Due to a series of unfortunate events, Lemony Snicket won’t be able to join us today. Instead, Daniel Handler will be filling in. Apologies. Very unforeseeable.
Lemony Snicket had an unusual education and a perplexing youth and now endures a despondent adulthood. His previous published works include the thirteen volumes in A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Composer is Dead, and 13 Words. His latest is Poison For Breakfast.
Q. A Series Of Unfortunate Events is a take on the gothic novel, and All The Wrong Questions is a take on the noir genre. What is Poison For Breakfast?
Daniel: Digressive nonfiction murder mystery? Investigative philosophical lyric essay? I’m not sure what you would call it if The Anatomy of Melancholy had been penned instead by Agatha Christie, but my inspiration was noticing my young son’s hunger for nonfiction, which is often disappointing in children’s literature.
Q. You’ve said elsewhere that you’re more interested in stories that ask questions than try to provide answers. What kinds of questions does Poison For Breakfast ask?
Daniel: Why is the night more interesting than the day? Are all stories the same? Is it possible to go someplace? Must every Cinderella have a midnight? Is there any such thing as reliable information? Is there God? Why do people swim? Why have we allowed so many people to starve for so long? What is loneliness? Is it possible to translate something? Do you always know what you are thinking? How should we behave knowing we are going to die? What is the best way to prepare eggs?
Q. Famously, your pseudonym came from a split-second lie to keep your name off a mailing list. Do you ever wonder what might have happened if you’d chosen a different name?
Daniel: I wonder, or at least try to wonder, about such things almost all of the time—not just about various professional choices, but about the endless vicissitudes of ordinary life. I try to stand in the knowledge that being bewildered is the true way of experiencing the world.
Q. What do you read?
Daniel: I am buying Peter Cameron’s novel What Happens at Night for everyone. If they don’t like it, I look at them funny.
Q. What are you working on now?
Daniel: The pandemic delayed the appearance of Mr. Snicket on the stage. I am now working hard trying to rectify that.
Lemony Snicket's Latest
This true story—as true as Lemony Snicket himself—begins with a puzzling note under his door: You had poison for breakfast. Following a winding trail of clues to solve the mystery of his own demise, Snicket takes us on a thought-provoking tour of his predilections: the proper way to prepare an egg, a perplexing idea called “tzimtzum,” the sublime pleasure of swimming in open water, and much else.