Cover image for The basic eight
The basic eight
Handler, Daniel.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
329 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Library

On Order



Excerpt: ...backed by armored locomotives and aeroplanes. "It was as if the gates of Jehannum were opened and its fires turned loose upon us," one soldier told me. The Turks succeeded in getting their guns into action for a very short while. One of the men-of-war in the Canal was hit; several houses in Isma

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In his first novel, Handler takes a look at the closing months of a high-school senior year, when boredom, angst, and passion collide with nightmarish consequences for one young woman and her close-knit group of friends. Twenty-year-old Flannery Culp sits in prison editing the journal she used to record the bizarre events that spun out of control and landed her in jail. In her quirky, peripatetic recollections, studded with dialogue, study questions, cynicism, and uncertainties, Flan introduces her clique, the Basic Eight, as well as the perfidious outsider, Adam, with whom she falls in love, and the vile biology instructor who thinks sexual harassment is part of his role as educator and mentor. Part horror story, part black comedy, Flan's recollections of her high-school last hurrah show what can happen to smart, privileged, cynical teens with too few rules, too much to drink, too little supervision, and boundless imagination. An unusual novel that will leave readers on the brink of both laughter and despair. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0312198337Stephanie Zvirin

Publisher's Weekly Review

Flannery Culp is 19, precocious, pretentiousÄand 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 FlanÄnever a reliable narratorÄbecomes 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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

First novelist Handler has all the teenage issues down patÄbelonging, power, loyalty, drugs, and body imageÄas 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.ÄRebecca Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Basic Eight Chapter One One of the reasons the teenage years are so agonizing is that in most societies, particularly ours, the adolescent is emotionally neither fish nor fowl. —Dr. Herbert Strean and Lucy Freeman, Our Wish to Kill: The Murder in All Our Hearts One may as well begin with my letters to one Adam State. August 25, Verona Dear Adam, Well, you were right—the only way to really look at Italy is to stop gaping at all the Catholicism and just sit down and have some coffee. For the past couple of hours I've just been sitting and sipping. It's our last day in Verona, and my parents of course want to visit one hundred thousand more art galleries so they can come home with a painting to point at, but I'm content to just sit in a square and watch people in gorgeous shoes walk by. It's an outdoor cafe, of course. The sun is just radiant. If it weren't for my sunglasses I'd be squinting. I tried to write a poem the other day called "Italian Light" but it wasn't turning out so well and I wrote it on the hotel stationery so the maid threw it out by mistake. I wonder if Dante was ever suppressed by his cleaning lady. So in any case after much argument with my parents over whether I appreciated them and Italy and all my opportunities or not, I was granted permission—thank you, O Mighty Exalted Ones—to sit in a cafe while they chased down various objets d'art. I was just reading and people-watching for a while, but eventually I figured I'd better catch up on my correspondence. With all the caffeine in me it was either that or jump in the fountain like a Fellini movie I saw with Natasha once. You know Natasha, right, Natasha Hyatt? Long hair, dyed jet-black, sort of vampy-looking? I stumbled upon an appropriate metaphor as I looked for reading material in the hotel bookstore. Scarcely more than a magazine stand, actually—as always, I brought a generous handful of books with me to Italy thinking it would be more than enough to read, and as always, I finished two of them on the plane and the rest of them within the first week. So there I was looking through the bare assortment of English-language paperback pulp for anything of value. I was just about to add, if you can believe it, a Stephen Queen horror novel to my meager stack of mysteries, when it hit me: Is this what next year will be like? Do I have enough around me of interest, or will I find myself with nothing to do in a country that doesn't speak my language? I don't mean to sound like Salinger's phony-hating phony or anything, but at times at Roewer it seems that everybody's phony and brain-dead and that if it weren't for my friends and the few other interesting people I'd go crazy for nothing to do. To me, you're one of the "few other interesting people." I know we don't know each other very well and that you probably find it strange that I'm writing to you, if you're even reading this, but I really enjoyed the conversations we had toward the end of the year—you know, about how stupid school was, and about some books, and about your own trip to Italy. You were one of the non-brain-dead non-phonies around that place. I felt—I don't know a connection or something. Well, luckily I'm running out of room on this aerogram, which is probably a good thing, but I'll seal this before I change my mind. Yours, Flannery Culp PS. Sorry about the espresso stain. All the waiters here are gorgeous, but clumsy and probably gay. September 1, Florence Dear Adam, If writing one letter to you was presumptuous, what is two letters? It's just that I feel you'd be the only one who'd understand what I'm thinking right now, and besides I've already written everybody else too many letters and I have all this caffeinated energy on my hands, as I said last time. But in any case, the only person who'd really get what I want to say is you, because this relates to the hotel bookstore metaphor I told you about before. Yesterday, when viewing Michelangelo's David I had the exact opposite metaphorical experience. I mean, I had of course seen the image of David 18 million times, so I wasn't expecting much—sort of like when I saw the Mona Lisa last summer. I stood in line, took a look, and thought, Yep, that's the Mona Lisa all right. It was huge. From head to toe he was simply enormous, and I don't just mean statuesque (rim shot!) but enormous like a sunset, or like an idea you can at best only half comprehend. It simply took my breath away. I walked around and around it, not because I felt I had to, but because I felt like it deserved that much attention from me. I found myself looking at each individual part closely, rather than the entire thing, because if I looked at the entire thing it would be like staring at the sun. It was such an unblinking portrayal of a person that it rose above any hackneyed hype about it. It flicked away all my cynicism about Seeing Art without flinching and just made me look. I walked out of there thinking, Now I am older. But it wasn't until I finished one of my hotel-lobby mysteries that night that I thought of my experience metaphorically. Unlike bringing books to Italy, I went to see David anticipating an empty, manufactured experience; instead I found a real experience, and a new one. I didn't think I'd have any new experiences left, once sobriety and virginity took flight. Perhaps that is what next year will hold for me. Not sobriety and virginity, but real new experiences. Maybe in writing to you, a new person in my life, I will embark on something new, as well. David has filled me with hope. And another biblical name fills me with hope as well: yours. Out of room again. Bye, Flan The Basic Eight . Copyright © by Daniel Handler. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.