2008.04.06 The World (of these books) is Quiet Here
Last night I finished reading a 15 (some might argue 16) book series. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. They are children's books (or maybe pre-teen). I bought one (Book the First) when we were first married, and after reading that first one, felt compelled to purchase all remaining books as they came out. I didn't start reading the rest until much later. Generally I would only read them in the evenings while I'm waiting for Maria to fall asleep (thanks to my trusty headlamp with its red filter). Having made it through all of the books, obviously I'm going to have a fairly positive opinion of them. Allow me to continue…
Originally I had grandiose plans of what I would write about the books, but I'm not very articulate when it comes to something like that. So, here are some of the things:
Unique writing style
Lemony Snicket is not only the author of the books, but in a way, one of the characters. Sure, we've all seen a variety of narratives, but this one seemed unique to me. He played a part in his own books, yet it turns out he never really did. Always the observer, researcher, and related to characters in the stories. Sure, it's just a pen name, but he sticks with it the whole way.
Every now and then Lemony would introduce a new phrase. For young readers (or those not familiar with the given idiom) this intro is handy. He'll follow it up with a definition of types, though it's usually a definition in context. The benefit to anyone who already knows the definition, is that Lemony is usually able to make a joke of it—one that would go unnoticed if you didn't know what it meant to begin with. Difficult to explain, especially without an example, but… oh well.
13 (arguably 14) official books in the series, with 2 others.
I love the fact that there's an “Unauthorized Autobiography” of Lemony Snicket. I thought it was just being silly then after reading it, I see how it can qualify as both unauthorized, yet still an autobiography. Clever.
You can't even get past the dedication of the first book for the story to start. Little do you know it, but that's how it is. Pieces from previous books playing well out into later books. Anybody can bring in old characters, and most could bring in old sub-plots. I still liked how he did it.
Macabre and self-depricating
These would be reasons for most people to put these down almost right away. The author continues this throughout the books, I found it somewhat funny. Even in the last book as the final sequence is about to take place, he goes on (for almost a page) with clever word play, trying to get you to put the book down. Each book was dedicated to the same person, who we gather is dead. Here are a few of my favorite book dedications:
- “Our love broke my heart, and stopped yours.”
- “When we met, you were pretty, and I was lonely. Now, I am pretty lonely.”
- ”No one could extinguish our love, or your house.”
I found them very clever.
There were lots of questions in the books. Starting in Book the Fifth, the books shift from the children trying to elude the antagonist(s), to focusing more on the countless questions arising in the books. The children themselves find more and more clues leading them to try to see the big picture. Plenty of questions were directly answered, others hinted at, and others are completely unknown. I wish I could show the final illustration of the final book, which helps even more to solidify how much remains unknown. Part of me wants all issues to be resolved, another part of me is happy to end it where it is.
Although I've heard numerous complaints about the books, I enjoyed them. I made my way through them to live another day. Glad to be done with a series of books, only for the purpose of it being an accomplishment (albeit fairly insignificant). I'm sad to have the story done, since now I know there won't be any more. I'm looking forward to reading a number of books that piled up on me while I focused my minimal near-midnight reading to these books. Now I can say indeed, “The world is quiet here.”
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