REVIEW: Adverbs by Daniel Handler

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“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 neighbours and confidants.”

Daniel Handler, Adverbs (2006)

It’s hard to summarise Daniel Handler’s Adverbs in one paragraph. It’s hard to summarise it at all. Simply put, it’s a collection of short stories revolving around love and ways of loving. Each story has its own adverb for a title. They cover all sorts of love, some ludicrous, some heart-warming, some laughable. How you love becomes the focus – ‘Naturally’, ‘Judgementally’, ‘Collectively’- which bring up interesting ideas about whether there’s a right way to love. Some characters are definitely doing it wrong.

The two shining lights in the collection for me were ‘Immediately’ and ‘Obviously’. In ‘Immediately’, the narrator abandons his girlfriend on the side of the road and instantly falls in love with his taxi driver, Peter. Peter is not so thrilled by this. The narrator is so unnervingly rational about this love-at-first-sight experience: ‘Best to give him space. I didn’t let the fact that I no longer lived at Thirty-seventh and what’s-it pressure us into moving in together’. It highlights how ridiculous the love-at-first-sight trope is. You can’t love someone you don’t know. The narrator of ‘Obviously’, a teenage usher crushing on his co-worker, is less delusional but equally blinded by love. Having read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in class, he’s desperate to show the object of his affections that he is gallant but his attempts to impress her may have been a dream.

The same character reappear in many of the stories, or maybe not. Helen, Tomas, Andrea, Allison, Joe and Stephen all turn up several times but whether they are the same Helens and Stephens is unclear. It’s a little distracting trying to connect all their relationships to one another. Confusion and ambiguity does play a large part, not always good, in the collection.

My relationship with adverbs recently has been tense. As a writing student I’ve been taught to cut them out of later drafts but Handler’s collection reminds me that when it comes to the big things, how they’re done changes everything.

Rating: 4/5

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READING LISTS: Summer Reads

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Summer has been threatening to arrive for a while now. The sun has made a few fleeting appearances in between the rain and the clouds. But August is just around the corner and as I’m soon to be jetting off I thought I’d share the books I’ve chosen to take along with me.

  1. The Hours by Michael Cunningham
  2. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  3. The Last Girlfriend on Earth and other love stories by Simon Rich
  4. Jacob’s Folly by Rebecca Miller
  5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Continue reading “READING LISTS: Summer Reads”

MISC: Summer Arts Market

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The Summer Arts Market is held at St. George’s Hall in Liverpool, a really beautiful building opposite the Walker Gallery and Central Library (two other beautiful buildings). The event is organised by Open Culture, who also host a Christmas Arts Market as well, in support of local artists and makers. I went along to the arts market in December and got a collection of wooden coasters printed with otters in teacups, polar bears drinking champagne and foxes in waistcoats.

I might have a slight obsession with illustrated animals, particularly the woodland variety. And coasters. Anyway, I went along to the Summer Arts Market on 26th June. It seemed a lot bigger than the Christmas market. I think I floated around in art-induced joy a few times before I actually had the attention span needed to really appreciate what was on offer. Continue reading “MISC: Summer Arts Market”

REVIEW: Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

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Within a mile Ennis felt like someone was pulling his guts out hand over hand a yard at a time. He stopped at the side of the road and, in the whirling new snow, tried to puke but nothing came up. He felt about as bad as he ever had and it took a long time or the feeling to wear off.”

Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain, (1997)

There’s a line in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar that stuck with me as I read it and never quite left: “I wanted to crawl between those black lines of print the way you crawl through a fence.” It’s something I look for in the books and stories I read, something I found in Plath’s prose: total immersion in language. I’m not sure if it’s a sensation, a feeling, or both, but I found it again in Brokeback Mountain. Continue reading “REVIEW: Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx”

BOOKISH BITES: Coconut and Lemon Cake

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If you’re a baker and you haven’t visited Sally’s Baking Addiction then you probably haven’t lived (in culinary terms). It is a revelation, packed full of the most amazing recipes from three tier brownies to blueberry muffins. I’m not sure how I haven’t ballooned in size or given myself diabetes after discovering the website because my willpower is frankly non-existent when it comes to glorious sugary treats. Continue reading “BOOKISH BITES: Coconut and Lemon Cake”