Wednesday, July 8, 2009
The Bad Beginning
The Bad Beginning
© 1996 Lemony Snicket
One of my favorite movies is Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, starring Jim Carry (click here to see the trailer). The movie is based on the first three books in author Lemony Snicket’s series of books about the misfortunes that befall the Baudelaire orphans, three children who were left to fend for themselves when their house and parents suddenly caught fire. Things go downhill from there for Violet (14), Klaus (11 or 12) and Sunny (perhaps 2)_when the bank forces them into the hands of Count Olaf, who Mr. Poe judges to be their closest relative in that he lives just across town in a decaying mansion that just may have more grime in it than the average sewer. Sadly for the orphans, Olaf does not neglect his new wards in the same way that he neglects his home: indeed, he sees them as his access to the Boudelaire fortune and a source of domestic work. When the children are not chopping wood, repairing windows, and preparing dinners for Olaf’s acting troupe, they are stashed away in a small room. The children find some small comforts in their new next-door neighbor’s library, but these are cut short by the book’s plot development in which Count Olaf attempts to marry Violet, having pushed her into it by threatening to drop her little sister Sunny from a very high tower.
The story is told by narrator Lemony Snicket, who feels obliged to render an account of the orphans’ woe even though he hopes sincerely that no one would actually read such a dreary tale. Snicket’s narration explains “big words” for young readers, typically offering a synonym: in at least one instance, he humorously offers a word young readers wouldn’t know to replace one they would -- “feigned” for faked. Adult characters in the book do this at well, leading one of the children -- Klaus, typically -- to interrupt and say “We know what it means!”. This adds to the sense that children are quite alone in their world save for each other, the memory of their parents, and the occasional kindness of strangers. Although the book is written for children, I think its tone makes it enjoyable for adults as well.