Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Bad Beginning

Today is the first day of NaBloPoMo (wherein I vow to post every day for a month), it's 5:30PM local time, and I only just now remembered that I ought to post something. Which calls to mind the title of Lemony Snicket's first book, which also happens to be the title of this post.

I got to see Lemony in person once. I was living in Menlo Park, CA, home to the great Keppler's book store. Keppler's hosts a lot of author readings, and when I discovered that Snicket (AKA Daniel Handler, author of the slightly more grown-up targeted books The Basic Eight and Watch Your Mouth) I was very pleased. Maybe even excited. Snicket at the time was about four or five books into the wildly successful A Series of Unfortunate Events. I loved the books for their bleak pessimism, ernest absurdity, anachronism-filled settings and delightful use of vocabulary.

Knowing Handler/Snicket's popularity, I showed up quite early for the reading. An employee later told me that it was the biggest turnout they'd ever had for an author. As the store filled with parents and children, I noticed that I appeared to be the only adult without a child escort. Did that make me creepy? I wondered.

The target age for the books, I suppose, is about 9-12, but there were many much younger children in attendance. I sat in a folding chair at the end of the fourth or fifth row, next to a man with a boy of about five. When Handler showed up, wearing an absurd trench coat and speaking the audio equivalent of his over-dramatic, over-blown prose, he announced that he was sorry, but Mr. Snicket was unable to attend the reading because he'd run into trouble at a picnic. From the start it was clear that this was not going to be your typical adult-author event. Handler did a great job of getting the children to participate, encouraging them tell him the sort of trouble one might have at a picnic, and so on. I'm not sure if it was the content or simply the tone of Handler's voice, but the child next to me was in tears within the first 10 minutes.

I don't want to leave you in tears,
dear reader, but do check out the Gothic Archies' The World is a Very Scary Place. Too late for Halloween, but I think Lemony Snicket would approve.


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