straylightsally asked: First off, Paper Towns is by far my favorite of your books (they all rank astronomically high). As far as my question goes, Was Margo Roth Spiegelman in any way a reflection of how you felt when you were her age? Even as an adult i found myself identifying with her thoughts and fantasizing about what it would be like to have the courage to do such a seemingly selfish act because you felt you had to.
Well, sure, yes.
Like, there is a lot of talk among people about not participating in evil systems and not wanting to be fully integrated into a social order that has a deformed conscience. (We all do this: Almost all of our lives require an underclass. Like, if you drive a car or are often driven around in one, it’s worth remembering that if even half of the world’s population treated cars as Europeans and Americans do, gas prices would be >$10 a gallon and carbon emissions would be insanely high.)
But almost every human being ends up integrating into the social order anyway. A famous example of this is Mark Twain, who wrote about roustabouts and troublemakers and created, in the form of Huck Finn, the greatest rebel in American fiction, a boy who heroically refused the so-called “civilizing” forces of class consciousness and institutionalized racism.
But Mark Twain himself was fully integrated into his social order. He sought wealth and powerful friends and lived in a fancy house, etc.
So of course sitting in my suburban home with my very socially integrated life I am going to fantasize about making the radical choices. But I wanted to make it clear in the novel that the radical choices are not easy and also not easily justified: It’s not at all clear to me that Margo’s choices are more heroic than Quentin’s. I am personally very old-fashioned and pragmatic in my values, and I think very highly of political, economic, and social stability. I think there is a quiet heroism to such stability. But I also think it can be bold and brave to decide to lead a very different life and to pursue goals that the social order doesn’t value.
Anonymous asked: What happened after the end of the book?
froz-anna asked: In Paper Towns one of your characters claims that Tomorrowland is the worst of the lands in Magic Kingdom. Do you stand by this belief too?
I hate all of Disney World equally. I hate every square inch of it, except for
1. The Hall of Presidents, which I merely dislike.
2. The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, which I have mixed feelings about.
Other than that, I hate the whole thing with a fiery unrepentant passion. I grew up in Orlando, so it is my birthright to hate Disney World. The mere phrase “The Magic Kingdom” makes me throw up in my mouth a little.
I for one am glad to have thrown off the oppressive shackles of monarchies in favor of representative government, and I don’t like going back to Disney and having to imagine that I am the subject of a King, particularly when the king in question is a large talking mouse partly responsible for the destruction of reasonable copyright law in the United States.
Anonymous asked: do you see your female characters as Manic Pixie Dream Girls?
No, but I’m not a 16-year-old boy.
I mean, I don’t think I romanticize the life of any human being, except maybe Steven Gerrard.
I look at Kristen Stewart or Britney Spears or One Direction or whomever, and mostly I only see the pure terror and misery of never getting to be away from being one’s performed self, which is the problem that Margo Roth Spiegelman has in this novel, although her performed self is played out on a tiny stage.
Paper Towns is a novel about the problem of imagining other people as manic pixie dream girls (or manic pixie dream boys, for that matter). No one IS a manic pixie dream girl; they’re just constructed that way by those observing them.
singlecellorganisms asked: I've been re-reading PT for an english assignment and I came across a passage quite early on where Q says "Margo's beauty was a kind of sealed vessel or perfection- uncracked and uncrackable" and it made it me wonder if you made the vessel reference here on purpose. I mean, even if you didn't I still think that it really says something about the way Q view Margo, but I can't help but wonder. Thank you.
Yeah, that was purposeful, but this is a great example of books belonging to their readers and how it doesn’t really matter whether it was purposeful.
Let’s say that I included that by accident—like, in that moment of writing, I just thought of Q thinking of Margo as a sealed vessel.
And then much later in the novel, I happened to have Q and Margo to cracked vessels, and argue that the only way light can get in and out of those vessels is via the cracks.
Let’s just imagine that’s a total coincidence and meant nothing to the author.
It can still be useful and meaningful to us, because it can still be a way into thinking about how imagining people as human (rather than uncracked and uncrackable sealed perfection) proves not only to be more accurate but ultimately a lot more fulfilling.
So that journey—from imagining the other as a sealed vessel to imagining the other as a cracked one—is kind of the journey of adolescence, the journey toward empathy. Intent is irrelevant there. The thing stands on its own. (…if it’s any good, at least.)
Anonymous asked: how do you think of someone as a human being? It said that it's: a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person - that people are more than words like "nice" "funny" and "smart" but how else do we present ourselves? do we just let the other person imagine us however they want to with any words they choose. now I'm just rambling
Right, so when you imagine yourself, you think of yourself as a massively complex individual. You may hate yourself or like yourself or whatever, but you certainly think of yourself as fully human. As Whitman puts it, “I contain multitudes.”
The problem is that your brain is the only brain you’ll ever have; your eyes are the only eyes you’ll ever see out of; your experiences are the only experiences you’ll ever know as your own. This is what makes it so easy to dehumanize people—to say, for instance, as Aristotle famously did, that some people are just naturally born to be slaves. But it also makes it easy to dehumanize people in subtler ways. (I’d argue, for instance, that I am able to spend $90 a month on cable television while 2 billion people live on less than $60 a month only because I do not feel those people’s joy and pain and desire as acutely as I feel my own. If I did feel every individual’s need as acutely as I feel my own, I would almost certainly forego cable TV and send that money to those who need it for food and shelter.) But in addition to dehumanizing people, we can also imagine them as more than human: When we think of celebrities, or those we love romantically, we may see this as superhumanly free from the fear and pain and despair that plague the rest of us.
So anyway the task of understanding the reality of other people’s experience is incredibly difficult, because you are stuck being you, and can never even for one second be them. But this is true not only for people who live very different lives from yours, but also for those closest to you. You see everybody in your life in the context of you: YOUR sister, YOUR best friend, YOUR mom, YOUR nemesis, whatever. But they do not see themselves that way. They see themselves as the center of history, just as you see yourself.
This turns out to be a really big problem that (at least in my experience) can only be solved by empathy, an imperfect and incomplete tool (see my $90 monthly cable bill) but the best one we have.
Anonymous asked: It feels weird to clarify your answer (as like I'm obviously not the author), but someone was asking if Margo was Jewish. She makes a comment about using her Bat Mitzvah money for her escapades, so yeah, she's Jewish.
Aha! So she IS Jewish!
Anonymous asked: Speaking of names, Myrna Mountweazel?
Myrna because it sounded good with Mountweazel. Mountweazel because of reasons.
Anonymous asked: any particular Reason margo has Weird Capitalization?
Well, she says herself that she feels like traditional rules of capitalization are unfair to the words in the middle. Margo is super concerned with the way that people’s conformity and lack of intellectual curiosity makes life less interesting than it ought to be, and this seemed like a good (and very teenage) expression of her concern.
(That said, there are very good reasons why we do not capitalize random words in the middle of sentences.)
lookingformontana asked: All of the streets in Q's neighborhood are named after the same person (Jefferson Road, Jefferson Way, Jefferson Court, etc.) I was just wondering is there was any particular reason you did this? Was it connected to anything else in the story?
It was just meant to indicate the lack of creativity and sameness in the design of Q and Margo’s neighborhood, which is part of what Margo finds so completely unbearable.