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Nancy Matson

Children's Author Interview: Lemony Snicket - March, 2000

Lemony Snicket's official bio reads "Lemony Snicket was born in a small town where the inhabitants were suspicious and prone to riot. He now lives in the city."

For more information on him, visit his website. His newest book, The Wide Window, has just become available. This is the third in his popular series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, which follows the lives of three orphan children and their adventures.

Q. How did you happen upon the case of the Baudelaire orphans?

A. The Baudelaire orphans' case, like so many of their possessions, was destroyed in the fire which consumed their home, so no one will ever come across it. This is a shame, because it was a handsome leather case, with a shiny brass lock. It strikes me now that you might mean, "How did you begin writing the history of the Baudelaire orphans?" and my answer is just as sad: a profound obligation to undoing injustice, instilled in me at a very young age, and a desperate if as-yet fruitless attempt to clear my own name.

Q. Do you have any formal investigative training?

A. All of my investigative training was formal--coats and ties were required at all times.

Q. In The Bad Beginning and The Reptile Room, the first two books of A Series of Unfortunate Events, the evil Count Olaf torments your juvenile heroes. Can readers expect more of the same in book three? If not, what can they expect?

A. Book three, entitled, The Wide Window, indeed features more treachery from the villain of whom you speak. I must object, however, to your calling the Baudelaire orphans "juvenile." Violet, Klaus and Sunny are all quite mature for their respective ages.

Q. The strength and craftiness of the Baudelaire children is an inspiration to orphans and non-orphans alike. Does their remarkably harsh fate, in spite of their ongoing pleasantness, cause you to wonder about the nature of evil and its victims?

A. Of course.

Q. Who is Beatrice, to whom you dedicate (at least) the first two books in the series?

A. I cannot bear to answer such a question.

Q. You cite The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati as one of your favorite childhood books. As a fan of his work myself, I wonder if you could speculate as to why such a talented author experienced so little commercial success during his life. Do you believe, as some scholars maintain, that his work "captures the tone, though none of the charm, of the Victorian period, and has nothing whatsoever to do with bears, which is absolutely maddening" ?

A. I believe this critical quote must be an invention of yours. Dino Buzzati's The Bears' Famous Invasion Of Sicily has everything to do with bears: it is a history of a group of bears invading Sicily. I do not know much of Mr. Buzzati's private life, but it does not surprise me that he experienced little commercial success. Most historians, sadly, must have day jobs.

Q. Claims continue unabated that you are operating under an alias - some even go so far as to speculate that you are not a real person. Some point to your 'unusual name' as evidence, despite the fact that even a cursory look at history reveals many famous Snickets - Chatsworth Snicket, an Englishman who led the Prussian army in the Battle of the Hottentots in 1855 (a battle that some detractors still maintain was no more than a cover to shake down the locals for loose change), and Crystal Pie Snicket, whose dancing innovations resulted in a lethal epileptic fit among a member of the Indonesian royalty, and led to her subsequent hanging. I assume your name was specifically selected as an homage to Crystal Pie's courageous son, Orangey Snicket, who spent his life trying to clear his good mother's name. To what do you attribute this ongoing speculation of fraud? Does it anger you, or leave you merely perplexed?

A. The fraud that angers and perplexes me, madam, is the patently false history you propose above. The Snicket line prides itself on its pacifism and modesty. No burlesque entertainers nor members of the military can be found in the family tree. "Orangey Snicket," indeed! Has not my family endured enough hardships without the outright fictions your research department has cooked up? I expect an immediate apology addressed to me and all members of the Indonesian royalty.

Q. Is there anything you'd like to add?

A. After such questions, I would like to add a jigger of brandy to the goblet held in my trembling hand.

A final note: Apologies to Mr. Snicket for the whimsical (and wildly inaccurate work) of this website's research department in regard to your family tree. If they were overzealous, it was only out of respect and affection for your work, and I hope you will forgive them their enthusiasm.