Sunday, 4 May 2008

the Snicket emergency

I love the books of Daniel Handler, especially the Series of Unfortunate Events he wrote under the name Lemony Snicket. He writes novels for adults as well, including The Basic Eight, described as "a Beverly Hills 90210 episode scripted by Nabokov". The Basic Eight is in the form of diary entries written by an extremely unreliable narrator, the high school student Flannery Culp, who tells us "I learned lots about narrative structure in my Honors English classes so I know what I'm doing." Flannery is very obsessive, and this is demonstrated thru her prescriptivism.

(I have the Harpercollins paperback edition.) Flannery often repeats a sentence in order to unstrand the preposition:

Would it be like studying hard and getting good grades, or would it be like sneaking into a room I had no business in and setting free little bugs that were never supposed to be free, never supposed to be flying unfettered in the air? I know, I know: in which I had no business. (page 102)

Now there's an essay question that nobody would give me an A on. On which they'd give me an A. (page 77)

The second example has "nobody" as the antecedent of "they".

She wonders about the grammar of the school sign:

The PTA had placed a welcoming sign there which said: "WELCOME! HOPE YOUR SUMMER PREPARED YOU FOR A YEAR WHERE YOU WILL BE PUSHED TO THE LIMIT ACADEMICALLY, ATHLETICALLY AND SOCIALLY!" framed by smiling faces drawn in Magic Marker. I'm pretty sure it should be "a year in which you will be pushed." (page 37)

In her notes on a TV program:

"... your hometown at home." (lines 6-7) What boggles the mind is that she doesn't say these things off the top of here head; her eyes clearly glide along cue cards just off-camera. So somebody drafted and wrote the phrase "your hometown at home" in big felt-tip letters, and nobody thought to think it was redundant. (page 132)

I like "thought to think it was redundant."

She complains of spellings on signs:

Day 'n Nite Foto is the only place we can think of where you can get your pictures developed in one hour and that's open at this one. Otherwise, I swear, we would not be giving our hard-earned money (sweaty quarters, dollar bills crimped into dead origami) to an establishment that not only misspells both night and photo but uses that most ugly of contractions, the telltale 'n. (page 165).

And in A Series of Unfortunate Events book 3: The Wide Window, Josephine leaves a hidden message for Violet, Klaus and Sunny in the form of a letter full of spelling errors. The children are able to decipher the clues with the help of the books Advanced Apostrophe Use and The Correct Spelling of Every English Word That Ever, Ever Existed.

2 comments :

Drew said...

Have you read Handler’s Adverbs. I liked it. Each chapter is an adverb describing the manner in which love is expressed, but it’s not as hokey as it sounds. He pulls it off quite admirably. On the whole, though, it doesn’t contain so much grammar and word content.

goofy said...

I haven't read it yet. Thanks for the recommendation.