Monday, 29 December 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Carnivorous Carnival, Chapter 1

We’ve not got very much longer to go with this series now. These last few books are quite hefty so I apologise in advance for these long posts getting even longer.

I don’t normally like to end the year on an unfinished book, but I’m making an exception for this one, because I make the rules about these things so I know where the loopholes are. Apparently if you’re reading it chapter-by-chapter on your blog then it’s okay to not have finished it at the end of the year. ;-)

What Happens?

The Baudelaires are transported to Caligari Carnival where Olaf and his gang have gone to see Madame Lulu the fortune teller. The children manage to get out of the car boot but find themselves in the middle of nowhere. They try to phone Mr Poe but when they explain their plight to the operator the person on the other end of the line hangs up on them. So the children are going to have to look to the criminals to find a way to survive now.

Thoughts as I read:

As it’s a new book we kick off with a new dedication. This one says:

For Beatrice - 
Our love broke my heart,
and stopped yours.

Such a happy and cheerful start. Then again I suppose we might as well start as we mean to go on and if these books were depressing when they started then I’m not sure there’s a word to describe what they’ve become now.

If you remember the last book ended with the Baudelaires climbing into the boot of Olaf’s big black car and heading off for places unknown, scary and dangerous. This opening picture shows that they’re arriving at just such a place. There’s a big billboard which says ‘Madame Lulu at the Caligari Carnival’ and underneath that ‘What you want to hear, guaranteed!’ And oh look, there’s an eye in the middle of her crystal ball. That can only mean bad things.

It’s also worth noting a couple of other things from this picture. Firstly we can see the hook-handed man’s arm sticking out the window. Judging from the papers flying behind the car I think he’s just been littering. Also, the number plate on the car read ‘IH8 ORPNS’ hehe. Nice one Olaf.

When my workday is over, and I have closed my notebook, hidden my pen, and sawed holes in my rented canoe so that it cannot be found, I often like to spend the evening in conversation with my few surviving friends.

See what I meant about this book going beyond depressing. Snicket goes on to elaborate on the sort of things these surviving friends talk about, I won’t list them all here but none of them are anything good. After a page of this it winds up with a discussion of the saying ‘the belly of the beast’ which is where the Baudelaires are at the moment, if the belly is the car boot and the beast is Olaf’s car.

What follows is a bit of a recap about what the car is like and who else is travelling in it. We know that so I’ll skip on past it. Olaf’s troupe are complaining about the journey and the fact that they were unable to ‘go’ before they left the hospital as it was on fire. We also learn that they are currently travelling through ‘the hinterlands’ where there is nowhere for them to stop and is also miles away from the city. This will no doubt cause problems for the Baudelaires. Oh and while we’re recapping; Violet invents, Klaus reads, Sunny bites, just in case you’d forgotten.

Meanwhile we continue to listen into Olaf, Esme and the gang’s conversation. They want to celebrate the fact that everyone thinks Olaf is dead and the children did it, but Olaf won’t be satisfied until they get the Snicket file and find the Baudelaires. After all, there’s still a fortune to be stolen. Olaf comments on the fact that the Baudelaires are very lucky so they will probably have survived the fire. The children really are quite lucky, considering how many unlucky things happen to them.

When Olaf says he only needs one of them there’s a bit of speculation about which one they want. The hook-handed man wants to put Sunny in a cage again, because he’s that sort of a person. Olaf wants it to be Violet because “She’s the prettiest” because he’s that sort of a person. But as they don’t know where any of them are, they’re going to see Madame Lulu to look in her crystal ball. Apparently this is how they’ve been tracking them down each time the Baudelaires escape.

Once again there’s a place name here which needs mentioning, just because. They’re now driving down ‘Rarely Ridden Road’ which is so named because it is very bumpy, making the children’s already uncomfortable journey even more uncomfortable. Then they arrive at Caligari Carnival (I just looks up Caligari and apparently it was the name of a doctor in a 1920s horror film, I love little things like that in these books). There’s a moment when someone says they’ll get something out the boot but Olaf tells his henchman not to bother and the children hear them all walk away.

Violet asks her siblings what they should do now and Sunny, sensible as always, says ‘Merrill’ meaning ‘We’d better get out of this trunk.’ But it’s not going to be that easy, Violet will need to find a way to open the trunk mechanism. They’re surrounded by bits of Olaf’s old costumes but first the turban is discounted as being too thick and Sunny finds ‘Semja!’ which is Klaus’s shoelace, set aside as a last resort. In the end it’s the monocle cord from when Olaf became Gunther that they use to open the boot.

They’ve found themselves in the middle of nowhere in what is essentially an abandoned carnival. There’s tents and a roller coaster but nothing seems to be used much. And there’s a tent with a big eye on it, which is evidently where Olaf and his crew are with Madame Lulu. The children have been sitting in the trunk looking around, trying to work out where they should go next, especially as Olaf is likely to come back at any minute and is likely to be quite pleased to find three Baudelaires in his boot.

Sunny’s response to Klaus’s suggestion of calling the police is ‘Dragnet!’ which is hilarious. This is translated as ‘But the police think we’re murderers!’ They’re only option is Mr Poe who they all agree has been utterly useless so far but they can’t think of anyone else. Sunny points out ‘Veriz’ which I think is a reference to Verizon (an American communications company), it’s translated as ‘We’ll need money to make a phone call’.

As they don’t have any, they call the operator instead. They tell the operator that it’s an emergency at which point they’re asked “What is the exact nature of your emergency?” This takes some explaining. Violet gives a page long rundown of what’s happened to them since midway through The Vile Village and by the time she’s done the operator has hung up or something. Considering Violet’s spilled the beans about who they are and where they are I’m guessing the operator is quietly dialling the police to go an arrest them. That’d be just their luck!

Basically they’re on their own. Again. As has become fairly common over the course of the books, Violet starts to go to pieces at the realisation that there’s no one to help them. Klaus tries to reassure his sister but Sunny helpfully says ‘Ephrai’ (which I’m wondering if it’s meant to be a nod to ‘Ephraim’ though I’m not getting any link to what comes next) meaning ‘But we’re in real trouble now.’

They’re going to have to think like criminals to survive, seeing as that’s what everyone thinks they are. Luckily Olaf isn’t far away so they’ll be able to go and see exactly how criminals look after themselves.

These are bad times for the Baudelaires.

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