I have a quirk for modern science-y books. I also get interested on something mostly based on who the creators are. So when John Green finally published his first non-fiction book, I had to get my hands on it as soon as possible.
Well, not really ‘on-hands’. I chose to listen to the audiobook version first because what I wanted physically is the hard cover version. Periplus Indonesia, as far as I know, only have the paperback version at the time I am writing this and if I wanted to get the hard cover (and signed!) version, I had to wait like 20-30 working days with the price of about IDR500K, which I honestly can’t justify yet, especially when I already got the audiobook version.
This is the first book I finished in 2021. Very productive, I know. And I finished it only in about 3 days of listening. Three-hundred pages long.
“The Anthropocene Reviewed” is a collection of essays from John Green about the things he observed at, in, on, and about our world. The project started as a podcast, first aired in 2018. The title itself came from Hank, his brother, on an episode of Dear Hank and John podcast. The book consist of 46 essays on the audiobook version (I heard it’s different for the printed version). They are a combination of revised scripts of the podcast’s classic episodes and also new ones. When the pandemic hits, by his own words, John said, “…after 2 years of writing the podcast, an exceptionally large force appeared in the form of a novel coronavirus. I began then to write the only thing I could write about.”
I have 2 favorite essays from the book. First one is titled “Lascaux Cave Paintings.” When I listen to the audiobook, it’s usually while I do something else like washing the dishes or tidying up my closet. But during this story, it gets so beautiful and interesting, I felt the urge to immediately look up the pictures of the cave paintings.
“But the hand stencils also remind us that humans of the past were as human as we are. Their hands were indistinguishable from ours. More than that, we know they were like us in other ways. These communities hunted and gathered, and there were no large caloric surpluses, so every healthy person would have had to contribute to the acquisition of food and water, and yet somehow, they still made time to create art, almost as if art isn’t optional for human.”
John gave the cave paintings at Lascaux four and a half stars.
The second essay that moves me is “Jerzy Dudek’s Performance on May 25, 2005.” It’s about the 2005 UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan. John is a long life fan of the English football club Liverpool, so I as a reader could feel how he poured all his heart into this essay.
Currently, I am no longer a massive soccer/ football fan, but I used to, exactly around the time this story took place. This final is hysterically historical, because at the game’s first half, Liverpool was left behind 0-3. I mean, it’s the final. How could you not get frustrated as a fan at that point? But miraculously, just 15 minutes from the start of the second half, Steven Gerrard, Vladimír Šmicer, and Xabi Alonso level the score to 3-3. And the score remained that way even until the full extra time, making a penalty shoot-out necessary to determine the champion.
Jerzy Dudek was Liverpool’s goalkeeper that night. I personally don’t remember his name, and I am more familiar with Dida, who was under AC Milan’s goalposts. Even when I looked further at both team’s squads, I recognized about 8 out of 14 (11 starters + 3 played substitutes) AC Milan’s players, compared to only 4 out of 14 of Liverpool’s.
From John’s essay I learnt that before that evening, Jerzy Dudek have always been the goalkeeper who practiced the penalty shootouts by standing still in the middle of his line, until the ball was kicked. Always, without exception. But on this very important final, by the suggestion from his teammate Jamie Carragher, Dudek chose to do something he never did: to dance and ‘wobble his legs’ during the shoot-outs.
“There are times in your life when you do things precisely as you have practiced and prepare for them. And there are times when you listen to Jamie Carragher. So in the most important moment of Jerzy Dudek’s professional life, he decided to try something new.”
In the end, Milan blew 1 shot (Serginho shot it over the bar) and Jerzy Dudek saved 2 out of the 5 shots. This was enough to give Liverpool a 3-2 penalty shootout win over AC Milan. Imagine, from the devastating nil-three position at half time, to became the Europe’s club champion.
“You can’t see the future coming, not the terrors, for sure, but you also can’t see the wonders that are coming, the moments of light-soaked joy that await each of us.”
John gave Jerzy Dudek’s performance on May 25, 2005 five stars.
And I give John Green’s “The Anthropocene Reviewed” four and a half stars.