09 April 2013

Who Could That Be at This Hour? - Lemony Snicket

Have you read A Series of Unfortunate Events? You should. It’s clever and fun and sad and lovely all at the same time. I’m not generally a huge fan of things aimed at middle-grade kids, but for Lemony Snicket, I will always make an exception. Which explains why I snatched this book off of the 7-Day Loan shelf right in front of some middle-grade child and ran away, cackling with glee.

I love you, Ru.

Who Could That Be at This Hour? starts with our Lemony having just graduated from school at the tender age of 12. One of the most brilliant things about this author is his willingness to leave large swathes of information out of the text, thereby leaving them up to the reader to fill in. He fills the void that was created when Harry Potter ended; you know the one – the thing where I learned to grasp at every tiny shred of information like a murder victim snatching at her attacker’s hairs to provide some clue as to whodunit.  

Story! Snicket has reason of his own for choosing S. Theodora Markson – dead last on the list of 52 - as his official chaperone, but to his great surprise she takes him out of town to a village called Stain’d-by-the-Sea, where the sea itself is no longer nearby and the major revenue comes from rapidly drying pockets of octopus ink.

The story gets odder and more entertaining from there, and as always I’m disarmed by the word-play and sly references:

“There’s an easy method for finding someone when you hear them scream. First get a clean sheet of paper and a sharp pencil. Then sketch out nine rows of fourteen squares each. Then throw the piece of paper away and find whoever is screaming so you can help them. It is no time to fiddle with paper.”

“Do you know how to pick a lock?”
“Not really,” I said, “I received a grade of Incomplete. I know how to throw a rock through a window.”

“I’m reminded of a book my father used to read me,” she said. “A bunch of elves and things get into a huge war over a piece of jewelry that everybody wants but no body can wear.”
“I’ve never liked that kind of book,” I replied. “There’s always a wizard who’s very powerful but not very helpful.”

In conclusion, Lemony, I would like to go to your school and have adventures with you. And I promise not to steal your weird little statue.

7.5 of 11 Typewriters on the Stairs