Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Musings: Why I Love (and Hate) A Series of Unfortunate Events

I recently finished listening to the final book in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, the appropriately titled The End. I've been reading this series off and on for the last two years, largely due to the praise and fandom over the series expressed by several of my online friends. I enjoyed the Jim Carrey film when it came out, but my first attempt to read the series failed because I didn't quite have a taste for dark humor when I was a teen. Turns out I enjoyed the tone of the books more as an adult than when I was in the series' target audience. And with the first season of the Netflix series available and the second one on the way, I'm taking a moment to look at my feelings on the series.

Why I Love the Books
  • The dark humor: the books are told with a dry, somewhat morbid tone that edges toward black comedy at times. I love good wit and sarcasm, especially in narration, and these books take that style to the best level.
  • The larger mystery: the story behind the story surrounding VFD, Snicket, and the many odd (and possibly fictitious) goings on that form a backdrop for the Baudelaires' trials is compelling and intriguing. It forms the most interesting part of the series as the mystery comes closer to the forefront of the story.
  • The abundance of literary references: Snicket's wit shows itself best when he is making obscure references to other literature (one of my favorites is the Virginia Wolf Snake).
  • Violet and Klaus: these two are the heart of the story. Violet is an inventor (and probably a future engineer) and Klaus remembers everything he reads. They are wonderful role models and characters.
  • A love of words: Snicket loves to give alternate definitions of words and play around with idioms and common turns of phrase. These passages are often humorous but they also serve as part of Snicket's unreliable narrative style and even as character development.

Why I (Sometimes) Hate the Books
  • The dark gets too dark sometimes: I don't care for depressing books, and while these books tend toward humor at many turns. But sometimes the books just sit in the darkness of the orphans' trials to the point I feel like there's not even the levity of dark humor to shine in the dark.
  • The mystery isn't a mystery: despite the increasing prominence of the VFD and the mysteries surrounding it, the series ends without answering many of the biggest questions about this group that it raises (the chief of which that bothers me is "What is the significance of the sugar bowl?").

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