The sad truth is that the truth is sad. – The Hostile Hospital
PS, may contain minor spoilers.
In short, I’m rereading Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. In long, check out
On the Books
So the books I’ve finished so far are
The Vile Village, The Hostile Hospital, The Carnivorous Carnival, and The Slippery Slope.
I’ve finished ten books and there’s three more to go. From The Hostile Hospital onwards is when the three Baudelaire children start to…somewhat go rogue. Although they haven’t really done anything drastic thus far (and I suppose they wont?), they’ve certainly broken away from the chain of inept guardianship and have basically been forced into functioning on their own initiative. In many ways, the pattern of the books still remains somewhat as formulaic with the actions of Count Olaf and his troupe continuing in the same vein, and the fates of the few good characters are not altogether happy ones. But the Baudelaires are definitely becoming more and more active as agents in their own stories, and I do feel like we’re a little closer to the solution.
I think my favourite book of these four is definitely The Slippery Slope, and that’s where I noticed the most significant changes, and a sense of maturity in the general storytelling. Clues stop being easy enough for a kid to figure out; I mean, they’re still pretty simple but Snicket is definitely giving us the impression that there’s a very large jigsaw puzzle operating in these books and we only have a couple pieces. I’m not entirely sure the last book will leave me with enough answers, but the dynamics of the mystery operating around the Baudelaires are quite interesting, and it’s not as straightforward as a good guys or bad guys thing, which is something I think Snicket really started to set into motion from the first book, obviously with the adults being idiots. But it now becomes somewhat clearer.
With regard to the good guys/bad guys thing, one of the initial reasons I wanted to reread (and, in the case of the last two books, read for the first time) this series is because I read that over time, the Baudelaires would come to question whether they were becoming villains themselves. Now, thus far, this isn’t really the case. They’ve had moments of emotional vacillation of course, but I wouldn’t see them as anywhere close to ‘bad’. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
But, this has got me thinking about how we often talk about morally grey areas but we don’t often pause to inspect whether our actions are good or bad (or at least I don’t) as often as the Baudelaires do. I think we often see ethics as an abstract thing (which it is) to apply to other people, to other situations, to events not involving us. And of course morality is a difficult thing to grapple with, so it’s usually convenient to ignore it. The Baudelaires can seem like total martyrs at times and the only reason you don’t shove the book away is because they’ve been through a lot and I mean, it’s a children’s series so it’s a bit pointless to be annoyed. But they are astonishingly (and I’m sure, deliberately – on the part of the author) self-aware, and I think, on the whole, that’s not a bad thing to be at all.
If everyone fought fire with fire, the entire world would go up in smoke. – The Slippery Slope
I’ve waffled a bit but I think the good vs bad is an important theme in the book, and how Snicket decides to deal with it is interesting.
On the Show
Thus far, I’ve watched the remainder of Season One, and I’ve watched four episodes of Season Two. So, to make it clearer, I’ve reached the end of the events in The Ersatz Elevator. I’m enjoying it so far, especially all the beautiful and varied sets (Lake Lachrymose in The Wide Window is lovely).
I regret to say that the show actually makes me laugh more than the books did, I think simply because Snicket’s style of comedy just isn’t my thing. Occasionally I find it amusing but the repetition and “x phrase means y” isn’t really for me. I’ve tried to like it, but I don’t especially. I don’t hate it, which is possibly why I’ve managed to make it through most of the series, but anyway.
I really enjoyed the comedy in the Cafe Salmonella scene (The Ersatz Elevator); I think the screen somehow brings out the comic potential of the scene way more than the books did. It’s probably just me, but that’s a solid reason for why I’m actually enjoying the show. Also I like the actors, especially the ones playing the children, and the show seems to be doing its best to make Violet’s absurd inventions seem a little more feasible and workable on screen. Most of it is still ridiculous but at least it’s fun to watch.
I think hints of romance in The Austere Academy episodes were a bit rushed and unnecessary, but apart from that I don’t really have any criticisms. I hope the show stays on track, but diverges from the book when necessary.
All images (c) goodreads.com. All quotes attributed to the respective works (c) Lemony Snicket.