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A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket.

The Reptile Room

Title: A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room.
Author: Lemony Snicket.
Genre: Fiction, steampunk, YA, teen, children's lit, adventure, gothic.
Country: U.S.
Language: English.
Publication Date: August 25, 1999.
Summary: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent children. They are charming, and resourceful, and have pleasant facial features. Unfortunately, they are exceptionally unlucky. Sent to live with a distant relative named Montgomery Montgomery, an expert on snakes, and hounded by Count Olaf, the three youngsters encounter a deadly serpent, a large brass reading lamp, a long knife, and a terrible odour.

My rating: 8.5/10.
My Review: It was while re-reading this book probably for about the fourth time that the beauty and purpose of Snicket's very unique narrative style really hit me. I've always assumed that the darkness and delightful, pessimistic morbidity simply appealed to adolescents in and of itself.


For Beatrice —
My love for you shall live forever.
You, however, did not.


♥ "You don't think I'd coop you all up in one room when I have this enormous house, do you? What sort of person would do that?"

"Count Olaf did," Klaus said.

"Oh, that's right, Mr. Poe told me," Uncle Monty said, grimacing as if he had just tasted something terrible. "Count Olaf sounds like an awful person. I hope he is torn apart by wild animals someday."

♥ "Are there any snakes in this room that are dangerous?" Violet asked.

"Of course," Uncle Monty said. "You can't study snakes for forty years without encountering some dangerous ones. I have a whole cabinet of venom samples from every poisonous snake known to people, so I can study the ways in which these dangerous snakes work. There is a snake in this room whose venom is so deadly that your heart would stop before you even knew he'd bitten you. There is a snake that could open her mouth so wide she could swallow all of us, together, in one gulp. There is a pair of snakes who have learned to drive a car so recklessly that they would run you over in the street and never stop to apologize."

♥ As you and I listen to Uncle Monty tell the three Baudelaire orphans that no harm will ever come to them in the Reptile Room, we should be experiencing the strange feeling that accompanies the arrival of dramatic irony. This feeling is not unlike the sinking in one's stomach when one is in an elevator that suddenly goes down, or when you are snug in bed and your closet door suddenly creaks open to reveal the person who has been hiding there. For no matter how safe and happy the three children felt, no matter how comforting Uncle Monty's words were, you and I know that soon Uncle Monty will be dead and the Baudelaires will be miserable once again.

♥ Uncle Monty taught them how to handle the Inky Newt without getting its black all over their fingers, and how to tell when the Irascible Python was grumpy and best left alone. He taught them not to give the Green Gimlet Toad too much water, and to never, under any circumstances, let the Virginian Wolfsnake near a typewriter.

♥ "I still miss our parents, though," Klaus said. "No matter how nice Uncle Monty is, I wish we still lived in our real home."

"Of course," Violet said quickly. She paused, and slowly said out loud something she had been thinking about for the past few days. "I think we'll always miss our parents. But I think we can miss them without being miserable all the time. After all, they wouldn't want us to be miserable."

♥ One of the most difficult things to think about in life is one's regrets. Something will happen to you, and you will do the wrong thing, an for years afterward you will wish you had done something different. For instance, sometimes when I am walking along the seashore, or visiting the grave of a friend, I will remember a day, a long time ago, when I didn't bring a flashlight with me to a place where I should have brought a flashlight, and the results were disastrous. Why didn't I bring a flashlight? I think to myself, even though it is too late to do anything about it. I should have brought a flashlight.

For years after this moment in the lives of the Baudelaire orphans, Klaus thought of the time when he and his siblings realized that Stephano was actually Count Olaf, and was filled with regret that he didn't call out to the driver of the taxicab who was beginning to drive back down the driveway. Stop! Klaus would think to himself, even though it was too late to do anything about it. Stop! Take this man away! Of course, it is perfectly understandable that Klaus and his sisters were too surprised to act so quickly, but Klaus would lie awake in bed, years later, thinking that maybe, just maybe, if he had acted in time. he could have saved Uncle Monty's life.

♥ When somebody is a little bit wrong—say, when a waiter puts nonfat milk in your espresso macchiato, instead of lowfat milk—it is often quite easy to explain to them how and why they are wrong. But if somebody is surpassingly wrong—say, when a waiter bites your nose instead of taking your order—you can often be so surprised that you are unable to say anything at all. Paralyzed by how wrong the waiter is, your mouth would hang slightly open and your eyes would blink over and over, but you would be unable to say a word.

♥ "Doog!" Sunny shrieked, in a generic cry of frustration, and pounded her little fist on the floor. The word "generic" here means "when one is unable to think of anything else to say," and Sunny was not alone in this. Violet and Klaus were of course too old to say things like "Doog!" but they wished they weren't.

♥ It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things. The Badelaire orphans were crying not only for their Uncle Monty, but for their own parents, and this dark and curious feeling of falling that accompanies great loss.

♥ It seemed incredible that their very lives hinged on a carpooling conversation, but in life it is often the tiny details that end up being the most important.

