Literature: The Basic Eight
The Basic Eight
is a 1998 novel by Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket
. It is told as the journal of one Flannery Culp, a highly intelligent and sarcastic teenage girl doing a life sentence in prison for murder. The premise is that she is editing her own journal from the months leading up to the murder, so that it can be published as a true-crime book.
The novel itself centres on Flannery and her group of friends, known collectively as "The Basic Eight". They are:
- Flannery herself, a Deadpan Snarker and our Unreliable Narrator.
- Kate Gordon, the semi-Lovable Alpha Bitch and the Queen Bee of the Basic Eight.
- Douglas Wilde, Flan's amicably ex-boyfriend, an opera lover in a Transparent Closet.
- Lily Chandly, a classical musician and Douglas' new girlfriend.
- Jennifer Rose Milton, a sweet, shy girl who is so beautiful that Flan must always write out her name in full.
- Gabriel Gallon, the kindest boy on earth, who is in love with Flan.
- V___, whose rich and influential parents had her name expunged from the story.
- Natasha Hyatt, Flan's wild, hilarious vampy best friend, who is actually a figment of Flan's imagination.
Flan's victim is the boy with whom she was madly in love, Adam State. The novel opens with her love letters to him, and it goes downhill from there
Noted for being witty and insightful, this novel mocks teenage fiction while simultaneously being the very best of it.
This novel provides examples of:
- Adults Are Useless
- Alcohol-Induced Idiocy
- All Hallows' Eve: The Halloween party and date of Adam's murder.
- All Love Is Unrequited
- Amicable Exes: Flan and Douglas are these.
- Analogy Backfire: Flannery struggles with these, especially when describing her night with Adam.
Flannery: I guess I mean that if the flower of my love for Adam was being stunted by any feelings of doubt, then tonight fully fertilized my seed and allowed it to grow. That works if you donít think about the fact that fertilizer is made of shit.
- Angst: Lots.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: That damn postcard!
- Arc Words: "Do something."
- Armor-Piercing Question: Combined with Wham Line.
Flannery: Adam State, handsome senior, [...] was killed by our glamorous friend Natasha, and now we're all—
- Asshole Victim: Adam may or may not be this, depending on how unreliable our narrator really is. Jim Carr plays this straight.
- Author Avatar: Adam State, possibly (they both happened to be the choir teacher's assistant in high school).
- Betty and Veronica: Gabriel and Adam, respectively.
- Black and Nerdy: Gabriel, although of the intellectual rather than academic type.
- Black Comedy: Gets continuously blacker over the course of the narrative.
- Break the Cutie
- Butt Monkey: Gabriel, to an extent.
- Character Overlap: Kate and her ex-boyfriend Garth are mentioned in Handler's other book, Adverbs.
- Chekhov's Gun: The handkerchief, the red croquet mallet, the baguette.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Lily.
- Cool Teacher: Millie, Hattie Lewis and Ron Piper. Mr. Baker would be this, only Flannery is hopeless at the subject he teaches.
- Dance of Romance: Adam and Kate, although Flan doesn't realise it's this until later.
- Daydream Surprise
- Deadpan Snarker: Flannery is very much this. Other members of the Basic Eight have their moments too.
- Depraved Homosexual: The media portrays Ron Piper as this, despite him having nothing to do with the murder.
- Disposing of a Body: The group struggle with this after the murder.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Adam appears to be a bit of an asshole, sure, but doesn't deserve to be murdered.
- Also, arguably Jim Carr's fate.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Gabriel.
- Don't Explain the Joke:
Eleanor Tert: I was in deep denial, and I'm not talking about a river in Egypt. I said I'm not talking about a river in Egypt. Well, you probably haven't learned about it yet, but the Nile is a river in Egypt, and when I said "denial" it sounded like—well, never mind.
- Drama Club
- The Ending Changes Everything: Try reading the book again after you find out Natasha doesn't exist.
