Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman (2011)

In this collaboration between the author popularly known as Lemony Snicket and a talented illustrator, a story of ill-fated romance is told through the objects being returned from Min to Ed after their breakup. Each object is rendered in brilliant illustration and the accompanying prose describes the object, the place it had in their relationship, and maybe another reason why the romance failed.

It's a great concept and I wish I loved it as much as I anticipated. My biggest problem was that I can't understand why Min and Ed ever got together in the first place. They had nothing in common and he was a complete ass, totally inconsiderate, and frequently called people fags. There was just nothing appealing about him. No matter how much they kept saying they loved each other, I just couldn't see it. The way their relationship ended was just one more instance of Ed's douchebaggery, and not worthy of a book, just as he was not worthy of Min.

But the writing and the illustrations were really wonderful. Narrated by Min as a long letter to Ed, the style was a little stream-of-consciousness with many run-on sentences. Sometimes that made it a little hard to follow, but mostly it was just really lovely writing which I enjoyed. Before this book I already admired Maira Kalman's photo essays and these designs were just as beautiful and expressive as her other work.

Other than Ed, the characters were appealing. There is a part near the end when Ed has wronged Min for the final time, and she launches into a 2-page litany of everything that is wrong with her, and I just want to take her our for an ice cream and talk some self-esteem into her. She is too good for him. Ed's sister was also fantastic with her amazing culinary creations and distaste for her brother's evil ways. I also really liked Min's friends Al and Lauren, who were both devoted yet not so devoted they could pretend to like or even really approve of Ed. 

The book was executed most beautifully, but its an elegy to a relationship that was doomed from the start. Both Ed and Min were allegedly heartbroken over the breakup, but it was hard to sympathize. He never deserved her, and she's so much better off without him. Despite all that, it was compelling and fun to read. 

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