Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Penultimate Peril, Chapter 6 & Also Not A Chapter

This is kind of a double chapter review since we’ve spent the previous two chapters following Violet, then Klaus, now we’re going to spend some time with Sunny before everything comes back together for Chapter Seven. We’ve also got another non-chapter coming up but it’s just a short one, so I’m tacking it on at the end of this one.

But first, let’s see how Sunny fares on her own…

What Happens?

Sunny finds herself helping Principal Nero, Mr Remora and Mrs Bass. They ask her to take them to the Indian restaurant, where they find Hal working. Sunny winds up in the kitchen where she is witness to a conversation between Hal and Frank/Ernest. She’s given a device to turn a door into a Vernacularly Fastened Door and instructed to attach it to the door of the laundry room, which is expected to receive a delivery shortly. So Sunny heads off to do as she is instructed, just as the hotel clock chimes three o’clock.

Thoughts as I read:

Firstly we’ve got to take a look at the picture for this chapter. It’s five bags of money, though the centre one has ‘Chapter Six’ written across it. The others have a big dollar sign and ‘Property of Mulctuary Money Management’ around it. They’re sealed at the top with chains and padlocks which I don’t think looks particularly secure. I’m guessing this will be the discovery that Sunny makes, though just who the money is intended for will remain to be seen.

Sunny’s exited the elevator on the third floor and found herself in a corridor much the same as the one Klaus ended up on. She’s finding it a little tricky to be a flaneur considering the fact that she’s barely past being a baby and now she’s expected to be a spy and a concierge at the same time. Her speech is still hard to understand and she’s only recently learned to walk, so you can see why she might struggle a little.

Room 371 is the room for persons of an educational persuasion and it’s fairly easy to work out who it is; there’s a sound like someone skinning a cat or something, and there’s only one person we know who enjoys making noises like that. It’s Principal Nero of course.

I love this next bit:

If you have ever worked someplace and then, later, not worked there, then you know there are three ways you can leave a job: you can quit, you can be fired, or you can exit by mutual agreement. “Quit,” as I’m sure you know, is a word which means that you were disappointed with your employer. “Fired,” of course, is a word which means that your employer was disappointed with you. And “exit by mutual agreement” is a phrase which means that you wanted to quit, and your employer wanted to fire you, and that you ran out of the office, factory or monastery before anyone could decide who got to go first.

That’s brilliant.

The reason for bringing up this distinction is that the last time Sunny saw Nero, he fired her as his secretary. Imagine that! A baby not capable of being someone’s secretary!

Sunny needs to cover up her lack of vocabulary so she tells Nero ‘You rang’ which he immediately mimics in that weird voice of his. He then berates her for showing up and interrupting his violin practice, even though he rang for her, who does she think she is?!

Also in the room are Mr Remora, the banana eating teacher, and Mrs Bass, the teacher obsessed with measuring. Mrs Bass has a blonde wig perched on top of her head and is wearing a black face mask which I think alludes to a mention of her becoming a bank robber in an earlier book. They’ve requested the presence of a concierge because they’re hungry and want to go to a room where they can get something to eat.

Sunny can’t give her usual response (‘Andiamo’ meaning ‘I’d be happy to take you there’) because it’ll give away who she is, so she doesn’t speak, instead gesturing to the door. We then learn that the bags of money belong to Mrs Bass, so she’s already embarked on her career of a life of crime.

Luckily Mrs Bass, as well as being a bank robber, knows the way to the Indian restaurant so Sunny is kind of surplus to requirements here. Nero spends his time blathering about the violin recital he’s putting on this Thursday. This is his big opportunity to be recognised for the obvious talent he is and so quit his job at the school. It appears that each one of the teachers has received a personal invite designed to appeal to the things they want most; Mr Remora’s boasted of an ‘all-you-can-eat banana buffet’ while Mrs Bass’s was about bringing valuables to be measured in celebration of the metric system. This explains the bags from the bank, she had to steal stuff to have something to bring to the party.

We also hear that Esme Squalor is behind the party invitations as they head up to floor nine where we come face to face with another blast from the past. It’s Hal, the short-sighted hospital archivist. He’s got a big turban on to maintain the theme of the Indian restaurant, so it looks like he’s done okay for himself since the hospital fire.

