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Adverbs

by Daniel Handler

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Adverbs
Sometimes you step into a cab and the cab driver doesn't fall in love with you and sometimes you step into a cab and the cab driver does fall in love with you. So begins and ends Daniel Handler's collection of short stories titled Adverbs. The popular children book author who created the Series of Unfortunate Events books sheds his Lemony Snicket pseudonym and adeptly takes on the adult subject of Love.
Although not writing under the Lemony Snicket name, Handler retains many of the writing characteristics that mark his popularity. In "Obviously", he demonstrates his skill at looking at the world from a child's perspective. A teenage boy's school assignment to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight leads him to believe that the way to win a teenage girl's heart is to perform a chivalrous act in front of her. "Arguably" employs the popular Snicket device of repeating phrases over and over and providing vocabulary explanation in the story of a struggling, cynical British author attempting to make a living in the U.S. while also struggling to accept the kindness of her husband.
The characters in Handler's short stories share many of the same first names and make minor appearances in each other's lives throughout the book. This helps provide authenticity to the aspects of love that Handler tries to purposefully describe. In one story a character may be a minor player in the background of a diner ending a relationship; a few stories later that same character is struggling to deal with the death of a loved one; and then a few stories later still she may be another minor player falling in love. For Handler, love is a constantly morphing emotion sometimes bringing happiness, sometimes bringing bitterness, and sometimes having no effect on our lives at all.
The gimmick of Adverbs in which each short story has as its title an adverb that is used in the story does not tarnish the earnestness of Daniel Handler's writing. Combining humor, emotion, realism, and a dash of the supernatural, Handler takes the common literary theme of love and provides fresh insights to its mysteries. In Adverbs, Daniel Handler proves that his literary skills are not limited to juvenile material, but that he can also assuredly tackle adult situations.

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