NABOKV-L post 0011989, Sat, 5 Nov 2005 14:23:05 -0800

lemony Snicket & Nabokov
EDNOTE. Lemony Snicket is the creation of
EDNOTE. Dan Handler , creator of the Lemony Snicket series graduated from Wesleyan University and
wrote a senior thesis on Nabokov and the Marx Brothers. He was a student in the Nabokov class given by Priscilla Meyer, current President of the Vladimir Nabokov Societry.

CP NewsLink Transcript: Lemony Snicket
Collegiate Presswire (press release), NJ - Nov 2, 2005

From Collegiate Presswire (

CP NewsLink Transcript: Lemony Snicket
Source: CP NewsLink
Nov 1, 2005, 21:09

Following is a transcript of the Nov. 1, 2005 CP NewsLink conference with Lemony Snicket, author of "The Penultimate Peril," the most recent book in "A Series of Unfortunate Events".

Tuesday, November 1, 2005 5:00 p.m. EDT
moderator: OK, let's begin.

moderator: I must first give everyone who has chosen to participate in the CP NewsLink online chat this afternoon a few crucial words of advice: Turn back now. For those of you who have chosen to participate at your own will, we caution you that this dreadful interaction may lead to greater misfortunes. This is your one and only warning, so proceed at your own risk.

moderator: That being said, we are pleased to welcome as our guest today bestselling author Lemony Snicket, whose book "The Penultimate Peril" -- the 12th novel in "A Series of Unfortunate Events" -- was recently released on October 18th.

moderator: Like unrefrigerated butter or fungus, Lemony Snicket's popularity continues to spread. His books, which feature illustrations by Brett Helquist, have inexplicably already spent more than a combined 762 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List and sold more than 47 million copies worldwide. "A Series of Unfortunate Events" has shocked and engrossed millions of readers worldwide since the release of the first book in 1999.

moderator: Each of the books in the series - including "The Bad Beginning," "The Reptile Room," "The Wide Window," "The Miserable Mill," "The Austere Academy," "The Ersatz Elevator," "The Vile Village," "The Hostile Hospital," "The Carnivorous Carnival," "The Slippery Slope," "The Grim Grotto," "The Penultimate Peril" and "Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography" -- has been a national bestseller.

moderator: And though panic and chaos may break out following this event, we're thrilled to have him as our guest this afternoon in this exclusive roundtable discussion for college newspaper writers.

moderator: In the conference, we will be discussing Lemony Snicket's newest, most unfortunate book yet, and you will have a chance to ask questions of our guest.

moderator: That said, without further ado: Mr. Snicket, welcome to CP NewsLink.

lemony_snicket: Thank you, sir or madam.

moderator: Would you care to make an opening statement, or shall we begin with the question on everyone's mind?

lemony_snicket: If there truly is a question on everyone's mind, I'm curious to know what it is.

moderator: Why have we never seen Lemony Snicket?

lemony_snicket: Perhaps you have seen Lemony Snicket. He's nearly always travelling, so if you're nearly always travelling yourself, then chances are you've crossed paths in an airport, train station or holding cell. If you're never travelling, perhaps you've crossed paths during his travels. In the strange, anonymous space of the electronic chat room, it hardly seems fair to poke around the questions of identity.

moderator: And now let's turn it over to the audience for your questions. Participants, please go ahead and ask your question(s) at the bottom of the Chat window and click the ASK button. Now we'll take our first question...

<Q>Before the first books became best sellers, did you realize there was a demand for an unhappy children's story?

<A>lemony_snicket: In looking over the shelves of libraries and bookstores it occurred to me that there was nothing whatsoever telling the miserable story of the Baudelaires, and in fact very little containing the sort of dreadful detail and general ennui their history contains. I saw that vaccuum as a potential gap I might fill.

<Q>What sort of activity would land Lemony Snicket in a holding cell?

<A>lemony_snicket: The cross-boundary transportation of suspicious rhetoric. Are you not reading the newspapers?

<Q>Why are you always travelling?

<A>lemony_snicket: My research requires it. Besides, it's harder to hit a moving target.

<Q>I've often wondered how much negative feedback you've gotten from parents of children who have read your books, despite your many warnings against doing so.

