Monday, 15 September 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Austere Academy, Chapter 6

I feel a little like I’m playing catch up with my Chapter-by-Chapter reviews again this week because I’ve not had my laptop out much this week. That makes it tricky to type up blog posts on it, which leads to frantic typing at the weekend to get everything ready to post.

So, I’d better stop waffling and get on with actually reviewing the chapter…

What Happens?

Violet, Klaus and Sunny go to Nero’s office first thing in the morning to tell him that they suspect Olaf has entered the school. Nero dismisses each of their suggestions of who Olaf might be; then Genghis shows up. They try to get his disguise off but the plan fails and they are sent to breakfast without any cutlery. Not to be deterred, the Quagmires start to help them devise a new plan, but then the Baudelaires learn they are to see Genghis that evening. Alone.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter kicks off with three hands holding fried eggs and it’s evidently not an easy task. I wasn’t sure who the hands belonged to initially because they just seem to be generic hands, if you want to get really pedantic about it you could argue that the top hand looks slightly more feminine than the one beneath it. Thankfully the teeny tiny baby hand at the bottom of the page clears up any mystery, these hands belong to the Baudelaires. Ordinarily I would wonder why anyone was holding fried eggs with their bare hands, but I think it’s safe to assume that they’ve broken a rule that has rendered them cutleryless.

We jump back into the story with an explanation that Prufrock Prep has been closed down for years. Can’t imagine why they would want to close such a fine establishment which is obviously such a paradigm of juvenile education. Apparently it wasn’t Nero’s bizarre behaviour that closed the school but Mrs Bass robbing a bank. No school could survive a scandal like that!

The Baudelaires have made up their minds to go to visit Nero very early in the morning in order to convince him Coach Genghis is a complete fraud who is also, coincidentally, Count Olaf. Considering Genghis is the only one who has expressed any sort of belief in Nero’s musical talents, it’s unlikely Nero will believe them.

On the way there Klaus figures out that this visit means they won’t be allowed any cutlery at their meals, something which he finds hilarious. This leads Violet to wonder how they will eat their breakfast, and Sunny to tell her “Oot” meaning “Trust me, it’s not that difficult.” They then speculate about all the things that will be very difficult to eat without silverware, like “Soup” as Sunny suggests. I’m wondering if in Sunny-speak this actually means something like lasagne.

Luckily the children have not been cutleryless before. Violet reminds them of a picnic to Rutabaga River where their father didn’t pack everything that was needed and Sunny chimes in with “Sticky!” at the memory of the meal. That’s two actual words in as many statements; I think our little Sunny is growing up! It doesn’t last though, moments later she says “And I bit rocks” but it comes out as “Eroos”. I like to think she’s trying to say ‘erosion’ here.

As always happens when the children reminisce about time spent with their parents, the children find themselves lapsing into depression. We get a sense of ‘Two Roads Diverged’ here as the children know that even if they return to Rutabaga River, it’ll never really be the same place again because they will never be the same people that they were back then. Aw.

Despite the early hour, Nero is already up practicing. You have to admire his dedication, though I do think that even if he’s as bad as Snicket says he is, he’d surely have improved simply from the amount of time he’s spent scraping his bow up and down the strings! He is surprised at Violet and Klaus arriving alongside Sunny and reminds them that they will be facing cutlery-free meals as a result of this visit.

Klaus gets straight to the point and tells Nero he suspects Olaf is in the school grounds. As expected, Nero dismisses his fear.

“Olaf is a master of disguise. He could be right under our very noses and we wouldn’t know it.”
“The only thing under my nose,” Nero said, “is my mouth, which is telling you to leave.”

And he dismisses their fear in such a reassuring way. But the children persist, suggesting that existing staff members could be Olaf in disguise. Each suggestion is pointedly rejected, though I do like the children’s tactic, suggesting that people Nero knows definitely aren’t Olaf might make him more inclined to consider someone who he doesn’t definitely know isn’t. Did that sentence make sense? I’m sure you know what I mean.

Unfortunately this plan backfires. Nero starts naming students who could be Count Olaf and then none other than Coach Genghis shows up and suggests that he could be Count Olaf. As per their plan the Baudelaires have to pretend that they have no idea who Genghis really is but they still take an opportunity at goading Olaf to remove his disguise.

There’s quite a lot of fake laughter going on here, all ha ha has and hee hee hees. Nero suggests the children should become comedians which leads Sunny to shriek “Volasocks!” which I think I’m going to start using as a curse word. It’s got a good sound to it. “Volasocks! I just dropped the dinner!” or “He’s just talking a bunch of volasocks!” I dare you to work it into conversation this week.

Violet and Klaus, still apparently joking, prepare to take off the turban and running shoes which constitute Olaf’s disguise for this book and that’s where it all stops being funny. Genghis has smelly feet and he wears a turban for religious reasons. They’re denied and Sunny sums it up best when she says “Drat!” which needs no translation. Genghis then changes the subject as he gives Nero a rose (those two need to get a room) and the children are dismissed.

Here’s a little moment where the illustration doesn’t quite match what happens in the book, because the Baudelaires are served scrambled eggs. And here’s where I feel I should elaborate on one of my weird little quirks. I prefer to eat food with my fingers. I don’t think I would have any problem eating scrambled eggs that way (except for maybe it burning my fingers if it was very hot). I always eat salad with my fingers and I’ll happily eat noodles that way if there’s no one around to tell me off. Clearly I’m just very poorly civilised or something.

The Baudelaires are less impressed with the idea of finger food but luckily the Quagmires are on hand to share their cutlery. Isadora shares hers with Klaus and Duncan with Violet, though if it was me I’d say brothers should share with sisters. I suppose doing it there way reduces the chances of the Baudelaires getting caught with cutlery which might get them all into trouble.

So they eat and pass cutlery between them and start trying to think of another plan. Violet once again acts as translator to Sunny’s “Kosbal!” which does not mean “I have a plan” as Isadora guesses, but actually “Here comes Carmelita Spats” which is guaranteed to spoil anyone’s meal and certainly won’t improve one when you’re being denied cutlery.

Things go downhill even quicker when Carmelita announces a message from Genghis, telling the Baudelaires to meet him on the front lawn that evening. Just a recap, this means they will have to spent time alone with Olaf, and will miss the violin recital which means that even if they survive the Olaf encounter they will still be punished. Tough call.

And now they only have a day to figure out a plan. Uh oh.

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