Monday, October 03, 2005

Watch His Writing

Since I mentioned the other day a category of "books that make me want to write," I'll go ahead and give Watch Your Mouth, by Daniel Handler, as an example. I've read certain other books written by this author under a certain other pseudonym, and I was very curious to see what sort of stuff his alter ego came up with. I chose this book only because it was what the library happened to have in stock the day I was there. It turned out to be excellent. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical at first, given the somewhat excessive horny-college-kids and incestuous-family themes. But it worked out to be a kind of fascinating web of complex crazy people, with a monster story mixed in for good measure. So it really stayed intensely interesting all the way through.

The structure of the whole book was extremely unique, which I liked. (There's nothing wrong with a nice, standard, straight-through story, but I'm always intrigued by new ways of putting things together.) A little over half of it is written like an opera written like a novel, and the rest of it is like a 12 step recovery program. Sounds bizarre (especially since I didn't realize that the opera was going to end midway through the book) but somehow it really works. The opera section in particular had some really brilliant moments. The story-telling version and the opera version blend in interesting ways, and some of the descriptions really tickle me. Such as at one particular (ahem) climax of a scene, where he says "seizuring so hard that the orchestra has to extend its budget and hire some additional percussionists just for these ten measures or so."

Another smaller scale thing that I liked was a twisting of perspective within sentences. As an example, the narrator was in a diner when he found out that he needed to go somewhere a couple exits farther up the freeway. He says "I signalled for the check and then for the left-hand turn at the end of the ramp." The driving doesn't need to be mentioned, but he makes the ignoring of it interesting, by slipping it in there and sharing the signalling between the check and the turn signal. When he gets there, he says "I parked in a lot crammed with mid-life crisis cars, red and shiny and probably divorced," describing the drivers by describing the cars. The book throughout is filled with clever little bits like that.

So anyway, great book all around, and a good example of some of the things that make me want to have the kind of creativity that produces novels. In unrelated news, Book 12 of A Series of Unfortunate Events is coming out on October 18th. I will be looking forward to that.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

hoowah! it's really coming! i was beginning to lose hope, you know--almost driven like you to the lengths of digging up works by this obscure handler fellow as a weak palliative for a snicketless existence. though i may still do that.