Andrea was tall and angry. I was a little bit shorter.
May 18, 2013 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Daniel Handler, best known for A Series of Unfortunate Events and his accordion work with Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields, reads a chapter from his novel Adverbs, which made Dave Eggers describe Handler as "something like an American Nabakov". An excerpt from another chapter, Immediately, is available courtesy of the New York Times. Handler's first adult novel, the nightmarishly satirical The Basic Eight (think the movie Heathers with a less reliable a narrator), is also well worth a read (excerpt from Google Books).
posted by Rory Marinich (16 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I know he's known for gloomy kids' books and accordion-playing, but darn it, he should be known for Adverbs, which is superb.
posted by escabeche at 1:26 PM on May 18, 2013

I've read Adverbs. I had no idea he was also Lemony Snicket.
posted by dng at 1:40 PM on May 18, 2013

I haven't read Adverbs or Lemony Snicket, but based on Basic Eight alone I think Daniel Handler is vastly underrated.
posted by sweetkid at 1:45 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is wonderful. I can't wait!
posted by mochapickle at 2:41 PM on May 18, 2013

I've read all of the above! And heard all the accordion songs. And I love them, books and songs alike. Good post.
posted by town of cats at 2:44 PM on May 18, 2013

Nabokov, not "Nabakov". Accent on the second syllable.
posted by Fnarf at 2:58 PM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've been waiting for Handler to write a fourth adult-aimed novel for, shit, the better part of a decade now. The thing about Adverbs and The Basic Eight is that each one is fantastic in a completely different way. The Basic Eight is very understated, stylistically; it sounds a heck of a lot like a precocious twenty-year-old is writing it, down to the awkwardness of a lot of its language. It lets Handler get away with some truly unsettling stuff. The end of the book approaches being downright hallucinogenic, but the first part of the book gives very few hints about how seriously messed-up it's about to become. Adverbs, meanwhile, is ridiculously playful, one of the most delightful books I've ever read.

(Then there's his middle novel Watch Your Mouth, which is just... I can't even. Lots of incest, and then a golem murders everyone. Twice.)

I very much like his Lemony Snicket work, and his new Snicket series is pretty terrific, in some ways more satisfying even than Unfortunate Events was, but I do hope he has more adult work in him, because in three books' time he managed to write two of my favorite novels.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:22 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nabokov is already the American Nabokov.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:42 PM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

I just got back from hearing Daniel Handler and Ira Glass having a conversation in front of an audience for an hour and a half. Notable moments:

* Ira loves Daniel's book, he says he's about 85% done, but hey, something could go back in the last 15%....
* Ira and Daniel seriously were giggling like little schoolgirls through a lot of it.
* Daniel brings along a cocktail kit to make him and Ira drinks on stage. However, this was at a college campus and supposedly you are not allowed to have booze drunk on stage. Daniel announced that this absolutely did not contain booze...and then proceeded to make something reddish(?) that went into martini glasses anyway. They drank to Piney (Ira's severely allergic dog that he had just been asked about). Ira had a dramatic pause upon taking a sip. "It's amazing, no alcohol." "The apple juice really has the sting."

I need to go write up the rest of it, as I took copious damn notes of the silliness that went down at this thing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:47 PM on May 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I love, love, love The Basic Eight. Have been wanting to read Watch Your Mouth for a while now, and must also add Adverbs to the list.
posted by PussKillian at 11:08 PM on May 18, 2013

Watch Your Mouth is . . . all over the place. It's been a while since I read it, but I remember thinking it there were almost two separate books there. But with all Handler's books, including A Series of Unfortunate Events, I admire the hell out of his plotting.
posted by book 'em dano at 6:57 AM on May 19, 2013

For one reason or another I could NOT get through Adverbs but The Basic Eight? Amazing. Could not put down, wanted to put all life functions on hold to finish...

Watch Your Mouth is half-finished and I'm not nearly as excited as I was about The Basic Eight.

Then again, The Basic Eight is much like a high school version of The Secret History, isn't it? And I LOVED that.
posted by at 12:21 PM on May 19, 2013

I adore the Lemony Snickett books and grabbed Watch Your Mouth and just... no.

I keep almost all my old books to read again and that one was such an unappealing mess. But I'll definitely give his adult work another try based on this, so thanks.
posted by Mchelly at 9:28 AM on May 20, 2013

In addition to what's listed above, I recommend his YA book Why We Broke Up and his new Lemony Snicket book (which Rory Maronich referred to), Who Could That Be at This Hour? Really, though, I love anything he touches.
posted by Carmelita Spats at 11:21 AM on May 20, 2013

I've only read a few of the Lemony Snicket books and Why We Broke Up, but I thought the latter was fantastic. It's basically a manic pixie dream girl story from the point of view of the manic pixie dream girl, who is sick of people thinking of her as a one-dimensional archetype, and she explains why none of it worked out.
posted by NoraReed at 3:59 PM on May 20, 2013

Having now read The Basic Eight and most of Adverbs after seeing this post (thank god for libraries and e-books!) the thing I most want to say is: if you like the language play in Adverbs, then you may also enjoy John Barth's Chimera. I read it decades ago, so perhaps it's only All That in my hazy memory, but I've never forgotten the crazy consonance that continued through clauses, categories and chapters. I get annoyed, bored and frustrated reading poetry, but prose like Adverbs, Chimera and portions of Pynchon make me giggle (in a good way).
posted by spacewrench at 10:37 AM on May 25, 2013

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