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Birmingham Bar Associations Bulletin Summer 2015

Book Reviews Robert R. Kracke LOCAL MEMORABILIA Looking for Alaska by John Green Dutton Books, NY, NY | 2005 (additional content for a newer edition 2015) This novel is being reviewed not only for its quality but because John Green has roots in Birmingham, Alabama, inasmuch as his first cousin is Birmingham Bar member Michael Goodrich. John Green’s mother was raised in Birmingham, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Goodrich. Two of his other books have been made into movies, “Paper Towns” and “The Fault in Our Stars.” It is anticipated that this book will, as well, be converted to the silver screen. John Green grew up in Florida but attended Indian Springs School outside Birmingham. This novel is set at Indian Springs, which, incidentally, was originally funded by Harvey Woodward, an ancestor of Birmingham Bar member Allen Harvey (Rick) Woodward III. Many Birmingham Bar members attended Indian Springs and will find this novel, and Green’s other novels, familiar inasmuch as some of the others were also set at an “Indian Springs-like” school. Most of Green’s novels have as a central figure a femme fatale. They are either dying of a terminal illness, running off to “nowhere,” or getting killed on Highway 31 (or I-65). In Paper Towns “nowhere” is used in its strictest sense .... The town of Agloe, NY, is where the femme fatale hides. It is interesting because it was a fictitious town created by a map maker to protect against copyright infringement and it was listed on Google maps until March 2014. Agloe, NY does not truly exist. Alaska and Green’s other novels truly fall in the category of adult teen literature which might account for their great appeal in the movie industry. The most recent edition of Looking For Alaska, published this year, contains an introduction to the 2005 edition and a “literary retrospective,” along with questions and answers with the author. This novel begins with the following quote, “The week before I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going away party. ....” The narrator is named Miles, who has left his family in Florida and obviously gone to Indian Springs. It tells the story of a girl he meets there and, according to some Indian Springs’ graduates, the girl is based on one in real life. Therefore, this is not only a roman á clef but is deeply autobiographical for Green. The girl he describes in the novel is named Alaska. She comes from a poor background, having been raised in a trailer park. She is a scholarship student who is thrown together with what Green describes as, “... then you’ve got the Weekday Warriors; they board here, but they are all rich kids who live in Birmingham and go home to their parents’ air-conditioned mansions every weekend...” Alaska, however, is in love with another man but pulls practical jokes as described here, “Alaska walked over to me with her hand extended then made a quick move downward at the last moment and pulled down my shorts.” This reviewer has read three of Green’s novels and find him to be a very entertaining writer, which takes an older reviewer back to his high school days and the good fun and foolishness attendant therewith. Green spices up the literature with various references to famous writers such as W.H. Auden and Edna St.Vincent Millay. In a post script to the book, Green has included revisions from the original work to the present work (different endings, etc.) and the reader can experience the work in progress as it makes its way to the final version. He closes the book bringing Alaska full circle as follows: “I was clearly much less cool than Alaska Young, but it was love at first sight - for me anyway. Maybe it was the way her brown hair, soaked with warm Alabama rain, hung down to the middle of her back, or maybe it was her smile. Or maybe it was that no girl had ever pulled down my pants before.” 18 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Associations Bulletin Summer 2015
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