An Abundance of Katherines (2006)
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“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
To my wife, Sarah Urist Green, anagrammatically:
Her great Russian
Grin has treasure—
A great risen rush.
She is a rut-ranger;
Easing rare hurts.
The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath.
Colin had always preferred baths; one of his general policies in life was never to do anything standing up that could just as easily be done lying down.
But mothers lie. It’s in the job description.
Crying adds something: crying is you, plus tears. But the feeling Colin had was some horrible opposite of crying. It was you, minus something.
Prodigies can very quickly learn what other people have already figured out; geniuses discover that which no one has ever previously discovered. Prodigies learn; geniuses do.
“Hassan Harbish. Sunni Muslim. Not a terrorist.”
“Lindsey Lee Wells. Methodist. Me, neither.”
The girl smiled again. Colin wasn’t thinking about anything but himself and K-19 and the piece of his gut he’d misplaced—but there was no denying her smile. That smile could end wars and cure cancer.
What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?
“It’s a textile mill. These days we mostly make, uh, tampon strings.”
Colin did not laugh. Instead, he thought, Tampons have strings? Why? Of all the major human mysteries —God, the nature of the universe, etc.—he knew the least about tampons. To Colin, tampons were a little bit like grizzly bears: he was aware of their existence, but he’d never seen one in the wild and didn’t really care to.
Colin frequently faltered when it came to the step of actual kissing. He had a theory on this subject, actually, entitled the Rejection Minimization Theorem (RMT):
The act of leaning in to kiss someone, or asking to kiss them, is fraught with the possibility of rejection, so the person least likely to get rejected should do the leaning in or the asking. And that person, at least in high-school heterosexual relationships, is definitely the girl. Think about it: boys, basically, want to kiss girls. Guys want to make out. Always. Hassan aside, there’s rarely a time when a boy is thinking, “Eh, I think I’d rather not kiss a girl today.”
Ergo: girls should always make the first move, because (a) they are, on the whole, less likely to be rejected than guys, and (b) that way, girls will never get kissed unless they want to be kissed.
It rather goes without saying that Katherine drank her coffee black. Katherines do, generally. They like their coffee like they like their ex-boyfriends: bitter.
“I just want to do something that matters. Or be something that matters. I just want to matter.”
—Colin Singleton, pg. 94
“I think we’re opposites, you and me,” she said finally. “Because personally I think mattering is a piss-poor idea. I just want to fly under the radar, because when you start to make yourself into a big deal, that’s when you get shot down. The bigger a deal you are, the worse your life is.”
“Schadenfreude,” Colin said. Finding pleasure in others’ pain.
The missing piece in his stomach hurt so much—and eventually he stopped thinking about the Theorem and wondered only how something that isn’t there can hurt you.
You can love someone so much, he thought. But you can never love people as much as you can miss them.
Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.
“People are so damn predictable.”
—Lindsey Lee Wells, pg. 121
“Son, if there’s one thing I know ... it’s that there’s some people in this world who you can just love and love and love no matter what.”
—Roy Walker, pg. 126
“It’s just that I learned a while ago that the best way to get people to like you is not to like them too much.”
—Lindsey Lee Wells, pg. 145
And then it was the kind of dark your eyes never adjust to.
“Do you want to drink it? The moonshine?”
“… AkhhhhEchhhAhhhh. Kahhh. Ehhhhhh. Wow. Wow. Man. It’s like French-kissing a dragon.”
“Sorry, dude. Can’t talk about it. My lips are too numb from all the kissing. That girl kisses like she wants to suck out your soul.”
—Hassan Harbish, pg. 153
“I feel like, like, how you matter is defined by the things that matter to you. You matter as much as the things that matter to you do. And I got so backwards, trying to make myself matter to him. All this time, there were real things to care about: real, good people who care about me, and this place. It’s so easy to get stuck. You just get caught in being something, being special or cool or whatever, to the point where you don’t even know why you need it; you just think you do.”
—Lindsey Lee Wells, pg. 200
“I don’t think you can ever fill the empty space with the thing you lost.”
—Colin Singleton, pg. 201
“I don’t think your missing pieces ever fit inside you again once they go missing. Like Katherine. That’s what I realized: if I did get her back somehow, she wouldn’t fill the hole that losing her created.”
—Colin Singleton, pg. 201
“That’s who you really like. The people you can think out loud in front of.”
—Lindsey Lee Wells, pg. 208
She said I love you as if it were a secret, and an immense one.
“I’m washed up. I’m former. Formerly the boyfriend of Katherine XIX. Formerly a prodigy. Formerly full of potential. Currently full of shit.”
—Colin Singleton, pg. 10
“Right, except I’m not going to lie to my mom, because what kind of bastard lies to his own mother?”
“Well, although, someone else could lie to her. I could live with that.”
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142410705, Paperback)
When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judyloving best friend riding shotgunbut no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl. Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself.
A Michael L. Printz Honor Book
A Los Angeles Times
Book Prize Finalist
An ALA BBYA
A Horn Book
Fanfare Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews
Best Book of the Year
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:37 -0400)
(see all 4 descriptions)
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 while also trying to create a mathematical formula to explain his relationships.… (more)
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