It is surreal – a word which here means “strange and mildly disturbing” – to take the time, once you are grown, to reread a book series you loved as a child.
For instance, when I was a child and reading these books for the first time, I was frustrated that the adults never believed/listened to the Baudelaires, making it more difficult for them to escape the clutches of Count Olaf. Now that I am an adult, it pisses me off – a phrase which here means “it makes me want to bitch-slap somebody across the face because WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???”
Seriously though: I wanted to reread A Series of Unfortunate Events before the Netflix series drops on January 13th and, so far, I am three books in. In rereading books, it is sometimes difficult to be objective: am I attached to the Baudelaire orphans and infested in their well-being because the writer has developed them so vividly I feel like we’re old friends, or do they feel like old friends because I was a child when I read their story for the first time? I do know that the writing style is still amusing as an adult reader without being condescending towards anyone involved, but it is hard to focus on that now that I am older and recognize other things about the story.
It is very clear, to anyone reading, that Count Olaf is a horrible person. However, it’s different when the reader becomes an adult. While I think any child reading will recognize him as “the bad guy,” it’s more horrifying being an adult. You see what he does as the children’s guardian less as a “bad guy” thing and more as an “abusive guardian” thing. It also becomes clear that bumbling Mr. Poe, ignorant Uncle Monty, and cowardly Aunt Josephine are borderline abusive in their own ways, if not for what they perpetrate directly then for what they facilitate indirectly. And in recognizing such, I hope adult readers get angry.
I have ten books to go and, frankly, I’m almost dreading it. There is so much pain in these books. I wonder at a time in my life when I saw it sillier than it was sad…though Snicket’s writing, especially the letters on the back of the books, does lend itself towards silliness. And I am torn between being afraid Netflix will treat it too lightly and the idea that the show ill be too dark for the children who are the books’ target audience. I have decided that, if my children or my cousins ever want to read these books, it will be with the understanding that we are going to discuss them. I almost feel like they would be more detrimental than helpful to children who are already experiencing abuse.
Past Book Three, we’re starting to get into “Kari doesn’t remember much about this…” territory, so stay tuned to see how well THAT goes.