Wednesday, January 16, 2008


About a year and a half ago I read the book Adverbs by Daniel Handler. It came up in discussion recently as an example of a book that was more style than substance, and I pulled out some passages I sort of like. I was going to write intelligibly about them, but I work with computers all day and I try to spend less time in front of them, so the internet is somewhat unlikely to hear anything intelligible from me.

So, probably in the wrong order, some passages:

Love is hourly, too. There are stories about people who have loved someone forever after laying eyes on them for a few minutes and then nevermore, but these stories have not happened to anyone we know. No, when you love someone you spend hours and hours with them, and even the mightiest forces in the netherworld could not say whether the hours you spend increase your love or if you simply spend more hours with someone as your love increases. And when the love is over, when the diner of love seems closed from the outside, you want all of those hours back, along with anything you left at your lover's house and maybe a few things which aren't technically yours on the grounds that you wasted a portion of your life and those hours have all gone southside. Nobody can make this better, its seems, nothing on the menu. It's like what the stewardess offers, even in first class. They come with towels, with drinks, mints, but they never say, "Here's the five hours we took from you when you flew across the country to New York to live with your boyfriend and one day he got in a taxicab and never came back" [...]

And another:

"Kaatu", Gladys said in a mysterious howl, and here we could skip ahead if you know what I mean. It is always tempting to skip past words we do not understand, the parts of a relationship which confuse us, and arrive at a nice clear sentence [like] "They clearly weren't in love anymore". [...] But we cannot skip to that or it wouldn't be a love story. We cannot skip the way we look in photographs, or our own affectations, or the way we like our coffee, or the way the people we love like their coffee, even though they like it some bad, bad way. We must suffer through all of it, without skipping any tiny thing.

And one to prove that the book isn't totally depressing:

(after talking about how this crate of potatoes was too big to get through they door of a cafe. also, this book has a thing about magpies)

It is not the diamonds or the birds, the people or the potatoes; it is not any of the nouns. The miracle is the adverbs, the way things are done. It is the way love gets done despite every catastrophe, and look, - actually look! - the potatoes have arrived! They had to slice through the plastic - attractively, artfully, aggressively, to name three adverbs that didn't make it into this book - but the potatoes are being carried inside, an actual miracle! It can't happen to everyone - as in life, some people will be killed off before they get something shiny, and some of them will screw it up and other will just end up with the wrong kind of bird - but some of them will arrive at love. Surely somebody will arrive, in a taxi perhaps, attractively, artfully, aggressively, or any other way it is done.

Just some things running through my head. Next time, maybe I'll post something from this book on technology and design I'm reading for a seminar.

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