Let’s Talk Books — A Series of Unfortunate Events #1-3 by Lemony Snicket

After trudging through Dracula for a month (and a half), I felt like reading through something significantly lighter. There are a few faster books from my collection I’ve been wanting to reread lately, but before I dive into them I felt it was time to give this series a try.

I’ve never read any of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books when I was a kid. In fact, I don’t think I’d even heard of them until the movie came out in 2004. I barely remember it at all, though. At some point I ended up having a box set of the first three books in my house; whether it was always there and I just didn’t notice, or someone gave it to me as a gift for Christmas — I’m not sure. (Although I found my ticket stub in the first book, so I’m assuming it was the latter.) Either way, I never read any of them, and I think I know why. I probably opened one of the books up, skimmed a few pages, and thought to myself that these seem a tad too childish (I was 16 or 17 at the time).

It wasn’t until the past year when one of my friends actually recommended reading through them. She was a big fan as a kid, but said she enjoyed reading through them again as an adult. Was it nostalgia, or was there something in them for adults, too? I dug out that box set and put it aside, intending to read at least the first book at some point. I mean, if I can enjoy cartoons and video games meant for kids so much, it’s possible to enjoy a children’s book series too, right?

Each book was short and pretty basic, so I’m going to combine the first three for this one post. The first book, The Bad Beginning, introduces us to the three Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny. Violet’s 14, and she’s interested in mechanical things and inventions. Klaus is a couple of years younger, and he’s a heavy reader. Sunny’s a baby, and she has sharp teeth and likes to bite things. I don’t want to say these are their only personality traits, but…

The three Baudelaire kids lived a pretty nice life, doing their things while living with their wonderful parents in a nice mansion. One day, however, their house burns down and takes their parents in the fire. The children were out for the day when it happened, and their parents’ friend Mr. Poe was burdened with sharing the unfortunate news.

According to their parents’ will, the children are supposed to live with the nearest relative, which unfortunately happens to be Count Olaf, a cartoony villain who will do anything to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune. But unfortunately for Count Olaf, none of the children can even touch the fortune until Violet turns 18. So in the meantime, Count Olaf treats the kids like garbage, making them do horrible chores while verbally (and in one case with Klaus, physically) abusing them.

The kids try to tell Mr. Poe what a terrible person Count Olaf is, but, for lack of a better word, he’s a turd. He can’t focus on one thing for more than like two sentences and ends up shushing the children or telling them generic advice instead of taking them seriously.

Being a turd, Mr. Poe calls Count Olaf and tells him the children came by his office to voice their concerns about their living arrangement. Count Olaf appears to show a change of heart and begins acting nicely towards the kids, even offering them roles in his upcoming play. Even though it sounds fishy, they go along with it.

Count Olaf’s character is supposed to marry Violet’s character in the play, and his neighbor, a real judge, will be the judge (or pastor? I forget) in the play as well. The two are wed, and although his plan was revealed, it was too late; by law Count Olaf has access to the Baudelaire’s fortune. Or he would, if Violet would have made her vow with the proper hand. Saved by a technicality, the kids exposed Count Olaf but he escaped.

In the next book, The Reptile Room, Mr. Poe finds their next closest relative. His name is Montgomery Montgomery, and he’s an eccentric guy that studies snakes. He’s very friendly, gives the children what they need, and they’re very excited to begin researching snakes with him. In fact, they’re supposed to go on a trip to Peru for their research soon, but there’s only one problem.

Montgomery Montgomery has hired an assistant, and it’s Count Olaf in disguise. The children immediately recognize him, but again, no one will listen to them. Count Olaf murders Montgomery Montgomery, staging his death to look like a poisonous snake bit him. Count Olaf still plans to go to Peru with the children, where he will “take care of them” where it’s harder to track his movements.

On the way to the harbor, Count Olaf crashes his car into Mr. Poe’s. Mr. Poe is as useless as ever, although his buffoonery buys the children some time while they figure out how to prove Montgomery Montgomery was murdered by Count Olaf, who Mr. Poe believes is the assistant. When his plan is foiled, he escapes again.

The third book in this collection is The Wide Window. Mr. Poe places the children in the care of their Aunt Josephine, who is afraid to do everyday things like turn on the stove. She’s kindhearted, but understandably frustrating to live with. While shopping for groceries, the children and their aunt run into Count Olaf again, who is in disguise as a sailor. He flirts with Josephine, who will not listen to the children when they tell her he’s Count Olaf. He eventually threatens Josephine, forcing her to write a suicide note that says Count Olaf (still under the guise of the sailor) will be their new caretakers.

The children find several issues with the note and determine that Josephine is not really dead, and eventually track her down. After rescuing her, Count Olaf runs into them again, this time throwing Josephine overboard into water containing fatal leeches. The kids once again prove who Count Olaf is to Mr. Poe, and he escapes again.