<A>lemony_snicket: From time to time I get a stern letter complaining about a mention of the Cathedral of the Alleged Virgin, which is mentioned in one of my books. Apparently the devout practitioners of a certain religion feel that this is a reference to their own faith, and have not taken the time to look up what the word "alleged" means. There is also the occasional objection to Count Olaf's nefarious behavior, particularly his trying to marry a fourteen year old girl. Why this is considered worse than, say, murder, is beyond me, but I always agree with such letterwriters: Count Olaf is a terrible man. One ought not to read about him.

<Q>How do you feel connected to the Baudelaire orphans?

<A>lemony_snicket: Rhetorically.

<Q>Why did you select for there to be 13 books in the series?

<A>lemony_snicket: It seems natural that the Baudelaires' story requires a baker's dozen of books.

<Q>Though it might stray from the theme of misfortune throughout the book,is there a chance the series could (somewhat) end happily?

<A>lemony_snicket: "Happily" is a comparative term. I predict that the end of the series will be happy compared to some endings we could imagine, and unhappy compared to others - like the endings to our own stories.

<Q>Do you think unhappy children's stories lead to depression amongst children?

<A>lemony_snicket: If by "children's stories" you mean "books," then perhaps. If by "children's stories" you mean "the terrible condition of certain children's lives," then by all means.

<Q>Did you draw any inspriration from the Boxcar Children books where a group of happy orphans solves mysteries and are raised by a kind, rich uncle? In a way the series seems to be the anti-Boxcar Children.

<A>lemony_snicket: I keep meaning to read the Boxcar Children, but the illustration on the cover of my copy is so hideous I always put it right back on the shelf.

<Q>Was Humbert Humbert the prototype for Count Olaf?

<A>lemony_snicket: I envy Nabokov in all things and steal from his books with alarming constancy.

<Q>What's next after the Baudelaires for Lemony Snicket? Any other stories we won't want to hear about?

<A>lemony_snicket: My desk is full of pressing cases, but keep in mind that something terrible could happen to any living author at any moment and nothing would be heard from them again.

<Q>What will life be like for you after the end to this series of unfortunate events?

<A>lemony_snicket: I imagine I'll be somewhat older than I am now.

<Q>Count Olaf seems to be some sort of chameleon. How does he pull off all of his disguises?

<A>lemony_snicket: Count Olaf is a human, not a chameleon, despite his cold blood and, as you note, his love of disguise. His success owes more to the oblivion of others than his own theatrical skills.

<Q>Who would win in a fight: Lemony Snicket or R.L. Stine?

<A>lemony_snicket: I met Mr. Stine some years ago in a disreputable establishment in New Orleans. I cannot imagine why we would get into a fight. If I took issue with his work I would conduct my disagreement via anonymous letter rather than facing him outright.

<Q>Which books keep you up reading late into the night?

<A>lemony_snicket: Currently, the unearthly mysticism of Paul Bowles, but whenever there is a new novel out by Tom Drury or Haruki Murakami I cancel breakfast the following morning.

<Q>Have telling the stories of the orphans help you with any inner peace?

<A>lemony_snicket: I am suspicious of the notion of inner peace and have no plans to approach it, let alone attain it.

<Q>Will the character Violet ever find love?

<A>lemony_snicket: The question is not whether she will find love but whether it will be snatched from her.

<Q>What made you decide to write post-modern elements from Thomas Pynchon and Vladimir Nabakov in to books targeted to chidren? Or did you write the books with children in mind?

<A>lemony_snicket: Quite frankly I wrote the books with nobody in mind. It has always surprised me that anyone would take much of an interest in my books.

<Q>What would a Lemony Snicket-designed perfume smell like?

<A>lemony_snicket: Old books, I suppose.

<Q>Your wry wit is quite evident through your answers to our various queries. Have you ever found yourself at a lack of words or unable to properly use them?

<A>lemony_snicket: The current administration regularly leaves me speechless.

<Q>What are your feelings on the film version of the first three books?

<A>lemony_snicket: Three books condensed into a two-hour film mean that the whole ordeal is over quicker than reading the books, but that there is more misery per moment, whether from the dreadful events in the story or from the occasional saccharine convention of modern motion pictures. So whether you prefer the film or the books depends on whether you are someone who likes to rip the bandage right off or who prefers to pull it off slowly. Myself, I prefer to sit in a bathtub with a bourbon old-fashioned and let the bandage float to the surface of the salted water.

<Q>What's the most random question you've ever been asked?

