When gloom is fun
Lemony Snicket, the rarely seen children's author whose name sounds like a Ben & Jerry's flavor, missed his scheduled appearance in Manhattan this week.
Instead, alter ego Daniel Handler, a round man with close-cropped hair, marked publication of Snicket's new book among young fans at the giant Toys 'R' Us in Times Square.
"The Carnivorous Carnival," the ninth title in the popular "Series of Unfortunate Events," continues the misadventures of the three indomitable Baudelaire orphans and their evil guardian, Count Olaf. Echoing the series' cleverly gloomy tone, Handler told those gathered at the center of the toy universe that Snicket wasn't coming because "I'm afraid all the robotic giraffes in the world cannot guarantee the safety of the most depressed author the world has ever seen!"
Handler's amusing bit, complete with accordion playing, made it all the more remarkable that some children's publishers initially resisted the chance to bring authors to the toy store, thinking it an inappropriate setting for literary events.
But scary R.L. Stine also did a reading this week, and Elise Primavera ("Auntie Claus") is due Dec. 4.
Snicket's first eight books have sold a total of 6.5 million copies. HarperCollins introduced "The Carnivorous Carnival" with a printing of 450,000 copies - fewer than "Harry Potter," but still a huge number for a children's title. It was No. 7 in sales yesterday on Amazon.com.