From what I understand, there are 13 books in the series. I’ve heard they get more interesting, shedding light on Count Olaf’s mysterious eye ankle tattoo and revealing more about the Baudelaire’s parents’ deaths. I’m a little disappointed there wasn’t anything like that in the three books that I read. They were fun, but they left me feeling like each book was self-contained, following a similar, predictable formula.

This series, at least from what I’ve read, definitely seems to be for kids. The print is large, the narrator constantly explains what bigger words mean, and the whole story sounds like it’s meant to be read out loud with a little gusto to a young audience. Honestly, I didn’t really see anything that adults would gain from it (although I think there were a couple of topics like a creepy uncle marrying a 14 year old girl or said creepy uncle murdering people that some parents may not find appropriate for kids).

That being said, there was something that grew on me while reading that made me curious to want to read more. I enjoyed that each book was about 200 pages and were fast reads to boot, so maybe something about finishing each one so quickly and being able to go into the next had something to do with that. I don’t know if or when I’ll read more, but when I do I might talk about them if I feel like they do anything different enough with their presentation.

I’d recommend trying a book or two out if you’re looking for a fast, light read. Like I said, these three books definitely felt like they’re meant for kids, but they were entertaining and charming enough for an adult like me to, at the very least, enjoy passing time with.

Thanks for reading and I hope you’re having a great week! 🙂

78407

Dealing With House Guests When You Don’t Want Visitors

This weekend, my grandparents came to stay with us for four days. I love them. I really do.

But my god, how I hate having people stay over.

I’ve come to value and appreciate silence and space over the years, and whether someone’s coming to visit for a day, staying overnight, or staying for a week, these two things tend to become disrupted when you have visitors. Under normal circumstances, I might be able to handle myself a little more maturely than I did this weekend, but due to the frustration of dealing with many personal issues lately, having company over for an extended period of time wasn’t something I particularly wanted to add to my plate.

I told myself I was really going to try to be a good sport about the situation, too. When they visited last year, I was dealing with the tail end of a frustrating depression and didn’t present myself very warmly. And when most of my family went out of state to attend my cousin’s wedding a few months ago, I stayed behind, which nobody was happy with. I know I haven’t left a great impression with them, even if I am genuinely nice towards them when we talk on the phone, and I wanted this visit to go differently. I really did. I put on my A-game and was so nice welcoming them in, helping them bring in luggage, making small talk, making them tea, etc.

That lasted two hours. Max.

My grandmother is a chatty woman. A very, very chatty woman. Unfortunately, she’s the kind of person that talks a lot without ever having much to say (sorry Granny, I really do love you ❤ ). And after a couple of hours of being bombarded with conversation that, sadly, I honestly had little to nothing to contribute towards, I was exhausted. I was getting a little agitated. My mother was supposed to be home shortly after they arrived, and she was showing no sign of pulling up the driveway anytime soon. I was praying she would walk through the door at any moment to take some of the attention off me. Negative thoughts about my personal shit kept bubbling up inside my head, and I wanted to get out of the house and breathe.

And then my grandmother hit one of my sensitive spots: how’s the job hunt going? I could feel myself tense up as soon as she began the question. I knew it would be coming eventually, but I was hoping to be in a better frame of mind when it happened.

For those that don’t know, I graduated two years ago with a B.A. in literature, with a focus in creative writing. My long term goal is to get published; what comes in between then and now, I don’t know. I’ve looked into several areas of interest where I felt I wanted to be, but regardless, I still only have my part-time retail job. It’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s not something I particularly like talking about, especially now when I’m honestly not sure I want to do what I thought I did anymore. I’m lost, to be honest. And it’s very frustrating to be lost and have people try to force advice on you when they don’t really know what they’re talking about.

I’ll leave it to your imagination on what happened next.

My grandmother can come off a little critical, as well. I know she doesn’t mean it; I know she doesn’t have a filter when she speaks, and she says the first thing that comes to her mind. But I criticize myself on this matter enough as it is. I really don’t need to have another person do it for me. And sure enough, this turned into an extensive, criticizing conversation. At some point, I knew I lost my ability to fake smiles and be polite. I knew I lost whatever mental energy I’d saved up to enjoy their visit. I knew this visit was going to suck. And now all I wanted was for them to leave so I could have some fucking peace and quiet and space again.

I really do love them. I really do. But I can’t handle house guests. I really can’t.

Well, good luck within bad luck, I got sick the day after they arrived and remained that way until today (still kind of sick actually, but at least now I can function). I had an excuse to stay up in my room for most of their visit, and an excuse to not be particularly outgoing. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but with the way I am right now, I needed a legitimate excuse to keep some distance.

