Snicket, Lemony

Tagged: Author

Pseudonym of US author Daniel Handler (1970-    ), who has also written mainstream novels under his own name. As Snicket he is best known for the thirteen-book sequence A Series of Unfortunate Events, running from The Bad Beginning (1999) to The End (2006), presented as children's fiction but larded with considerable black Humour, Gothic grotesquerie and mock didacticism by the intermittently intrusive narrator Snicket – a furtive, reclusive persona, prone to justified Paranoia, who is supposedly researching rather than inventing this long tale and is deeply complicit in its tortuous back-story. The setting is an apparent Alternate World mingling nineteenth-century, 1930s and modern Technology.

The unfortunate events start immediately in The Bad Beginning when the parents of the young protagonists die by fire. Orphaned Violet (then 14), Klaus (12) and Sunny (a baby girl) are soon in the custody of rapacious series Villain Count Olaf – who commands a formidably unpleasant entourage of henchpersons – and need all their precocious inventiveness to outwit him. This pattern recurs in later volumes as the three are handed over to a succession of new guardians, either unsatisfactory (no adult can ultimately be trusted) or short-lived, with Olaf always in pursuit. Science-fictional trappings include: the Monster leeches of Lachrymose Lake in The Wide Window (2000), which attack boats en masse as though directed by a Hive Mind; misused Hypnosis in The Miserable Mill (2000); the Medusoid Mycelium, a fungal Poison of mass destruction introduced in The Grim Grotto (2004) and featuring in the remaining books; and a kind of Lost Race on a remote Island in The End. The back-story, impinging more and more on the main action, features conflict between virtuous and villainous factions (the former including Snicket and the latter Olaf) of a cabal of Secret Masters known as V.F.D. – standing for Volunteer Fire Department, though Snicket provides a considerable smokescreen of rival meanings for the initials, especially in the mock-nonfiction Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography (2002). Each side has occasionally adopted the tactics of the other: the enemy is particularly fond of arson, and in The Penultimate Peril (2005) the children duly find themselves compelled by the logic of events to join Count Olaf in burning down the Hotel Denouement where an ending seemed to be promised. In the next volume, all ends perplexedly.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is illustrated throughout by Brett Helquist, somewhat in the macabre mode of Edward Gorey. The film Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), directed by Brad Silberling, is loosely based on the first three titles, using the approximate action of The Bad Beginning as a frame for the events of The Reptile Room (1999) and The Wide Window. In 2014, Netflix in association with Paramount Television announced a three-season Television adaptation with Handler as executive producer and screenwriter. The first season, of eight episodes covering the first four books, was released in January 2017 and the second season, of ten episodes covering the next five books, in March 2018; a projected third and final season is expected in early 2019, comprising seven episodes covering the last four books, with The End allotted a single episode rather than the usual two.

A prequel series of four novels by Snicket, All the Wrong Questions, opens with "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" (2012) and deals with the young Lemony Snicket's adventures as a V.F.D. apprentice and detective in the vaguely fantastical setting of the decaying township Stain'd-by-the-Sea. In the final volume, "Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?" (2015), the Monster or Bombinating Beast previously seen only in its representation as a statuette with McGuffin status comes on stage as a deadly diabolus ex machina. [DRL]

Daniel J Handler

born San Francisco, California: 28 February 1970

died

works (selected)

series

A Series of Unfortunate Events

  • The Bad Beginning (New York: HarperCollins, 1999) [A Series of Unfortunate Events: illus/hb/Brett Helquist]
  • The Reptile Room (New York: HarperCollins, 1999) [A Series of Unfortunate Events: illus/hb/Brett Helquist]
  • The Wide Window (New York: HarperCollins, 2000) [A Series of Unfortunate Events: illus/hb/Brett Helquist]
  • The Miserable Mill (New York: HarperCollins, 2000) [A Series of Unfortunate Events: illus/hb/Brett Helquist]
  • The Austere Academy (New York: HarperCollins, 2000) [A Series of Unfortunate Events: illus/hb/Brett Helquist]
  • The Ersatz Elevator (New York: HarperCollins, 2001) [A Series of Unfortunate Events: illus/hb/Brett Helquist]
  • The Vile Village (New York: HarperCollins, 2001) [A Series of Unfortunate Events: illus/hb/Brett Helquist]
  • The Hostile Hospital (New York: HarperCollins, 2001) [A Series of Unfortunate Events: illus/hb/Brett Helquist]
  • The Carnivorous Carnival (New York: HarperCollins, 2002) [A Series of Unfortunate Events: illus/hb/Brett Helquist]
  • The Slippery Slope (New York: HarperCollins, 2003) [A Series of Unfortunate Events: illus/hb/Brett Helquist]
  • The Grim Grotto (New York: HarperCollins, 2004) [A Series of Unfortunate Events: illus/hb/Brett Helquist]
  • The Penultimate Peril (New York: HarperCollins, 2005) [A Series of Unfortunate Events: illus/hb/Brett Helquist]
  • The End (New York: HarperCollins, 2006) [A Series of Unfortunate Events: illus/hb/Brett Helquist]

A Series of Unfortunate Events: related works

A Series of Unfortunate Events: All the Wrong Questions

individual titles

  • The Composer Is Dead (New York: HarperCollins, 2008) [includes music CD scored by Nathaniel Stookey: illus/hb/Carson Ellis]
  • 13 Words (New York: HarperCollins, 2010) [chap: illus/hb/Maira Kalman]

stories

about the author

links

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