The Reptile Room: Chats with the Incredibly Deadly Viper


The best part of Lemony Snicket’s second book in A Series of Unfortunate Events is the lasting image of Sunny, the youngest Baudelaire orphan, playing with the Incredibly Deadly Viper. Their relationship is so playful and whimsical, and if you are really confused right now, go read the book.

When I look back to where I was reading these books, I am almost always transported back to the route four bus from the country to Okotoks. I would curl into a ball against the window, the hard metal biting into my bony pubescent shoulder, and read for the entire duration of the almost hour-long busride. I always sat on the left-hand side on the afternoon ride, and the righthand in the morning, and slightly towards the front. I have so many memories of these seats. I remember reading a book called Confessions of a Closet Catholic by Sarah Darer Littman in the late springtime, after my Grandfather passed away from kidney cancer. I cried on that bus, made friends on that bus, punched a boy in the face on that bus, and made my way through my elementary school library, before the advent of iPods, when I would stare moodily out the windows as a teenager, listening to My Chemical Romance and Avril Lavigne, imagining myself as a punk rocker instead of as a bibliophile.

When I read this book around 10 years ago, I immediately decided it wasn’t my favourite book in the series. I didn’t really care about snakes or conservatories. This time, however, I found it to be one of the strongest of the series. Uncle Monty is fantastic, though I DO wonder why the orphans have never met any of the relatives they go to live with. Were their parents isolated from ALL family, so much that the children never met any relatives?

The narrative intervention is heightened in this book compared to The Bad Beginning, and the way the narrator explains words in context is delightful.

Again, we find a “home” when we encounter a library. Now THIS library is a thing of beauty, and dreams, and led me to investigate an incredible amount of library porn. Basically, my future home is going to be based off of the library/conservatory in The Reptile Room.

Damn, Olaf. Back at it again with the sinister plans. 

First of all, Mr. Poe is a grade A idiot. How he ever managed to become a bank manager I will never know. I guess the entrance exams aren’t too difficult in this unnamed land (which we learn is definitely NOT Peru, since that is Uncle Monty’s travel destination). He keeps giving these Orphans away with what clearly isn’t empathy- WHERE IS THE SOCIAL WORKER?? Count Olaf not only kills Uncle Monty, but once again threatens to kill the children on multiple occasions. He is shown to be gross not just as a person but also with his hygiene. Fitting.

Naturally, the book is dreary and the Baudelaires do not find a happy ending. However, I think the existence of the Incredibly Deadly Viper opens a fascinating discourse for young writers. What appears to be deadly and terrifying can often be entirely harmless and wonderful. While we must always be critical of the new characters in the novel, because they are quite possibly Count Olaf and his “henchmen” in disguise, we have to be somewhat open, still, to the possibility of good. And libraries.

Two books in and I think it’s time to address the reliability of the narrator? Are they reliable? Perhaps Lemony is too distraught by the death of his beloved Beatrice to offer an objective narration.

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