- Epistolary Novel: Flannery discusses an idea for one.
- Everybody Hates Mathematics: Flan, anyway.
- Everybody Must Get Stoned/Mushroom Samba: The absinthe party.
- Extreme Melee Revenge/No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Flannery delivers this onto Adam, until he's no longer even Adam ...
- Foregone Conclusion: The murder of Adam. The only thing we don't know straight off is exactly how and when it happens.
- Foreshadowing: A lot, and half of it is even lampshaded by the narrator.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: Flora Habstat, although this might be due to Flan's personal dislike leaking into the narrative.
- Freudian Excuse: Flannery's childhood best friend died in a car crash. They were very close.
- Gayngst: Poor Douglas.
- Grammar Nazi: Flannery frequently corrects her (and occasionally other's) grammar, even in dire situations.
- Greek Chorus
- Heroic BSOD: Flannery at the Halloween party
- High School
- High School Dance
- Hollywood Satanism: What the Basic Eight end up characterised as.
- Iconic Item: Each of the Basic Eight have one, which Flan steals and hoards for reasons unknown even to her. They are:
- Kate's navy blue sweater.
- Douglas' hat.
- Lily's tortoiseshell glasses.
- V___'s silk scarf.
- Jennifer Rose Milton's earring.
- Gabriel's pocketknife.
- Natasha's claw-handed nail file.
- Imaginary Friend: Natasha.
- Incompatible Orientation: Douglas to Lily.
- Informed Judaism: Flan is Jewish, although this is seldom brought up.
- Intoxication Ensues: A large part of the plot is induced by this.
- Invisible Parents: Flan seldom ever mentions her parents.
- Karma Houdini: Defied by Flannery.
- Love Hurts: Oh, yes.
- Love Letter Lunacy
- Love Makes You Crazy: Our narrator may not have been fully there to begin with, but her love of Adam certainly doesn't help.
- Love Dodecahedron
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Natasha could be considered a platonic version of this for Flannery.
- Mind Screw: Just try to work out what actually happened, what Flan thought happened but didn't, what Flan didn't think happened but made up, and what Flan added later during the editing.
- Moral Guardians: Eleanor Tert, Winnie Moprah, and the various other people who chime in after the murder occurs.
- Oblivious to Love: Flan to Gabriel, at first.
- Phallic Weapon: Adam lampshades Flannery's baguette as this.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Mr Baker.
- Red Herring: Handler labels foreshadowing and reveals the ending early in the novel, distracting the reader from the hints about the real twist ending.
- The baguette is lampshaded as one. Later subverted as Flan uses it to pummel Adam's flailing hand.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: V___ is described as this.
- Sadist Teacher: Jim Carr. Not only does he sleazily hit on his teaching assistants, but he also molests Flannery.
- Sanity Slippage: Flannery is a bit ... unbalanced to say the least.
- School Play
- Shout-Out: At least two of the covers involve a croquet mallet, which is both the murder weapon and an allusion to that other one with the murderous high schoolers
- Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: V___ for Steve Nervo.
- Spoiled Sweet: V___.
- Stalker with a Crush: Flannery gradually starts to edge into this territory.
- Sticky Fingers: See Iconic Item.
- Sympathetic Murderer: It's her diary, edited by her, so of course.
- Take That: Winnie Moprah. Also pop psychology and the media in general.
- Tampering with Food and Drink: Natasha's weapon of choice to take out Jim Carr.
- The Reveal
- Unreliable Narrator: Up to Eleven. Not only does she not have a full grip on what's going on, but sometimes Flan outright makes things up to make the narrative work better. Even lampshaded at one point:
- Weight Woe: Flan thinks she's fat. Upon being forced to look in the mirror by Natasha, she realises she's thinner than Kate, at any rate.
- Wild Teen Party
- What Did I Do Last Night?: Played for drama after the Halloween party.
- Wham Line: See Armor-Piercing Question above.
- Your Cheating Heart