31 July 2009

Review: Adverbs by Daniel Handler

There's not a lot I won't try if given the right incentive, so when a co-worker friend offered me a hard-cover copy of Daniel Handler's Adverbs, free, since she couldn't remember either buying it or borrowing it, I decided to give it a try. I liked A Series of Unfortunate Events (with some reservations), so why not a novel for adults by the same guy? She did warn me that it was impossibly annoying, but hey – free book.

Opening paragraph:
Love was in the air, so both of us walked through love on our way to the corner. We breathed it in, particularly me: the air was also full of smells and birds, but it was the love, I was sure, that was tumbling down to my lungs, the heart's neighbors and confidants. Andrea was tall and angry. I was a little bit shorter. She smoked cigarettes. I worked in a store that sold things. We always walked to this same corner, Thirty-seventh and what's-it, Third Avenue, in New York, because it was easier to get a cab there, the entire time we were in love.

I could see almost immediately why my friend gave up on it. It's annoyingly disjointed and enigmatic, but frustratingly rather than intriguingly so. It's not quite a novel, but a collection of stories that occasionally link up and often share nothing more than character names (not characters, just the names) in common, a mention each chapter of black birds, an adverb for a chapter title, and love in a variety of incarnations as the single constant note throughout.

I read this quite a while ago now and I've forgotten all the scathing things I'd thought of to say about it. I can say this: it was an absolute waste of time. I know I didn't "get" whatever it was Handler wanted me to get, if he thought about reader response at all, but I don't care to make another effort at understanding. Some of the individual sections stand up on their own merits, but it's not for me worth the effort of separating those out from the rest.

Daniel Handler also wrote The Basic Eight and Watch Your Mouth, as well as A Series of Unfortunate Events under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket.

Handler, Daniel. Adverbs: a novel. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2006.
Finished: 04 July 2009
Rating: 1 of 5 birds attracted to shiny objects
This was my 2nd book in July and my 24th in 2009.

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