Mike Puma's Reviews > Adverbs

Adverbs by Daniel Handler
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Feb 18, 12

bookshelves: 2012
Read in February, 2012

shhhhh! This review isn’t for everyone. Neither is this book. But like this book, this review is for you—you only. Maybe you and that other guy, or the woman who contorts herself trying to see the title of what your reading and thinking no one notices her doing it. She might be a character in the story, Adverbs, but she isn’t because that would be that story, and this is this story, which isn’t a story, exactly, but it is because it’s a review…of sorts, the only type I’m in the mood to write. So, anyway.

Are you between titles? Wondering what to read next? But a little oppressed by all the depressing books you’ve been reading. Pressed into the service of someone else’s To Read list. So much pressure. Or, for whatever reason, right now, another Bolaño is a no-go, or the thought of toting around another whopper Pynchon pinches a psychic nerve or Bernhard is too hard or… well, you get the picture. If anything like those conditions are imposing on you, and you just want to read something fun, but probably not something with Giant Man-eating Crabs locked in mortal battle with Monstrous Blue Slimy Slugs while Shiny People suck the necks of Unsuspecting Virgins while body parts are seen to Heave and Throb, then you might just like the smart and funny Adverbs.

Now I know, Daniel Handler’s alter-ego, Lemony Snickett, would probably try to discourage you from reading his (Snickett’s) books—so might I. But Handler, Handler himself, that’s another matter entirely. This is Steve Erickson meets Tom Robbins, the Tom Robbins from when we thought he was funny, or when he was funny, at any rate, the Tom Robbins of once-upon-a-time.

Now in keeping with current standards, I should place HIGHLY RECOMMENDED up against the left-margin. But I won’t; I’m contentious and curmudgeonly. Instead, I’m placing it right here:

Highly Recommended
—when you’re ready, when it’s time for something fun or funny, or when you’re just not quite ready for anything else. You could do far, far worse.

Oh, yeah, since you probably expected something like a real review, consider MJ’s or Ian’s, either much finer than mine.

The right book at the right time for me.

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Comments (showing 1-45 of 45) (45 new)

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Mike Puma Shan wrote: "I remember when I kinda maybe dunno thought Tim Robbins was funny. Ahh, the good ol' days."

Could be worse. For some of us, the 'good ol' days' involved bell bottoms, and some of us still had hair.


Caris Hey. What the hell's wrong with giant man-eating crabs?


message 3: by Magdelanye (new) - added it

Magdelanye whats wrong with Tom Robbins for that matter?


message 4: by Mike (last edited Feb 19, 2012 03:33AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma Caris wrote: "Hey. What the hell's wrong with giant man-eating crabs?"

Madelane wrote: "whats wrong with Tom Robbins for that matter?"

Nothing wrong with a giant man-eating crab eating Tom Robbins. Nothing at all.


message 5: by Magdelanye (last edited Feb 19, 2012 12:36PM) (new) - added it

Magdelanye why am I laughing????
I still cherish Robbins
I am reading (sloggingly) a book right now that is dense examination of verbs. The Stuff of Thought  Language as a Window into Human Nature (Penguin Press Science) by Steven Pinker
It could use a little levity...


Mike Puma Magdelanye wrote: "why am I laughing????
I still cherish Robbins
I am reading (sloggingly) a book right now that is dense examination of verbs. [bookcover:The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature..."


I've nothing really against him; I just lost interest with Jitterbug Perfume. Roadside Attraction and Cowgirls I liked quite a lot--until they miscast Uma Thurman in the role of the woman with the thumbs.


message 7: by Linda (new)

Linda Robinson Read Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas and be re-Robbined. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I called my mother first and she paused for a long time. Then she said, "I know what you need. You need a new Tom Robbins."


Mike Puma Linda wrote: "Read Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas and be re-Robbined. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I called my mother first and she paused for a long time. Then she said, "I know what you need. You need a new ..."

I'll check it out. Thanks.


message 9: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Mike wrote: "Nothing wrong with a giant man-eating crab eating Tom Robbins. Nothing at all..."

Hilarious. I remember my T.R. days as well. I still think Cowgirls was damn good


message 10: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Heidnischfisch All this talk of Tom Robbins makes me want to re-read some Richard Brautigan.

