Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Book review: The Basic Eight

Daniel Handler is better known as children's author Lemony Snicket, but has also published a few books under his own name. Before the Series of Unfortunate Events came his 1995 debut novel The Basic Eight, whose story is a bit of a high school transposition of The Secret History and Fight Club. It takes the form of a journal by San Francisco high school senior Flannery Culp, who's gone back to re-edit it for publication from the prison cell or mental hospital room she's ended up in a year or so later. So it's made clear from the start that she and the other members of the Basic Eight, a pretentious clique, will end the story with murder, and she even lets us know in advance who the victim will be. The unlikeable, delusional narrator device extends to Flannery pointing out to the reader when she's using literary devices like foreshadowing, dramatic irony and pathetic fallacy, and ending each chapter with a list of discussion topics and useful vocabulary. I found it generally enjoyable, although the plot feels well-trodden and Handler's use of barely-disguised real names for public figures (post-notoriety, Flannery's nemesis is talk show host Winnie Moprah, and she'll be played by actress Rinona Wider in the TV movie) was a bit twee for me.

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