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Adverbs: A Novel by Daniel Handler
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Adverbs: A Novel (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Daniel Handler

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8443610,672 (3.42)5
Member:grunin
Title:Adverbs: A Novel
Authors:Daniel Handler
Info:Harper Perennial (2007), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Fiction, read

Work details

Adverbs by Daniel Handler (2006)

  1. 10
    The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler (Lirmac)
  2. 00
    If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino (Lirmac)
    Lirmac: Both of these works are playful, form-bending novels-that-aren't-novels.
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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
When I teach genre classes, I like to conclude with an "edge case" for the genre, one that pushes my students to make a claim as to whether or not the book fits the genre, which in doing so forces to them to articulate what the genre is. When I taught The Modern Novel, I ended with Daniel Handler's Adverbs, which you might define as a collection of linked short stories, yet the cover of my HarperPerennial edition, at least, claims the subtitle A NOVEL. Though the book is not unified in terms of plot, a number of characters recur (or seem to recur) between stories, and there are recurrent motifs, like pop songs and birds, that bring unity to the book, beyond the fact that the whole book is a meditation on one topic, that of love.

Handler does tie much of the book together in the chapter "Truly," which is more of an essay about the rest of the book (it reminds me of the half chapter in Julian Barnes's A History of the World in 10½ Chapters, a novel similarly on the edge of novel-ness). In "Truly," Handler suggests both that the book is unified and that you're a bit foolish for chasing the unification:

Nobody keeps score, because there's no sense in keeping track of what everything is doing. You might as well trace birds through a book,
[...] or follow the pop songs that stick in people's heads or follow the people themselves, although you're likely to confuse them, as so many people in this book have the same names. You can't follow all the Joes, or all the Davids or Andreas. You can't follow Adam or Allison or Keith, up to Seattle or down to San Francisco or across-- three thousand miles, as the bird flies-- to New York City, and anyway they don't matter. (193-4)

I would argue, then, that the book is unified by its very lack of unity: the reader of Adverbs seeks coherence in an incoherent universe, much as all the characters in the book do. And creating coherence in an incoherent universe, or at least raising the spectre of coherence and then destroying it, is precisely what the novel is all about. (My students liked the book, and did indeed say it was a novel, but I think maybe they just wanted the discussion to end so that class would be over.)
1 vote Stevil2001 | Nov 5, 2016 |
I could not convince myself to finish this book. Perhaps the problem is that I was listening to it, and considering that a lot of the humor of the book is supposed to be in the play on words, I may have missed it. The author is the famous Lemony Snickett of "A Series of Unfortunat Events" fame. I'm never sure what his real name is. This book is a series of loosely connected love stories with some characaters showing up in more than one story. I did not find it very entertaining. Perhaps I should get the real book and give it a try. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
I came to Adverbs having just read The Basic Eight, which I loved. Adverbs has the same poetic prose and even more of the earlier book's whimsy, but when it comes to plot and characters the differences couldn't be greater. One of Daniel Handler's greatest successes in The Basic Eight is managing a large cast of characters, keeping them all individual, memorable and relevant. In Adverbs he does exactly the opposite. On purpose. Multiple characters have the same name and sometimes (but not always) the same traits. This is quite confusing until the author explains it to us (in the first person). This is not a book where the nouns are important – the 'who' and the 'what' – the stars of this story the adverbs – the 'how'. Adverbs is a book where plot and character are subservient to tropes, themes and nuances – an unusual conceit, but not necessarily a bad one. If The Basic Eight is The Deer Hunter, Adverbs is Heaven's Gate (a maligned an underestimated movie). There is much to enjoy here, but approach with caution. ( )
  Lirmac | May 18, 2015 |
I think I try to be even-handed in my reviews, so I don't say this lightly: This is the worst book I've ever read and I judge the fuck out of anyone who likes it. Daniel Handler should stick to writing children's novels because honestly, he really sucks at fiction for adults. Spamming the same word 50 times on a page is neither profound nor stylistically interesting.

The only good thing about this book is the cover, which is designed by the incomparable Daniel Clowes. ( )
  megantron | Jan 2, 2015 |
immediately, obviously, arguably, barely, wrongly in love
9.06
1 vote | aletheia21 | Jan 19, 2014 |
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Epigraph
What do you mean where does the music come from? Where does the music ever come from? The guy says to the girl Something is on my mind and the girl says Really? What is it? and somebody in the orchestra hits a note and they sing. That's where the music comes from. --Morrie Ryskind on the set of a Marx Brothers movie.
Dedication
For Rook--for whom else the book on love?
The author would like to thank the following people: Lisa Brown, Charlotte Sheedy, Ron Bernstein, Don Halpern, Susan Rich, Josh Greenhut, Darla Spiers, Kezia Pearlman, Paula Sharp, Ayelet Waldman, Helena Echlin, Don Clows, and Amanda Davis, much missed.
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Love was in the air, so both of us walked through love on our way to the corner.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060724412, Hardcover)

Can Joe help it if he falls in love with people who don't make him happy? And what about Helena—she's in love, but somehow this isn't enough. Shouldn't it be? And if it isn't enough, does this mean she's not really in love? It certainly seems to be spoiling the love she's in. And let's say there's a volcano underneath the city—doesn't that make things more urgent? Does urgency mean that you should keep the person you're with, or search for the best possible person? And what if the best possible person loves someone else—like the Snow Queen, for instance?

This novel may not answer these questions, but nevertheless the author and publisher hope it will be of interest.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:05 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Adverbs is a novel about love - a bunch of different people, in and out of different kinds of love. At the start of the novel, Andrea is in love with David - or maybe it's Joe - who instead falls in love with Peter in a taxi. At the end of the novel, it's Joe who's in the taxi, falling in love with Andrea, although it might not be Andrea, or in any case it might not be the same Andrea, as Andrea is a very common name. So is Allison, who is married to Adrian in the middle of the novel, although in the middle of the ocean she considers a fling with Keith and also with Steve, whom she meets in an automobile, unless it's not the same Allison who meets the Snow Queen in a casino, or the same Steve who meets Eddie in the middle of the forest." "It might sound confusing, but that's love, and as the author says, "It is not the nouns. The miracle is the adverbs, the way things are done." This novel is about people trying to find love in the ways it is done before the volcano erupts and the miracle ends. Yes, there's a volcano in the novel."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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