Daniel Handler

Daniel Handler

Past Event: Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Literary Arts Icon

Literary Arts

Sponsored by Reed, Longyear, Malnati & Ahrens, PLLC.

Daniel Handler will be introduced by Sherman Alexie, who will also conduct and moderate the audience Q&A. The title of Mr. Handler’s talk is “Why Does Lemony Snicket Keep Following Me?”

Daniel Handler is the author of three literary novels, two screenplays, and numerous articles and short stories. Handler was born and raised in San Francisco and always wanted to be either a writer or a philosopher on a hill. He never considered any other professions. He graduated from Wesleyan Univ. in Middletown, Connecticut, where he met his wife, Lisa Brown, the graphic artist. The two started a zine together called American Chickens! At the time, Handler was working on his first novel, a volume he wrote, rewrote, and threw away. It was an editor who suggested Handler try writing for young people and, while he was interested, he wasn’t sure he wanted to.

Instead, he continued to write experimental fiction, also taking a job as representative for the children’s book writer Lemony Snicket. As Snicket’s fame ballooned, Handler had less time to dedicate to his own writing. Nonetheless, he produced three well-received novels: The Basic Eight, a psychological thriller; Watch Your Mouth, a novel billed as an “incest comedy” written in the form of an opera; and Adverbs, a collection of vignettes of characters drifting in and out of troubled relationships.

Handler lives in San Francisco with his wife, Lisa, and their son, Otto.

* * *

Lemony Snicket is the author of many books, most famously 13 children’s books comprising A Series of Unfortunate Events. The story of three orphans, the Baudelaire children, began with The Bad Beginning (1999) and quickly developed a following. The series has sold more than 53 million copies and was made into a film starring Jim Carrey. The Snicket books are loved by adults and children for their humor—on many levels—and their grip on “reality” (whatever that is), or the understanding, at least, that “It is very difficult to make one’s way in this world without being wicked at one point or another, when the world’s way is so wicked to begin with.” As Henry Alford said for the New York Times, the sophisticated styling of Snicket’s series prepares children “for the rocky narrative landscapes of Borges and Eco.” Last year he branched out and narrated a musical piece, The Composer Is Dead, commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony and created with composer Nathaniel Stookey. The murder-mystery premise serves as a guided tour through the sections of the orchestra, introducing kids to music as they hunt the murderer.

Snicket is known for his wacky outfit, his love of music, and his humor. A recent interview was particularly illustrative:

Q: What were some of your hobbies as a child?
A: Taxidermy and playing the harpsichord.

Q: What advice do you give to children who want to be writers?
A: Avoid wearing squeaky shoes when listening at keyholes.

Q: Are you a real person?
A: Of course. Aren’t you?

By his own account, Snicket “was born in a small town” and “now lives in the city” where he “gathers evidence and is considered something of an expert by leading authorities.” Because Snicket cannot be everywhere at once, he often is represented by Daniel Handler.

Selected Work

As Daniel Handler:
The Basic Eight (1998)
Watch Your Mouth (2000)
How to Dress for Every Occasion by the Pope (2005)
Adverbs (2006)
The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto (with Bernard DeVoto, 2010)
13 Words
 (2010)

As Lemony Snicket:
A Series of Unfortunate Events (13 books from 1999-2006)
The Beatrice Letters (2006)
The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming (2007)
The Lump of Coal (2008)
The Composer is Dead (2009)

Links

Lemony Snicket’s website
An article by Handler in the New York Times, “Adjusted Income”

An interview with Handler on The Onion
An interview with Handler on About Creativity
Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead