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Learn how to preorder a probably signed copy of Turtles All the Way Down, which comes out October 10th: http://probablysignedturtles.com. Or order a definitely unsigned copy wherever books are sold!

In which John Green reads the first chapter of his new novel, Turtles All the Way Down. In it, we meet Aza, a young woman whose obsessive thought spirals do not seem to make her a particularly good detective.

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Preorder John's new book, Turtles All the Way Down, out October 10th 2017! You can find links to both the signed and unsigned editions here: http://bit.ly/turtlespreorder and information on how to (probably) get a signed copy here: http://probablysignedturtles.com


 Intro (0:00)


Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday. And this is the first chapter of Turtles All the Way Down, which I'll be reading to you today. Okay, I think all you need to know is that this story is narrated by a sixteen-year-old girl named Aza Holmes. Also, it starts with an epigraph from Arthur Schopenhauer, "Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills."

 Chapter 1 (0:19)


Chapter 1: At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the North side of Indianapolis called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time, between 12:37 and 1:14 PM, by forces so much larger than myself, that I couldn't even begin to identify them. If those forces had given me a different lunch period, or if the table mates who helped author my fate had chosen a different topic of conversation that September day, I would have met a different end–or at least a different middle. But I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell. Of course, you pretend to be the author.

You have to. You think, "I now choose to go to lunch," when that monotone beeps rings from on high at 12:37, but really, the bell chooses. You think you're the painter, but you're the canvas.

Hundreds of voices were shouting over one another in the cafeteria so that the conversation became mere sound, the rushing of a river over rocks. And as I sat beneath the fluorescent cylinders spewing aggressively artificial light, I thought about how we all believed our ourselves to be the hero of some personal epic, when in fact, we were basically identical organisms colonizing a vast and windowless room that smelled of Lysol and lard. I was eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich and drinking a Dr.

Pepper. To be honest, I find the whole process of masticating plants and animals, and then shoving them down my esophagus kind of disgusting, so I was trying not to think about the fact that I was eating, which is a form of thinking about it. Across the table from me, Michael Turner was scribbling in a yellow papered notebook.

Our lunch table was like a long-running play on Broadway. The cast changed some over the years, but the roles never did. Michael was the artsy one.

He was talking with Daisy Ramirez who played the role of my best and most fearless friend since elementary school, but I couldn't follow their conversation over the noise of all the others. What was my part in this play? The sidekick.

I was Daisy's friend or Miss Holmes' daughter. I was somebody's something. I felt my stomach begin to work on the sandwich, and even over everybody's talking, I could hear it digesting.

All the bacteria chewing the slime of peanut butter, the students inside of me eating inside if my internal cafeteria. A shiver convulsed through me. "Didn't you go to camp with him?" Daisy asked me. "With who?" "Davis Picket," She said. "Yeah," I said. "Why?" "Aren't you listening?" Daisy asked. I am listening, I thought, to the cacophony of my digestive tract.

Of course, I'd long known that I was playing host to a massive collection of parasitic organisms, but I didn't much like being reminded of it. By cell count, humans are approximately 50 percent microbial, meaning that about half of the cells that make you up are not yours at all. There's something like a thousand times more microbes living in my particular biome than there are human beings on Earth, and it often seems like I can feel them living and breeding and dying in and on me.

I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans and tried to control my breathing. Admittedly, I have some anxiety problems, but I would argue it isn't irrational to be concerned about the fact that you are a skin-encased bacterial colony.  Michael said, "his dad was about to be arrested for bribery or something, but the night before the raid he disappeared. there's a hundred thousand dollar reward out for him." "And you know his kid," Daisy said. "knew him." I answered. I watched Daisy attack her school-provided rectangular pizza and green beans with a fork.

She kept glancing up at me, her eyes widening as if to say, 'Well?' I could tell she wanted me to ask her something, but I couldn't tell what because my stomach wouldn't shut up which was forcing me deep inside a worry that I'd somehow contracted a parasitic infection. I could half hear Mychal telling Daisy about his new art project, in which he was using Photoshop to average the faces of a hundred people named Michael, and the average of their faces would be this new one hundred and first Michael and it was an interesting idea and I wanted to listen, but the cafeteria was so loud and I couldn't stop wondering if there was something wrong with the microbial balance of power inside me. Excessive abdominal noise is an uncommon but, not unprecedented presenting symptom of infection with the bacteria (?~4:38) which can be fatal.

I pulled out my phone and searched human microbiome to reread the Wikipedia's introduction to the trillions of microorganisms currently inside me. I clicked over to the article about (?~4:41) scrolling to the part about how most (?~4:45) infections occur in hospitals. I scrolled down further to a list of symptoms, none of which I had except for the excessive abdominal noises, although I knew from previous searches that the Cleveland Clinic had reported the case of one person who died of (?~4:55) after presenting at the hospital with only abdominal pain and fever.

