Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Fault in our Stars

I just finished reading John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, after getting to meet him and hear him talk at church on Sunday.  But this post is not about that book, not totally.  Instead, I am continuing to analyze the Weather segments from Welcome to Night Vale.  Episode 3, "Station Management," features "Bill and Annie" by Chuck Brodsky.

Chuck's voice is reminiscent of Bob Dylan, especially how he says "life" and "wife."  The song has a country vibe from the slide guitar, but mostly feels folk/singer-songwriter.  The lyrics are a complete narrative, no chorus to interrupt the story or emphasize a moral.  In the song, Bill and Annie can't catch a break.  They fall madly in love at his wedding reception, but Bill stays true to his wedding vows.  When Bill's wife dies, Annie has already gotten married herself, and had moved away.  They never act on their shared "one and only true love."  The narrator of the song is not Bill or Annie, but Annie's husband, Chuck (in a live version of the song, Chuck Brodsky suggests this is autobiographical).  They meet at Bill's peach stand, and Bill tells Chuck the story of their love.  The song deliberately leaves the point unclear, whether or not it is right that Bill and Annie valued commitment over true love.  Each strophe of the song ends on an inconclusive IV chord, much like the ending of "Let It Go" as Elsa unconvincingly claims that the cold (and isolation) doesn't bother her anyway. 

In John Green's book (SPOILERS! but this plot point is revealed in the trailer for the movie), the two main characters do act on their love, but they also repeatedly acknowledge that "the world is not a wish-granting factory."  In fact, Bill's decision to stay true to his vows is supported by another character in Green's book: "Right, of course. But you keep the promise anyway. That's what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway."  While Bill's wife was not his true love, she was a love that he felt the need to protect and honor, even if it was hard.  These are clearly the things that Chuck is thinking about at the end of the song. 

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