From Publishers Weekly
The qualities that draw millions to Lemony Snicket—absurdity, wicked humor, a love of wordplay—get adulterated in this elegant exploration of love. Handler brings linguistic pyrotechnics to a set of encounters: gay, straight, platonic and all degrees of dysfunctional. Amid the deadpan ("Character description: Appropriately tall. Could dress better.") and the exhausting ("Love was in the air, so both of us walked through love on our way to the corner.") are moments of blithe poignancy: quoth a lone golfer, "Love is this sudden crash in your path, quick and to the point, and nearly always it leaves someone slain on the green." In "Obviously," a teenage boy pines for his co-worker at the multiplex while they both tear tickets for Kickass: The Movie
. In "Briefly," the narrator, now married, recounts being 14 and infatuated with his big sister's boyfriend, Keith. "Truly" begins "This part's true," and features a character named Daniel Handler, who has an exchange about miracles with a novelist named Paula Sharp. Handler began his career with the coming-of-age novel The Basic Eight
; this lovely, lilting book is a kind of After School Special for adults that dramatizes love's cross-purposes with panache: "Surely somebody will arrive, in a taxi perhaps, attractively, artfully, aggressively, or any other way it is done."
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Handler, best known for the darkly comic Series of Unfortunate Events novels (written under the Lemony Snicket pseudonym), returns to adult fiction with these witty--but ultimately wearying--ruminations on the precarious state of love. The 16 intersecting stories (each headed by an adverb modifying the noun love) display a cadre of couplings: gay, straight, platonic, perverse. In "Obviously," a love-struck movie usher is chagrined to discover that life doesn't imitate art. In "Symbolically," a narcissistic writer ponders the global impact of his novelistic debut. Although Handler's visions are often apocalyptic (San Francisco residents fret over a subterranean volcano about to erupt), in rare moments, he waxes both wistful and wise. "Soundly" reveals the bond between a woman and her dying childhood friend: "She and I were cut from the same cloth, an angry odd quilt." Whether catering to kids or adults, Handler's humor is decidedly offbeat. "Frigidly" features an eccentric older woman known as "Snow Queen" and cocktails with names like "Suffering Bastard" and "Neptune Fizz." Handler can certainly turn a phrase, but his prose is so overloaded with linguistic acrobatics--wordplay, repetitive narrative, and stream of consciousness, to name three--it's likely to leave some readers a bit bent out of shape, especially if they were expecting Lemony Snicket for grown-ups. Allison BlockCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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