I reminded myself that I didn't have a fever, and myself replied, "you don't have a fever yet." At the cafeteria where a shrinking slice of my consciousness still resided, Daisy was telling Michael that his averaging project shouldn't be about people named Michael, but about imprisoned men who'd later been exonerated. "It'll be easier anyway," she said "because they'll all have mugshots taken from the same angle and then it's not just about names but also about race and class, and mass incarceration", and Michael was like "you're a genius Daisy", and she said "you sound surprised." And meanwhile I was thinking that if half the cells inside of you are not you doesn't that challenge the entire notion of me as a singular pronoun, yet alone the author of my fate, and I fell pretty far down that recursive wormhole until it transported me completely out of the White River high school cafeteria into some non sensorial place only properly crazy people get to visit. Ever since I was little I've pressed my right thumbnail into the finger-pad of my middle finger, so now there's this weird callous over my fingerprint. After so many years of doing this I can open up a crack in the skin really easily, so I cover it up with a Band-Aid to try to prevent infection, but sometimes I get worried that there already is an infection, and so I need to drain it and the only way to do that is to re-open the wound and press out any blood that will come, and once I start thinking about splitting the skin apart I literally can not not do it.

I apologize for the double negative but, it's a real double negative of a situation, a bind from which negating the negation is the only escape. So, anyway I wanted to feel my thumb nail biting into the skin of my finger-pad, and I knew that resistance was more or less futile, so beneath the cafeteria table I slipped the Band-Aid off my finger and dug my thumb nail into the callous skin until I felt it crack open. "Holmesy", Daisy said, I looked up at her, "we're almost through lunch and you haven't even mentioned my hair!" she shook out her hair with so-red-they-were-pink highlights. Right, she'd dyed her hair.

I swum up out of the depths and said, "It's bold." "I know right it says: "Ladies and gentleman and people who do not identify as ladies or gentleman, Daisy Ramirez won't break her promises but she will break your heart!"" Daisy's self claimed life motto was 'break hearts not promises', she kept threatening to get it tattooed on her ankle when she turned eighteen. Daisy turned back to Micahel and I to my thoughts. The stomach rumbling had grown, if anything, louder.

I felt like I might vomit. For someone who dislikes bodily fluids, I throw up quite a lot. "Holmesy, you ok?" Daisy asked, I nodded. Sometimes I wondered why she lied me, or at least why she tolerated me.

Why any of them did. Even I found myself annoying. I could feel sweat sprouting from my forehead and once I begin to sweat, it's impossible to stop.

I'll keep sweating for hours, and not just my face or my armpits, my neck sweats, my boobs sweat, my calves sweat, maybe I did have a fever. Beneath te table I slid the old Band-Aid into my pocket and without looking pulled out a new one, unwrapped it and then glanced down to apply it to my finger. All the while I was breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth in the manner advised by Doctor Karen Singh, exhaling at a pace that would make a candle flicker but not go out, "imagine that candle Aza, flickering from your breath but still there, always there".

So I tried that, but the thought spiral kept tightening anyway. I could hear Doctor Singh saying that I shouldn't get out my phone, that I musn't look up the same questions over and over, but I got it out anyway, and re read the human microbiome Wikipedia article. The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends, it just keeps tightening, infinitely.

I sealed the Ziploc bag around the last quarter of my sandwich, got up, and tossed it into an overfilled trash can. I heard a voice from behind me, "How concerned should I be that you haven't said more than two words in a row all day?" "Though spiral", I mumbled in reply. Daisy had known me since we were six, long enough to get it. "I figured, sorry man, let's hang out today!" This girl Molly walked up to us smiling and said, "uh, Daisy, just FYI your Kool-Ai dye job is staining your shirt." Daisy looked down at her shoulders and indeed, her striped top had tuned pink in spots.

She flinched for a second, then straightened her spine, "Yeah it's part of the look Molly, stained shirt are huge in Paris right now," she turned away from Molly and said "right, so we'll go to your house and watch Star

Wars: Rebels." Daisy was really into Star Wars, and not just the movies but also the books and the animated shows and the kid's shows, where they're all made out of LEGO. Like she wrote fan fiction about chewbacca's love life, "and we will improve your mood until you are able to say three or even four words in a row, sound good?" "Sounds good." "And then you can take me to work, sorry but I need a ride." "Ok." I wanted to say more but the thoughts kept coming, unbidden and unwanted. If I'd been the author I would have stopped thinking about my microbiome, I would have told Daisy how much I liked her idea for Michael's art project, and I would have told her that I did remember Davis Pickett. That I remember being eleven and carrying a vague but constant fear. I would have told her that I remembered once at camp lying next to Davis on the edge of a dock, our legs dangling over, our backs against the rough home planks of wood, staring together, up at a cloudless summer sky. I would have told her that Davis and I never talked much or even looked at each other, but it didn't matter because we were looking at the same sky together, which is maybe more intimate than eye contact anyway. Imean anybody can look at you, it's quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.

 Outro (10:22)


Thanks for listening! I'm not gonna lie I'm very nervous, but I hope that you liked it. Uh, if you wanna pre order the book there are links below. Hank, I will see you on Friday.
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