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wood cat


incidents and accidents, hints and allegations

wood cat
Kate kate_nepveu
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Thanks to The End, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events will one day replace C.S. Lewis's Narnia as the standard-bearer, in children's books, for retroactively realizing that "ewww, you got your Message all over my story!"

(Possibly also for "loathed endings to beloved series," judging by the reviews on Amazon.)



I suspect my experience with Narnia may be different than those who read it, liked it, and then went, EW, what is that in my story! When I was but a wee Mormon kid, the Message was a feature, not a bug.

This means it was rather part of the mass disillusioning that most books with problematic passages had, and I lumped it in with them, as I revised my worldview. But I never felt ignorant of the message or hoodwinked by it, which is probably where the experience significantly differs.

I haven't been able to really read the Lemony Snicket books. I might have enjoyed them if they'd hit me in my morbid phase but as it was, they arrived in my life where I wanted a tad more escapism or a tad more meaning if people were going to be suffering. (I think the thing is, the kids don't have a lot of agency about their fate. They get shuffled from one horrible sitch to the next--which is certainly the fate of many children. But the relentless Perils of Paulineness to it got me down. I read about five before giving up on the series.)

Interesting. As another wee Mormon kid, I agree that I never felt ignorant of the message in LWW (and sort of thought it was weird when others talked about how betrayed they were when they found out it was, like, allegorical - "what, you didn't realize that when you first read it?") and indeed thought it a feature rather than a bug - but Last Battle, on the other hand, bugged the heck out of me because, although I didn't have the words for it at the time, the allegory beat the stuffing out of the actual story, which sucked as a result.

I had the same problem as you with the first 3 or so Snickets; skipping to, I think it was, book 5 made me enjoy it a lot more, as a baby suffering from having to be the secretary to an insane schoolmaster is SO ludicrous it pretty much counts for me as escapism.

As for the OP, I actually kind of liked The End, but it was definitely... different. But I read it a while after I had read the other twelve, so that may be part of why I didn't dislike it.

What was the ending and the message? I only read the first book.


I'm not going to ROT13 on the assumption that people reading these comments either know or want to know. But, SERIES-DESTROYING SPOILERS.

So over the first twelve books many mysteries are built up: people appear and vanish, there is a long chase after a MacGuffin, and so forth.

The last book discards basically all of that: no people the characters were hoping to see again, no explanation of the MacGuffin. Instead the children wash up on an island with Count Olaf which is run by a guy named Ishmael who doesn't want the rest of the castaways to worry about the wickedness of the world, so has them haul everything useful and informative that washes up on to the other side of the island, lies to them, kicks people out, etc.

Ishmael had been involved somehow in the big-picture plot, recognizes Olaf, shoots him, thereby releasing a deadly poison. The children figure out a cure by reading a book their parents had written on this very island called _A Series of Unfortunate Events_, which Ishy had discouraged them from reading, The cure is an apple from a tree their parents had created, which is brought to them by a friendly snake. Ishmael refuses to give the cure to the castaways and is taking them away from the island for a different cure, but it is hinted that the snake may have snuck an apple on for the castaways anyway.

Then the children help a late-appearing character give birth to a child which they name after their mother and raise on their own, because her mother dies in childbirth, of course. (Olaf does one good thing before he dies, helping them rescue the Doomed Mother, who apparently he was once in love with.) The book ends a year later with them leaving the island and Snicket-the-author disclaiming all knowledge of what happened after (which is inconsistent with earlier books).

Oh, I think we're supposed to believe that the children's parents killed Count Olaf's parents, and possibly that Olaf didn't kill their parents (it's been a while since things started, I can no longer remember if that had been previously stated or if everyone assumed it). There's a lot about the terrible things the children have had to do to survive and so on too.

I mean, it takes a lot of . . . guts, I guess . . . to abandon your entire plot to date for a reenactment of Genesis, but seriously.

