What Are You Reading? Lemony Snicket Edition
Daniel Handler, known the world over by his pen name, Lemony Snicket, is the author of the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books which have sold more than 60 million copies and were translated into 41 languages. The first three were adapted into the 2004 movie of the same title.
The Perilous Parlor Game, a video game and card game all came out of the series, as will the upcoming Netflix 13 episode series. He has also written The Composer is Dead, 13 Words and the recently completed quintet All the Wrong Questions as Lemony Snicket and many others as Daniel Handler.
Handler attends the American Library Association Conference each year, promoting literacy and library excellence through his Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity award. The book signing at this year's conference gave me the perfect opportunity to ask him a few questions.
What are you reading at the moment?
I like to invert the idea of summer reading, and tackle something more difficult, rather than easier, when I have more time to read. I’m making my way through Trilce, the modernist masterpiece by Peruvian poet César Vallejo. The Clayton Eshleman translation and notes are helping me at least grasp the hem of its mighty mystery.
What book(s) do you keep coming back to?
What was/is your favorite book to read to your son?
You are best known for A Series of Unfortunate Events. In a business full of happy little elves, were you worried about how such a marvelously maudlin tale would be received?
There was nothing to worry about. I knew the books would fail. I was amazed anyone was publishing them.
It turned out to be a fantastic hit, and some rather big names joined in the fun when Hollywood came a-calling to adapt it. Were you happy with the outcome? Are there any similar plans for All the Wrong Questions? How do you feel about movie adaptations in general?
What I learned with the movie—and what I am learning, again, as Netflix films its first season of Unfortunate Events—is that watching an adaptation is like finding an enormous lizard in your back yard. You don’t have to believe that it’s yours, but it’s still entertaining to watch it crawl around. And if the lizard buys you a house, well, isn’t it really your favorite lizard?
How do you feel about interviewers who ask three questions and play them off as only one?
All good questions are properly answered with questions, aren’t they? Don’t you think? Yes?
Though César Abraham Vallejo Mendoza published only three books of poetry during his career, his innovative work in poetry, playwriting and journalism were so revolutionary that he was dubbed “the greatest twentieth-century poet in any language" and "the greatest universal poet since Dante.” Eshleman has a long history of translating Vallejo, whose work pushes the limits of the Spanish language. Translating such works is a huge undertaking, and Eshleman won the US National Book Award for his (and José Rubia Barcia’s) astounding accomplishment.
Adrienne Cecile Rich was an award winning poet, essayist, activist and professor. Her work challenged the ideals of the American Dream, championed feminism and railed against war and systemic poverty. In 1997 she turned down the highest award given to artists, the National Medal for the Arts, saying that art "means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage."
What celebrities or public figures are you curious about?
Whose book list would you like to read?
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