Reading Lemony Snicket aka Daniel Handler, isn’t about the characters or the plot. The characters are quirky and memorable. The plots are convoluted and confusing. But really the experience of reading a Lemony Snicket book is all about the language. Snicket plays with words like a cat plays with a hummingbird. Dangerously. (You can tell I’m under the influence, but I’m not nearly as skillful as Mr. Handler.)
Anyway, this third book in the All the Wrong Questions series is full of linguistic gymnastics and examples of literary celebration. Here are a few:
“The sun was having a tantrum so fierce that all the shade had been scared away, and the sidewalks of Stain’d-by-the-Sea, the town in which I had been spending my time, were no place for a decent person to walk.”
“I took a bite of the bread and something in the jam made me feel sparks on my tongue. It was a lunch of adventure. I felt my mouth grinning around the spoon.”
“Solving a mystery is like naming a dog. If enough people call it one thing, that’s the name that tends to stick.”
“I put it in my shirt for safe-keeping, and passed the rest of the time trying to remember everything that happens to a little bunny who appeared in books I didn’t like. He disobeys his mother and eats vegetables out of some man’s garden. He loses his jacket and shoes. He drinks chamomile tea. He gets his clothes cleaned by a hedgehog. He gathers onions. He helps his sister Flopsy. Before I knew it, it was dark.”
“It’s like the difference between what happens in a book and what happens in the world. The world is swirling with so many mysteries and secrets that nobody will ever track down all of them. But with a book you can stay up very late, reading and rereading until all the secrets are clear to you. The questions of the world are hidden forever, but the answers in a book are hiding in plain sight.”
“A skeleton key is like a skeleton. It doesn’t do much good if you don’t know how to use it.”
“I limped into Hungry’s like a broken parade.”
“In a way it was the statue that had started the fuss, as I’d learned while investigating my last big case. But the fuss had long ago grown bigger than the statue had ever been, the way an answer to a simple, clear question can turn out to be complicated and mysterious.”
I really enjoy Mr. Snicket’s metaphors and similes and bunny rabbit trails and philosophical musings, but if you don’t or if you don’t have a high tolerance for confusing and unresolved, you’ll want to skip these books. Lots of things are introduced in this book and in the two previous books that are still unexplained by the end of this third book. In this book alone there’s a honeydew melon robbery (why?), a furious, hungry, raging, disappearing dream-monster (how?), and a mysterious basement full of fish tanks (huh?). I didn’t understand any of those parts of this story at all but I just kept reading, lost in the journey.
Lemony Snicket, who is the narrator as well as the author of these stories, says in his introduction that there were “four wrong questions, more or less” that he asked and was wrong to ask. So, the fourth book should have all the right questions or the wrong answers or something. But I’m not holding my breath, a phrase which here means that I’m just going along for the ride.
Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book is also nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.