Yesterday's Independent featured a great interview with 'Lemony Snicket', the author (or rather, the pseudonym of the author) of the 'Series of Unfortunate Events' books. Readers sent in the questions, and he gives some great responses. My favourite is this:
Q: Your books don't end happily. Their message seems to be that it is only by luck and cunning that you can get ahead in life. Do you agree? And do you think that this is a valuable lesson for children?
A: There are as many methods to get ahead in life as there are "messages" in books, ranging from the methods you cite - luck and cunning - to more noble methods such as integrity, honesty and the careful study of the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop; and less noble methods such as arson, blackmail and making obscene gestures at motorists.
In fact, it is virtually impossible to get behind in life, as life has a tendency to march forward obliviously, like so many people we know, and eventually life is over and one's position is not "ahead" or "behind" but "underground" or "scattered to the winds". For this reason it seems like a waste of time to dwell on methods that one might use to get ahead in life, and instead concentrate on what might be a noble and pleasing thing to do with one's time as this march continues. This is a lesson for all of us, not just the young, and it might properly be described not as "valuable" but "inevitable".
Genius. I haven't read the books, but I'm tempted to go and see the film adaptation, starring Jim Carey, which is out in cinemas now.