Book 491: The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events #9) – Lemony Snicket

Not to set the standards to high, but this may be the darkest of the books, which is saying something after The Wide Window and the kids being offered up by their guardian for death instead of the guardian. I’m not sure if it has to do with this book hitting the closest home to our current state of affairs in the US, or if it just hit home to me.

As I keep saying, and as is to be expected, the story and the characters are continuing to evolve and become more complex. The Baudelaire’s took charge at the end of the last novel and took their own fate into their hands and ended up following Count Olaf and his troop of evil-doers this time rather than the other way around. But what I took from this story wasn’t even the moving forward of the series, it finally clicked why we are reading this series this year after Trump’s election.

This book takes place in a carnival, shocking detail right, and the big focus is on the freak show of the carnival, but when it comes down to it it’s not really a freak show, it’s a prejudice show. And with the way we talk about anyone and everyone in today’s media and everyday conversation it sort of hit me that Snicket was just amplifying what was actually happening in the U.S. to idiotic proportions and yet that’s where we are now. When I read, 

“To me, a woman in a turban is just as freaky as a two-headed person. I’m not prejudiced!” (Loc. 2085)

I honestly thought it could’ve been a quote from our President, something said at one of his rallies, or something printed in an actual national media outlet.

And then to tie in the obvious, Snicket takes this,

“A series of unfortunate events can happen to anyone, no matter what they want…” (Loc. 1319)

to absurd levels. I know if maybe 10% of what has happened to the Baudelaire’s happened to me I would give up. But the fact that these kids continue to persevere and even to occasionally seem to rise to the top, he’s just holding up a mirror to what society could have become at the time and what it has absurdly actually become.

I also like that in sometimes subtle and some times not so subtle, as follows, ways Snicket is bringing classic literature from the western collective conscience (and sometimes outside of western – see quotes in The Hostile Hospital) to young readers who won’t  necessarily have encountered them yet!

“There is another writer I know, who, like myself, is thought by a great deal of people to be dead. His name is William Shakespeare, and he has written four kinds of plays: comedies, romances, histories, and tragedies. Comedies, of course, are stories in which people tell jokes and trip over things, and romances are stories in which people fall in love and probably get married. Histories are retellings of things that actually happened, like my history of the Baudelaire orphans, and tragedies are stories that usually begin fairly happily and then steadily go downhill, until all of the characters are dead, wounded, or otherwise inconvenienced.” (Loc. 2012)

Who knew reading could be fun AND educational ;-D

Now to the sad part, I think it was how the freak’s portrayal. None of them were freaks like you imagine, okay maybe the person with the hunchback, but one was ambidextrous and the last was just a contortionist. Perhaps I just wanted super freaky, but the way they were mistreated because of their slight differences was just too much. And then the animal cruelty and how the novel ends, it just felt like a little too much to deal with at the time. Hopefully the books get a bit lighter, but with how they’ve gotten progressively more and more concerning I doubt they will.

Recommendation: Read it even though it is intense. It’s a quick read with a big impact on the series. Or maybe it just means I’m finally invested in the characters and where the story is going. That could be it, but if that’s the case it took too long for that to happen in a this series.  I guess the good thing is that they’re all pretty short. Or maybe it’s neither of those and it’s the fact that Snicket is extrapolating the Baudelaire’s journey to a broader audience because of the emotional maturity and story complexity. (Which I guess is the same as the sentence before but better stated.)

Opening Line: “When my workday is over, and I have closed my notebook, hidden my pen, and sawed holes in my rented canoe so that it cannot be found, I often like to spend the evening in conversation with my few surviving friends.”

Closing Line: “Even as Count Olaf’s automobile slipped out of view, and the caravan began to slip on the bumpy road, it seemed to the Baudelaire orphans that they were all slipping into the belly of the beast, and that time, I’m sorry to say, counted very, very much.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)

Additional Quotes from The Carnivorous Carnival
“Besides getting several paper cuts in the same day or receiving the news that someone in your family has betrayed you to your enemies, one of the most unpleasant experiences in life is a job interview.” (Loc. 566)

“Grief, a type of sadness that most often occurs when you have lost someone you love, is a sneaky thing, because it can disappear for a long time, and then pop back up when you least expect it.” (Loc. 1071)

“It is hard for decent people to stay angry at someone who has burst into tears, which is why it is often a good idea to burst into tears if a decent person is yelling at you.” (Loc. 1350)

“There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing for yourself.” (Loc. 1788)


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