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Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography

Nancy Sundstrom - June 6th, 2002
If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book. In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle. --‘‘Book the First: The Bad Beginning‘‘

Move over, Harry Potter, and get ready for Lemony Snicket to kick some serious booty.
The first and most logical question is, of course, who is Lemony Snicket? Some say that he’s the alter ego of writer Daniel Handler, but he says otherwise, leading millions of readers of the best-selling “A Series of Unfortunate Events“ to become even more intrigued about the identity of its humorous, cynical, and seriously elusive author.
What’s even more compelling, if not frightening, is the notion that together, the collective “we“ make up Lemony Snicket, but who cares? Parents and kids are fighting over who will get their hands on the next installment first, and anytime that happens is cause for celebration, says I.
Actually, we do have a few key pieces of evidence on LS, as we’ll just refer to him, and most of them come from the latest in the series, “Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography.“ Quickly, and to give you a flavor of the quirky and slightly caustic nature of the writing, here’s an excerpt from the first chapter, entitled “Why was Mr. Snicket‘s death published in the newspaper?“


“All the News in Fits of Print“

Obituary Page

Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events, the purportedly true chronicles of the Baudelaire children, was reported dead today by anonymous and possibly unreliable sources. His age was given as “tall, with brown eyes.“ One of three children, he leaves no known survivors.
Born on a cattle farm rather than in a hospital, Snicket had a promising scholarly career in his youth, beginning with a job as a theatrical critic -- in all senses of the word -- for this very newspaper, followed by the publication of several promising anthropomorphic treatises, a word which here means “very long reports.“ This period of professional contentment -- and, allegedly, unrequited love -- ended when news of his involvement with V.F.D. and the accompanying scandal was reported in this newspaper and at least one other.
Mr. Snicket became a fugitive from justice and was rarely seen in public, and then usually from the back. Several manhunts -- and, due to a typographical error, womanhunts -- proved fruitless. At last their story, and his, appear to be over.
As no one seems to know when, where, how, and why he died, there will be no funeral services. A burial may be scheduled later this year.
Perhaps we should back up a bit. Lemony Snicket is THE heir apparent to Harry Potter in terms of being the latest hot trend in kids’ literature, but for completely different reasons and possibly for a different audience. Around since 1999 and having sold more than four million copies, LS actually seems more true to the genre of writing created by Roald Dahl and Charles Dickens, given its linguistic stylings and narrative twists that tend to favor jaw-dropping, eyebrow-raising misfortunes spread over about 200 plus pages per book.
It is its own creation, however, as unpredictable as it is original, and the following overview is designed to both get you up to speed on the antics of inventor Violet, bookworm Klaus, and their baby sibling, and entice you to dive on in.

Book 1 - The Bad Beginning
Bad goes to worse when the three Baudelaire children learn their parents have perished in a house fire.

Book 2 - The Reptile Room
Picking up where the first book left off, the three Baudelaire orphans hit the road to get away from evil Count Olaf, encountering Dr. Montgomery, their late father’s cousin’s wife.

Book 3 - The Wide Window
Things started bad for the Baudelaires’ in the first book, then got worse, so should we expect a break in the action? Yes, and no, but the excitement and adventures continue.

Book 4 - The Miserable Mill
The title speaks for itself. The story begins with this ominous passage, “The Baudelaire orphans looked out the grimy window of the train and gazed at the gloomy blackness of the Finite Forest, wondering if their lives would ever get better.“ Caveat emptor, but you still can’t help but read on.

Book 5 - The Austere Academy
The trio find themselves at a new home at Prufrock Preparatory School, whose motto is “Remember you will die.“

Book 6 - The Ersatz Elevator
Guess what? The orphans’ new home is not all it seems - which is both good and bad.

Book 7 - The Vile Village
Mr. Poe (adults and kids alike seem enchanted by the endless literary puns in LS), the bumbling legal guardian for the children, seems to be exhausting his options for finding them a home with relatives.

Book 8 - The Hostile Hospital
The run of bad luck in this book begins when a picture of the orphans is plastered on the front of The Daily Punctilio.

Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography
We’ll quote from the book’s description: “Finally, here is the definitive -- and only -- book for anyone interested in learning more about the alarmingly elusive author. All available documentation of Snicket‘s shocking past has been gathered, sorted, annotated, and is now available to the general public. Here is a collection of what can only be called “evidence“writings, photographs, mysterious diagrams, and even several disorienting maps, accompanied by captions, an introduction, and extensive index. Together, these pieces will shed light on a life that until now has been shrouded in darkness and will finally answer the question on everyone‘s mind: What do we really know about Lemony Snicket?“
Lemony Snicket is a romp, and it’s a great testament to the savvy of kids that they get the jokes, even when adults are left scratching their heads. If you spend any time in this weird and wonderful world, chances are excellent that you’ll be back for more, because it seems we all can’t get enough of unfortunate events.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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