**SPOILER ALERT: This article contains mild spoilers from the first chapter of Turtles All The Way Down by John Green. Please stop here if you haven’t read it!**
A take on reading the first chapter of Turtles All The Way Down by John Green, in which the author’s reading is compared with my personal reading.
If you haven’t yet grabbed your copy of John Green’s latest book, you’re truly missing out, and if you don’t follow the vlogbrothers (the collaborative Youtube channel between him and his brother, Hank), you may have missed his reading of the first chapter, uploaded around six weeks ago. The video has over 250,000 views and the comments section is filled with fans of John’s booked anticipating its arrival.
There’s something that seems very authentic about the author reading a piece of work to you. It feels raw, uncut and real, though we can say that this is definitely an edited chapter. In all honesty, I’d forgotten about this video by the time I picked up my pre-ordered copy.
As I started reading, I began to remember these lines from a book hadn’t read yet, and it was an odd feeling. Not bad, just odd. But then I came across a name that was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time: Mychael. This is a fairly unusual spelling of the name, but it doesn’t necessarily make the pronunciation any different, but I noticed. Because in my brain, when John was reading it, it was Michael, that was how it was spelt. Now, Mychael seemed like a different person to the Michael I had already met. I felt a divergence from what John had read to me and what I was reading. I think if I tried hard enough, they’d become one person but instead, I decided that John’s Michael and my Mychael were different. And that’s when it got interesting.
This surreal experience that sounds strange even when I’m typing it out got me thinking about the idea of “authenticity”. You’ve likely heard the word before in relation to so-called realness and sometimes even originality. Most things have a first or an original, which then becomes a catalyst for further things. The idea of authenticity is often very skewed in the music industry, for example, Amy Winehouse’s cover of ‘Valerie’ is exactly that, a cover so should be deemed something less original, yet it became more successful, more widely received and public, so just because it wasn’t the first you could say that it’s no less authentic than the original. Then we come to books. See, books are often “originals” just because they’re widely viewed as a “first” medium. Books provide spinoff films, TV shows, albums, merchandise that sometimes reach further but the book is still hailed as the original, the first and most authentic iteration of the text. Sounds pretty legit, right?
Maybe not. Something else exists before a book. The story itself overpowers its medium. The words you read were alive long before you read them, they existed in the brain of the writer, ideas that were honed and edited into a book. To John Green, the most authentic version of Turtles All The Way Down might well have been the one inside his head and that is what I felt I was experiencing watching that video of the first chapter. It felt more whole, more real and somehow different to reading it myself. I might never read the first chapter because I want to keep that alive.
Maybe it’s complete nonsense, but it felt nice and comforting to know that maybe for a second, I was seeing the story in a different way. Not better than how I would see it, but different. And that was pretty awesome.
What do you think? Do you feel different going to author’s readings and reading their book yourself? Do you think either is more authentic? Let me know in the comments below or on my Facebook page! Have a lovely day!