Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Grim Grotto, Chapter 7

The last chapter of The Grim Grotto ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, with the Baudelaires and Fiona finding themselves surrounded by Medusoid Mycelium. This chapter should show us how they deal with it. I suspect not very well.

What Happens?

The children kill time while they wait for the mushrooms to wane and so they search for the sugar bowl, without much luck. They do however find some interesting items which they look over while Sunny prepares something to eat. They learn a little about the plans that Gregor Anwhistle had for the mushrooms in the grotto. Violet also makes a discovery that worries her but refuses to share this information with her siblings, and worse, someone has a Mycelium spore in their diving helmet.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter opens with an image of what appears to be a fish bowl full of spaghetti. I hope it’s spaghetti. I like spaghetti. I’d quite happily just eat that for a meal on its own, never mind about any sauces or anything. I’m hoping that this means that the children will make it back to the submarine in time for tea and not that they’re going to have to come up with something to eat with what has been washed up in the cave.

The word “lousy,” like the word “volunteer,” the word “fire,” the word “department,” and many other words found in dictionaries and other important documents, has a number of different definitions depending on the exact circumstances in which it is used.

We then get about three pages explaining the numerous different definitions of ‘lousy’ as they can be applied to the Baudelaires, culminating this this impressive sentence:

And their lives were lousy with lousiness, from terrible people to horrible meals, from terrifying locations to horrifying circumstances, and from dreadful inconvenienced to inconvenient dreads, so that it seemed that their lives would always be lousy, lousy with lousy days and lousy with lousy nights, even if all of the lousy things with which their lives were lousy became less lousy, and less lousy with lousiness, over the lousy course of each lousy-with-lousiness moment, and with each new lousy mushroom, making the cave lousier and lousier with lousiness, it was almost too much for the Baudelaire orphans to bear.

There’s really nothing I can say to that.

Fiona’s confident that they’ll be safe from the mushroom spores as long as they don’t get too close. The mushrooms are still popping up all over the place but they’re not getting any closer so Fiona seems to be right. All the same, they still need to be able to figure out how to go back because one spore could be the end of them. Sunny asks about an ‘Antidote?’ but Fiona’s not too sure about that.

Luckily they’ve got Violet with them and she’s already tying her hair up with a ribbon. Sunny’s keen to be of help and says ‘Tingamebob’ which means ‘There’s plenty of materials here in the sand’ though Violet is more concerned about what she’s going to invent and how well it will hold up if it’s used to get all of them out of there. If it fails whoever is using it will probably not survive either the fall or the mushrooms.

Fiona pipes up to let them know that the mushrooms will wax and wane and so right now they’re waxing but soon enough they’ll start disappearing. In that case they don’t need to invent anything, they just need to walk past them. Unfortunately they don’t know how long that will take and it could be a while.

This leads to a discussion of the term ‘Hobson’s choice’ and how Mrs Baudelaire used to give the children a Hobson’s choice when they had to do something they didn’t care to do. In turn, this helps to take everyone’s minds off of the scary things going on in the cave, and initiates a discussion about times when Mrs Baudelaire and Fiona’s mum got really mad at their children. This is somewhat awkward for the Baudelaire children because they haven’t really thought about times when their parents were less than perfect since they died. Fiona interrupts this musing by explaining that Widdershins and her stepfather used to have rows as well, despite Widdershins telling the children how charming Fiona’s brother was.

Which leads them back onto the topic of the sugar bowl and reminds them that they should really be looking for it. It’s interesting to see what they find instead of the sugar bowl; things like ‘an odd, square stone with messages carved in three languages’, ‘a ring made of dull metal’ and ‘a fancy wine glass filled with holes’. Eventually Sunny says ‘Snack!’ meaning ‘Why don’t we stop for a bite to eat?’

The snack turns out to be crackers and peanut butter which they have found in the cave, which I’m not sure I’d want to eat considering you don’t really know where it’s come from. The only person who hasn’t found the search to be a complete waste of time is Klaus who has found a poetry book with the title ‘Versed Furtive Disclosure’ and he has a theory that V.F.D. has used the cave to hide things.

This seems to be likely as Fiona produces an envelope that she found and Sunny picked up a page from a newspaper with ‘V.F.D.’ circled. Violet suggests that they take a chance to investigate these things. Sunny might be able to cook whole meals, but she’s not so hot on the reading yet, so Klaus suggests that she make them something to eat. And what does she make? Well, it’s noodles, not spaghetti, but close enough and it is in a fishbowl. When asked exactly what it is she says ‘Pesto lo mein’ which Klaus translates as ‘soft Chinese noodles, which she tossed with an Italian basil sauce she got out of a jar.’ I love that when Fiona comments on the international basis for this meal, Sunny comments with ‘Hobson’ which means ‘I didn’t have much choice, given our surroundings’. She also offers them some wasabi which they decide not to eat just now.

And then it’s time to discuss what they have learned from their research. Klaus has discovered something called ‘Verse Fluctuating Declaration’ (I bet by this point Daniel Handler was regretting his choice of the initials ‘V.F.D’ and was wishing he’d gone for something a little easier to play with). This technique involved swapping words in poems to create a secret code. We get a bit of an example of how this might work before the children move on to talking about making up their own secret code and Sunny suggests they use ‘food’ words as the code.

Fiona’s envelope contained a letter to Gregor Anwhistle from Kit Snicket about the schism, it’s not entirely clear though because it’s also written in code and mentions something called ‘Volatile Fungus Deportation’. That would be moving the highly poisonous mushrooms out of the cave. Just for the record, if something is highly poisonous and very quick to reproduce, I’d recommend not taking it anywhere! This was basically what Kit was warning Gregor, because using them against their enemies would be a villainous thing to do.

Sunny then points out that mushrooms are beginning to wane which then leads Fiona to mention the fact her brother always kept a deck of cards for boring moments like this. They used to play a game called Fernald’s Folly; Fernald being Fiona’s brother’s name. Violet finds this interesting but won’t say why. Hmm, wonder what it is that she’s found then, claiming that there wasn’t anything useful in the newspaper.

Now it’s time to start getting ready to go and Fiona helps Sunny into her helmet. Sunny responds to this with ‘Shivalrush’ which means ‘That’s very kind of you’. The two younger Baudelaires don’t know what Violet knows though and she isn’t sure that they won’t end up having a schism of their own with Fiona.

The sinister information in the newspaper clipping was like a tiny spore, blossoming in the small, enclosed space of Violet’s pocket – like a spore of deadly Medusoid Mycelium, which at that very moment was blossoming in the small enclosed space of a diving helmet worn by one of the Baudelaire orphans.

Not looking good for the Baudelaires right now.


  1. This gives me so much nostalgia. I loved this series when I was younger! I really like the idea of chapter-by-chapter posts, very cool.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I was a big fan of the series in my mid to late teens.

      I like reading chapter-by-chapter book reviews and I'm having a lot of fun writing them. :-)


Let me know what you think. :-)