Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Catching Up With Unfortunate Events

I'm indulging in some young-adult literature again. This is what comes from having been an English teacher; you accrue a wide variety of novels, often unread for a season.

This summer I read the first ten books in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. The premise surrounds three children who have lost their parents in a fire at the start of the first book. They are shuttled from distant relative to distant relative, all while one Count Olaf is trying to kill them for their fortune. The books are dark and ironic and even with all the treachery, the three siblings rise up to the occasion and outsmart their opponent through using any combination of their respective talents, only to face another daunting experience in the next installment.

As the series by Snicket (or rather, Daniel Handler) evolved, I've grown to enjoy the books more. They seem more nuanced and clever and not nearly as formulaic. Lemony Snicket has even been developing a mystery through the course of the books. And don't even get me started on his morbid dedications. Each one is to a mysterious Beatrice, whose presence has been hinted at in the book but not fully disclosed. It started with:
For Beatrice--
darling, dearest, dead.
Another was:
For Beatrice--
When we were together, I felt breathless.
Now, you are.
And the last one I will share:
For Beatrice--
No one could extinquish my love,
or your house.

Should you like to delve into the world of the author or his pseudonym, you can read some interviews conducted with him (or is it them? It's all very quite confusing).

The thirteenth and final book just came out this week (aptly titled The End), so I've returned to reading with The Grim Grotto (Book the Eleventh). To give you an idea of the writing style, I will share one of the sentences I encountered tonight:
A short woman might be difficult to see on a crowded city street, particularly if she has disguised herself as a mailbox, and people keep putting letters in her mouth.
I've completely wronged you by not giving proper context, but such is life. I trust this was not the most erroneous thing done to you today. And if it was, you're not doing too badly.

I will close with another quotation to whet your appetite. Here is one from The Miserable Mill, an earlier book in the series:
If an optimist has his left arm chewed off by an alligator, he might say, "Well, this isn't too bad. I don't have my left arm anymore, but at least nobody will ever ask me whether I am right-handed or left-handed," but most of us would say something more along the lines of "Aaaaah! My arm! My arm!"

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