved one)? Of course, they also want to share this with people (probably) but they’re also doing it for themselves. And let’s be honest, no one just writes just for others. Writers, like I said, need money. So do marine biologists. Of course marine biologists love marine animals, but they also need to pay the fucking mortgage. I doubt Green would be writing (at least as much) if it was just to make other people happy and he wasn’t getting paid.

    And I have to agree with your last statement. How can you enjoy teaching swimming to others if you don’t enjoy swimming yourself? And by saying “I’m doing this just for others” constantly kind of sounds like wanting to be a martyr of writing. I mean, I like John Green’s history show on YouTube, and I’m sure he’s a nice person, but hypocrisy (as you’ve pointed out) is not one of my favorite characteristics.

    In short, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to sustain yourself or be recognized for your ideas, as long as those aren’t your only motivations. Actually I wouldn’t care if those were your only motivations as long as you provided good, solid work.

  14. pug on 17 July 2014, 17:31 said:

    And while I do acknowledge that my post above will likely come off as insulting to most, I believe it’s justified when it’s a major variable in the question at hand: why does John Green’s writing suck so much?

    Even if one were to assume that he follows his own advice, it would explain, almost perfectly, why the writing is so pretentious: because he’s writing for pretentious people, who are lapping it right up. They want their own Augustus (or their own Hazel, if they swing that way), and they’ll overlook bad prose to achieve this wish-fulfillment.

    An interesting challenge for the people who are on the fence about the book: try watching the movie first, and deciding just how deep and profound the dialogue sounds when it’s coming out of actual people’s mouth. I’ll bet good money it’s worse, not better.

  15. Resistance on 17 July 2014, 17:47 said:

    An interesting challenge for the people who are on the fence about the book: try watching the movie first, and deciding just how deep and profound the dialogue sounds when it’s coming out of actual people’s mouth.

    I’m pretty sure if I met a guy that put cigarettes in his mouth as a metaphor, I would puke. No one does that, and if they do, they’re trying too hard.

  16. pug on 17 July 2014, 17:58 said:

  17. Resistance on 17 July 2014, 18:04 said:

    More respect for this kid than Auggie Waters.

  18. go.a on 17 July 2014, 18:41 said:

    Ugh. I was in a similar situation as you, a friend kept insisting I just HAD to read it so I finally borrowed her copy and I have no idea why this thing is so popular. The writing is juvenile, pretentious and just plain infuriating at times. For something that wants to be so enlightened and deep it shits all over the female MC and re-enforces all the same tired cliches about teens, love, gender etc.

    Hazel is a weak, boring non-entity that’s basically there to gush over Gus-she’s very Bella like actually. None of the characters are particularly likeable or well developed, pretty much everyone is a cardboard cutout with no distinct character besides whatever trait Green throws on at their intro so you end up with Blind Kid, Bitch Ex-GF, Mom/Dad Robot etc.

    In terms of technical writing the book is a mess, I think it’s pretty clear that Green has no clue how to write and that this crap was never edited. The writing is either super generically boring or drifts off into pseudo DEEP EMOTIONAL PHILOSOPHICAL wangst. Green strings together sentences that make no sense and uses weird analogies/metaphors that turn the melodrama and emo up to eleven. He clearly also didn’t do enough research on cancer and other topics.

    The only thing I liked was the metaphor meme the movie inspired.

  19. BlackStar on 17 July 2014, 23:12 said:

    YES. Finally someone is doing a spork of this! I’m so, so excited for the chapters to come. I almost don’t want to believe it’s as popular as it is, but as Twilight and other such book series have shown us, people are either tasteless or at least willing to overlook huge flaws in a book in order to get enjoyment out of it.

  20. Pryotra on 24 July 2014, 09:55 said:

    Hehehe another attack on this little horror.

    I think that the popularity of this book is mostly because Green, like Meyer, made the kids feel that like they somehow special. Since they were privy to Hazel’s thoughts, and Hazel was such a special snowflake, they felt that somehow, they were as clever and brilliant as she was, mired in a swamp of sheep who never had deep thoughts. As such, they ignore the glaring flaws in order to have that feeling of specialness.

    I’m going to enjoy watching this pretentious bit of drivel get torn a new one.

  21. lastcerebrate on 14 August 2016, 20:37 said:

    Interesting that my brother’s always telling me about one of John Green’s Youtube channels. Not the one about history, the one Green supports on healthcare. I’ll have to look deeper into this.
    Also the fundamental assumption of our species is not fiction. More like that a large brain is worth the pain of childbirth. Or is it if it moves eat it?