An Abundance of KatherinesBy: John Green
The Beginning (of the End)
“So What are you good at, exactly, anyway? I mean, I know you’re good at everything, but what are you so good at besides languages?”
“I’m good with codes and stuff. And I’m good at, like, linguistic tricks like anagramming. That’s my favorite thing, really. I can anagram anything.”
“Night, nay,” he answered quickly, and she laughed and then said, “Katherine Carter.”
“Um, okay. Her karate cretin—um, oh. I like this one: their arcane trek.”
She laughed and pulled her hand away and placed it flat against his knee. Her fingers were soft. He could suddenly smell her over the dank basement. She smelled like lilacs, and then he knew that it was almost time. But he didn’t dare look at her, not yet. He just watched the blank TV screen. He wanted to draw out the moment before the moment—because as good as kissing feels, nothing feels as good as the anticipation of it.
“How do you do that?” she asked.
“Practice, mostly. I’ve been doing it a long time. I see the letters and pull out a good word first—like, karate, or arcane—and then I try to use the remaining letters to make—oh God, this is boring,” he said, hoping it w a sn’t.
“Okay, so anagrams. That’s one. Got any other charming talents?” she asked, and now he felt confident.
Finally, Colin turned to her, gathering in his gut the slim measure of courage available to him, and said, “Well, I’m a fair kisser.”
To my wife, Sarah Urist Green, anagrammatically:
Her great Russian
Grin has treasure—
A great risen rush.
She is a rut-ranger;
Easing rare hurts.
“But the pleasure isn’t owning the person. The pleasure is this.
Having another contender in the room with you.”
—Philip Roth, The Human Stain
Turn the page for a Q & A with
Q & A with JOHN GREEN
What do you know now that you Wish you knew When you Were growing up?
Very little, actually. Whenever I think about changing the past, it always begs the Back to the Future II question: If I could go into the past and share all kinds of important Life Lessons with my younger self, wouldn’t I become a radically different person, and then wouldn’t that person have to go back into the past to tell his young self all sorts of different pitfalls to avoid, and then doesn’t that create a paradox that makes my head hurt? At any rate, I wouldn’t want to tell my young self much, because I don’t want to be a radically different person. I want to be the exact same person I currently am, only with better tooth enamel. So I guess the honest answer to your question is that when I was growing up, I wish I had known that flossing is, as it turns out, actually important.
How do your high school experiences shape your Writing?
I attended a small and wonderful boarding school in Alabama called Indian Springs, and I’m certainly not above borrowing from my own high school experiences. I also think that my particular high school experience pushed me toward writing about 1. the South, and 2. smart kids, and 3. teenagers removed from direct parental control, and I also probably—4.—owe this whole numbered-list-inside-a-sentence construction to high school, since I stole it from my friend Todd Cartee.
Were you really dumped 53 times before you got married?
The short answer is yes. But in the interest of full disclosure, there are a couple caveats to that statistic:
1. I have a rather narrow definition of getting dumped, which is this: Say you kiss someone once. Now, say you want to kiss them again, but they won’t let you, on account of how you’re just a great friend and she wouldn’t want to mess that up, or she’s not interested in a relationship right now, or she’s decided to pursue a relationship with a semi-professional bodybuilder, or she’s worried that if she starts making out with you a lot she won’t have time for the school newspaper, or she thinks you’re cute and everything but let’s be honest you would be disastrous for her social status, or whatever. If any of those things happen (and believe me, they have), you’ve been dumped.