Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0008664, Sat, 27 Sep 2003 21:42:43 -0700

Fw: I think he would prefer to think of himself pulling a
Vladimir Nabokov ...
EDNOTE. "Lemony Snicket" is not only a Nabokov fan but a former student of the VP of the Interfnational VN Society Priscilla Meyer at Wesleyan.
From: Sandy P. Klein


Saturday, September 27, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

A conversation ≈ well, sort of ≈ with Lemony Snicket

By Stephanie Dunnewind
Seattle Times staff reporter

Lemony Snicket books have secrets "that go over even the tallest of heads," says his "representative," Daniel Handler.

For many reasons, it's amazing that Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" ≈ which began with "The Bad Beginning" and continues with installment 10, "The Slippery Slope" ≈ was published, much less became a literary hit.

The newest book, which hit stores Tuesday, implores readers not to read it, or to let "this slippery book slip from your hands into a nearby trash receptacle, or deep pit." It throws around words like vernacular, xenial and denouement. It references Robert Frost, "Anna Karenina" and the last quatrain of the 11th stanza of "The Garden of Proserpine" by Algernon Charles Swinburne (a Victorian poet).

Yet the witty series has proven enormously popular, with "The Bad Beginning" in its 150th week on The New York Times' best-seller list for children's chapter books. It's sold more than 13 million copies worldwide. The first books are being condensed into a movie starring Jim Carrey (as the evil Count Olaf) slated for next December.

The books are an extended mystery, and "The Slippery Slope" follows older siblings Violet, 14, and Klaus, 13, as they try to rescue their baby sister, Sunny, who was kidnapped by Count Olaf as part of his plan to steal the children's inheritance. It finally offers a plausible name to fit the mysterious VFD organization.

Clues in "The Slippery Slope" hang on snippets of poetry, as "poems are a bit like secret codes, in that you must study them carefully in order to discover their meaning."

Author appearance

Lemony Snicket, author of "The Slippery Slope," will read and sign books at 4 p.m. Thursday at Borders Books and Music, 3829 S. Meridian, Puyallup; 253-845-8751. According to his publicist, this will be his sole Seattle-area appearance.

Like its predecessors, the book is literary vaudeville, with over-the-top characters (a henchman with hooks for hands), absurd situations (Sunny must sleep in a covered casserole dish and prepare lox for her kidnappers), non sequiturs (a group of Snow Scouts who pledge to be "xylophones") and chee! sy villains (sample dialogue: " 'Nothing is going right for me today!' cried the villain. 'I'm beginning to think that washing my face was a complete waste of time.' ")

Nothing is predictable, because, as narrator Snicket explains, "Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don't always like."

In that vein, The Seattle Times asked San Francisco-based author Daniel Handler, who "represents" Lemony Snicket, to answer some random questions in an e-mail exchange.

Q: What is the best thing about being Lemony Snicket's representative?

A: The clothing.

Q: The worst thing?

A: The hours.

Q: Is Lemony pulling a J.K. Rowling on us with progressively longer books ("The Bad Beginning," 176 pages; "The Slippery Slope," 352 pages)?

A: I think he would prefer to think of himself pulling a Vladimir Nabokov, whose first novel, "Mary," is a mere slip of a thing at 114 pages but whose penultimate novel, "Ada," weighs in at 606.

Q: According to People magazine, you play the tuba and accordion. Do you play any normal instruments?

A: The tuba and accordion are quite "normal," being found in large symphony orchestras and small tango ensembles all over the globe. I am currently trying to learn the theremin. (Times note: The theremin is an electronic instrument invented by a Russian physicist that is played without being touched. Musicians move their hand near two antennas to control pitch and volume.)

Q: Besides Count Olaf (of course), who's the best children's literature villain?

A: My, my, there are so many excellent villains. Off the top of my head, I would say perhaps the Queen, offering Turkish Delight in C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe," or Jasper in Edward Gorey's "The Blue Aspic."

Q: When reading fan letters on behalf of Lemony, do you find children using impressive vocabulary words? Any standout examples?A: Recently, a child wrote to Mr. Snicket and used the word "transcendental" to describe her experience reading "The Carnivorous Carnival." He was delighted.

Q: In "The Slippery Slope," baby Sunny cries "Rosebud." How much of the books do you estimate goes over kids' heads?

A: There are secrets contained in these books that go over even the tallest of heads.

Q: In "The Slippery Slope," one of the characters says everyone's parents have secrets. If you were a parent, what would your secret be?

A: I expect to be a parent very soon (Times note: in November), so I cannot have my secrets printed in the newspaper for my offspring to read. I will, however, give you a hint: large glass jars.

Q: Will book 13 have a happy ending?

A: "Happy" is a relative term. The ending will be happier than other endings you can imagine, but less happy than others.

Stephanie Dunnewind: sdunnewind@seattletimes.com


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