Literary Greats Always Cheat at Golf

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Adverbs, by Daniel Handler

"Because there might be a suburb of Seattle where a girl says, "Oh my God! Flowers? You are chivalrous, Joe," and then I win and she doesn't care that Keith has one of those all-terrain things that will come in so handy when the world ends and we need a nine-thousand-cylinder engine to drive over the hordes of bloodthirsty mutants crawling all over the video-game landscape, or maybe there's a suburb of Seattle where Lila wouldn't care whether or not her chivalrous suitor was wearing a fucking WELCOME TO THE BIG SHOW! button on a red why-the-hell-is-it-fireproof Sovreign Cinemaplex vest which is sort of blocking the signals of that hungry heart of mine, and Lila and I drive around this other suburb of Seattle in a car I take care of myself on weekends and tell each other a big bag of secrets we've been hiding underneath the beds our parents bought us, tossing and turning over its poky burlap creases and staring out of the window screens at a spooky blue moon that is beaming down secret New York bus tickets of a grown-up love future, and then someplace where the sun is setting or rising she takes her top off, but I don't live in that suburb of Seattle. I live on Mercer Island, and here we just tear tickets and wait to watch her go home."

I can't believe how beautiful this book is. It's all about love, and dorky love that can't quite get its shit together. Everyone is so damaged and so in love with someone and maybe that someone loves someone else, who doesn't love them back, and then everyone hates the person they love. Or maybe they love the right person, but life is in the way. Or maybe life isn't in the way, but the person is in the way of his own happiness, like Joe with Lila up there.

It sounds like it would be depressing, but it's not, because love is always so close to working out in this book, it's just a touch out of tune at any moment. And the book isn't cynical or hip about love. It's captured the confusion, the fucked up drugginess of love. The way that when you're in love all you want to do is spend time, all you want to do is give up hours to your love, and when you're done, you want it all back. You want your stuff back, and you want your time back. You want to tear everything you gave that person out of them. If you taught him to cook, you want him to forget, if she always kissed you with her hand on the back of your neck you never want her to do that same move with anyone else. There are things that you thought were something the two of you had found, but love is not original, which is why when you're in it, you'll secretly agree with Britney Spears and why when you're out of it you'll cry when you hear "Total Eclipse of the Heart." If it has to hurt you to remember what it felt like when you were in love, then you don't want them to get to remember it fondly, you don't want to be a story they tell, or a footnote in their life on the way to the one who turned out right.

But that's wrong too. Because those were the best hours. And you don't want to throw back the painful hours that come in the end in the same way, because you can still see clearly what they gave you, and the love hours just seem like they got lost somewhere pointless.

Or maybe that's just me. Damn, I shouldn't read books.