But maybe you don’t have an excuse and need to deal with house guests. How do you deal with them when you don’t really want to? Well, even though I completely failed to do most of these, here are some things that have worked for me in the past when I’ve had stressful visits.

Don’t feel solely responsible for entertaining them. If someone’s visiting for a day, this may not apply as well. But if you have guests staying for a couple of days or a week, don’t make it your sole responsibility to spend every minute of the day trying to entertain them. You have your own life to live, and while you need to make time for your guests, you can’t stop your life to please theirs. For example, you all don’t have to go to bed at the same time. Say you’re going to bed a little early and let them watch TV or whatever. After you’re done with work, take a little time to do some grocery shopping or errand running to give yourself a little room to breathe. Try designating a specific time you’ll spend time with your guests so you don’t feel like you’re ignoring them.

Don’t take things personally. I know. I’ve got some balls to be telling you this. This, coming from the guy that recently found a hand-written note taped on his mailbox that said “Smile You Are Healthy 🙂 ❤ ” and immediately texted his friend, asking her if she thought this was a random act of kindness by some kid or the universe mocking me (yes, this is a thing that actually happened).

DSCN1073

She convinced me it was a random act of kindness, and now it’s taped above my desk :3

My grandmother didn’t mean to hit a nerve with me. I know that. I knew that when it happened. I just didn’t have the patience to deal with it. Be patient with your guests. Unless they’re people you talk and actively open up to on a common basis, they probably don’t know everything that’s going on with you. Your guests may be people that honestly don’t know you nearly as well as they once did, especially if a lot of time has passed between visits. People change, and sometimes others may not notice. If your guests are saying or doing something that’s starting to offend you, try to remember they’re most likely not doing it on purpose. (Unless they are. There are some genuinely rude guests that live to get a rise out of people. But you can usually tell the difference between these people and the ones that don’t mean any harm.) And if they keep doing it, try gently letting them know what they’re doing.

The visit isn’t going to last forever. Sometimes it seems like it is, but try to keep things in perspective. They’re not going to be living with you, even if they’re setting up their own station in the bathroom and you suddenly need to share counter and shower space. They are going to leave, and you’ll have your space back soon enough. Remember all those times when you found a day or week to pass by very quickly? Try thinking in those terms. The visit will be over soon, and the sooner you can accept that, the sooner you can deal with your guests a little better.

Try to include other people. I went out to dinner with my grandparents and parents on Saturday night. We invited my sister, who doesn’t live with us anymore, and her boyfriend. During previous visits, we’ve also invited my other grandmother (who is unfortunately no longer alive) and my cousins. Your guests may be visiting you, but chances are there are some other people you all mutually know and they want to see as well. Try to get them in on the visit for part of the time. It will help break up the repetitive nature of taking care of your guests and alleviate some of the unwanted attention on yourself.

Try to appreciate visits while they can still happen. Some visits will be one-time only situations, or just plain unwanted, whether or not you actually like the people that visit. But if you do like the people and you don’t get to see them often, even if you’re not up for it, try to enjoy the company while you can. I live in New Jersey. My grandparents live in Florida. We keep in touch regularly, but we don’t get many opportunities to see each other. And while they do make the drive back up here to visit their kids every year or so, the truth is my grandparents are getting up there in age. My mother has been saying “this might be their last drive up here” for years, and perhaps because they keep doing it I take for granted that they’ll always end up visiting. But realistically, I never know how many more visits they’ll make. They’re getting old; they may not have it in them to drive up and down the coast within the next few years. Even though I really haven’t enjoyed myself during the past couple of visits, I hope that they’ll come back again when I’m in a better frame of mind and can appreciate the company. You don’t want to come off like you don’t want your guests to visit when you still want to see them. You might make them feel unwanted and they may never want to visit again.

It’s not just family, either. As you’re getting older, chances are you’ll have more friends that live far away. They may need to crash at your place for a night if you want to see each other. If you make their time with you feel awkward, they may not want to make the drive to see you. It’s hard enough to keep up with friends that moved; you don’t need to make it harder.

Don’t forget about the bathroom. I’m sure different people from different ages and situations will read this, but if there’s one piece of universal advice I can give about dealing with house guests, it’s to use the bathroom! When you need a break, when you need to breathe, when you need everyone to shut up for five minutes, go to the bathroom. Keep a book or mp3 player hidden somewhere in it. Take your iPhone in and check a news feed from a social media site. Just sit on the toilet, turn the fan on if you have one, and breathe. The bathroom is, like, the one place you should be able to go and not be interrupted.

Should be. Life ain’t perfect. But take advantage of the bathroom. Trust me. It’s a lifesaver.

Hope this helps. Have a good week, and happy first day of fall! 🙂