Friday, December 01, 2006

The End

I have been reading the Series of Unfortunate Events books for years now, and the last book came out just a couple of months ago. I read it, and I found it disappointing. Here was my interpretation of the series as a whole:

First few books: Author comes up with cute formula. Repeats formula a few times. Feels clever.

A few books into the series: Author starts to get bored with formula. Looks for ways to change up the formula slightly. Feels slightly clever but still a little bored.

Few books later: Author completely bored with formula. Starts adding conspiricies to his books. Begins to forget that books are intended for children with adults as a secondary audience. Ponders meaning of life and starts re-reading Hesse and Neitzche (no particular reason I picked these two authors-- I just associate them with teenage boys). Feels clever again.

End of series: Author loses control of the story, but doesn't really care. Decides to make statement on arbitrary nature of life by refusing to tie up essential threads of the plot. Is secretly relieved that series is over, as it has consumed the last few yers of his life.

I know, this is all very cynical. The thing it, I think Handler could have pulled it off if he had written his last book differently. If his last book, The End, had been better written, it could have summed up the series nicely and redeemed the arbitrary threads of conspiricy he started weaving indiscriminately into the plot. I don't think he needed to absolutely tie up everything in the books, but I think he could have made better (artistically speaking) choices about which questions to answer and which threads to tie up. He could have still made his statement on the arbitrary nature of life while not leaving readers wanting to throw his books across the room.

Anyway, finished reading The Poisonwood Bible. I've started reading The Winter of our Discontent. I last read it over ten years ago and really enjoyed it then, so I thought I'd pick it up again. This time around, however, I am having problems getting into it. It is difficult for me to remember what enticed me so much about it when I was younger.

6 Comments:

At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Anna said...

Argh...a disappointing end can ruin a good series. Actually, I can't think of a series I've read since Nancy Drew or Encyclopedia Brown or something. I've read through authors' collections, but, for example, Fannie Flagg's books don't really count as a series, no matter how similar they seem, eh? :)

(However, I can also make the "the end doesn't do the series right" argument about TV shows, too...or even movies.)

People tell me Sue Grafton's a pretty good writer. Haven't read any of her alphabet books, though.

Hmm... I know I didn't like _Scarlett_ (Alexandra Ripley's sequel to GWTW) as much as I thought/hoped/wanted-to.

The last book I put down without finishing...er, with the intention to not finish it...was Cold Mountain. It was just way too dense a read, and I kept trying to get into it, but...I dunno why, it just didn't do anything for me.

 
At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I *loved* The Poisonwood Bible. I just read it a couple of months ago. We'll have to get together for a book review sometime. :-)

 
At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shoot - did it again. I was the anonymous one.

(I was thinking about deliberately "forgetting" to sign this one, too, and then posting a third time, but that would probably be dumb, wouldn't it?)

Shari

 
At 8:39 AM, Blogger Ovonia Red said...

That would have been pretty funny.

 
At 10:47 AM, Blogger STAG said...

I thought the movie, though different from the book, was better in that it didn't have that "wait for the next one in the serial" feel to it.

The acting was remarkably good, if spotty in places and the colours were superbly dreamlike.

I am grateful to have been introduced to the series by you when you were in Toronto. Stopped reading after 2nd book though because of of the formula.

(Sometimes formula is just fine....watched the new "Sharpe" movie last night...formula through and through, but still a rattlin' good story. As Brenda says...Sean Bean in skin tight pants...good formula!)

 
At 2:47 PM, Blogger Ovonia Red said...

Stag, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie--Jim C. can be a bit of a wild card (Ace Ventura vs. Eternal Sunshine). I think the movie worked as a complete unit better than the series did (and I agree that it managed to avoid that "serial" feel). It also managed to keep me from feeling that they were going to try for a sequel--I don't think they could possibly turn the rest of the series into a group of cohesive movies.

Shari--Poisonwood Bible book club meeting tonight at my house. Wait, I have classes tonight. Tomorrow night. Seriouesly, though,I wish we had time to get together and do a "book club" thing before I am scheduled to leave. Don't think it will happen though.

In general--finished The Winter of our Discontent today. I liked the second half of the book much better than the first half, though it is not the best Steinbeck I've read (East of Eden jumps instantly to mind as the best Steinbeck). Now i need to find another book to read. Mom bought me Mozart in the Jungle (written by and about an oboist in NYC), but I think I'm going to save that for the flight (fun reading). I gave my copy of The Trial to my Dad (he works for the government, so I figured he had more of a use for Kafka than I do right now). Hmm, maybe I'll read... I don't know. I'll have to raid the bookshelves when I get home and see what I've got.

DJ

 

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