♥ Even though Dr. Lucafont had removed Uncle Monty's body, the Reptile Room was not as inviting as it used to be, and probably never would be. What happens in a certain place can stain your feelings for that location, just as ink can stain a white sheet. You can wash it, and wash it, and still never forget what has transpired, a word which here means "happened and made everybody sad."

♥ When you were very small, perhaps someone read to you the insipid story - the word "insipid" here means "not worth reading to someone" - of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. A very dull boy, you may remember, cried "Wolf!" when there was no wolf, and the gullible villagers ran to rescue him only to find the whole thing was a joke. Then he cried "Wolf!" when it wasn't a joke, and the villagers didn't come running, and the boy was eaten and the story, thank goodness, was over.

The story's moral, of course, ought to be "Never live somewhere where wolves are running around loose," but whoever read you the story probably told you that the moral was not to lie. This is an absurd moral, for you and I both know that sometimes no only is it good to lie, it is necessary to lie. For example, it was perfectly appropriate, after Violet left the Reptile Room, for Sunny to crawl over to the cage that held the Incredibly Deadly Viper, unlatch the cage, and begin screaming as loudly as she could even though nothing was really wrong.

There is another story concerning wolves that somebody has probably read to you, which is just as absurd. I am talking about Little Red Riding Hood, an extremely unpleasant little girl who, like the Boy Who Cried Wolf, insisted on intruding on the territory of dangerous animals. You will recall that the wolf, after being treated very rudely by Little Red Riding Hood, ate the little girl's grandmother and put on her clothing as a disguise. It is this aspect of the story that is the most ridiculous, because one would think that even a little girl as dim-witted as Little Red Riding Hood could tell in an instant the difference between her grandmother and a wolf dressed in a nightgown and fuzzy slippers. If you know somebody very well, like your grandmother or your baby sister, you will know when they are real and when they are fake. This is why, as Sunny began to scream, Violet and Klaus could tell immediately that her scream was absolutely fake.

"That scream is absolutely fake," Klaus said to himself, from the other end of the Reptile RoomM

"That scream is absolutely fake," Violet said to herself, from the stairs as she went up to her room.

"My Lord! Something is terribly wrong!" Mr. Poe said to himself, from the kitchen where he wa talking on the phone.

♥ There are two basic types of panicking: standing still and not saying a word, and leaping all over the place babbling anything that comes into your head. Mr. Poe was the leaping-and-babbling kind. Klaus and Sunny had never seen the banker move so quickly or talk in such a high-pitched voice. "Goodness!" he cried. "Golly! Good God! Blessed Allah! Zeus and Hera! Mary and Joseph! Nathaniel Hawthorne! Don't touch her! Grab her! Move closer! Run away! Don't move! Kill the snake! Leave it alone! Give it some food! Don't let it bite her! Lure the snake away! Here, snakey! Here, snakey snakey!"

♥ Mr. Poe looked at Klaus, puzzled. "What does your sister mean by 'Aha'?" he asked.

Klaus sighed. He felt, sometimes, as if he had spent half his life explaining things to Mr. Poe. "By 'Aha,'" he said, "she means 'One minute' Stephano claims he knows nothing about snakes, the next he claims he is an expert! By 'Aha' she means 'Stephano has been lying to us.' By 'Aha' she means 'we've finally exposed his dishonesty to you!' By 'Aha' she mans 'Aha!'"

♥ It is very difficult, experts have told us, to find a needle in a haystack, which is why "needle in a haystack" has become a rather hackneyed phrase meaning "something that is difficult to find." The reason it is difficult to find a needle in a haystack, of course, is that out of all the things in a haystack, the needle is only one of them. If, however, you were looking for anything in a haystack, that wouldn't be difficult at all, because once you started sifting through the haystack you would most certainly find something: hay, of course, but also dirt, bugs, a few farming tools, and maybe even a man who had escaped from prison and was hiding there.

♥ "Who are you?" Violet asked. It is confusing to fall asleep in the daytime and wake up at night.

"What are you doing with Uncle Monty's reptiles?" Klaus asked. It is also confusing to realize you have been sleeping on stairs, rather than in a bed or sleeping bag.

"Dixnik?" Sunny asked. It is always confusing why anyone would choose to wear a plaid suit.

♥ It was a full moon, and the moonlight reflected off the glass walls of the Reptile Room as though it were a large jewel with a bright, bright shine—brilliant, one might say. When Bruce had used the word "brilliant" about Uncle Monty, he meant "having a reputation for cleverness or intelligence." But when the children used the word—and when they thought of it now, staring at the Reptile Room glowing in the moonlight—it meant more than that. It meant that even in the bleak circumstances of their current situation, even throughout the series of unfortunate events that would happen to them for the rest of their lives, Uncle Monty and his kindness would shine in their memories. Uncle Monty was brilliant, and their time with him was brilliant. Bruce and his mean from the Herpetological Society could dismantle Uncle Monty's collection, but nobody could ever dismantle the way the Baudelaires would think of him.
Tags: 1990s - fiction, 20th century - fiction, 3rd-person narrative, a series of unfortunate events, adventure, american - fiction, animals (fiction), children's lit, family saga, fiction, gothic fiction, my favourite books, mystery, satire, sequels, steampunk, teen, ya
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