Re: SPOILERS - rachelmanija, 2010-02-27 06:11 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - kate_nepveu, 2010-02-27 06:17 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - silveraspen, 2010-02-27 07:27 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - kate_nepveu, 2010-02-27 07:58 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - jonquil, 2010-02-27 10:12 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - akamarykate, 2010-02-27 07:44 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - kate_nepveu, 2010-02-27 07:59 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(Deleted comment)
Re: SPOILERS - kate_nepveu, 2010-02-27 07:55 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - burger_eater, 2010-02-27 08:28 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - kate_nepveu, 2010-02-28 02:51 am (UTC)(Expand)
(Deleted comment)
Re: SPOILERS - kate_nepveu, 2010-02-28 02:53 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - readinggeek451, 2010-02-27 09:23 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - kate_nepveu, 2010-02-28 02:53 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - oyceter, 2010-02-27 10:20 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - asakiyume, 2010-04-29 11:19 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - kate_nepveu, 2010-04-30 01:26 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - asakiyume, 2010-04-30 01:31 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - kate_nepveu, 2010-04-30 01:34 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - asakiyume, 2010-04-30 01:40 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - asakiyume, 2010-05-03 01:22 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Re: SPOILERS - kate_nepveu, 2010-05-03 03:46 pm (UTC)(Expand)
I dropped out of the series somewhere around book 10 -- sounds like I can cross the rest of these off my reading list.

I didn't have any problem with The End. Sure, I'd have liked more tying of loose ends, but I feel that thwarting readers' expectations was the whole point of the series.

I also didn't realize he was inverting Genesis; all the books had a Message, but they were all different and generally ridiculous.

That one felt like it had been building enough that it was intentional and serious.

It's true that I can't say he didn't warn me. But it doesn't help.

reposted to fix typo

I feel that thwarting readers' expectations was the whole point of the series

In general I agree, but the way in which he thwarted them in The End didn't quite work for me. I dunno. I mean, I wasn't expecting quasi-parody of Pullman to be one of the strands worked in (and I've read both Watch Your Mouth and Adverbs, as far as being accustomed to expectations might go).

Re: reposted to fix typo - thistleingrey, 2010-02-28 03:27 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: reposted to fix typo - kate_nepveu, 2010-02-28 03:35 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: reposted to fix typo - thistleingrey, 2010-02-28 07:25 am (UTC)(Expand)
the Reichenbach syndrome - houseboatonstyx, 2010-02-28 06:00 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: the Reichenbach syndrome - kate_nepveu, 2010-03-01 03:52 am (UTC)(Expand)
dialog of the titans - houseboatonstyx, 2010-02-28 05:51 am (UTC)(Expand)
I tried to listen to the first one and was turned off by it within ten minutes. So I never tried to read it either. Anything that insufferable in audio book form would be worse as a book. At least for part of a series of fluff of an equivalent kind, the last Harry Potter book went somewhere.

Oddly I actually liked them in audio, though the plots did move somewhat slowly, because I have a bad tendency to skim and by listening I got all the wordplay.

I personally think that _DH_ is rather muddled itself message-wise, but it wasn't nearly as bad as this.

(no subject) - readinggeek451, 2010-02-28 02:34 pm (UTC)(Expand)
When I first read Narnia, very young, I thought in some places Lewis had run out of ideas and stolen some negative stuff from Christianity. Lots of other good stuff in the books though.

darkforge, over my shoulder, is curious what the Message is in Snicket's case (in your sense of it, briefly), if you have a moment. The spoilery comment upthread didn't help him.

I saw it as reenacting the Christian-Biblical Fall but on the assumption that it was a good thing.

(In browsing Wikipedia, I see that Sunny actually refers to Genesis 3:5 when they agree to eat the apple.)

There's also something I'm having a harder time summing up in one sentence, but it goes along the lines of, knowing good & evil won't stop you from doing evil things because humans are imperfect, but it's better than being ignorant.

Does it change things to know that Handler is Jewish? The Torah also has Genesis and a Fall, but the long-arc inflection is a bit different.

Agreed on the imperfect/ignorant bit, and its whack over the head. I wanted to ask because sometimes I construe entirely the wrong thing as "obvious"!

(And darkforge is ill and sleepy and can reply for himself in the event that he has anything to contribute.)

Sidenote: Handler's The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming is a short, amusing children's story whose Message seems to me mostly that Judaism exists and shouldn't be invisible, though I'm open to correction....

(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2010-03-01 03:55 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - thistleingrey, 2010-03-01 05:11 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - thistleingrey, 2010-03-01 05:14 pm (UTC)(Expand)
I gave up around book three when it seemed to be the same story over and over, in a Ben Stein monotone. Now I don't feel I have to read them all. Thank you.