cover image Adverbs

Adverbs

Daniel Handler, Author . HarperCollins/Ecco $23.95 (272p) ISBN

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 )