Daniel Handler, author of series A of books on unfortunate events, reveals why his new book is so different
Daniel Administrator—Alias Lemony Snicket, author of the blockbuster A series of unfortunate events books — returns with Poison for breakfast (August 31 Liveright), a self-contained adventure filled with mystery, reflections on life, and apparent culinary crime. In what passed for a true story, Snicket tells the tale of finding a note claiming he ate poison for breakfast, and what follows is a fantastic quest to find out who committed the despicable act. . “It’s the kind of book that can give you comfort when your life is exciting rather than the kind of book that gives you excitement when your life is boring,” Handler says. Here we find the author who, unsurprisingly, had a childhood fondness for Agathe Christie.
Related: Children’s Book Series 9/11 Courage and tributes Aims to help teach children about September 11, 2001 – Read an excerpt here
You are known for picture books, novels for young adults, literary fiction and especially the gothic thrills of A series of unfortunate events. What motivated this change of pace?
When my son was younger he was most interested in reading non-fiction. Which was pretty expected in some ways, since he’s the child of someone who does a lot of picture books [mom Lisa Brown] and someone who writes novels for young people. So, of course, he would choose the one thing we didn’t or didn’t have at home. But it got me interested in youth non-fiction, which is often one of the Rosa Parks biography or lizards of North America, and god bless all, but I thought it would be interesting to write a non-fiction book that changed the pace from the breathless melodrama of so many Snicket books .
Poison for breakfast is a kind of mystery, where the mystery is almost irrelevant. You must have had a mystery phase when you were a kid. Sherlock Holmes? The Hardy Boys?
It was Agatha Christie. What I really liked when I was 11 or 12, when I started reading them, was the character list at the start. I thought it was just fantastic.
What’s your own reading routine?
I usually read five or six books at a time in different rooms: a novel, a book of poetry, someone’s letters or diary, and a book for whatever I’m looking for. And then usually another one that had just arrived at my house and was so good I had to start reading it – I keep it on my kitchen counter.
If you had to choose: library or bookstore?
One of the pleasures of my life is that I really don’t have to choose. But I love a bookcase because you can really take anything off the shelves and look at it. To make a huge pile of messy books that you not only don’t want to buy, but you aren’t even going to read them all. And you definitely won’t read all all! When an idea has taken hold of you, you can begin to explore it, and serendipity can guide you. So I think I should choose a library. But I really like not to choose.
You talked about organizing a club to read Proust together in dive bars. It’s already arrived ?
No, but during the pandemic I had an epic two-person poetry reading while drinking whiskey on Zoom Club. We started with Emilie Wilsontranslation of The odyssey. We also read the Seamus Heaney Beowulf, Gilgamesh, Sir Gauvain and the Green Knight, Rhyme of the ancient sailor and Louis MacNeice‘s Autumn notebook. Now we get started The tale of the Heike, which is so long that we hope it will take us until Emily Wilson finishes her translation of The Iliad.
What I love about poetry is that booksellers can’t decide if it’s fiction or non-fiction. Poetry is just… poetry.
Well, it’s interesting that you say that, because when my son was interested in reading non-fiction he would ask all the time, “Is this non-fiction or fiction?” And once he bumped into me reading a book of poetry in the living room. And he said, “Is this fiction or non-fiction? Without answering, I said, “It’s neither,” which had never occurred to us. And we were both setting there, silent, in that kind of awe-inspiring moment. I said, if you want to try poetry, here is where the poetry is in our house. You can read any book you want. And he picked up Lunch Poems [by Frank O’Hara], I think due to the size of the book, you can grab it. I really don’t think he understood a word of it, but he just liked the idea that there was something that wasn’t fiction or non-fiction.
You said the first book you bought was Blue asp by Edward Gorey, which takes place in the world of opera. Were you already singing when you bought it?
Yes. In fact, I bought this book during a break from an opera rehearsal. We walked to A clean, well-lit place for books [in San Francisco], which was only a few blocks from where we rehearsed.
Were you a good enough singer to say, “Should I become a castrato? “
My parents joked that they were considering castration to extend my career. But in the long run, I’m grateful for my secondary sex characteristics.
You said you bought the Edward Gorey, one of your major influences, with your own money. But you were only 8 years old! Where does the money come from?
It’s more of a family joke. We would get an allowance and then say, “Hey, I’m buying this with my own money. My parents never liked to tie specific tasks to a specific allowance. The idea was that when they asked us to do something, we had to do it. Extremely unfair. And of course, that’s exactly how I raise my own child.
What are you reading at the moment?
I read Dead souls through sat River; Dorothy Laskythe book Animal, which consists of writing a little; and Hilary leichter‘s Temporary. And it’s kind of a proofreading, but I read the chosen poems from James Schuyler. He’s a good traveling poet.
What is Lemony Snicket reading right now?
What does Mr. Snicket read? Well I’m working on another Snicket project [for the stage, although it’s not a theatrical adaptation of A Series Of Unfortunate Events], and for that I use this book of chap by Madeleine Zurawski, which is called Being human is an occult practice.
What books do you recommend right now?
Cattywampus Street Children [Anne Schwartz Books, by Lisa Jahn-Clough, following the mischievous adventures of kids who live on the same street]. This is probably the last mid-level book I read that I really, really liked.
Jackpot [Ember, by Nic Stone, in which a high school senior juggles school, work and caring for her younger brother]. In terms of [young adult fiction], I think the author doing the best job right now is Nic Stone — the way she talks about the class is really interesting.
A swim in a pond in the rain [Random House, a collection of essays and Russian short stories by George Saunders]. I don’t know why I haven’t bought it yet. I picked it up from various bookstores and put it back. I still feel the book smirking at me, like “OK, not today, but you are obviously take me home.
You share your passion for everything from Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry to children’s books The long secret by Louise Fitzhugh. Have you always liked to recommend things to others?
It can be tricky. When I lived in New York, I went to a record store; I think it was House of Records on the way to the Film Forum. There was a man running it, and I was like, “So what’s good? He offered me something, and if it wasn’t in my alley, he would take it very difficult if I ask. A lot of times that would be a psychedelic 70s rock box set or something. I have broad tastes, but not universal tastes. It would be hard to tell him, “But I don’t think I want this Soft Machine live album. I am sorry.”
Next, authors Chelsea Clinton, Hilary Duff, Meena Harris and many more reflect on the value of children’s books.