The Obvious Answer

One of the world’s tiresome questions is what object one would bring to a desert island, because people always answer “a deck of cards” or “Anna Karenina” when the obvious answer is “a well-equipped boat and a crew to sail me off the island and back home where I can play all the card games and read all the Russian novels I want.”

— Lemony Snicket, Horseradish:  Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid, p. 67

More Fun, But Impractical

There are some who say that you should forgive everyone, even the people who have disappointed you immeasurably.  There are others who say you should not forgive anyone, and should stomp off in a huff no matter how many times they apologize.  Of these two philosophies, the second one is of course much more fun, but it can also grow exhausting to stomp off in a huff every time someone has disappointed you, as everyone disappoints everyone eventually, and one can’t stomp off in a huff every minute of the day.

— Lemony Snicket, Horseradish:  Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid, p. 26

Happy Families

A certain Russian writer said that happy families are all alike, which is absurd.  Some happy families do nothing but train seals all day, while others prefer to paint pictures of flowers on pieces of pottery and sell them for outrageous prices at fairs.  There are happy families who consist of nothing but a happy father and his happy twin sons, and there are happy families who have so many happy cousins that whenever the happy family wants to go somewhere together they have to rent an entire happy bus to do so.  There are happy families who live in the happy center of certain happy cities, and there are happy families who rent a different happy hut on a different happy island every happy week.  Really the only thing that all happy families have in common is happiness and perhaps a certain sagginess around the cheeks from smiling all the livelong day.

— Lemony Snicket, Horseradish:  Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid, p. 24

Jane Austen’s Juvenalia

On being shewn into an elegant dressing room, ornamented with festoons of artificial flowers, they were struck with the engaging Exterior and beautifull outside of Jezalina the eldest of the young Ladies, but e’er they had been many minutes seated, the Wit and Charms which shone resplendent in the conversation of the amiable Rebecca, enchanted them so much that they all with one accord jumped up and exclaimed.

“Lovely and too charming Fair one, notwithstanding your forbidding Squint, your greazy tresses and your swelling Back, which are more frightfull than imagination can paint or pen describe, I cannot refrain from expressing my raptures, at the engaging Qualities of your Mind, which so amply atone for the Horror, with which your first appearance must ever inspire the unwary visitor.”

— Jane Austen at 12, in “Frederic and Elfrida,” Minor Works


It is always sad when someone leaves home, unless they are simply going around the corner and will return in a few minutes with ice-cream sandwiches.

— Lemony Snicket, Horseradish:  Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid, p. 16

Realistic Books

Neither my mother nor my dog dies in this book.  I’m rather tired of those types of stories.  In my opinion, such fantastical, unrealistic books — books in which boys live on mountains, families work on farms, or anyone has anything to do with the Great Depression — have a tendency to rot the brain.  To combat such silliness, I’ve written the volume you now hold — a solid, true account.  Hopefully, it will help anchor you in reality.

So, when people try to give you some book with a shiny round award on the cover, be kind and gracious, but tell them that you don’t read “fantasy,” because you prefer stories that are real.  Then come back here and continue your research on the cult of evil Librarians who secretly rule the world.

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, by Brandon Sanderson, p. 50