All the Dirty Parts

by Daniel Handler

Read time: about 7 minutes

Lemony snicket remains bar far my favourite children’s writer of all times for me. Even Harry Potter hasn’t done what Lemony Snicket did for me. Since then I have watched multiple adaptations of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’, the most recent one with Neil Patrick Harris being my favourite. Although I have just read 6 books out of 13-books series I absolutely love the writing. I do hope to get to reading rest of the parts very soon, hopefully before the next season of ‘A series of unfortunate events’ comes out.

While requesting the book on Netgalley I wasn’t aware of Handler’s work on ‘a series’ series but now that I know it I am most enthusiast to tell you about this recent book that he has written for his young adult readers.

Cover: All the Dirty Parts

Cover page

There is not much on the cover page. Only the book title written oddly across the front cover. I like the cover. It’s simple and straightforward. The copy I received from Netgalley, however, did not have any cover on it. I can say I am disappointed.

Characters

The entire book is about Cole. Cole is a sex obsessed teenager. In his own words ‘Let me put it this way: this is how much I think about sex. Draw a number line, with zero is, you never think about sex and ten is, it’s all you think about, and while you are drawing the line, I am thinking about sex.’ That’s the boy for you. Oh, and he sketches too. But that doesn’t hold much importance for him. That is because he is always thinking about sex, and only that.

Brush up against me in the hall at school, any girl I am thinking of, the way she smells walking behind her up the ugly staircase, trying to keep it together while my whole body rattles like a squirrel in a tin can. To couple up with them, to capture their whole bodies under a blanket with enough light to see the pleasure of what we are doing. Marinated with it, the snap and the sigh of longing to be inside all of her. It’s a story that keeps telling itself to me, my own crackling need in this world lit only by girls who might kiss me, like a flower, like a flytrap, the delicious sex we would have if we weren’t in the idiotic marathon of going to class. Oh, good. Calculus. This will clear everything up.

Waking up in the morning, miserable with bad weather. School in front of me, the whole day, like a wall I’m going to bang my head against. Think of the girls, I tell myself, like cookies in the oven to lure me out of bed. Think of how pretty they are. Don’t you want to see them, Cole? Come on, brush your teeth.

There are other kids in the book too but Cole is way too self-obsessed to give anyone any importance in his story.

Content

A lot of sex (talking, thinking, and doing) described in Handlers competent writing is what sums up this book. There is some emotion thrown here and there but the book primarily is how I described it in the first sentence. Now if you are not grossed out please read further where I try to explain to you why it is not all bad.

Cole is a school going regular teenage boy who is as obsessed with sex as any teenage boy can be. He begins the book by describing his obsession with sex. Not with him being a school goer or a sprint runner or even as an artist. Sex is clouding his brain as much as to give him an identity that he talks about in the entire book. He talks about all the girls that he has dated, almost as if they meant something to him. He describes each girl with some precision but quickly comes back to generic way in which to treat a girl. Take her out on a date. Buy her an ice cream. Just talk about your day and hers. But sometimes you are just hungry.

We fed the ducks together, but they ruined it all, so aggressive it wasn’t fun, surrounding us and squawking so loud we just ended up dumping it all on the ground, OK-OK, take it, asshole birds. So I get that, if you act too hungry it’s not fun anymore. Calm down, sit and wait, you’ll get something. But you know, sometimes you’re just really, really fucking hungry.

Handler’s mastery in describing both inner and physical tumult in single sentence is impeccable. You will find it in multiple places. You applaud it for some time till you realise Cole is not a poet. He is a jerk. Universe does take care of it. Grisaille enters. She is an exchange student or something. Her parents are divorced. She has spent her life shuttling between Cairo and Portugal. She belongs to nobody and nowhere. But by some miracle she agrees to go out with Cole.

She looked so fucking fantastic agreeing to go out with me. She didn’t look like a girl who would ruin the whole thing at all. Beautiful, breasty, like so warm to roll around in was my first impression. And, the next seventy thousand impressions.

She is a girl who doesn’t let someone do her. She participates in sex. She tells you what she likes and asks you to do it. She screams and shouts.

I don’t feel safe with her I guess. It feels, not dangerous, but with no seatbelt, no helmet, hanging onto her on that roaring motorcycle day after night after day. I feel endangered a little, probably looking

The author here talks about emotional instability. Sex comes around like a sweet musing but often stirs up a tornado. For a teenage boy who does not really differentiate one from the other, it gets to him. Cole is not the same man. He is suddenly not okay with experimental sex. He does not like sharing his girl. And eventually he is a wreck after Grisaille leaves. Like a village after a cyclone.

And that is what the book is about. A teenager obsessing over the miraculous inter-dimensional wonders of sex who is human after all. Even though it does seem like a regular teenage story with all the cards laid out on the table, I urge you to read it just for the beautiful writing.

Language

Snicket/Handler is a brilliant author that we already know. The book is written in first person from Cole’s point of view. There is an overlapping of dialogue and thoughts that is seen everywhere. His thoughts and spoken words go mixing somewhere but your mind knows how to place them. The writing is unchained. It reminds one of Eimear McBride.

Good points

The cover page is simple and beautiful. The characters are described awfully well. The language is stunning.

Bad points

The content is not life changing. It is predictable but you still like reading it for the beautiful writing.

Overall

I enjoyed this book. I loved the writing but I guess it was for the short length.

Whom do I recommend this to

This book is for those who enjoy good writing.

Quotable Quotes

You’re making me, Grisaille, into myself with you.

It feels like enough when we’re having it. But there are other times too.

I can only pin her down, it scares me to realize I think this, when I’m pinning her down.

For a boy, that’s like a medal. Or maybe a hat, like even if you don’t like it, it’s just something he wears. For girls, it’s like, she’s a ruin, stay away from her.

I’m quiet but still saying it out loud in my skull. I knew, I told myself and I told myself. I knew you weren’t safe.

Put it this way: if you can’t see the complication, you’re probably it.

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Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH merakipost.com