41. Adverbs by Daniel Handler
Hobby Games was a fascinating read, as an aspiring game designer. One hundred game designers, each writing about the game they think is the best, most well-designed, on occasion most-influential... It felt a little heavy on the historical-simulation wargames, though I'm well aware that that's more due to my relative inexperience with them, and I understand they have a relatively direct hand in the creation of D&D. But seeing a multitude of eminent game designers discuss elegance in mechanics and gameplay is a fantastic bit of study for someone who wants to create them himself.
Adverbs was... weird. A couple dozen vaguely interconnected short stories about people in all kinds of love. Handler's writing style is sometimes simplistic, sometimes eloquent, sometimes matter-of-fact, sometimes rambling to no particular purpose. At times it reminded me of the way children of a certain age will tell stories - they don't particularly care about narrative structure or strong characterization, so much as relating what happened and inserting little details about the people wherever it occurs to them. And yet the whole book hung together really well. I'd love to see him take on a slightly more conventional novel, so perhaps I'll seek out one of the other things he's written (besides his work as Lemony Snicket, which I greatly appreciate for getting kids to read, but doesn't really have the same adult appeal as the Harry Potter series).
Next up? Well, I'm about 140 pages into Les Misérables. Yes, I'm reading the unabridged version; this paperback weighs in at around 1460 pages. By reputation, reading the unabridged Les Misérables feels like climbing one of the great mountains of literature. I wouldn't quite equate it with Mount Everest - that honor, I feel, goes to Ulysses, as a forbidding peak where the very act of breathing is difficult, a summit that few people attempt and fewer survive - but it does feel like a Kilimanjaro or perhaps a Rainier, standing tall, dominating the entire landscape of French literature. I'm enjoying it so far, though it helps that I went in not really expecting anything in particular, so the fact that 90% of the book so far has been devoted to detailed character portraits and backstories of a pair of side characters isn't bothering me like it would some readers I know.