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The Interview Show. Interview with "Looking for Alaska" novelist John Green on Feb. 8, 2008. Hosted by Mark Bazer at the Hideout, in Chicago, the first Friday of every month.
Mark: My next guest is... uh, just a great novelist and, uh, a good friend. He is the author of two novels: Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines. Please welcome John Green.

John: I actually have a couple questions for you before we start.  

Mark: Yeah.

John: First, I mean, I--those look distinctly like library copies of my novels.  I mean, almost like--did you wrap them in plastic?
Mark: When you moved from Chicago, I didn't think I'd see you again, so I sold my copies back to Myopic.  The worst thing is I think these are overdue.  

John: They cost you like 20 cents in the end, and I'm not gonna get a penny of that.  And then secondly, who is the 6'6'' 330 lb guy who you killed to get your suit jacket?  Anyway, always a pleasure to see you.

Mark: You know, my wife actually pointed that out before.  

John: But it's good--

Mark: Wait a minute, I'm inviting you on to my show.

John: I appreciate it.  I drove four hours to get here.  I'm a l--I'm entitled to one dig.  One (?~1:29).

Mark: You've performed here at The Hideout before.

John: I have.  

Mark: You've performed five times and every time you've performed the same piece about your colonoscopy.  

John: Well, it's a funny colonoscopy.  I mean, I feel like that's a piece that gets more complex with each time you hear it, because you understand new and different parts of my colonoscopy that you might not have been introduced to in the first four readings.
Mark: How is your stomach?

John: It's better.  I mean, that's why I'm drinking beer.  

Mark: It used to be just white wine. 

John: Yeah, but I (?~1:58)

Mark: White wine spritzers.

John: I think it might have been that the white wine was causing the problem all along, I just need to focus on beer and scotch.  I would have been fine.

Mark: Let me ask you some real questions.

John: Alright, yeah, we can move on to that.

Mark: No (?~2:09)

John: How long do we have?

Mark: 15 minutes, maybe?  (?~2:12)  

John: We gotta get the yogurt going.  (?~2:16)'s been telling me about that yogurt for five years.

Mark: Well, you've had--we've both had GI issues.

John: Yeah, I mean, you uh--

Mark: Yours five times more acute than mine, 'cause I've only read one piece about my GI issues once here at The Hideout.
John: But so memorable.  Your--you talk about that yogurt the way that, like, Mike Huckabee talks about Jesus.  You--

Mark: Anyways.  

John: Laugh at him.  Let's move on.

Mark: But seriously, I have a question about young adult novels, because everybody, I mean, we didn't let anybody in under the age of 21.

John: Right.  But I still can't curse.

Mark: So this is, well, right, right, I know, 'cause family newspapers are for people under the age of 21 and this is gonna be broadcast on

John: Yeah.

Mark: I appreciate that.  If you really want to curse, we can probably bleep it out.  

John: I'll bear that in mind.

Mark: Say one.  Say a curse.  Just get it out of your system.

John: I can't even think of one.  Um.  Poop?  Does that count?

Mark: Well, in your novel, you don't swear.  

John: I use--

Mark: It's a young adult novel, and what do you use?

John: I use the word (bleep) 43 times as was recently pointed out to me by a website called, that's trying to make sure that America's libraries are kept safe from--

Mark: John Green.

John: My novels, yeah.  

Mark: Well, tell me, what's going on?  You--before we get to my real question, you had a--you're having a problem in Buffalo?

John: Yeah.  As so many Americans do.  No, my first book is called Looking for Alaska and it's being taught in the cur--in an 11th grade English class in Buffalo, New York, and there are some parents who don't approve of it and have challenged it to try to get it out of the curriculum, saying that it's pornographic and--or, the vast majority of people, obviously disagree, so we're trying to get it back into the curriculum, basically.

Mark: You're like the Philip Roth of young adult novels.

John: Yeah, I mean, without consistently being shortlisted for the Nobel Prize.  

Mark: But seriously, young adult.  What I'm trying to say is I've read both of your books.

John: Yeah.

Mark: Loved them both.  They can clearly be marketed toward adults and I think about it, a book like, let's say The Catcher in the Rye, if that were to come out today, it probably would be pegged as young adult.  

