Monday, August 16, 2010

Review - Adverbs

Adverbs: A Novel (P.S.)The very first thing I have to say about this book: I bought it because 1. it was recommended in the shop and 2. I love the author’s children’s books – Daniel Handler’s Adverbs is a big step away from A Series of Unfortunate Events (by his alter-ego Lemony Snicket). Okay, so the narrative is more mature but is otherwise quite a bit the same, but this is so much weirder.

What do you mean weirder?

Think along the lines of every chapter being an adverb. Think along the lines of the story being non-linear. Think along the lines of alternating narrative styles, switching between first and third person narratives for no obvious reason other than that was what Handler wanted to do. It makes for a somewhat difficult to follow story, because the events don’t take place in the same order, but it’s made even more difficult by the fact that almost every chapter has new characters, but will reference other characters from before. More or less.

More or less?

Yes, more or less. Basically, everyone reading this for the first time will be confused until the chapter called Truly. Which is where I give the consumer – you, the reader – some advice: don’t skip ahead to there, but don’t give up before then. It will all, more or less, make sense when you read it.

What made you keep reading?

I’m a very curious individual, for a start. I wanted to know if 1. I could figure out the plot and the switching between characters, and stuff and 2. how the book would end, if it wasn’t linear. Also, the book is about love and people, and I love love and I love people, so I had to keep reading. Now, it’s not a romance. No, I wouldn’t class it as a romance at all. But it’s about love. It’s about the idea of love and the idea of people. It’s all very wonderfully put together, and that’s an adverb, because that’s what the author likes in this book – adverbs. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. That also kept me reading.

How does it compare to any of the author’s other books?
Considering that this is the first of Handler’s adult-market books that I’ve read, I can only compare it to his thirteen book series of children’s books. They were funny in an obvious kind of way – the adults were stupid. That’s funny. This is funny is a different way, a more subtle way – the adults aren’t all stupid, but the ones that are are really stupid and the others don’t seem to like them very much, except that they’re good looking. And there are jokes about how people talk and how British they are and about taxi cabs and love and birds and detectives, and it’s all very funny, once you’re paying attention. This also makes you think more than A Series of Unfortunate Events, though if memory serves this uses less complicated language, because the Lemony Snicket author liked to use convoluted language to allow himself to explain it in a way that was funny and that fit the story. Relative to the age of the reader, this is definitely a less complicated book than A Series of Unfortunate Events in terms of language used.

So it’s recommended... like everything else you review?

Pretty much. More so than most books, actually. It’s funny. It’s smart. It’s thought provoking. It has rude characters who talk about sex a lot. It talks about love from so many different angles. It’s confusing but worth it. When you finish, you feel like you’ve accomplished something wonderful, like climbing Everest, except you haven’t gone anywhere (if you’re like me and you sit still while you’re reading). It’s a brilliantly written book, and the reviews on my edition’s cover are hilarious. They’re also worth it.

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