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The Basic Eight Paperback – March 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 329 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; Reprint edition (March 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312253737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312253738
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,605,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Flannery Culp is 19, precocious, pretentiousAand incarcerated. Accused of Satanism and convicted of murder, she and her seven friends (the "Basic Eight") have been reviled and misunderstood on the Winnie Moprah Show and similar tabloid venues. So Flannery has typed up and annotated the journals of her high school years in order to tell her real story: "Perhaps they'll look at my name under the introduction with disdain, expecting apologies or pleas for pity. I have none here." Handler's sharply observed, mischievous first novel consists of Flannery's diaries from the beginning of her senior year to the Halloween murder of Adam State and its aftermath. The journals detail Flan's life in her clique of upper-middle-class San Francisco school friends, who desperately emulate adulthood by throwing dinner parties and carrying liquor flasks. Kate ("the Queen Bee"), Natasha ("less like a high school student and more like an actress playing a high school student on TV"), Gabriel ("the kindest boy in the world" and in love with Flan) and the rest begin experimenting with the hallucinogen absinthe. Squabbles once easily resolved grow deeper and darker when Natasha poisons the biology teacher who has been tormenting Flan. Should the Basic Eight turn on, and turn in, one of their own? Handler deftly keeps the mood light even as the plot careens forward, and as FlanAnever a reliable narratorAbecomes increasingly unhinged. The links between teen social life, tabloid culture and serious violence have been explored and exploited before, but Handler, and Flannery, know that. If they're not the first to use such material, they may well be the coolest. Handler's confident satire is not only cheeky but packed with downright lovable characters whose youthful misadventures keep the novel neatly balanced between absurdity and poignancy. (Apr.) FYI: The Basic Eight has been optioned for film by Bridget Johnson, producer of the hit film As Good As It Gets. Handler's second novel, Watch Your Mouth, will be published by St. Martin's in winter 2000.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

First novelist Handler has all the teenage issues down patAbelonging, power, loyalty, drugs, and body imageAas he sets about proving just how dangerous high school can be. As Flannery Culp edits her journal of the previous year in prison, we follow Flan and her friends (the Basic Eight) through the fall of their senior year. Adults are generally absent, except for a few teachers who matter. Flan's beautiful friend, Natasha, is worth close attention. Handler's writing is witty and perceptive, especially as schools and society are parodied, and he makes clever use of vocabulary and study questions. But as a brutal murder unfolds and lives are ruined, the "wonderful, wicked fun" promised by the book jacket faded for this reviewer. The novel has been optioned for film, so expect to see it on the screen, a tragedy larger than the Othello Flan's drama club is staging. Recommended with reservations.ARebecca Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I read the book this summer, and I had so much fun with it.
Bianca Verdure
I am fascinated with how Handler weaves a story...i love the clever and humorous way that he involves the reader in the story by speaking directly to his audience.
Kindle Customer
This is one of the most interesting books I've read in a long time.
JulieS

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The New Yorker called this one of the best first novels of the year, and I wholeheartedly agree. I read this book awhile ago, and I've been watching, with amusement, the love-hate relationship that people are having with it on this site. What seems clear is that some people are completely misunderstanding this novel. To call it shallow, silly and stupid is to insult the narrator, not the book. I think Handler does a splendid job of hiding a gripping story in between the lines of his character's diary--a character who is, after all, a high school girl, and it needs to be read twice, not because it's William Shakespeare but because there's a twist ending which makes you go back and see how well the author planned the whole thing out. This novel isn't for everyone--only for people intelligent and engaged enough to tell the narrator from the author. (And no, just for the record, I'm not the author's friend, agent, whatever...)
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By "alexwriter" on August 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
. . . but anyone who loves black comedy should read it -- twice. At first, this book seems like it's just going to be a wild romp through high school -- complete with kids who throw lavish dinner parties in sculpture gardens and drink cappuccino at coffee bars with names like Bean and Nothingness or Death Before Decaf. Only hitch is, we already know that the seemingly sweet ("fat", dowdy, lovesick) anti-heroine, Flannery Culp, has been convicted of the Satanic murder of her crush, Adam State in one of the media events of the century. How could this happen? The rest of the book is a puzzle, and we get it in pieces. From Dr. Eleonor Tert (a formerly drug-addicted flight attendant turned guru), Winnie Moprah (no relation, I'm sure), and even Guiness Book-reciting Flora Habstadt (who, Flannery assures us, was never one of the Basic Eight). And especially, from Flannery, who interrupts her perpetual prison solitaire game to explain how her love notes to Adam, experimentation with absinthe (Poe's drug of choice), her calculus teacher's command to "do something" (surely he didn't mean murder), and particularly, her coffee dates with the glamorous Natasha lead to . . . well, read it and find out.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Debra Hamel VINE VOICE on August 2, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having read the first eight Lemony Snicket books to my daughter, it occurred to me that the literary output of the author's legal, literary, and social representative, Daniel Handler, might be equally delightful. I was not disappointed. *The Basic Eight* is a gem of a book. It grows on you as you read, building eventually into a book that cannot be put down--particularly toward the end of October in the narrative--and it leaves you thinking about it long after you've read the last page.

Mr. Handler, moreover, is a wonderful writer. The plotting of the book is masterful, and the pages are littered with beautiful, apt phrases/sentences--pearls, one might say--which one wants to linger over--over which one wants to linger. (For example, on p. 280: "I craned my neck to see who this person was, raised by wolves in some San Francisco wilderness and finally escaping by public transportation.")

Some reviewers have complained of inconsistencies in the narrative over the figure of Natasha--I'll not be more specific, as this isn't a spoiler. But, while I haven't reread the book to verify that everything is thus explicable, I think the point is that the whole story is being told through Flan's rather unreliable perspective. Surely that is explanation enough?

Reviewed by Debra Hamel, author of Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
I was ready to NOT like this book, because of the reviews that said how clever and precious it was. And, at first, I hated the characters as much as I would have as a teenager. But once the scene was set and the action started going down, I couldn't stop reading. I have to say that this book was just plain well written and drags you into its world, even if (like me) you might have preferred to stay out. The emotional candor the narrator speaks with (with which the narrator speaks) while losing control of her mind is terrifying and absorbing.
There are a few clevernesses sprinkled about that call more attention to the author than the story (the last time I saw him was at the corner of California and Styx? Come on.) but even with those flourishes the story remained strong. So much emphasis has been placed on the "dark comedy" and "pretentiousness" of this book that I was surprised to find it such a solidly written work. So even though I didn't want to like it, I have to admit it's got me beat. It's a good book!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Elisa Ward on September 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
Wow. I am absolutely floored. This book is incredible. From the first page, it leads you into a world that is so close to real, you're unsure when you close the book where you really are. Natasha reminded me so much of a highschool friend of mine, I could feel her breath on my face, the glint of her huge blue eyes, as I read.
This is Handler's "Lolita". Everything from the jailhouse diary to the elusive Dr. Tert is a direct, and very wonderful nod to Mr. Nabokov's masterwork. Literary allusions are gleefully sprinkled through the book, making me feel as if I was in on some wonderful joke with the author. Symbolism runs rampant through the pages, creating levels and depths not usually seen in a "basic novel". The Biblical apple rolling across the courtyard as Adam's name is screamed, apple imagery dotting the pages foreshadowing Adam's ultimate demise of original sin, action vs. inaction and its effects, etc.

One hopes that V___ is possibly a nod to Violet Baudelaire, rich, orphan of the Lemony Snicket series, but I could just be hopefully musing...:-)
This is truly an astounding read. Worth reading twice to "get" everything Mr. Handler packs into the pages. Enjoy.
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