John: Yeah, it would be published that way probably, because it would sell better that way and it would have--it would reach its audience better that way, I mean, the genre has changed so much that now, it's hard to explain this to real adults, but the--it is--they are books that are read by kids between the ages of 16 and 21, and that's the audience for those books, and you know, I like a lot of the same books that I liked when I was 19, you know?  I still like Catcher in the Rye, I still like A Separate Peace, I still like The Virgin Suicides, I still like The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, I still like Infinite Jest.

Mark: Are you gonna list more books?  

John: Yeah.  Can I do that for the rest of the show?  'Cause I have like, 87, and I was just--that was gonna be my shtick.  You ruined it, 'cause you gotta ask all your questions.

Mark: Can you read your colonoscopy piece?

John: Oh, it hurt, but my nurse was beautiful.  That's a summary of the jokes. 

Mark: You know, I didn't mind it, I didn't mind when you're on that bed, 'cause when you get the colonoscopy, and the bed kind of rises up, I wish I had that at home.  

John: Yeah, well, it's a little bit, I mean, it's a little bit revealing, I--we really can't discuss...

Mark: No.

John: What's funny about this in a family newspaper, so we should probably move on.

Mark: Okay, let's move on.

John: It makes you feel like a girl, a little bit.  

Mark: So what's your--I mean, what's your readership like?  You've got, I mean, you've got a devoted--you have rabid fans.  Do you--let me ask you this, do you ever get inappropriate emails from like, a 14 year old that wants to marry you among other things?

John: No, I don't get inappropriate emails from teenagers.  I do get inappropriate emails sometimes from librarians.  I do, I mean, that's not a joke.  It's true.

Mark: Give me an example of--

John: I can't--I can't, I mean, you know, I can't curse or--

Mark: Like, they wanna be with you?

John: Yes.  They wanna be alone with me and they don't care about Sarah and they wanna--they're interested in me.  And in fact, I got an email a couple months ago that was from a librarian--

Mark: They want you to be their bookmark.

John: (?~6:27) I want you to be the meat between my covers.  Um, yeah.  

Mark: Okay.  The OC guy, tell me about that.  So what's that guy's name?

John: Josh Schwartz.

Mark: Josh Schwartz, he's like, 15, and he started The OC.

John: He's three months older than I am.

Mark: Okay.

John: So I feel like I can possibly catch him (?~6:51)

Mark: And the reason why we're bringing him up is because he bought the rights to Looking for Alaska, your first book.  What's going on there?

John: He was signed to write the screenplay.  Paramount bought the rights and then he was signed to write the screenplay.  Well, he has these two shows on TV now, Chuck, which is, do you like that show?

Mark: I don't know it.

John: I think it--I feel like I--

Mark: Yeah, I do.

John: I worked really hard for my cool, you know, like, I got beat up in middle school for my cool, and I was ridiculed in high school for my cool, and now that I've made my cool mine, to have some guy who's three months older than me and a multimillionaire come in and try to steal that cool, even though he--

Mark: This is Josh Schwartz?

John: Yes.

Mark: Who paid a lot of money for your--for the rights to--for your movie?

John: He didn't pay anything.  Paramount paid a little bit.  To have him come in and try to steal my cool and like, make nerdiness cool, is a little bit offensive to me.  He also created a show called The Gossip Girls, which is the most, like, utterly problematic show in the history of television, that said, he's a very good writer, he's a very funny guy, and I think he's done a great job with the screenplay and once the writer's strike ends, hopefully the--it'll start to move forward.  

Mark: So it might get made?

John: I mean, yeah, it might get made, but it also might not get made.

Mark: Do you hang out with him?  Do you talk to him?  Do you--

John: I've hung out with him a few times, yeah.  He has--he wears really nice jeans, like, I always think of myself as being someone who values a good pair of jeans, you know, who knows how to take care of jeans and know when you sho--you know, you got a nice--these are from a very boutique-y shop in New York City called The Gap, so you probably wouldn't be familiar with their work, but he wears very nice jeans, I mean, nicer than you and I can even imagine, really.  Yeah.  

Mark: Okay, hold on, let me think for a second.  

John: Think about it.

Mark: I can't.  

John: Did you bring me a Guinness as well or is that just for him?

Mark: That was just one little--

John: I mean I--

Mark: Here.  Here's some, uh, Kefir, a probiotic yogurt drink.  

John: Have you sipped from this?

Mark: It's totally empty.  I drank it before the show.  

John: It's not totally empty.  You were wrong.  

Mark: I was--yeah, the last part was what my son had.