The New York Times
Adverbsby Daniel Handler
I am Daniel Handler, the author of this book. Did you know that authors often write the summaries that appear on their book's dust jacket? You might want to think about that the next time you read something like, "A dazzling page-turner, this novel shows an internationally acclaimed storyteller at the height of his astonishing/p>
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I am Daniel Handler, the author of this book. Did you know that authors often write the summaries that appear on their book's dust jacket? You might want to think about that the next time you read something like, "A dazzling page-turner, this novel shows an internationally acclaimed storyteller at the height of his astonishing powers."
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 -- me -- 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. In my opinion a volcano automatically makes a story more interesting.
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By Daniel Handler
Love was in the air, so both of us walked through love on our way to the corner. We breathed it in, particularly me: the air was also full of smells and birds, but it was the love, I was sure, that was tumbling down to my lungs, the heart's neighbors and confidants. Andrea was tall and angry. I was a little bit shorter. She smoked cigarettes. I worked in a store that sold things. We always walked to this same corner, Thirty - seventh and what's - it, Third Avenue, in New York, because it was easier to get a cab there, the entire time we were in love.
"You must be nervous," she said when we'd walked about two puffs.
"Yes," I said. "I am nervous. I've never been to a reading of a will. I didn't even know they still did things like this, read wills. I thought it was, I don't know, a movie thing. In a movie. Do you think everybody will be dressed up?"
"Who cares?" Andrea said. She threw down her cigarette and ground it out with the heel of her shoe like a new kind of halfhearted dance. "Look," she said, and shaded her eyes with her hand for a minute like she was actually looking at something. I turned my head to see. "I just mean, look," she said, cupping my head with her hand. "The expression I mean. Look, I'm trying to be nice, but I'm scatterbrained right now, if you know what I mean. I'm frightened by yourbehavior. I woke up this morning and you said good morning and I said good morning, what do you feel like doing today and you said well I sort of have to do this thing and I said what thing and you said go to the reading of my father's will and I said what are you talking about and then you told me your dad died. This morning. I mean, he died two weeks ago but that's when you told me. That's when you told me. I'm trying to think that you just must be in shock that your dad died but it's very, very, very, very, very, very difficult."
"He's not really," I said, "my dad."
Three cars went by.
"What do you mean?" she asked. "What are you talking about? What could you possibly mean? He is your biological father and raised you, along with your mother, in the same house, for eighteen years. He carves the turkey at Thanksgiving and when I met him three years ago I said it's so nice to meet your father and he didn't even blink. How can you say that? What can you mean?"
"I don't know," I said, and we reached the corner. The street was a yellow streak, however many yards wide, cabs and cabs and cabs and the occasional car that wasn't a cab so the whole thing looked like a scarcely - been - touched ear of corn. I put my hand up and one stopped. I opened the back door and Andrea just looked at me. I put one knee into the cab, half - sitting in it, almost kneeling as if the cabdriver, whom you'll meet in a minute, had just brought me up curbside to ask this tall angry woman to marry me. She wasn't going to say yes, I realized. She was never going to say yes.
"Why are you acting this way?" she said. "You've never acted this way. Usually you're, I don't know. Usually we're eating at diners and taking money out of our ATM machines, a normal person. What is-"
"You don't have a chance," I said, "to act like this in a diner."
"Please stop," she said. She smeared one finger underneath her eye, although she wasn't crying, just finishing a finger painting of herself. She was done. "This is worse than the last time," she said.
"I think I should go to this thing by myself," I said, and sat more. "I think you should go home to the middle of the block and I'll go someplace in this cab. I'll be back later or something."
"What do you-" She stood on the corner and wiped her eye again but now she was crying. Somehow she was crying by the time we reached the same corner and were almost all the way into a cab. "I'm going," I said, and shut the door. She stared at me through the window like I was maybe nothing. The cabdriver asked me where I wanted to go and I told him Seventy - ninth Street and then I apologized for making him wait like that at the corner and told him I would give him an extra couple of bucks or something. "Don't worry about it," he said, and looked at me in the rearview mirror, a polite smile. His eyes veered off my reflection and onto the reflection of the traffic behind us, so we could merge, and we merged, and that's when, immediately, I fell in love with my cabdriver.
"I changed my mind," I told him. Then I decided I shouldn't tell him, not yet. His cab number was 6J108. His first name was Peter, I saw, and his last name looked like somebody had just dropped their forearm onto the typewriter keyboard, someplace in Europe I guess. "Penn Station. I have to go somewhere." I felt the weight of the lie I had told Andrea, enormous and undeserved, and vowed I'd never do something like that again. But not telling Peter everything that was in my heart wasn't a lie, right? That was just good timing. That was just being sensitive. "I don't have to go somewhere," I said, "not really. But I think I should go somewhere."
"Okay," he said. It didn't make a difference to him, and I loved him all the more for it. We turned left.
"You have pretty eyes," I said.
"Yeah," Peter said. "It's pretty nice. Since they cleaned it up."
Excerpted from Adverbs by Daniel Handler Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
DANIEL HANDLER is the author of the novels The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth and, as Lemony Snicket, the bestselling collection of children’s novels entitled A Series of Unfortunate Events, which has sold more than sixty million copies worldwide, has been translated into thirty-nine languages and was adapted into a feature film starring Jim Carrey and Meryl Streep.
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