Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

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Today I finally finished this series of children’s books. This title, besides being in the kid’s category and that it’s a series, is nothing similar to the Harry Potter stories, but it is because of Harry Potter, that I had interest in this title.

I first saw the film in 2004. Back then I was really into the Harry Potter films (the setting of the film even more than the story lines. The costumes, the makeup, the props… so medieval and magical!) I thought the film by Jim Carrey – “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” would be just as satisfying until the release of the next Harry Potter movie. So it was, even though I didn’t like it that much when I saw it in the theater for the first time, it kind of grew on me gradually. I bought the DVD as soon as it came out and watched it a few more times afterwards. (Some of the music on the soundtrack is kind of cool that I turned a few tunes into my cell phone ringtones!)

Out of curiosity, I wanted to read the books, plus, the covers, the illustrations, and the packaging of the books were attractive. But at the time, the series was not yet completed. So I waited.

I clearly remember when the movie “Harry Potter and the Order of Pheonix” was showing this summer and I had to finish reading the book before seeing the movie so I’d understand better. It was the fattest Harry Potter book. But when I was done with it I was a little down and wanted so badly to read on the sixth one. I knew I had to control myself and save it for next year before the movie comes out. In the mean time, I needed something similar to read to distract my mind and I thought of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I was glad to find out that the series had already been completed and so I checked all 13 books out from the library.

The books were easy to read especially the first three books upon which the film was based. I liked how Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire’s adventures were different every time but I also hoped the pattern of the stories had continued throughout the series. The first half dozen had stories where the three Baudelaires had to use their invtenting, researching, and biting skills to reveal the villain (Count Olaf) in disguise and ruin his evil schemes to steal their fortune. As the stories went on, I had a feelings that the author ran out of ideas to use (not ideas for plots, but ideas of how Violet’s inventions, Klaus’ readings, and Sunny’s biting would solve problems). So he had to expand the stories to involve lots of other people and mysteries. I bet any one reader of this series was dying to finish the end to find answers to all the mysteries but of course they were not given. I personally don’t think the author left all the questions un-answered because he did it on purpose, I felt he got carried away and got a little out of control in terms of planning the plots. I don’t think he himself even knows the answers. (As opposed to him, Harry Potter’s author J.K Rowling was said to know the whole plot of the story from book 1 to 7 before she started writing and I guess that’s what made her so different and outstanding!) So that was a big unsatisfying part of this good series. It’s like reading Hollywood gossip. Somebody had to report the gossip because they’re hired by the tabloids to do so, but they can never truly get the real “scoop”, or the truth to any one story where the readers will, after reading the report, say “aahhhh! that’s what it was!” And I hate that. It’s easy to forgive those reporters because unless a celebrity chooses to be interviewed, there’s usually little way of getting the truth. But with fictions, I just think if you are writing a fiction, you should think about the beginning and the end so your readers wouldn’t feel they spent all this time reading for nothing!

The good news is, I didn’t read just for nothing. I liked how the author chooses to literately explain difficult words and phrases, although sometimes he’s too wordy, I can’t deny the fact that he is well-read.

Here’s some figure of speech from the books that I can remember:

  • Eating crow – enduring humiliation
  • Feet of Clay – refer to people who are revealed to have a weakness or flaw that most people were unaware of
  • For naught – fancy word for “for nothing”
  • Hobson’s Choice – a free choice in which only one option is offered. The choice is therefore between taking the option or not taking it.
  • Mob Psychology – shows that individuals tend to behave in a different manner as part of a group in contrast to acting independently
  • Shiver me timbers – an expression of extreme amazement
  • Stockholm Syndrome – a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger (or at least risk) in which the hostage has been placed
  • Tide Them Over – Help deal with a difficult situation

The author Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket was a pen name he used) let some of his personal traits shadow in between the stories on A Series of Unfortunate Events, or at least I think so. First of all, he really likes Asian Food. For one thing, he keeps referring to Chinese dishes and Japanese spices. His favorite thing to do and favorite place should be reading books and libraries, respectively. Because he keeps mentioning these two things throughout the books. In book the 12th, The Penultimate Peril, he even made the Hotel Denouement itself a huge library where all the guests are arranged into rooms according to the Dewey Decimal Classification!! I loved this bright idea! Another thing I really enjoyed was his “for Beatrice” letters. I just wish he would shed more lights on some of the mysteries surrounding the Baudelaires, if he knows!

Most favorite book: The Ersatz Elevator. I really liked the word “ersatz” which I learned from the book, meaning “fake”, “substitute”, etc. I thought the story was well thought-out. I remember reading it during my family’s trip to South Dakota on the Labor Day weekend this year. On this busy sight-seeing trip, I still managed time to read the book, that tells me how much I enjoyed it!

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