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MLA Full: "Paper Towns Tastic Question Tuesday." YouTube, uploaded by vlogbrothers, 11 February 2009,
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The book: In which John answers real questions from real nerdfighters about his new novel "Paper Towns" as part of the Nerdfighter Blurbing Book Club. There are actual several more questions to be answered--look for that video Friday or Saturday. Leave your questions for week-after-next's question Tuesday in comments.


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A Bunny
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Good Morning Hank, it's Tuesday February 10th, and today I am finally going to answer real questions that real Nerdfighters asked about my real new book, Paper Towns.

There shouldn't be any real spoilers here, but if you're terrified of spoilers, you can solve that problem by reading the book. What is paper towns about? It's about a girl named Margo Roth Spiegelman, her next door neighbor Q, the state of Florida, and Walt Whitman.

How did Song of Myself get to be so central to the plot of Paper Towns? Two reasons: First, Song of Myself is a beautiful poem that's deeply involved with how we can imagine other people more effectively, and second, Walt Whitman is hot! I mean, that guy could sound his barbaric yop over the roofs of my world anytime.

Will Paper Towns ever be a movie? I dunno. The movie rights were acquired by Mr.

Mudd and Mandate, the people who brought you such awesome movies as Juno, and I am currently writing the screenplay, so I guess it's up to me whether or not it's good enough to be made into a movie. Are Quentin's parents based on people you actually knew, or on your own parents? No, but I have had a lot of therapy.

How'd you pick the character names? Um, it would take too long to explain it all, so let's talk about Margo Roth Spiegelman. "Spiegelman" is a German word that means "mirror maker," like the dude in the old German villages who made the mirrors was the spiegelman. And Margo is the spiegelman of Paper Towns; when people look at her, they don't see anything that's essentially true about Margo, what they see is is some fun-house mirror reflection of themselves.

Hence the two different but equally inaccurate covers. I'm 20 years old, am I too old to enjoy Paper Towns? No, in fact, just today I got an e-mail from a woman who's 82 years old and she said she liked it.

Is the way Q misimagines Margo similar to the way Pudge misimagines Alaska in your first novel? Yeah, definitely. And I would also argue that whenever we're imagining someone as something more than a person, whether we're Edward-Cullen-izing them, or Alaska-izing them, or Margo-izing them, we're doing them and ourselves a profound disservice.

I would like you to talk more about the use of colors in the book and what each color is meant to represent. Well, those of you who have read Paper Towns know there's quite a lot of Moby Dick in it. That sounds dirty, but it isn't.

There is also, of course, a Great White Wall of Cow. And the bleached white hallways of school and et cetera. There are also a lot of black Santas.

And then there's Margo's middle name, which means red. As Melville did in Moby Dick I kind wanted to kind of subvert our expectations that white is a symbol for purity and excellence, and I wanted Margo to be outside that dichotomous realm of what is good, and what is terrifyingly evil. Daarrarrraaahhh.

I mean I'm just gonna say it Hank, that is the first time in the history of YouTube that a cow has had a fight with a black Santa. I'm a pioneer. How many of the details in your novel are purposeful and how many are random?

Well, ideally nothing in a novel is totally random. Does Ben's beer sword represent some kind of inner conflict? Okay, fair enough, some things are random.

Is Q based on your high school self? Not really. Actually, I don't think we have anything in common, except that we're both tall...and vaguely nerdy.

Will Paper Towns ever be a paperback? Yes, the paperback will be out at the end of this year, but probably not with either of these covers, so if you want these, you gotta get them now. Where did you get the idea for the black Santa collection?

Well, if you read the book, you probably know that it's about how we misimagine other people. But it's also about how we misimagine our stories. That's why I wanted Radar's parents to have the world's largest collection of black Santas.

A. I think it's funny, and B., I think black Santas do ask us to imagine the world more complexly. Do you ever find yourself writing directly from experience?

Very rarely do I directly steal from my own experience, although if you click inside my hands, you will find two occasions where I clearly did. Would you agree with the opinion that you have written the modern-day Great Gatsby? I mean look, there's no question that Paper Towns is concerned with many of the same questions that Gatsby is; Paper Towns is a book that's deeply concerned with whether or not there is such a thing as the self-made man.

Like, is Dr. Jefferson Jefferson a doctor? But yeah, no.

Did you have any alternate titles for Paper Towns? Yeah, for a long time I wanted to call it More Light Than Heat, which is taken from the line in Hamlet: "When a heart's on fire, it gives off more light than heat." And speaking of the Great Gatsby, for a while I wanted to call it Under the Red, the White, and the Blue, which is one of Fitzgerald's alternate titles for Gatsby. Okay, that's all the questions we have time for.

Nerdfighters, thank you for reading Paper Towns, thank you for responding to it with such thoughtfulness and depth and reminding me of why I love my job, thanks for being awesome. Hank, I'll see you tomorrow!