Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Premature Book Review: The Basic Eight

Well, actually, I have read this, so maybe it's a post-coital book review? I was reminded of it after some discussion of Jawbreaker at House of Self Indulgence. No spoilers here for either the book or the movie. This was Daniel Handler's first novel. If you are not familiar with Handler, he is better known as Lemony Snicket of A Series of Unfortunate Events fame.

The Basic Eight revolves around Flannery Culp, a high school student in prison for mass murder. Jawbreaker reminded me of it, partly because they both involve murder (well, manslaughter, in the case of Jawbreaker), but partly because of the way the cliques in both are ridiculously mature for high schoolers. It is written in the style of a journal, with Flannery discussing the national uproar regarding her crimes. There are references to a TV talk show host who seemed like Sally Jesse Raphael at the time, but is likely more Nancy Grace-like, as well as a detail of the goings on that led to her arrest.

As to the "too mature" aspect, Flannery is friends with people you would never see in high school. A fashion heiress, a theatre geek who dresses like it is 1928, and ultra-cool girl who drinks constantly, and five others who escape me at the moment (it's been a few years). They are bound together in an opera appreciation society sponsored by their French teacher. Opera. In high school? There is also some absinthe use. I have not read about people drinking absinthe since The Sun Also Rises.

The book was not well received (really, little of his work as Handler has been). It is very enjoyable, in my experience, and worth reading. There were complaints that he wrote too simplistically, but he is writing from the perspective of a teenager with no car. I find Handler to be a masterful writer under both names. This is probably the most enjoyable of his as-Handler books on a general readership level.

No comments:

Post a Comment