I think his reputation is in some need of resurrection, but I notice he doesn't feature in your books apart from one which goes three-starred and unreviewed.


message 11: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Heidnischfisch I call this type of book a wedgie or an inbetweeny.


message 12: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Ian wrote: "All this talk of Tom Robbins makes me want to re-read some Richard Brautigan.

I think his reputation is in some need of resurrection, but I notice he doesn't feature in your books apart from one ..."


Yeah, he was a wedgie back in my high school days. I had a few friends that really dug him and Chuck P, and would always pass me their copies. Not bad though, but I'd have to re-read any of them for a review. I don't think I've reviewed anything that I'd read before this past July.


message 13: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma I read Brautigan back in the day--back before I started maintaining a paper list of books read (1978). I remember buying a couple, having read a couple, and not much else. Poetry, alas, is largely wasted on me--although, I am reading a couple per day from
Poems, New And Collected (1957 97) on the recommendation of s.penk, and have yet to decide if he'll somehow be made to pay.


message 14: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Mike wrote: "I read Brautigan back in the day--back before I started maintaining a paper list of books read (1978). I remember buying a couple, having read a couple, and not much else. Poetry, alas, is largely ..."

Haha, not a fan so far?


message 15: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich On Death, Without Exaggeration is a good one. If you don't like that one, I apologize and shall find a reimbursement :)


message 16: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma Not so much 'not a fan' as frustrated in general by poetry. I'm gonna read 'em all though; it's annoying having books on my To Read list when I do Compares and others have already Read them. And, yes, I do look for things to be annoyed about. When I first joined GR, I even stooped low enough to actually total friends and those I follow for any given title, wrote the tally on a post-it and affixed it to a volume, and used the larger numbers to determine what I'd read next--unfortunately (for me), that sent Infinite Jest, Ulysses (if you can believe everyone), and any number of other whoppers to the top of my priority list. Consequently, I'm reading Aira, have a Zambra at hand, and doing some shorter Tolstoys with a short-term goal of both meeting the needs of my Reading Challenge and giving me wiggle room for one of the whoppers. (It's totally annoying when doing a Compare for a new friend only to find someone else who's already read IJ).


message 17: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma s.penkevich wrote: "On Death, Without Exaggeration is a good one. If you don't like that one, I apologize and shall find a reimbursement :)"

Sure, of course, pick the poem from page 188 when I'm only on page 98. (Damn, kids) I'll do it, sir, I'll read it today, but not before finishing The Death of Ivan Ilych


message 18: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma s.penkevich wrote: "Mike wrote: "I read Brautigan back in the day--back before I started maintaining a paper list of books read (1978). I remember buying a couple, having read a couple, and not much else. Poetry, alas..."

Okay, I lied--I started reading the poem immediately, and in one of those odd twists of fate, right after I read the section of TDoII where It (when referring to death) is always capitalized. This better not be an omen.


message 19: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Ah, you are far more systematic that I am, I often just skip around for awhile in poetry books, but eventually get through them all. Ha, you may need to read something very life-affirming ASAP! Or watch some kids shows, anything that oozes happiness and life! TDoII is a heavy one, I quite liked it though, and anything Tolstoy. Or anything Russian for that matter.
Well, I'll be your one friend that hasn't read IJ OR Ulysses yet, although Ulysses is on deck right now.

And, yes, I do look for things to be annoyed about. That's good actually. I usually try to only find things I know I'll enjoy, but that doesn't add a whole lot of diversity to my reviewing when I'm mostly complimenting an author. I should find something to read and HATE just to fume over it.


message 20: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich The last book I hated was The Theory of Light and Matter: Stories. It was probably my 2nd GR review though, so I tried to be polite and not too insulting. However, the inside cover of my copy has written (drunkenly) in sharpie lines such as 'hey Professor Dick, you're a f---ing hack!', 'why do I f---ing own this bulls---?!' and 'I STOLE this book and I feel like I got ripped off!'.


message 21: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma s.penkevich wrote: "Ah, you are far more systematic that I am, I often just skip around for awhile in poetry books, but eventually get through them all. Ha, you may need to read something very life-affirming ASAP! Or ..."

