Daniel Handler Book Reading and Signing Event
Posted by: Allison on: June 18, 2011
Has anyone seen Lemony Snicket? It’s 6:00, the crowds are gathering and activities are in progress
It’s 6:30. Fans are throwing dice to spells words that the youngest Baudelaire might say. Others are throwing hoops over cans. Some are scrambling to buy books to be signed. Everyone else is dressing up in costumes or chatting in their seats.
The clock strikes 7:00. He walks towards the podium. Ah-ha! Has Lemony Snicket finally come out of hiding? The men in question tells a seated crowd of close to three hundred that he will read from a couple new books, “answer questions if you have them” and “won’t if you don’t,” and finally “sit at this beama and put some ink in your books if you have them” and “won’t if you don’t”.
Next, he flips open a new Lemony Snicket book. We hold our breath! He lets us down with an apology. Mr. Snicket will not be making an appearance. This gentleman (who is most defintely not Mr. Snicket — wink wink) will speak for him instead, along with reading from his own books. Of course, this meant we were not treated with a reading of the picture book 13 Words. How unfair of Mr. Snicket!
Attending a book reading by Daniel Handler fits into one of those “you had to be there” experiences. I simply cannot hope to recapture his deadpan, tongue in cheek, and flippant humor. To give you a feel for the night, I will instead reply on snippets from his opening talk and from his exchanges with the audience. I will also note interesting information that I managed to glean from his often jovial responses to questions.
Handler himself talked about his newest adult book “Why We Broke Up” and read from two passages. At one point, he turned the inside of the book towards us and said he was “pointing to a box you can’t quite see, but I am showing it to you anyway”. He frequently livened up his reading by stopping to comment on his book or to torment someone in the audience. Unfortunately, as I said, these were “you had to be there” moments. I couldn’t even copy down the exchanges fast enough to reproduce them here.
After his reading, Handler turned to answering questions from the audience. One fan asked: “Do you still play the accordion?”
Handler responded: “Yes!” Then he added, “Good. Yes or no questions make the whole thing go quickly.” Catching his slip, he added, ”By the way, it’s Lemony Snicket who plays the accordion, but by coincidence so do I.”
The audience grew wiser. An older man asked him: “How did you get started in writing?”
I didn’t catch Handler’s response verbatim, but here is the gist of it: He used to borrow books from the library to read. When he returned a book by Marilyn Saches, the librarian introduced him to the real-life author. He hadn’t realized before that a real person wrote books, that they didn’t just appear, and so decided to become an author. “I didn’t have a back-up plan. Wasn’t that fortunate?”
A young girl asked him this question: “Do you like writing?”
Handler responded, “Yes. What do you like?”
She replied, “Is that any of your business?”
He retorted, “I would argue that it is. But maybe I already know what you like. You’re a very heavy sleeper. Your room is messy, by the way.”
If you’re not laughing, well, you had to be there.
Handler’s answer to the next question surprised me: “What is your next project?”
“A new Lemony Snicket series. You have one year to freely enjoy bookstores. After that you should avoid them. You can become a hermit and take up writing.”
Were you surprised as me? Here’s the scoop: Lemony Snicket Threatens a Dreadful New Series.
Another fan asked: “How did you get started?”
Apparently, Handler’s debut novel Basic Eight was rejected for six years. He took advantage of the question, of course, to promote it by saying, “It’s on sale, or in libraries if you’re tired of buying books.”
Handler accepted a few more questions. “How did you handle the vocabulary challenge of the Unfortunate Events books?”
“I’m repeating the question so everyone can hear–and so I can stall long enough to think of an answer.”
My apologies! I missed the rest of his answer. It was actually a serious one.
I did catch the next question: “How do writers influence each other?”
“With great care. Like a peer group.”
Someone brought up: “What did you think of the movie?”
“I assume you mean Citizen Kane? Fabulous!” Joking aside, he proceeded to describe some fun and not so fun moments on the set–none of which I made notes about.
“I started writing in 1998, when you weren’t around. It was a beautiful world back then, but then it all went downhill. You were born–but it wasn’t your fault….”
Of course, the evening ended with Daniel Handler signing books. Despite a crowd of nearly three hundred, Handler took time to joke and chat with every fan who brought a book to him to sign. When he noticed my husband’s database textbook, he even offered to sign it. (Yes, my husband accepted.)
When we asked if I could have a photo with him, and my husband told me to “Go around back with him,” Handler quipped: “I love when husbands say that.” Enjoy the photos! Come back tomorrow for my review of the Unfortunate Events series.