In case you haven’t heard, Daniel Handler is the mastermind behind Lemony Snicket, author of the unlucky adventures of the three Baudelaire orphans. His success as Snicket seemed to have happened overnight, but he’s been writing for a while it seems, with two adult novels (this one and The Basic Eight to his credit, both written before the Snicket books, I believe). In combination, it is quite clear that Handler is well on his way to becoming the 21st century Roald Dahl, who also wrote books for both adults and children that combined both whimsy and perversion.
And if you want perversion, you can’t do much better than a comic novel about incest, which is what this book is. The structure of the book begins as an opera (it ties in to some community opera done by one of the characters), then mutates in Act III to be based on a 12-step program. Like Dahl in My Uncle Oswald, Handler isn’t afraid of writing about sex, either. I was reading this on the airplane and I kept holding the book open at 90 degrees rather than the normal 180 just in case the fellow sitting next to me travelling with his young child might glance over and then alert the attendent to the pervert on the plane.
I’m not sure I liked this book, but I have to admit it was audacious, quite funny, and always unusual. The ending was disappointing as Handler went in for the more serious ending rather than really ending off as absurd as he began. All in all, this is an adult series of unfortunate events that is recommended for mature minds only.
[Finished 9 September 2002]