Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Who Could That Be at This Hour?
Do you miss the direct narration and over explanatory definitions of the Series of Unfortunate Events? If your answer is yes, you are in luck! In the first volume of the All the Wrong Questions series, young Lemony Snicket is whisked away by his new mentor to Stain'd by the Sea to solve a mystery, but the mystery that they are solving only leads to another series of mysteries, and leads Lemony further away from the original mystery that he meant to solve. Confusing, yes, entertaining, sorta, pointless, maybe, but as always, Lemony Snicket redeems himself with wonderful quotes and one-liners.
At Stain'd by the Sea, Lemony and S. Theodora Markson, his mentor, are charged with finding a stolen statue, although Lemony quickly discovers the statue and also discovers that it is already with the rightful owners. But again, the with other Snicket books, the adults only get in the way, and often make the problems worse, so he relies on a network of local kids to give him information. From the twins that run the town's only taxi, to the journalist-in-training girl living in the lighthouse, to a runaway living in a abandoned cottage, Lemony starts to piece together the mystery, or piece together multiple mysteries that in fact add up to one giant mystery with a final mystery lurking on the sidelines.
You really do feel like you are going two steps forward and three steps back the entire time. And your questions are rarely answered, even the wrong ones.
So why is such a frustrating series popular? Again, maybe it's the How I Met Your Mother Syndrome. I read all of the Series of Unfortunate Events, so now I find myself compelled to learn more about Lemony and how he came to be, even if it means being in the dark, dark cave with only a dying glow stick to light my way. No matter how frustrating the plot, or convoluted the dialogue, I'm sticking with it because somewhere in there squattith the toad of truth (A Big Bang Theory reference, I'm mixing my comedy metaphors).
Like I said before, Lemony Snicket often writes these oddly brilliant passages that have a way of sticking with you. In this book that passage was "They say in every library there is a book that can answer the question that burns like fire in the mind". Wow, what a great line, because it's so true! In every library there is that one book that will answer your greatest questions, I honestly believe that. I honestly believe in the transformative power of books.
I did see Lemony Snicket's right hand man as it were, Daniel Handler, a few years ago at the conclusion of the Series of Unfortunate Events. It was a weird experience to say the least. First, Daniel Handler talked and sang and generally entertained and enlivened the crowd, and he went off to sign autographs. Then, there was some extra entertainment while everyone waited as there were a couple hundred people at this event and the signing was going to take a while. We were told that a reptile handler would be showing his reptiles. To set the scene, imagine a large, beautiful old theatre with three large seating sections and a giant stage. Then imagine all of the house lights going out, a strobe light coming on, dry ice smoke coming down the aisles, Ozzy Osborne music booming over the speakers, and a man dressed all in black wearing a dragon mask and wings carrying a 10 foot long snake over his shoulders coming down the aisles and scaring the living daylights out of the dozens of children there with their parents. I wish I was making this up. Children were crawling over their mothers to get further into the aisle. There was screaming, I'm sure there were nightmares, and I just have to wonder who signed off on this performance! I did get my book signed and I quickly left before things could get any weirder.
But that is neither here or there. Again, while I do find Lemony Snicket's books to be frustrating and confounding, I'm hooked. I do love the witty comments, the snarky asides, and the strange pearls of wisdom. Not to mention you can blow through one of these books in an evening-always a plus. And teacher's, Snicket's books generally have great vocabulary, and serve as wonderful writing prompts. Have your students write their own Snicket Short Story while trying to answer one of the questions in this book. Maybe, what does the S in S. Theodora Markson stand for, and why is she so secretive about it?
If you're a fan of odd Snicket witticisms, then check out the Snicket Quote page on Goodreads. I'm sure that you will find some unusual gems.