Friday, January 07, 2005

A Series Of Unfortunate Books?

I just got through listening to the audio version of Book 1 of Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events. Now, mind you, this is the audio version and it was done with multiple actors' voices, but I think it was more or less a reading of the book version. (I'm still waiting in line for the book version at the library.)

I have to say I am not at all impressed with the book. I can see why teachers like it-- it's got a vocabulary lesson built into every chapter-- but it's not something I'd like to read for fun. It's got an interesting plot, but I just don't think it's well-written. The characters are described instead of developed, and come across as two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. I wonder if the movie will be better, since no one really expects character development from a movie. It stands in sharp contrast with the Harry Potter series, which has characters that appeal to archetypes without being caricatures, and appeal to children and adults alike.

I also got incredibly fed-up with the didactic tone and the constant explanatory asides. They were fine at the beginning, but they started occurring with more frequency closer to the climax,
which was terribly annoying. There's a reason why people don't choose the dictionary when they want to read action; it's because constant definitions get in the way of the plot.

There are plenty of books out there for kids to read, but while a lot of them are "tasty," not all of them are "nutritious". If good children's literature is nutritious food, this book is cookies. A few of them wouldn't hurt, but they shouldn't be the main course, and a steady diet of nothing else would malnourish the mind.

UPDATE: OK, I've decided it's supposed to be melodrama, which excuses the flat characters. But melodrama still isn't literature.