Monday, March 10, 2008

Adverbs: a review

Daniel Handler's narrative voice is that of the quirky guy you don't know if you should make a second date with. Erratic, a little neurotic, humorous from a distance, but you may not want him to be part of your life.

Adverbs is a non-linear novel, though it's sometimes described as a book of short stories. It's glimpses of sub-plots of a larger story that never quite materializes. After the first few stories/chapters, I stopped trying to remember where I had met these characters before, and just read it like short stories. Vaguely, it is about love, which all of the characters are looking for, or in, or falling out of. With whom is not always clear.

As in his other books, Handler makes profound insights that begin as generalizations and become oddly specific:

"You dream forever of the girls who stood next to you and didn't notice, as far as I can tell so far in this rainy life, or if you're gay maybe a boy in a locker-room glimpse or a wine-soaked memory of something furtive in a sleeping bag, although nothing like that has ever happened to me and I don't care what fucking Tomas says."

Or that seem like good maxims to live by if only you could figure out how they relate to your life:

"If you are going to take a lifelong journey with somebody, you can't mind if the other person believes they are leaving for that journey an hour earlier than you, as long as truly, in the real world, you are both leaving at exactly the same time."

But I enjoy reading anything by Daniel Handler, no matter how confusing it is or how little sense it makes. And I suppose it does make sense, just not in the way you would expect.

His is a dark sense of humor, and even his thoughts about love are frequently tinged with despair.

"Love is, I hope, more than two people sitting down for a while and telling secrets before help arrives."

I hope so too.

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