Of course, the problem is that I tend to read things far too fast, and I was worried that I wouldn’t have any points to bring up about reading the book because it would be far in my foggy past (April of 2010). The only thing I wrote about it on GoodReads was “John Green and David Levithan are so good at making the world seem full of potential goodness, while staying true to the suckiness of life. Every time I read one of their books my heart grows 3 sizes. It’s gotten to the point where I have a medical condition.” Ha ha! Good one, me.
Luckily I have library access. So I plucked the book from its shelf and started reading it at lunch today. I KNOW, I know. But within 14 pages I already had so much stuff to write about. But first I must say: don’t cry into your lemonade! If anything, cry onto your pretzel, because they are both salty. And here’s a tip: whenever I don’t want to cry, I visualize frogs sitting in my immediate vicinity. Little frogs. Big hulking giant frogs. It’s 80% effective at distracting me from sobbing, which is good, because once I get started it’s hard to stop.
I digress. And so does WG–that’s one of the things that pulled me into the narrative, and I think it’s a key part of the WG2M. For instance, WG starts off the book by quoting his dad’s aphorism: “You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose” and then on page 21 we get back to WG’s point of quoting that aphorism in the first place. To be fair, this could also just be foreshadowing. But the way that WG narrates, it’s like clicking your way through tabs on a browser – you want to explore all the links, but it makes for a wonderfully digressive narrative.
Another thing about the WG2M, what I referred to in my Goodreads review as “staying true to the suckiness of life”, is also something that made, and makes, me uncomfortable about reading WG’s parts of the book. He’s not that great of a friend. On the first page he begins expounding on his two themes concerning Tiny Cooper – WG sees Tiny as primarily 1. Large and 2. Gay, and instead of just being accepting of Tiny Cooper, he brings it up all the time so he can reassure his audience that he’s accepting. He’s so accepting he can constantly joke about it! This is my least favorite type of “friendly” behavior. WG also mentions that he went so far as to defend Tiny’s right to be gay and play football in the school newspaper, so it’s clear that he’s not all superficially, insecurely okay with the large gayness of Tiny Cooper. He goes on and on about how inconvenient it is to be friends with someone so tall and large and gay (are you sick of it yet? Imagine how Tiny feels) and how Tiny is not a friend he would choose.
However, if I remember correctly, Tiny calls him out on this behavior later in the book, and that’s another thing that I love about it. AAAAND, as the story progresses further, we see that Tiny is not the greatest friend sometimes, either. He’s very wrapped up in his crushes. He’s wildly reactionary to every emotion that courses through him. And a side effect of that is that all social interaction will revolve around Tiny Cooper, making it easier for WG to not seriously pursue any other friendships.
Whether I like their behavior or not, the fact is that within a couple pages, I’m totally involved in these people and they are real to me. It’s real behavior, it’s familiar to anyone who has had friends at any point in their lives, and it’s detailed without telling me all the details. It’s detailed in the right places. It puts me at the lunch table with Tiny and WG and lets me figure it out, and then gives them senses of humor! WG is fond of these little asides at the end or slipped into the middle of his regular descriptions that crack me up:
“I say, ‘Mom this is a historical event. History doesn’t have a curfew,’ and she says, ‘Back by eleven,’ and I say, ‘Fine. Jesus,’ and then she has to go cut cancer out of someone.” (9).
wg has the talent of being humorously explanatorily exasperated:
“i do not say ‘good-bye.’ I believe hat’s one of the bullshitist words ever invented. it’s not like you’re given the choice to say ‘bad-bye’ or ‘awful-bye’ or ‘couldn’t-care-less-about-you-bye.’ every time you leave, it’s supposed to be a good one. well, i don’t believe in that. i believe against that.” (23).
To illustrate the flow of the book, I’ll give you a perfect Moment, convincingly written, an amalgam of digression and flow (which is why I have to quote all of it.):
“Tiny Cooper lives in a mansion with the world’s richest parents. I don’t think either of his parents have jobs, but they are so disgustingly rich that Tiny Cooper doesn’t even live in the mansion; he lies in the mansion’s coach house, all by himself. He has three bedrooms in that motherfucker and a fridge that always has beer in it and his parents never bother him, and so we can sit there all day and play video game football and drink Miller Lite, except in point of fact Tiny hates video games and I hate drinking beer, so mostly all we ever do is play darts (he has a dartboard) and listen to music and talk and study. I’ve just started to say the T in Tiny when he comes running out of his room, one black leather loafer on and the other in his hand, shouting, ‘Go, Grayson, go go.’
“And everything goes perfectly on the way there. Traffic’s not too bad on Sheridan, and I’m cornering the car like it’s the Indy 500, and we’re listening to my favorite NMH song, ‘Holland, 1945,’ and then onto Lake Shore Drive, the waves of Lake Michigan crashing against the boulders by the Drive, the windows cracked to get the car to defrost, the dirty, bracing, cold air rushing in, and I love the way Chicago smells–Chicago is brackish lake water and soot and sweat and grease and I love it, and I love this song, and Tiny’s saying I love this song, and he’s got the visor down so he can muss up his hair a little more expertly. That gets me to thinking that Neutral Milk Hotel is going to see me just as surely as I’m going to see them, so I give myself a once-over in the rearview. My face seems too square and my eyes too big, like I’m perpetually surprised, but there’s nothing wrong with me that I can fix.” (9-10)
Fake musicals are great excuses to be as silly as possible… IN RHYME, which is why Forgetting Sarah Marshall is such a great movie (although I’ve heard that the Dracula puppet musical is a real thing that Jason Segel wrote apart from the movie). It also makes sense that, although the book is not about Tiny Cooper, Tiny Cooper is the glue of the book, and the most outsized example of someone trying to find where they fit in the world, which is a theme of the whole book anyway, so his musical is the plot device that ended up making my heart swell 3 sizes that day when I read the book.
That’s my non-critical, slapdash analysis of why I loved Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I look forward to re-reading it this week.