Couple thoughts:

I'm pretty sure I had already yielded to this advice with the reading of Adverbs--not necessarily its life-affirmingness but its kidshowness.

You might get a kick outta this—a review for a book I hated (doesn’t happen often) and apparently, one of your favorites




message 22: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Mike wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "Ah, you are far more systematic that I am, I often just skip around for awhile in poetry books, but eventually get through them all. Ha, you may need to read something very life..."

Ha, I enjoyed it. The part about 'quest stories appealing to the optimistic youth' describes my love for that novel perfectly. I was a 16yr old boy and when I read it I decided I wanted to be him. I spent the next few years drinking lots of wine, smoked a few Lucky Strikes, lots of 'tea', and even hitched a few rides around Michigan 'for kicks'. If I had read it in my 20s I'm sure I'd have had a far different opinion. Im keeping it locked on my shelf to let my love continue to glow and not tarnish it by rereading it, even though my literary heros have changed. (Dostoyevsky's face is getting tattoed on my arm Saturday)


message 23: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma s.penkevich wrote: "Mike wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "Ah, you are far more systematic that I am, I often just skip around for awhile in poetry books, but eventually get through them all. Ha, you may need to read someth..."

Doubt I'll ever get a tatoo--fear of committment.


message 24: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich It took many moons of debating


message 25: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Have you looked at the Word Made Flesh site?


message 26: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Miriam wrote: "Have you looked at the Word Made Flesh site?"

Oh cool, hadn't seen this. Have you seen the HUGE To Kill a Mockingbird one the woman has? That was sweet. And I'm jealous of the Pynchon one, I think I've seen someone with that as their profile on here. I'll have to add mine on there when it is done.


message 27: by Miriam (new)

Miriam The silhouette? Yeah, that's cool... must've taken a long time. I can barely sit through a haircut, so I don't think tattoos are for me. I like other people's, though.


message 28: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Miriam wrote: "The silhouette? Yeah, that's cool... must've taken a long time. I can barely sit through a haircut, so I don't think tattoos are for me. I like other people's, though."

I'm getting mine on my inner arm, which I hear is painful. I hope I can sit through it...


message 29: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Mike wrote: "Not so much 'not a fan' as frustrated in general by poetry. I'm gonna read 'em all though; it's annoying having books on my To Read list when I do Compares and others have already Read them. And, ..."

This ones for you Mike. A little poem by W.H. Auden on death, tying together the themes of our discussions today. Ahem:

As the poets have mournfully sung,
Death takes the innocent young,
Those rolling in money,
The screamingly funny,
And those who are very well hung.


Figured I'd give you something fun.


message 30: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma s.penkevich wrote: "Mike wrote: "Not so much 'not a fan' as frustrated in general by poetry. I'm gonna read 'em all though; it's annoying having books on my To Read list when I do Compares and others have already Rea..."

Cheeses! I remember two lines of poetry; two! The unforunate, racist ditty from Grapes of Wrath, and a line from Robert Penn Warren's Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, about warriors on horseback charging through a muddy field: horses, like old women, lose their mounts. Or words to that effect. I need to get another copy of that book. I do have a quote from Auden among my favorites: “The friends who met here and embraced are gone,
Each to his own mistake”


message 31: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Mike wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "Mike wrote: "Not so much 'not a fan' as frustrated in general by poetry. I'm gonna read 'em all though; it's annoying having books on my To Read list when I do Compares and oth..."

Oo, I like that. Ha, I recall the Grapes one, and I have yet to read any Warren. I own All The Kings Men, but I decided I'm saving it for October when the election is in full swing. Figured I'd be more timely then. But never fear, poetry really isn't for everyone. I used to hate it, but one day it just blossomed for me.


message 32: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma s.penkevich wrote: "Mike wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "Mike wrote: "Not so much 'not a fan' as frustrated in general by poetry. I'm gonna read 'em all though; it's annoying having books on my To Read list when I do Com..."

The GoW one haunts me, since high school. Clever, but unrepeatable.


message 33: by s.penkevich (last edited Feb 20, 2012 07:57PM) (new)

s.penkevich Quite true. I wish I would have read GoW in high school, that year they substituted it for Beloved by Toni Morison. Never liked that one. Felt too much of a Faulkner rip off to me.


message 34: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I'm getting mine on my inner arm, which I hear is painful. I hope I can sit through it...

