John Green is back, after six years, with a new book and the title of it is a bit of a mystery. When you look up the meaning behind the phrase, you’ll find yourself having even more questions. What on earth does ‘turtles all the way down’ mean and why is it the title of this specific novel? We started doing a bit of research of our own and came to a few conclusions.
The phrase ‘turtles all the way down’ is part of an old philosophical joke. While the specific origin of the phrase is unknown, the most widely known beginning comes from Stephen Hawkings ‘A Brief History of Time’.
‘A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!’
So, it’s turtles all the way down, one turtle standing upon another and another and another. As you find out about the story, you begin to understand how it could connect with the plot.
The premise of the book is as follows.
‘Turtles All the Way Down will tell the story of 16-year-old Aza Holmes, a young woman grappling with mental illness while searching for clues to solve the disappearance of a fugitive billionaire. While the mystery is fabricated, the rest of the story is very personal to Green.’
In a press release, Green had this to say about the story and how it’s so important to him.
‘This is my first attempt to write directly about the kind of mental illness that has affected my life since childhood. I’ve been working on Turtles All the Way Down for years, and I’m so excited to share it with readers this October.’
If you’re not aware, Green suffers from OCD and has shared his experiences on YouTube, in a way that’s given his fans a look into who he is as a person and a writer. OCD is characterized by repetitive behavior and thoughts with an inability to control them. With Green saying that this book is a reflection of the kind of mental illness that’s affected his life since childhood, we expect to see some of the hardest times for him reflected in his new story, and a bit of himself in the character of Aza.
Some people don’t understand the full weight of OCD, this novel will allow readers to get a closer look into what life with the illness is like. It’s not just ‘tics’ that make a person quirky, it’s a mental illness that can be absolutely debilitating. Those with OCD are also at a higher risk for suicide.
After six years, we’re glad that the novel Green is coming back with is one that’s so personal for him. It’s a show of his strength, his ability to overcome struggle, and his desire to share his words with those who may need to see their struggle reflected in something bigger than themselves.
So, for that title – we think it must have a specific purpose for his life. It’s said to be used in terms of religion as well, but often to dispell the belief of God, and with John being open about his religious beliefs…maybe it serves a purpose for a time in his life when he had doubts. Or, maybe it’s totally nothing personal at all, guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Will you be purchasing Turtles All The Way Down when it debuts on October 10th? Let us know.