Home News ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ writer Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler pulls back the...

‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ writer Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler pulls back the curtain – The Mercury News

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Marion Winik | (TNS) Star Tribune

The author of seven novels, three “not-novels,” and 26 books under his nom de plume Lemony Snicket, Daniel Handler has added a memoir to his oeuvre. Sort of.

“And Then? And Then? What Else?” is a charming book, more a set of literary and personal musings than a standard autobiography. “I’m trying to show you the canon in my head,” he explains in the first chapter, and should you fail to take notes, he includes an appendix of favorite books, music and films. It is a great list, leaping from Busby Berkeley to Prince to Victoria Chang, along with many less well-known creators.

But there’s a fair amount of storytelling, too, as the pot-boiling title would suggest. For example, the origin of the “A Series of Unfortunate Events” creator’s pen name is revealed in the pleasurably meandering style that characterizes the book.

First, he’s talking about working in the computer science department of the City College of San Francisco, in the early days of his relationship with his now-wife, illustrator Lisa Brown, a lightweight job that consisted mostly of deterring potential visitors to his boss’ office. He passed the time by writing letters to the editors of various small-time periodicals that crossed his desk, like the Nob Hill Gazette and the Parkside Express:

“The letters all had two things in common: they all began with the sentence “How dare you!,” a phrase I liked for its unconvincing hysteria and obscure grammatical construction, and they closed not with my own name, but a name I had devised while on the phone with a right-wing political group.”

Now we’re on to that slightly different story. “In the name of researching ‘The Basic Eight’ [his first novel], in which the heroine’s murder becomes the subject of much right-wing media hullabaloo, I’d spent time calling conservative organizations I found ridiculous and asking them to mail me their materials, the better to mock them in my novel in progress.”

When asked for his name, he sputtered “the first thing that came into my head: Lemony Snicket.”

As he figuratively smacked himself upside the head for such a patent prevarication, the woman on the phone replied, “Is that spelled how it sounds?”

Soon Mr. Snicket had a business card and the rest is history.

Having embroiled himself in a couple of political-correctness brouhahas over the years, Handler makes his position on the matter plain. In a chapter called “Problematic,” he invokes the f-word many times (“like the punk I’ll never be”) to denounce the curtailing of literature and separation of the art from the artist.

In fact, the effect of this distinctive little book might be described as merging the art with the artist, which turns out to be the perfect thing.

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And Then? And Then? What Else?

By: Daniel Handler.

Publisher: Liveright, 240 pages, $26.99.

©2024 StarTribune. Visit at startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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