MARTA's Reviews > Adverbs

Adverbs by Daniel Handler
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's review
Jan 11, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2010

A book for grown-ups.

“How do you forget something? You just walk away from it, those who are still alive. There are so few clearings in our hearts and minds, so few places where something can’t grow on top of whatever happened to us before, and this is love too. “

The NY Times write this far better than I could ever: Like the album, “Adverbs” brings together thematically linked atmospheric tales, or riffs, with recurring characters but no real narrative thought-line. Each chapter is named for an adverb, from “Immediately” to “Judgmentally.” The book, I submit, is neither a novel nor, really, a story collection: it is a concept album.” Because that’s what this collection about love is: a concept album determining the outcome of each chapter through an adverb which we, as readers, are preemptively armed with, and are able to set into context the whole story.

Despite the awkward wordplay (at times), and incoherent storyline (at times), Handler excels at bringing a new dimension to the discussion and story of love. There is no archetypal love in any of the plots in Adverbs; rather, all you see is the benefits, the destruction, the shifts and temperaments that people undergo because of love – whether it’s metaphorical, platonic or romantic. The topic ‘love’ does not, in Handler’s case, introduce any sentiment or sappiness on his part. He approaches the topic as an agnostic would approach religion, somewhat secular to the experience, but aware of its existence and validity.

The chapter entitled ‘Truly‘ is my favourite. The narrator Handler features in it himself, and though there is no direct demonstration of a ‘love’ situation, he subtlety puts across an understanding of love, as the way things might happen, whether ‘artfully, attractively or aggressively’. This of course links the overarching theme of love to adverbs. In essence, the book focuses not on what happened/happens, but on how it happens (despite the very limited use of adverbs in the stories themselves), implicitly delineating the reason why love happens in the first place or why it ends (“After a certain age, you couldn’t even say where you were from. You went someplace, and lived there. And then you went someplace else.”)

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