Monday, November 27, 2006

The V.F.D. Is Everywhere

I have read the entire Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, and enjoyed very much. One of the principal frustrations of the book is the fact that the Baudelaire orphans have money, but it is in the hands of Mulctuary Money Management and is never used for their well-being. There is a vague promise of the money coming to them when "Violet comes of age," which is at least four years after the start of the books.

The entire cycle of books takes only a few months, months that (as Snicket might say) seem much longer than usual, due to the unbearable miseries that occur. The orphans are represented at the bank by a Mr. Poe, who remains ridiculously oblivious to the terrible situations he creates as he moves the orphans from one foster home to the next.

Clearly, a play on poet Edgar Allen Poe, I thought, but I couldn't understand the connection to the bank. Oh well, there probably wasn't one.

So, imagine my surprise and delight when I came upon this in The New Yorker:

[M]uch of [Alice B.] Toklas’s trouble stemmed from [Gertrude] Stein’s decision, “on sound tax counsel,” to place her estate under the jurisdiction of the probate court in Baltimore, and to the court’s appointment of a man named Edgar Allan Poe (the poet’s great-nephew) to administer it. . . .Gertrude had been precise about how her funds were to be spent, but, unaccountably, Poe proved to be an obstructionist and parsimonious in fulfilling her wishes, of which he seemed to disapprove, although it was none of his business[.]

The article details poor Alice's descent into dependency upon the kindness of strangers due to Mr. Poe's refusal to release funds. (!)

I thought I had missed some of the subtleties of these books, and now I am really certain of it.

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