<A>lemony_snicket: I was recently asked if I owned a hot tub, and when I said no the questioner told me that Christopher Paolini, another children's author, also did not own a hot tub. I suppose that explains why Christopher Paolini and I have never shared a hot tub.

moderator: And I think we're now nearing the end of our questions. Any last ones, send them in. We'll shortly move to the final question.

<Q>Are there any plans for another movie?

<A>lemony_snicket: I think one movie is plenty, but Hollywood has a history of not listening to authors, so plans may well be afoot.

<Q>If you could be any character which would it be?

<A>lemony_snicket: Philip Marlowe, perhaps, although he seems miserable.

<Q>What does Lemony Snicket do for fun after a hard day of writing?

<A>lemony_snicket: I enjoy evenings of contract with comrades, cocktails in hand, that dissolve into longwinded rhetorical disputes.

<Q>All the kids seem to get along great, despite suffering one tragedy after the next. Is there any known record of the children fighting?

<A>lemony_snicket: It is my experience that nothing makes bickering cease like dire circumstances, so the Baudelaires tend to do little of that.

<Q>How are you connected to the characters in the book?

<A>lemony_snicket: Rhetorically. Distantly. Proverbially.

<Q>Do you think the books are recapturing the old Grimm Fairy Tales where bad -- and sometimes gruesome -- things happen to children?

<A>lemony_snicket: There is nothing about the Grimm Fairy Tales that needs "recapturing" as the tales are quite easy to find. (There is a current unexpurgated version, with commentary by A.S. Byatt, that I wholeheartedly recommend.) As far as I can tell, bad and sometimes gruesome things happen all the time - not just in books but here in "reality."

<Q>What kind of music to you listen to?

<A>lemony_snicket: 20th century classical music, particularly the Russians and most particularly Scriabin. Old movie soundtracks. New Zealand experimental folk music, particularly Alastair Galbraith. North American indie rock, lately Metric.

<Q>Despite the tragedy of Beatrice, do you think you'll ever find love again?

<A>lemony_snicket: I appreciate your interest, but I don't like to start romances over electronic media.

moderator: And that about wraps up our Q&A. Mr. Snicket, any final questions to answer and/or closing remarks?

<Q>What other authors have had the most influence over you?

<A>lemony_snicket: Edward Gorey, Roald Dahl, Alice Munro, Virginia Woolf, Raymond Chandler, Jose Saramago and James Tate, among others.

<Q>If there is a life to come after the present one, and you could bring one book with you, what book would you bring?

<A>lemony_snicket: "Interesting Places To Travel In The Afterlife," the newest edition they had.

<Q>Why the orphans? What is it about them that you wanted to tell so much about?

<A>lemony_snicket: The story of people of integrity struggling to find their way in an increasingly dire world seems like one worth telling, even though it's a story all of us eventually experience from one point of view or another.

<Q>Who is Beatrice?

<A>lemony_snicket: Beatrice is the woman to whom I have dedicated all my books.

<Q>Any word on another movie?

<A>lemony_snicket: I believe the word is "perhaps."

lemony_snicket: As there appear to be no more questions, I have no more answers.

moderator: Very well. This concludes today's newsmaker conference with author Lemony Snicket.

lemony_snicket: As Cervantes said, "Adios."

moderator: On behalf of Mr. Snicket, thank you for attending, thank you for your interest, remember to buckle your safety belt and avoid swimming for 30 minutes. And, on behalf of the college journalists attending this event, and those reading about it, our thanks go out to our guest for taking time out of his unfortunately busy schedule to chat with us today.

moderator: If you have additional questions about this story and/or clues to Count Olaf's whereabouts, please contact Steve Wilson at (310) 550-7776 or

moderator: Additionally, for your use in writing a story, we will be sending a full transcript of this event over Collegiate Presswire to all of our subscribing newspapers shortly, and we'll be posting a copy on the front page of the CPNewsLink website after that. (

moderator: As a reminder, we will be hosting additional CP NewsLink newsmaker events throughout the coming weeks, and will be posting notification of them on the front page of this website and on Collegiate Presswire prior to the next event.

moderator: We hope you enjoyed this chat, and trust that it provided you with some insight and perspectives into this issue for your use in writing stories on this topic.

moderator: Thank you, once again, for attending today's CP NewsLink conference.

moderator: Goodbye, everyone!