This coming Saturday, author Daniel Handler, in the persona of his alter-ego Lemony Snicket, delivers the "Kids' Keynote" address at the Boston Book Festival. As Snicket, of course, Handler is the author of the multi-volume A Series of Unfortunate Events. Handler has also been an occasional collaborator with musician Stephin Merritt, including the Merritt project the Gothic Archies, inspired by the Snicket tales. We asked Merritt to talk to Handler on the Phoenix's behalf.
All your protagonists are so young, but you yourself have appealingly silvery hair. Do you dye it? Why, or why not? I prefer to think of my hair as "ash blonde," and I cultivated it the old-fashioned way, through worry.
Most of your books involve mysterious conspiracies, as though they were the product of a mind inclined to paranoia. And yet you are the only sane person I know. Why are you so well adjusted? I can only think of that Flaubert quote: "Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work."
You occasionally foreground Jewishness, as in your brilliant roman à clef,The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming. Should I convert? The type of Judaism I practice you can't really convert to. It involves a fear of totalitarian deportation, an obsession over food, and the ability to extract guilt from the most guiltless of moments. One has to be born to this.
You are both a book writer and a screenwriter. How do you navigate the two cultures? With gratitude that success in the former means I have no desperation in the latter.
How many books do you intend to write? I decided when I started I would write a dozen. That seemed more than enough. Oh, well.
You have your NYRB shelf sorted by color, displaying a very pretty rainbow. What else do you collect? Books of old cocktails. On a slow evening, one can always test the various recipes for the Delmonico.
You collaborate, in various ways, more than most writers; why? Because I admire others' work and get lonely in my little room.
Do you ever write just for shits and giggles? I hardly do anything else.
LEMONY SNICKET:: Boston Book Festival, Old South Church, 645 Boylston St, Boston :: October 27 :: 11 a.m.-noon :: free :: bostonbookfest.org