The Barnes & Noble Review
Fans of elusive author Lemony Snicket know he's an addictive combination of Roald Dahl and Edgar Allan Poe. Now, in a wonderfully entertaining and "extremely dangerous" book called Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, we get a peek inside the secret files of this mysterious man, a character whose identity and motives for telling the Baudelaire orphans' tales are just as cryptic as we'd imagined.
Beginning with the book's title, we know we're in for blissful secrecy. Readers are shown pieces of Daily Punctilio newspaper articles, diary notes, letters, movie scripts containing underground codes, meeting transcripts, telegrams, sheet music, photos, and more. They're all quite private and linked to Snicket -- except we're told that everything we read may or may not be true. Put simply, it all surrounds Snicket himself, the Baudelaire children, and Snicket's link to an underground organization called V.F.D., dedicated to recruiting new members and disguising their identities "in order to make sure the world remains, as we say, quiet." Throughout the "autobiography," we learn that any character could be a V.F.D. member in disguise (or even an enemy trying to foil V.F.D. objectives), and we're challenged to piece the story together ourselves.
In true Snicket form, the author's ambiguity is the name of the game. It's a brilliantly planned puzzle. Readers are lured into trying to figure out the true meaning of V.F.D. and why Snicket needs to tell the orphans' story, but do we ever really find out? That's what makes the book so appealing (or appalling). Truthfully, the author is probably off somewhere in disguise, keeping more files of his secret papers or corresponding with organization members. It's wonderful, though, when you're having this much fun. (Matt Warner)
"A certain maniacal glee went into the creation of this archly humorous volume," said PW. "The contents lead readers on a merry goose chase. The 13 (naturally) chapters burst with red herrings, non sequiturs, mysterious letters, diary entries-not to mention fading b&w photographs with captions such as `Total strangers' and `W?H?O?' " Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The official cover of this unauthorized autobiography is brown wrapping paper sealed with brown wrapping tape. The reader is warned that the book is extremely dangerous and told to make use of the book's reversible jacket full of sweetness, light and an erstwhile story about "The Pony Party." Even the official copyright notice is not what one expects¾"No part of this book may be used, reproduced, destroyed, tampered with, or eaten without permission except in the case of brief, possibly coded quotations embodied in critical articles, reviews and subpoenas." With all of its surprising twists and turns, this book feels like a roller coaster ride and leaves the reader a bit breathless and wanting more at the end. An index is included for those serious Snicket students. So many references are made to Mr. Snicket's earlier books that this is probably best read in conjunction with the adventures of the Baudelaire orphans. 2002, HarperCollins Children's Books/HarperCollins,
Janet Crane Barley
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8 Beneath a simple, seductive Tyvek cover resembling manila and plain brown paper, snippets of Snicket's life appear in 13 chapters of notes, letters, newspaper clippings, songs, photos, telegrams, screenplay excerpts, steamship tickets, and meeting minutes. Daniel Handler prefaces the material. It is not stated who compiled this information, although there is a speculative tale of how it reached the publisher. Snicket begins with a letter about the inaccurate report of his death published in The Daily Punctilio and comments on a folk song detailing his abduction at a young age by the V.F.D. It is noted that all members of this organization were snatched at an early age, chronicled with black-and-white photographs. Subsequent documents from and about characters in "A Series of Unfortunate Events," such as Poe, Olaf, Esme, and others, may or may not reveal their connection to V.F.D., which is used as an acronym for many different organizations, events, and things. Allusion is made to a solid connection between the Snickets and Baudelaires; clearly they are in imminent danger and in need of the many disguise suggestions provided. The book's high-gloss pages have the look of a scrapbook with many gray pages reminiscent of early photocopies. References are made to Kafka, Fitzgerald, and children's authors. There is a circuitously cross-referenced index. Snicket fans will clamor for this intriguing parody of an autobiography/mystery. -Laura Scott, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, MI Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter OneWhy was Mr. Snicket's death published in the newspaper?
Note to file:
THE DAILY PUNCTILIO
“All the News in Fits of Print”Obituary Page
Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events, the purportedly true chronicles of the Baudelaire children, was reported dead today by anonymous and possibly unreliable sources. His age was given as “tall, with brown eyes.” One of three children, he leaves no known survivors.
