An Abundance of Katherines

BOOK: An Abundance of Katherines
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The Beginning (of the End)

“So What are you good at, exactly, anyway? I mean, I know you’re good at everything, but what are you
good at besides languages?”

“I’m good with codes and stuff. And I’m good at, like, linguistic tricks like anagramming. That’s my favorite thing, really. I can anagram anything.”


“Night, nay,” he answered quickly, and she laughed and then said, “Katherine Carter.”

“Um, okay. Her karate cretin—um, oh. I like this one: their arcane trek.”

She laughed and pulled her hand away and placed it flat against his knee. Her fingers were soft. He could suddenly smell her over the dank basement. She smelled like lilacs, and then he knew that it was almost time. But he didn’t dare look at her, not yet. He just watched the blank TV screen. He wanted to draw out the moment before the moment—because as good as kissing feels, nothing feels as good as the anticipation of it.

“How do you
that?” she asked.

“Practice, mostly. I’ve been doing it a long time. I see the letters and pull out a good word first—like, karate, or arcane—and then I try to use the remaining letters to make—oh God, this is boring,” he said, hoping it w a sn’t.

“Okay, so anagrams. That’s one. Got any other charming talents?” she asked, and now he felt confident.

Finally, Colin turned to her, gathering in his gut the slim measure of courage available to him, and said, “Well, I’m a fair kisser.”


Published by the Penguin Group
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Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in the United States of America by Dutton Books,
a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2006
Published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2008

Copyright © John Green, 2006

All rights reserved
Green, John, date.
An abundance of Katherines / John Green.
p. cm.
Summary: Having been recently dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine,
recent high school graduate and former child prodigy Colin sets off on a road trip
with his best friend to try to find some new direction in life.

eISBN : 978-0-142-41202-2

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

To my wife, Sarah Urist Green, anagrammatically:

Her great Russian
Grin has treasure—
A great risen rush.
She is a rut-ranger;
Anguish arrester;
Sister; haranguer;
Signature Sharer
Easing rare hurts.

“But the pleasure isn’t owning the person. The pleasure is this.
Having another contender in the room with you.”
—Philip Roth,
The Human Stain

Turn the page for a Q & A with


What do you know now that you Wish you knew When you Were growing up?

Very little, actually. Whenever I think about changing the past, it always begs the
Back to the Future II
question: If I could go into the past and share all kinds of important Life Lessons with my younger self, wouldn’t I become a radically different person, and then wouldn’t that person have to go back into the past to tell his young self all sorts of
pitfalls to avoid, and then doesn’t that create a paradox that makes my head hurt? At any rate, I wouldn’t want to tell my young self much, because I don’t want to be a radically different person. I want to be the exact same person I currently am, only with better tooth enamel. So I guess the honest answer to your question is that when I was growing up, I wish I had known that flossing is, as it turns out, actually important.

How do your high school experiences shape your Writing?

I attended a small and wonderful boarding school in Alabama called Indian Springs, and I’m certainly not above borrowing from my own high school experiences. I also think that my particular high school experience pushed me toward writing about 1. the South, and 2. smart kids, and 3. teenagers removed from direct parental control, and I also probably—4.—owe this whole numbered-list-inside-a-sentence construction to high school, since I stole it from my friend Todd Cartee.

Were you really dumped 53 times before you got married?

The short answer is yes. But in the interest of full disclosure, there are a couple caveats to that statistic:

1. I have a rather narrow definition of getting dumped, which is this: Say you kiss someone once. Now, say you want to kiss them again, but they won’t let you, on account of how you’re just a great friend and she wouldn’t want to mess that up, or she’s not interested in a relationship right now, or she’s decided to pursue a relationship with a semi-professional bodybuilder, or she’s worried that if she starts making out with you a lot she won’t have time for the school newspaper, or she thinks you’re cute and everything but let’s be honest you would be disastrous for her social status, or whatever. If any of those things happen (and believe me, they have), you’ve been dumped.
2. There is widespread controversy over whether or not my wife (#53) technically dumped me. Sarah and I went out on two dates several years ago, after which she announced that she “wasn’t looking for a relationship right now.” And then we didn’t go on a date for about eight months, which, as far as I’m concerned, constitutes dumping regardless of the fact that we later ended up getting married.

Anagrams play a huge role in An Abundance of Katherines—Why?

Well, anagrams say something about the malleability of language. We always think of language as an immovable object, as this set of codified and unbreakable rules. But when you consider that one can rearrange the letters in PRESBYTERIANS and spell BRITNEY SPEARS
, it reminds us that language (and the stories we tell with language) can be twisted and molded. Words are not static. Language shapes our memories, and it is also shaped by our memories.

Also, I can’t think of a talent that is more simultaneously impressive and useless than anagramming.

How’s your anagramming?

I am a terrible anagrammer (anagrammarian? anagramologist?). Whenever I play Scrabble now, my friends who have read
expect me to be some kind of Scrabble genius, and I invariably fail to spell anything more impressive than “Zap.” I also don’t speak any of the foreign languages that Colin speaks. Nor have I ever been good at math. I have a bad habit of Googling myself, and someone online somewhere said of
that it was a fine book, and reasonably funny, but that it was painfully obvious that the author was confronting his own conflicted feelings about having been a child prodigy. I don’t think I got a single A in a single class until I was a senior in high school. So, yeah. I haven’t had to struggle too mightily with the burdens of being a prodigy.

In high school, how did you spend your free time?

Mostly, I sat around with my friends and talked. I mean, we would play videogames or watch TV or sneak out into the woods or play ultimate Frisbee, but all of these activities were just vehicles for talking.
Whenever I’m asked what advice I have for young writers, I always say that the first thing is to read, and to read a lot. The second thing is to write. And the third thing, which I think is absolutely vital, is to tell stories and listen closely to the stories you’re being told.

Other than talking, I spent a lot of time getting dumped. As any dumpee can tell you, getting dumped is extraordinarily time-consuming.

The movie rights to KATHERINES have just been optioned, and you’ll be Writing the screenplay. Are you looking forward to returning to the story?

Yes, very much so. It’s so fun to have those characters back in my life again, particularly Hassan. I don’t think I could ever write a sequel to
(or to any of my books), and so writing a screenplay is probably the closest I’ll ever get to that joyful feeling of getting reacquainted with characters after a lengthy separation. And then hopefully one day we’ll get to see them on a big screen; that would be absolutely surreal.

What’s next?

My new book is called
Paper Towns
. If I’m not mistaken, you can actually just turn the page and start reading it right now.

BOOK: An Abundance of Katherines
6.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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