I think Hal is speaking in code because his response to Nero’s mimicking is to say ‘I didn’t realise this was a sad occasion’. I’m sure we’ve seen something in the past about this sort of code. Whatever the correct response is supposed to be, Mr Remora gets it wrong.

Mrs Bass has a unique method for ordering food:

“I’ll have ten grams of rice,” Mrs. Bass interrupted, “one tenth of a hectogram of shrimp vindaloo, a dekagram of chana aloo masala, one thousand centigrams of tandoori salmon, four samosa with a surface area of nineteen cubic centimetres, five deciliters of mango lassi, and a sada rava dosai that exactly nineteen centimeters long.”

I dare you to try that next time you’re ordering in a restaurant.

We know that Nero is a bad man because not only does he only order candy for his meal, he also moves his glass off the coaster to ensure it makes a mark on the wooden table top. The bastard.

The conversation turns to Coach Genghis, aka Olaf. Mrs Bass defends him, since being on the run from the law can be very stressful. Mr Remora is going to say something about this but he’s cut off by Nero who dismisses Sunny in search of napkins. This takes her to the kitchen where she is able to witness a mysterious conversation.

Frank/Ernest is talking to Hal. Apparently J.S. is at the hotel and they are a she. This is a surprise. She’s apparently using a ‘Vision Furthering Device’ to watch the sky and has warned they’ll be ‘eating crow’. I’m not sure if this another coded conversation. Apparently so, because ‘eating crow’ means ‘enduring humiliation’ which isn’t something I was aware of before. This causes Sunny to reminisce about her parents playing backgammon so we learn that Mr Baudelaire’s name was Bertrand. It’s only taken twelve books to learn this!

Meanwhile Frank/Ernest are discussing the actual preparation of cooked crow and the conversation just gets stranger with additions such as ‘According to our calculations, the sugar will be laundered sometime after nightfall’. It’s bizarre. This then leads to the ‘Are you who I think you are?’ question, which Hal responds to by asking the same question back, at which point they spot Sunny and ask her as well.

This prompts a brief consideration of the meaning of ‘taciturn’ and why Sunny doesn’t immediately tell everyone who she is. Some of the options for her response include ‘Sunny Baudelaire please help’ which means ‘Yes, I’m Sunny Baudelaire, and my siblings and I need your help uncovering the mysterious plot unfolding in the Hotel Denouement, and signalling our findings to the members of V.F.D.’, or ‘No Habla Esperanto’ which would mean ‘I’m sorry; I don’t know what you’re talking about’. Instead she just says ‘concierge’.

The men seem to understand this because they show her a strange device with cables coming out of it and a keyboard in the centre. Of course Sunny knows just what it is. Frank/Ernest tells her what has to be done: it’s placed on a door, the letters V, F and D are pressed and the door becomes a Vernacularly Fastened Door. Sunny is ordered to fasten it to the door of Room 025.

Hal informs us, and Sunny, that it’s the laundry room, which surely has something to do with the reference to the sugar being laundered. It would seem that the sugar bowl is expected to fall into a funnel which leads directly to the laundry room. Sunny is then informed that they’re grateful for her help with the scheme before she takes off for Room 025.

And so we start to catch up with Violet and Klaus as, for the third time, the clock begins to chime through the hotel. Once again it sounds like ‘Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!’ which is how Sunny feels as well.

Which leads us to ALSO NOT A CHAPTER which repeats the three images from NOT A CHAPTER though in a slightly different order. This time it’s the man pressing the button in the elevator which comes first, second is the woman drilling a hole in the wall while a moustache and top hat lie on the floor beside her, while the final image is of the eye peeping through a hole at some frayed rope.

This is followed by a single paragraph:

At this point, the history of the Baudelaire orphans reverts to its sequential format, and if you are interested in finishing the story, you should read the chapters in the order in which they appear, although I dearly hope you are not interested in finishing the story, any more than the story is interested in finishing you.

So there we are. Hopefully now the Baudelaires will be reunited and some of these mysterious will begin to be solved.

Maybe we’re hoping for a little too much.

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