Born on a cattle farm rather than in a hospital, Snicket had a promising scholarly career in his youth, beginning with a job as a theatrical critic -- in all senses of the word -- for this very newspaper, followed by the publication of several promising anthropomorphic treatises, a word which here means “very long reports.” This period of professional contentment -- and, allegedly, unrequited love -- ended when news of his involvement with V.F.D. and the accompanying scandal was reported in this newspaper and at least one other.
Mr. Snicket became a fugitive from justice and was rarely seen in public, and then usually from the back. Several manhunts -- and, due to a typographical error, womanhunts -- proved fruitless. At last their story, and his, appear to be over.
As no one seems to know when, where, how, and why he died, there will be no funeral services. A burial may be scheduled later this year.
I have arrived early at the harbor and still have a few minutes before the Prospero is scheduled to appear, so I thought I might jot down a few notes concerning the news of my death, which wasalarming but not true. I am, as of half-past four this afternoon, still alive, and was most certainly alive the day I sat at the Café Kafka with my afternoon tea and read my obituary in the newspaper.
The Daily Punctilio has never been a reliable newspaper: not when I worked there as part of an undercover assignment, not when that terrible reporter began to write about the Baudelaire case, and not when they advertised a sale on three-piece suits a few days ago, at a store that turned out to sell nothing but Indian rugs. Unlike a reliable newspaper, which bases its articles on facts, The Daily Punctilio bases its articles on innuendo, a word which here means “people who call up newspapers and tell them things that aren't necessarily true.”
The only thing that turned out to be true about my obituary was the last sentence, and this morning I had the curious experience of attending my own burial. To my astonishment, quite a crowd showed up for the event -- mostly people who had believed the earlier stories about me in The Daily Punctilio, and wanted to be sure that a notorious criminal was indeed dead. The crowd stood very quietly, seeming scarcely to move or even breathe, as if the news of their deaths had also been printed in the newspaper. I stood outside, shielding my face beneath an umbrella, as my coffin was carried into a long, black car, and the only sound I could hear was the mechanical click! of someone operating a camera.
Sometimes, when you are reading a book you are enjoying very much, you begin thinking so hard about the characters and the story that you might forget all about the author, even if he is in grave danger and would very much appreciate your help. The same thing can happen if you are looking at a photograph. You might think so hard about whatever is in the photograph that you forget all about the person behind the camera. Luckily, this did not happen to me, and I managed to take note of the person in the crowd who took the picture you probably have in this file. The photographer is standing in the seventh row of the crowd, twelfth from the left-hand side. As you can see, the person has hidden his or her camera behind the person standing eleventh from the left-hand side. That is why I am waiting here at this fogged-in harbor, in order to...The Prospero has arrived, so I will stop writing and file these notes with my letter, written so many years ago, to Professor Patton concerning inaccuracies regarding my birth. It makes me sad to think that my whole life, from the cradle to the grave, is full of errors, but at least that will not happen to the Baudelaires.
From the desk of Lemony Snicket
Dr. Charley Patton
Adjunct Professor, Folk Song Department
Scriabin Institute for Accuracy in Music
Dear Professor Patton,
It was with much relief that I received your letter concerning the folk ballad “The Little Snicket Lad.” As you note, it is one of the most popular ballads of the region, and I have often heard it played in theaters, inns, and grocery stores whenever I am visiting, usually accompanied by an accordion. Though the tune is pleasant, the song is not an otherwise fair representation of my childhood, and I welcome the opportunity to correct at last the inaccuracies in the lyrics.
Please forgive the informality of my response -- I have merely typed some brief notes to the lyrics you have sent me. I am preparing to be married at present, so I do not have time for the lengthy, scholarly report I usually write in cases like this.
The Little Snicket Lad
On a charming little cattle farm
Near a pretty deadly lake,
Was a very pregnant woman,
And her husband, known as Jake.
Though they lived in a big mansion, A Series of Unfortunate Events: Lemony Snicket. Copyright © by Lemony Snicket. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Down Robber Road a tad,
It was at the farm the lady
Bore the little Snicket lad....