Wednesday, November 14, 2012

When one door opens, do two come through it?

Daniel Handler speaks of, and for, Lemony Snicket, and various other mysteries of life

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photo of the author Lemony Snicket

"Untrained eyes have been wrong before,” reads the bio of the afflicted author Lemony Snicket, who dispatched himself to exile after a series of inaccurately reported events forced him there. What were the events and where exile is, is hard to reconnoiter. What is known, is that the drama critic and spell-checker for the Daily Punctilio used the time to research and record the travails of the infinitely intriguing and oft-beguiled Baudelaire orphans.
    One might suspect such an international weaver of self-inflicted mystery certainly would have someone with equal panache to represent him on the rare occasions that a public appearance would warrant. Instead he has a benign-looking fellow by the name of Daniel Handler. An informal office poll showed that Handler, also a successful author, looks like a corporate stiff, bank loan officer, a mortician or a bored, overburdened college admissions counselor.
    Still, as Snicket himself has repeatedly said about incorrect, untrained eyes, Handler actually has a much more worldly and playful persona. In addition to answering questions about Snicket and his tales, Handler’s is a much more secular lifestyle, which includes a wife and son and occasional outbursts of silliness that he records for Snicket’s website.
       Handler is coming to town as a guest of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts on Sunday, Nov. 18, to discuss the impact of fairy tales on our daily lives as part of its current exhibit “Happily Ever After?”    
    Although Handler briefly took leave of his liaison role when Snicket wrapped his wildly and surely underestimated success with 13 books under the heading of “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” he is back out front. Ostensibly to explain why the tradition of fairy tales is so important, his appearance is also linked with the release of a prequel of sorts, wherein Snicket talks of his time in the noir genre, a time of his pre-gothic youth. “All the Wrong Questions” and “Who Could That Be at This Hour,” has Handler hustling and fans busting with delight.
    To match wits with such a creative team, this writer consulted with one of Snicket’s die-hard fans, my beloved and esteemed reader of all things edgy, Harry Liebrum, 15, from Houston, Tex.
    It was he who unbound my brain from the exile of nursing twin babies by introducing me to the stories through the Jim Carrey movie “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” sparing us all from creative drought.
    “I enjoyed the series because I basically grew up reading these stories. They resonate with me because they were a part of my childhood and they are just fun to read,” the young Liebrum said. “I also started noticing when I was reading his books that I was more and more enjoying the idea of the flexible world and places the orphans were placed in.”
    Asked if the stories’ dark tone influenced him, Liebrum said, “I believe that some may have been influenced and persuaded to look at life from more of a fatalist point of view, but personally I just found his style of writing witty and I enjoyed reading them. I’m absolutely sure I will read his new series. If he doesn’t pull away and completely change his way of writing, I’m sure I will like it for what it is.”
    I asked Liebrum to help shape some questions for Handler.

Daniel Handler

US) How do you feel about how your audiences feel about you?
THEM) I imagine they are disappointed, and I’m sorry about it, briefly.

You come up with the most interesting people and places, what is your creative process?
Taking walks, reading books and staring at blank paper.

Jim Carrey brought your series to life on the big screen, but that was years ago. Will there be another movie?
Every year, somebody tells me there will be, but people tell me things all the time.

How did you feel about the movie? Did it meet your expectations?
My expectation was that no one would ever make such a film, so my expectations were dashed.

You have a band and made concept albums for a few of your books, what do you play? How does that compare to the Rock Bottom Remainders band?
I play the accordion, while my partner in the Gothic Archies, Mr. Stephin Merritt, plays the rest of the instruments and writes, produces, records and mixes all of the songs.  He’s the one who knows what he’s doing. My experience with the Rock Bottom Remainders is that nobody knows what they are doing.

Are you one of those funny people who claim to be droll at home?

Do you read celeb magazines and dream that you were in one or are you more the type who uses them to make one’s own life seem better/worse than the rest?
I read modernist poetry and dream of a world in which the disparate fragments of a broken yet deeply held narrative can come together into a brave new shape as easily as the poems make me cry.

Are there times in your life when you’ve stopped and asked yourself, what would Lemony Snicket do? And then, do the opposite?
When I’m looking for a role model for behavior I do not wish to emulate, my thoughts stray to Condoleeza Rice far more than to Mr. Snicket.

If Lemony were not able to tell his stories, and you were laid up in hospital, what would you do to make sure the creative demons don’t bore you to death?
A creative demon, faced with a man laid up in a hospital, could do all sorts of unearthly and terrifying things, but I would unlikely to be bored.

Have you ever refused an opportunity to show up on Snicket’s behalf? What would be something that might make that happen?
Insufficiently strong coffee.

What is it about fairy tales that keep us from seeing the horror of them in the way we would a horror film?
It is likely that we largely limit the reading of fairy tales to children. If you don’t see the horrors of a fairy tale, it is likely because you haven’t read one for years.

Who: Author and Lemony Snicket alter ego Daniel Handler will appear Sunday, Nov. 18, at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Wood River High School Performing Arts Theater at the Community Campus in Hailey.
How: Buy tickets from for $15 for Center for the Arts members / $25 nonmembers / $5 students. Or, send in a story with your name, age, and content (with parents’ permission) by today, Wednesday, Nov. 14, to for a chance to win tickets. Entries will be judged in three age groups, 5-9, 10-13, and 14-18, with one winner from each group. Iconoclast Books will give gift certificates to the runners-up.

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