Friday, March 9, 2012

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

The Bad Beginning: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Book 1) by Lemony Snicket was recommended to me by my son and the son of a friend of mine and I have to say that I can see why.  The narrative voice of this book is undeniably that of a story-teller.  Every page sounds as though it is being spoken to you, with authorial interjections that explain the meaning of words and phrases and occasional sardonic asides.  Never is the reader allowed to forget that this is the story of three children—Violet Klaus, and Sunny—who are perhaps the most unfortunate children in the world. 

Or unfortunate in a bourgeoisie manner, anyway.  In the first chapter there is a fire that destroys their home and in which both of their parents die.  This is tragic, no doubt, but in a world where children are living in war torn countries, where orphans are left destitute, the events are heartbreaking and unfortunate but the Baudelaire children are left with a fortune, a large one in fact, and this inspires a greediness in the first person who is chosen to be their guardian.

Although the author does not withhold any information, immediately warning the reader to close the book if there is any expectation of a happy ending.  And even though I knew what nefarious plot was underway to cheat the children out of their inheritance, none of this inevitability stopped me from devouring this little novel.  It was a fun and quirky read, surprisingly erudite and intelligent.  The sadness of the children’s story is told well enough to make it all quite compelling and I can only hope that the final book in the series ends with some inkling of happiness for all three of them.  I’ll find out, so don’t tell me anything. 

Now, I have no clue why anyone would think this story would make a fun movie unless it was with the hope that they could milk all seventeen books in the series into movies but how much suffering can anyone watch before it becomes too much?  If I feel this way, why would I think reading it is more delightful?  I don’t honestly know.  What I do know is that there is a certain cathartic quality in reading about the longsuffering of others, especially when it is clearly untrue.  I can see why these books have become so popular.  Too often adults forget the darker needs of the human psyche or assume little children are devoid of such leanings.  So if I don’t see why anyone would think this delightful book, albeit devoid of the-happily-ever-after of most children’s books, would make an equally delightful movie, I’m right there with all the others who find these books an amusing distraction. 

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