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3.2 14
by Daniel Handler

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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



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.

Editorial Reviews

Dave Eggers
“Daniel Handler [is] something like an American Nabokov.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Brilliantly kooky and off-kilter.”
Charlotte Observer
“[Handler] oozes wit and he’s an astute social observer. The book’s offbeat sweetness charms.”
Mark Denn
… love is a messy thing. In truth, these stories tell us that love is best understood as neither a noun nor a verb. "The miracle is the adverbs," the narrator says in "Truly," "the way things are done. It is the way love gets done despite every catastrophe." This bracing reality constitutes both the primary strength of Adverbs -- and its intrinsic flaw. The puzzle may never be completed because the pieces cannot all be there, and those that are, hardly ever connect the way we wish they would. But that is life and that is love.
— The Washington Post
James Poniewozik
What saves Adverbs from Handler's unconvincing dystopian themes is his exuberantly funny voice and his ability to lard his stories with details that return, pages later, with multiplied resonance. Like many a concept album, Adverbs has implausibilities, indulgences and a track list that drags on a few cuts too long. But what stays with you is the music: the elegantly rendered emotion, the linguistic somersaults, the brilliantly turned reminders that there are a million ways to describe love and none of them will ever be the last word.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The qualities that draw millions to Lemony Snicket-absurdity, wicked humor, a love of wordplay-get adulterated in this elegant exploration of love. Handler brings linguistic pyrotechnics to a set of encounters: gay, straight, platonic and all degrees of dysfunctional. Amid the deadpan ("Character description: Appropriately tall. Could dress better.") and the exhausting ("Love was in the air, so both of us walked through love on our way to the corner.") are moments of blithe poignancy: quoth a lone golfer, "Love is this sudden crash in your path, quick and to the point, and nearly always it leaves someone slain on the green." In "Obviously," a teenage boy pines for his co-worker at the multiplex while they both tear tickets for Kickass: The Movie. In "Briefly," the narrator, now married, recounts being 14 and infatuated with his big sister's boyfriend, Keith. "Truly" begins "This part's true," and features a character named Daniel Handler, who has an exchange about miracles with a novelist named Paula Sharp. Handler began his career with the coming-of-age novel The Basic Eight; this lovely, lilting book is a kind of After School Special for adults that dramatizes love's cross-purposes with panache: "Surely somebody will arrive, in a taxi perhaps, attractively, artfully, aggressively, or any other way it is done." (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Handler, who as Lemony Snickett writes the "Series of Unfortunate Events" novels for children, returns to adult fiction with this collection of intertwining vignettes about love in all of its adverbial misery. Each piece, with an adverb for a title, focuses on young men and women negotiating the minefields of intimate relationships. People disappear, only to reappear in later stories skewering assumptions that were first developed in the earlier tales. In "Obviously," a young usher has a crush on Lila, whose boyfriend is cheating on her. In "Soundly," Lila appears in a bar, suffering from terminal cancer, having a last good time with her best friend, Allison. In "Wrongly," Allison is driving Lila's car to graduate school when she becomes involved with an unsuitable young man. The stories feature two recurring images: that of the magpie picking up glittering pieces of material and depositing them in other stories, reflecting reality at different angles, and that of a catastrophic explosion-possibly natural, possibly human-made-that destroys everything and everyone in its wake. The stories are clever, unsettling, confusing, and often brilliantly moving. The author's reputation will create public library demand. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/06.]-Andrea Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The author of the popular Lemony Snicket series of children's books puts a playful spin on adult themes of love and lust, showing a narrative ingenuity that should delight readers interested in exploring the possibilities of fiction. The third non-Lemony book from Handler (after Watch Your Mouth, 2000) finds him challenging conventional categories. This initially appears to be a selection of short stories, even parables, with each of the 16 taking a different adverb as its title ("Immediately," "Arguably," "Symbolically" and, as a change of pace, "Often"). Teachers generally instruct fledgling writers to eliminate adverbs whenever possible (only passive verbs suffer from greater linguistic disrepute), yet Handler makes his strategy succeed, frequently putting the titular adverb at the service of a broader theme. In "Obviously," he examines the essence of "kissassedness." "Briefly" is the briefest piece here, and includes the pivotal appearance of a boy's briefs. "Soundly" culminates in a boat ferrying across a sound. And so on. Yet in almost subliminal fashion, the author encourages the reader to make connections between the stories, with the repetition of recurring motifs involving magpies and money, plot lines that seem to leapfrog from pieces at the beginning to ones toward the end and the reappearance of characters (who may actually be different characters with the same name). Even the narrative "I" is suspect-sometimes a man, sometimes a woman. Some might find the key to the narrative strategy in "Truly," which the author characterizes as an "essay" and in which he purports to drop the fictional pretense in favor of straightforward autobiography and explanation of authorial intent.Or is this just another twist of the metafictional maze? Whether one approaches this as a novel (in the loosest sense) or a series of somehow connected stories, Handler's prose is warm, funny, smart and addictively readable. It might even send some adult readers to Lemony Snicket to see what they've been missing. Experimental fiction is rarely this emotionally engaging.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.97(d)

Read an Excerpt


A Novel
By Daniel Handler


ISBN: 0-06-072441-2

Chapter One


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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What People are Saying About This

Dave Eggers
“Daniel Handler [is] something like an American Nabokov.”

Meet the Author

Daniel Handler has written three novels under his own name, including The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, and Adverbs, and many books under the name Lemony Snicket, including All the Wrong Questions, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and the picture book 13 Words.

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Adverbs 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I finish this book and then I start reading it again
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for a book with a coherent, straight-up plotline, you might want to look elsewhere. But for the adventurous, these titularly titled vignettes are a breath of fresh air. Some are better than others, but the overall package is truly stunning. Mr. Handler does an excellent job of weaving theme and symbol together in the midst of what could otherwise become nonsense. His voice is wonderfully funny, acerbic, ironic, occasionally verbose, but never dull. Adverbs is truly a great novel.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Daniel Handler has a knack for writing witty stories which connect with the reader. I love this book, and how well it unfolds. Some of his stories are so amazing, his prose is lyrical and cannot recommend this book enough. LOVE IT!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is absolutly fantastic. I have never read such a complex, exciting work of literature. Like seventeen Holden Calfields mingled between the pages. I have a waiting list of friends wanting to read Adverbs. If you are looking for a quick read which actually takes some thinking, this is so the book for you. I hope you choose to read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was so excited to get this book because I am a huge fan of Snicket but I was so disappointed by Adverbs. This book changes characters and plotlines every chapter, each chapter is confusing to follow and on top of that it is vulgar and uses inappropriate language throughout. I understand that it an adult novel but I was truly not expecting this in return. Please do a lot of research before buying this book because even if you do love the Snicket books Handler is totally different.