A Musing: A Series of Unfortunate Events — The Bad Beginning

 

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Over the past few months I’ve read many quotes that captured my imagination and heart on the book blogs of others, and so very often they were from the Lemony Snicket books. I’ve also recently read some moving and wonderful things on thee internet, and lo and behold, they were said by Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket is a nom de plume). My eyes also locked in like a magnet to his new book Girls Standing on Lawns, a collaboration with Maira Kalman (and they have collaborated on others. How have I missed all this?!).

Can you believe I have never read the Lemony Snicket books?  I’ve been meaning to since they came out (in 1999 – goodness how times gets away from me!) but then more and more got released (there are 13, naturally!), so the investment of both time and money grew, and the next thing you know it’s 2014! Now that I am an enthusiastic member of PaperBack Swap (where, I will reiterate, they have tons of hardcovers!) I thought that I could swap for the first book easily — if I didn’t like it I could swap it back, and if I did like I could try and build my set by swapping.

Well, I like.

The book managed to be warm and funny and zinging things into your heart all whilst being arch and terribly clever. I love that Violet is an inventor and ties her hair back when she gets seriously to work (I do, too). I love that Klaus is a read all night under the covers with a flashlight kid (I am, too). Sunny just plain cracks me up (chomp!). I love how Handler introduces words and concepts into the narrative (“In the time since the Baudelaire parents’ death, most of the Baudelaire orphans’ friends had fallen by the wayside, an expression wich here means “they stopped calling, writing, and stopping by to see any of the Baudelaires, making them lonely”). I love that the Baudelaires, when faced with what dinner to make Count Olaf and  his theater troupe, chose Puttanesca! I love Hander’s complete understanding of the Platonic Ideal of home, the essence of sadness, and how books can save your life (literally and figuratively — you’ll get that reference if you’ve read the book!).

In fact, one of the things I loved most about the book is Handler’s adoration of bookishness. It’s apparent everywhere: the literary references abound, all of the characters you like are avid bibliophiles, and the book itself has been designed as a homage to wonderful old books: endpapers, deckled edges, and a little faux bookplate. Love. Props to the illustrator Brett Helquist, too. I think the illustrations are perfectly perfect: stylized, just a little over the top modern Victoriana with a little comic book villain thrown in for good measure. Wunderbar!

Needless to say, I’ve begun searching out the rest of the series used by swapping. I had to compromise and so far get a few of them in paperback, but 2-10 should be winging their way to me from around the country presently. I will be keeping my eyes out for 11-13 over the next few months. They will be a delightful treat to read over the next while — I will try and slowly savor them between the difficult and giant books I’m reading (right now — 800 page bio of William Morris. Fascinating)!

The worst surroundings in the world can be tolerated if the people in them are interesting and kind.

…you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.

The way sadness works is one of the strange riddles of the world. If you are stricken with a great sadness, you may feel as if you have been set aflame, not only because of the enormous pain, but also because your sadness may spread over your life, like smoke from an enormous fire. You might find it difficult to see anything but your own sadness, the way smoke can cover a landscape so that all anyone can see is black. You may find that if someone pours water all over you, you are damp and distracted, but not cured of your sadness, the way a fire department can douse a fire but never recover what has been burnt down.”

“How do you do?” said Violet.
“How do you do?” said Klaus.
“Odo yow!” said Sunny.

 

image: illustration by Brett Helquist from the Rare Edition of The Bad Beginning. (!!!)

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