Who: John and Hank Green
Where: Symphony Space, NYC
When: Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Why: To promote his new, shiny novel The Fault in Our Stars, John Green is travelling around America in a van. Well, all the non-snowy parts of America. And the van is huge and emblazoned with his name (with Hank’s much smaller underneath – younger siblings always get second billing!). Essentially, they’re like rockstars… but smart, and with sock puppets and modest costume changes.
We of course had to be there. Sadly, Cassie-wa was unable to attend (since she has that pesky thing called a job) so I brought my younger sister Breanna along. All Vlogbrother fans, we were thrilled to see them (and also happy that John was not in an Orlando hospital, à la LeakyCon). The very boisterous crowd was filled with many teens wearing varied nerdfighteria gear, fezzes, and Harry Potter colors. We had our signed copies of TFIOS (each with a Hanklerfish!) in hand, programs out, and cameras at the ready. The curtain was drawn up, revealing a puppet stage, out of which emerged an arm covered with a bespectacled argyle sock. The New York stop of the Tour de Nerdfighting had officially begun.
Hank Sock sassed us, and mentioned how the Green brothers were often mistaken for The Proclaimers. Then John Green walked out on stage, and people screamed madly. There were even some catcalls, as John looked rather dapper in his gray suit. We were quickly silenced when he began to read from the second chapter of TFIOS. John promised to answer questions from the audience, but first wanted to thank some special guests, like his wife, people from Penguin, and Maureen Johnson. He then mentioned that sometimes real celebrities would say they love his stuff. And one of these celebrities was here tonight! He introduced “The star of Sex and the City, Sex and the City 2, and Sex and the City: the TV show – Sarah Jessica Parker!” The audience was yelling with genuine enthusiasm, whipped into celebrity frenzy by John Green. The four of us looked at each other in confusion, wondering why they were yelling like Tyra Banks just gave them a tub of crystal-encrusted Vaseline. Then our special celebrity guest walked onstage…. and it was Hank in a tutu and a blonde wig. He sang “Never Gonna Give You Up.” We’d been rickrolled! Or hankrolled…It’s like the internet came to life before our very eyes.
After Hank flounced off stage, John read questions from index cards that came from some mysterious place on the interwebz. To stay on time, there was a big electronic clock with a timer that counts down from a predetermined number. It looked like it was lifted straight from an action movie set, where it had been tied to a terrorist’s bomb. If John was talking when the timer went off, he was going to be punished by getting shocked. Those Green brothers don’t mess around. As he answered questions, the theme of the night quickly became apparent: WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE. Everything is temporary and at some point in the future, the human species will not be remembered. All the grand stories we make up about love and death will cease to exist, just as we do. This depressing train of thought was derailed by a question concerning Isaac’s name. The person wanted to know if it was a pun, because you know – Eye-sick. (Isaac has eye cancer in the novel). John has no ear for puns apparently, and we’re pretty sure he is now depressed over his name choice.
Next up was Hank (now wigless and tutu-free), and he sang us a song he wrote from Hazel’s point of view called “Video Game Books.” There were also some old favorites through the night, like “DFTBA,” “A Song About an Anglerfish,” “Accio Deathly Hallows,” and “This Isn’t Hogwarts.” Maureen Johnson kept trying to make us dance through the power of Twitter, which eventually worked. Or perhaps it was Hank’s booty-shakin’ anthem “Shake Your Booty” that convinced all the awkward nerds in the audience to get up and shake it like there’s no tomorrow. (OR perhaps we were all influenced by John, who told us it doesn’t matter if there’s no tomorrow. Or maybe it was Hank’s awesome song. Most likely that).
One of the best parts of the night was when Hank and John answered audience questions, but made it a game. Whoever was speaking last when the doomsday clock stopped would have to be zapped. This led to strategizing and poor Hank getting shocked for the second night in a row. Besides the high stakes, watching them interact was just hilarious. Hank tempered John’s “we’re all going to die” responses with humor AND we learned how to defend ourselves against bear attacks. As Hank says, “if it starts to eat you, punch it in the face a lot!” Living in Montana, he is automatically a bear-expert.
Besides death and misery, John also spoke a lot about writing. He said that now it’s published and being read, “it’s not my book anymore.” When asked about the audio versions of his books, he said the company would send him long lists of words with the question “how do you pronounce these?” His response: I have no idea, I’m a writer.” It makes me feel better about all the embarrassing times I’ve mispronounced big words. Another question posed was what’s the point of telling stories. John said it’s not to make a mark. It’s to transcend the self, even briefly. Which ties in so beautifully to TFIOS but that’s for another post. Finally – John says he’s not a fan of his own writing. Seriously – John Green. That’s ridiculous. RIDICULOUS. Ahem.
So Hank gets zapped, there is more singing, dancing, and then they leave. Only to come out for an encore that is Hank singing “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers, with John enthusiastically singing “da-duh-da” during the chorus. This is a video from Boston, as NYC/NJ nerdfighters seem to be slacking. Or maybe they’re still emotionally drained after going home and reading TFIOS and weeping. But again, that’s for another post. The Brothers Green left the stage to deafening applause, only to go sign books, posters, CDs, and other miscellaneous things for many hours.
Afraid of reliving Leaky Con (AKA LineCon), during which we spent hours of our lives in poorly formed lines, we were pleasantly shocked by the organizational skills exhibited at Symphony Space. The signing line moved quickly, with rows being called in an orderly fashion. Though, that wily Maureen Johnson was causing aisle congestion as she peddled her wares to the children. When she noticed she was blocking the aisle, she got up and walked towards the back of the theater, after which a line of teenagers followed her, waving money in the air. Who knows the fate of those poor teens now, as they followed the Pied Piper of YA into the Great Perhaps.
The line – yes, the line. We noticed the eager souls went through a curtained entrance into a white room. But no one seemed to emerge
from the other side. Then it clicked – John kept speaking about how all things must pass, how we are all temporary – because we were going to be sacrificed in the room! It all made so much sense now. The ancient gods of YA must be appeased with the blood and tears of teenagers.
With great trepidation (and plans of offering up my sister [I’m no Katniss]) we ducked under the curtain. Happily, all our speculation was wrong, and it was merely John, Hank, and Katherine in the white room. No horned pagan gods, mysterious smoking oracles, or sharp knives. Just three normal adults with a pile of Sharpies. It wasn’t terribly awkward…okay, it was a little awkward. I beamed broadly at everyone, rushing words of thanks out as a perfunctory response. What else can we do though? It’s impossible to convey what John’s words have meant to me, or the countless hours I’ve watched the two banter back and forth, or sung “Accio Deathly Hallows” while driving. It’s especially impossible while theater staff remind everyone the line needs to keep moving; firm yet polite. So I smiled and nodded and held my books out, Alaska with the creased binding and The Fault in Our Stars with the crisp edges of an unread book, hoping John and Hank knew or guessed how freaking awesome they are to all of us.
So, yes, we’re all temporary and one day no one will remember this night’s myriad actions and emotions and shifting in seats and dancing and laughing. But we’ll remember it, take it with us. And for me, that’s more than good enough. It’s all we have.