Saturday, January 06, 2007

Adverbs by Daniel Handler

Adverbs is a series of interconnected short stories or vignettes all of which are titled after an adverb.

It becomes pretty clear soon after beginning the novel that love is intended to be the overarching theme. The problems here are the prose and plot devices the author uses to keep his notion of love in the subtext.

For example, many of the stories feature characters with similar names, but it's not often apparent whether these characters are supposed to be the same people or different people with the same names. Similarly, though intentionally done I'm sure, the character dialogue is purposely exaggerated and full of strange connections and phrasing, and hard to follow at times. The use of adverbs themselves is tightly controlled and reserved for specific instances of important characters development.

Now, Adverbs as a complete text may work well for some readers who will enjoy that the characters, pieces, and themes introduced in the novel never come together, paralleling perhaps how love often never culminates or wraps up neatly in our lives.

For me, though, reading the book did not evoke any feelings of pleasure, wonder, or loss that I would expect to feel from reading about love; instead, reading Adverbs was too much like plowing through a graduate school literary experiment, interesting and enlightening at times, for sure, but ultimately unsatisfying.

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