Saturday, September 23, 2006

Book-A-Day #65 (9/20): Adverbs by Daniel Handler

The cover of this book says "A Novel," but it lies -- this is a collection of loosely-linked short stories, featuring some common characters (and maybe some characters who aren't the same, just have the same names) and a few events that are referenced in more than one story.

It says that it's all about "love" and it is -- but the focus is even tighter than that: it's about romantic love among young, unencumbered people. I'd thought about the absence of other kinds of love (parental, filial, friendly, of country or some other greater ideal) while reading it, but I didn't think about how all of the people in this book seem like young hipsters until I started typing this right now. A few of them are in other relationships when love hits, but none of them have children, none of them are tied to jobs or family, and I think only one couple is married. They're all just in a void, waiting for love, I guess.

It's a hard book to talk about -- you'd either need to run through it story-by-story and drag out all the little details, or try to make over-arching statements (which is what I did last paragraph, and that was about all I had to say about it on that level).

The writing is excellent, and the characters are interesting -- it's a book worth reading -- but it's not as interesting as his two real novels, The Basic Eight and Watch Your Mouth. The Basic Eight, in particular, is one of the great debut novels of our time, and Handler hasn't been able to hit that level again.

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