Last night a sold-out show at Carnegie Hall proved what book publishing and his fans have long known about John Green: There's something deeply powerful about not only the books he writes, four of which are currently on the New York Times Y.A. best-seller list, loved by readers both young and old, but also about the man himself. He and his brother Hank, with whom he put on Tuesday's "Evening of Awesome" with the help of some awesome guests (The Mountain Goats, Kimya Dawson, Neil Gaiman, and others), are charismatic, real, charmingly nerdy, and unquestionably talented. Most important of all, they talk to kids not like they're kids and adults not like they're adults, but as if we are all people with not unobtainable dreams in this world. They acknowledge that the world might deal us ugly hands sometimes, but can make up for it in magical, unexpected ways. And they are funny — an insightful, inclusive, not mean kind of funny. It works. I have never heard people scream with joy so loudly at a concert of any form, including during a mortifying heavy metal fan phase in my youth. At one point toward the end of the show, Hank announced he'd be playing a song about a fish. The audience shrieked in inestimable joy. "That's a weird thing to scream about, you guys," he said, and played the song about a fish, to laughter and cheers.
The evening at Carnegie Hall (Hank gave several stomps of a foot to the stage anytime anyone said the words; the audience stomped back) was a celebration of the one-year anniversary of John's most recent book, The Fault in Our Stars. If you haven't, you really should read it. It's about two kids who meet and fall in love at a cancer support group, and in it he manages the unexpected: It's life-affirming instead of maudlin; beautiful and moving instead of simply depressing. I've gone on about that book previously, and its excellence has been noted by plenty of others, so you don't even have to take my word for it.