Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Grim Grotto, Chapter 12

We’re almost at the end of The Grim Grotto. I’m writing this hyped up on cold and flu capsules, so I apologise in advance for any rambles I wander off on.

In Chapter Ten the Baudelaires made it back to the Queequeg to study Mushroom Minutiae in the hope of finding a cure for Sunny. They found the cure but unfortunately they didn’t have any horseradish in the submarine. Luckily Sunny spoke up to let them know that she knew of an alternative.

What Happens?

Sunny is successfully cured and the children receive a Volunteer Factual Dispatch. It’s from Quigley and contains a coded message about where they are to meet. Violet and Klaus search for (and find) some poetry books and set to work decoding the riddle. They’re almost there when Olaf and the gang show up, putting a serious kink in their plans when they discover that someone they thought was on their side is not any more.

Thoughts as I read:

The chapter image for Chapter Twelve is one of those ones that plays around with the chapter heading. This time we’ve got a picture of the machine which delivers the Volunteer Factual Dispatches. In fact, there’s one being delivered right now and it says ‘CHAPTER TWELVE’, though the writing is upside down, as though it’s just been printed. I wonder if this means that we’re going to hear from someone in the outside world during this chapter.

We open this chapter by learning about what the phrase ‘the tables have turned’ means. This is because the tables have turned. Luckily they found a tin of wasabi (of questionable origin) in the Gorgonian Grotto so they can use this as a horseradish substitute. It works as well, within moments Sunny is breathing almost normally again.

She asks for water, thanks her siblings for saving her, then announces ‘Tuckered’ because being poorly makes you tired (which is why I am still lounging in my pyjamas as I write this). Sunny establishes that she’s going to sleep next to the stove because she wants to stay by her brother and sister. Aww.

Violet and Klaus leave their little sister to sleep and then dose themselves with wasabi. Now they need to work out what they’re doing next as Olaf has everything he needs apart from the sugar bowl. They’re interrupted by the arrival of a Volunteer Factual Dispatch from Quigley Quagmire. That’s a relief, especially for Violet for obvious reasons.

“‘It is my understanding that you have three additional volunteers on board STOP.’” she read, remembering that “STOP” indicates the end of a sentence in a telegram. “‘We are in desperate need of their services for a most urgent matter STOP. Please deliver them Tuesday to the location indicated in the rhymes below STOP.’”

So we’ve got another mystery to solve, this time with the help of two poems by Lewis Carroll and T.S. Eliot. They study the verses and try to work out which words don’t fit. My guess would be that the line about the Oysters and the Walrus going for a walk ‘along the movie theater’ seems a little out of place, as is the line about a ‘pony throbbing party’. The dispatch is also CC’d to J.S. who can’t be Jacques Snicket because by now everyone knows he’s dead so there’s some other J.S. floating around.

There’s also the question as to who on board would be able to decode this riddle. I was assuming that Klaus would, which was probably wrong of me since it really annoys me when people assume that I know about random books because I like to read. Klaus is more interested in non-fiction and also, who has the complete works of Carroll and Eliot memorised?

Violet remembers that Fiona mentioned that Fernald and Widdershins used to study poetry together, which must mean that somewhere around the Queequeg there must be a collection of poetry books. Clearly these contained secrets that the children were not allowed to be privy to. Something about this sparks a memory for Klaus about a time when he got into trouble because he took a book down from a high shelf containing books about war and some romances (I bet they were annoyed because that’s where Mrs Baudelaire kept the Fifty Shades of Grey books). After that the books were moved. This really doesn’t help solve the mystery of the hidden poetry books.

Except it kind of does because the children decide to look into the highest cabinet in the kitchen. And there are a bunch of books by Elizabeth Bishop, Charles Simic, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Franz Wright, Daphne Gottlieb and lo and behold, T.S. Eliot and Lewis Carroll. Not only that, but there’s a photo of the Widdershins family, complete with Fiona’s mum in the picture. There’s serious discussion about what they should do if they decode the message before Fiona gets back, instead of, you know, actually decoding the message.

They do eventually get to work on studying the poems before being interrupted by Sunny bringing them snacks. She announces ‘Rekoop’ meaning ‘I had a brief nap, and when I woke up I felt well enough to cook something’. I can’t nap so this is not an option for me and my stinking cold. Sunny’s made them ‘Amuse bouche’ which means ‘Tiny water chestnut sandwiches, with a spread of cheese and sesame seeds.’

So they stop researching poetry and have a chat about whether or not they can trust Fernald and Fiona. Again. Sunny adds her thoughts to the matter, ‘Perifido’ meaning ‘It would be foolish to trust one of Olaf’s henchmen.’ Luckily Klaus announces that he has figured out the Lewis Carroll bit of the riddle. They need to get to Briny Beach.

I didn’t remember where Briny Beach had come into the story until it was mentioned in the next paragraph. That was where the children had been when Mr Poe told them their parents had been killed in a fire. Understandably they’ve not really fancied visiting it again since then. And as it’s a beach they can get there by submarine which Klaus has basically decided that they can commandeer once he’s checked the charts.

Meanwhile Violet knows that when they get there they will have to…

But before we can find out Olaf shows up, which puts a real kink in their plans. He does point out that they’ve been wasting their time ‘snacking and reading poetry’ which is kind of true. They should have saved the snacks and chatting until after they’d solved the riddle. And not only has Olaf arrived, he’s brought Esme and Carmelita with him as well. It’s then revealed that it turned out that they couldn’t trust Fiona as she’s gone over to the dark side. Her diving suit has Edgar Guest on it now.

She’s in league with Olaf.

And so the tables have turned.

(Just in case you’re wondering about the rest of the message, and can’t wait until Thursday to find out what it says, the changed words in the T.S. Eliot poem are ‘Violet’, ‘taxi’ and ‘waiting’. Make of that what you will.)

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