Take a couple of advil and a shot about an hour beforehand. And remember you don't have to finish it in one go. If you're getting a lot of ink I hear it is better to do it in stages and let the swelling go down in between.

I think not enjoying poetry just means you haven't encountered the right poems yet. But there's no discredit in not liking it (contrary to what poets and lit PhDs may tell you).


message 35: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma s.penkevich wrote: "Quite true. I wish I would have read GoW in high school, that year they substituted it for Beloved by Toni Morison. Never liked that one. Felt too much of a Faulkner rip off to me."

Hmmm. I really liked Beloved. Read it for myself. Then reread it for a teacher's guide I was editing. Then re-re-read it for a TG I edited for another company. Same thing happened with The Road. No complaints here.


message 36: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma Miriam wrote: "I'm getting mine on my inner arm, which I hear is painful. I hope I can sit through it...

Take a couple of advil and a shot about an hour beforehand. And remember you don't have to finish it in o..."


I'm thinking the same thing. The right poetry will come along. It's the damned Aha moment I continue expecting--the one where ALL poetry opens itself up. Bah!


message 37: by Magdelanye (new) - added it

Magdelanye so arriving at work today there it was, innocently lying on the shelf, a mint condition copy of Adverbs. Did I grab it? Well I did look, but not deeply. HA I thought. I know all about you!

As for peer pressure, RESIST. Everyone has their own reading trajectory.
That said, there definately is a cachet to certain books, and for me at least, there are a number books that I hold in special reserve, that I anticipate reading at the right time and look forward to reading and those that I rather dread,like IJ, and as you said, rather wish I had already read. I have a shelf for these called formidable.

Then there is the peculiar jealousy I get when someone is reading a book I adore.
Go figure!


message 38: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma Magdelanye wrote: "so arriving at work today there it was, innocently lying on the shelf, a mint condition copy of Adverbs. Did I grab it? Well I did look, but not deeply. HA I thought. I know all about you!

As for ..."


I get it. Books and music, I take suggestions somewhat reluctantly, prefering to find them or it for myself. Sometimes, I'll go ahead, make the purchase, then let a book sit here for a year before reading it; it's more like finding it myself that way. Adverbs was a fun, clever diversion, kinda like BBCAmerica; I don't watch it all the time, but I seem to like whatever I see there. My advice, hide Adverbs someplace you'll find it later, then discover it for yourself--it'll be more fun that way. I have a similar problem with group reads; too often, it's not what I want to read now. Reading without selecting is too 'on purpose.'


message 39: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Mike wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "Quite true. I wish I would have read GoW in high school, that year they substituted it for Beloved by Toni Morison. Never liked that one. Felt too much of a Faulkner rip off to ..."

Maybe I should give that one a re-read. My experience of books in high school greatly shaped my opinion of them, and I really liked her newest book, A Mercy when I read that for my African American Lit course at EMU.


message 40: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma s.penkevich wrote: "Mike wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "Quite true. I wish I would have read GoW in high school, that year they substituted it for Beloved by Toni Morison. Never liked that one. Felt too much of a Faulkne..."

I have a weakness for books by black women and unhappy catholics--neither of which I want to be when I grow up.


message 41: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Haha me either. Probably best to just live vicariously through their words.

And good advice Miriam! Especially taking a shot, I'll have one before and many after.


message 42: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Tattoo places should offer you a free drink with your service, like high end salons do (or so I hear).


message 43: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Miriam wrote: "Tattoo places should offer you a free drink with your service, like high end salons do (or so I hear)."

I agree. I've heard before about not being allowed to tattoo people who have been drinking, though I suspect that is more a liability issue than an actual danger.
That would be awesome though, sort of like movie theaters with bars. There are a few film I need to rewatch because I'm not sure if the movie was good or if my long island was just that good.


message 44: by Miriam (new)

Miriam That would be cool, although I'd be nervous that my tattoo artist was watching the screen instead of the needle.


message 45: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Good point. This idea needs some work.


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