Adverbs, by Daniel Handler (Books 2008, 16)
Mr Handler operating under his own name, here, rather than his Snicket nom de plume. As such, this is a novel for adults, rather than children.
Though in fact, is it even a novel at all? It is in fact more of series of short stories, or even vignettes. They are linked, or at least related to each other, but it’s not always obvious how.
The same characters recur throughout, though in different combinations. Or at least, the same character names. It’s not at all clear that, where a name recurs, it is meant to be the same person. Indeed, the author says as much in his blurb.
The main link between them all is that they are all in some way or another about love. In fact, a better title might be something like, ‘A Series of Tales About Love’, or even, ‘A Series of Loving Events’. The title comes from Handler’s assertion that, essentially, “it’s not what we do, it’s how we do it”, and the fact that each of the stories (or chapters) has an adverbal title: ‘Particularly’, ‘Briefly’, ‘Not Particularly’, and so on.
It all gets a bit meta in the middle, where Handler breaks the fourth wall and addresses the reader directly.
And it has a soundtrack album, in two senses: throughout the book, there are references to bands and songs, so you could construct a suitable playlist from that. But given Handler’s alternative career as a musician and member of The Magnetic Fields, the album to play while reading it is undoubtedly their 69 Love Songs. You’ll find many themes in common and overlap between book and album.
All in all it’s thoroughly enjoyable, but doesn’t really go anywhere - it doesn’t have a plot, after all - and is kind of inconclusive.