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About Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket has written many upsetting words, including those contained in A Series of Unfortunate Events and its supplementary materials.

Posts by Lemony Snicket

Final Holiday Advice: Killer Clowns and Eggnog (Guest Blogger: Lemony Snicket)

006157428701_mzzzzzzz_ We may be on the third night of Hanukkah, but for Lemony Snicket, our guest advice columnist this holiday season, the "oil" has now "run out." It's been only a mild irritant to cede our space to him every Tuesday in December, and we've been pleased to see so many questions submitted in the spirit of the season and of Snicketry. Whether your gift-giving deadline is December 25 or the eighth day of the more ancient winter holiday, we urge you to consider Mr. Snicket's recent picture-book collaboration with Brett Helquist, The Lump of Coal (aren't there many people on your list you've long wanted to give such a thing to?), or his previous heartwarming holiday tale, The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming, or, yes, those thirteen deliciously miserable stories that first brought him to our attention, the Series of Unfortunate Events.

Thanks to Mr. Snicket and his various intrepid intermediaries for their help in bringing his wisdom to us all month, and to our Omni readers for asking the questions we've all had on our minds. Unhappy holidays to you all.

Dear Mr. Snicket: Is it really a wonderful life?
With all due respect,
--Michael Sixteen

Dear Michael: There are only two novels by the name of It I can name offhand. One is by the British novelist Elinor Glyn, and it describes various decadent goings-on in the aristocracy, particularly an unbridled sexuality fueled by bohemian philosophy and jazz. The other is by Stephen King, and if memory serves is about a killer clown. In my opinion, one of these Its is a wonderful life and the other is not.

Dear Mr. Snicket: Having written so much about beautiful young women in misfortune, I hope you can help me. For the past few months, my life and job have become a nightmare. Strange people with cameras and microphones have started following me everywhere. When I was considered for a promotion, people accused me of wanting to murder my colleague. And on a family outing to a turkey farm, a lovely photograph of me was spoiled by a turkey being slaughtered in the background. Life under these circumstances has become unbearable. What shall I do, Lemony Snicket?
With all due respect,
--Sarah from Alaska

Dear Sarah: Though we do not always receive the fates we deserve, it never hurts to examine one’s recent actions to see if we have received our just deserts, a phrase which here means "circumstances which are the direct consequences of our actions." Have you announced yourself as a capable, qualified candidate for this promotion you are seeking, only to have revealed yourself to be so inarticulate that others suspect you of utter dimwittedness? Have you dishonestly insinuated terrible things about other candidates for the job? Have you attached yourself to individuals and organizations who proclaim honesty and integrity but have revealed themselves, in recent history, to be contemptuous of the very principles they espouse, leading to a flagrant disregard for one's fellow man and woman? If so, change your life. If not, move away from Alaska. You may be mistaken for someone who ought to change their life.

Dear Mr. Snicket: Did the Baudelaire parents have a recipe for eggnog?
--Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: Indeed they did, and it is a recipe I follow every winter:

Ingredients:
One dozen eggs
Milk or heavy cream
cinnamon
nutmeg
Cognac or brandy
Meyer lemons
Cointreau
sugar cubes
A loaf of good bread

First, determine who in your party is not qualified to drink alcohol, such as people operating heavy machinery and/or children. For everyone else, place one sugar cube in each cocktail glass, and then pour two parts cognac with one part Cointreau and the juice of one Meyer lemon into a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, and pour into the cocktail glasses. Garnish with slice of Meyer lemon and serve. These are brandy sidecars, and they are delicious, particularly in the later sips, when the sugar cubes have dissolved.

In the morning, some of your guests may feel a bit groggy, and you may revive them by mixing the eggs, cream, and cinnamon in a large bowl, in which you soak the loaf of bread, cut into thick slices. Fry this bread in small batches and serve. This is French toast, and this is also delicious.

People may ask you where the eggnog is. Tell them never mind, because eggnog is atrocious.

Dear Mr. Snicket: I am a recent college graduate, and sadly I am not working in my chosen career. As an Anthropology Major there are many things I can do, such as dig up really old pots, piece together the human skeleton, work with animals, and study various cultures around the globe. I have also worked on the College newspaper, and Children's Museum, and a Pizza Parlor.

What would you suggest that I do in general, since I have no idea. What should I do to get employed, which skills are most important?

Are you looking to hire in the near future, I know the job would bring much unpleasantness, but I feel that I am a good candidate, since I have experienced much hardships while doing archaeology, such as mosquitos, scorpions, rain, heat, cold showers, and killer bees.
--Queequeg

Dear Queequeg: I suggest a career as an advice columnist. My research indicates that virtually no skill whatsoever is required.

More Holiday Advice: Soup Mix and Rabid Ermines (Guest Blogger: Lemony Snicket)

006157428701_mzzzzzzz_ Happy Tuesday! Well, not for long, as the author Lemony Snicket has darkened our doorway yet again with his ill-considered advice. Take it or leave it, we say. (Our lawyers ask that you do the latter.)

He returns for his last visit next Tuesday, the second day of Hanukkah, and if you add a question in the comment in the next couple of days, he'll be able to consider it in time.

Dear Mr. Snicket: How do you appropriately thank a family member for a gift you hate?
--BilboC

Dear BilboC: Saying thank you for a gift you hate should appear identical to saying thank you for a gift you love, and has the added satisfaction of teaching you how to lie convincingly in a short, hand-written note. One thing to remember when writing thank-you notes is not to start them with the phrase "Thank you," because once you write "Thank you for the case of powdered soup mix," it is difficult to know what to write next. If you begin with "As you know, beloved sister, I've always wondered just what is in that soup you serve me each and every time you visit your home," you can immediately move on to "Thank you for finally providing me with a solution to this mystery and for sustaining me until I see you again" and then you are done and may proceed immediately to a soup kitchen with a large donation.

Dear Mr. Snicket: What holiday traditions do you hope die with your generation? Which ones would you like to see passed on?
--Cornpone

Dear Cornpone: I do hope you realize that "die" and "passed on" mean the same thing, otherwise I hate to think that you failed to understand the telegram I sent you recently regarding your brother-in-law. In any case, the holiday tradition I hope perishes is the one in which people wear the red, fuzzy hat, and only the red, fuzzy hat, of a certain holiday figure in order to impersonate him. As a disguise, it is an utter failure. As anything else, it is a grating annoyance.

Dear Mr. Snicket: How do I gift wrap unusually shaped presents? I always end up ripping through the paper and some part ends up sticking out, such as the legs of a teddy bear.
With every single bit of respect,
--Jemima

Dear Jemima: If I were you I would make no changes whatsoever in your wrapping scheme. I can hardly think of a present I would like to unwrap more than one that has two legs sticking out of it.

Dear Mr. Snicket: I recently discovered that a family of rabid ermines has taken up residence within the belly of my eighteenth-century Rococo chaise lounge. What would you, sir, suggest to be the best way to envelop them with the spirit of the holiday season?
With all due seasonal greetings,
--Sebastian Who

Dear Sebastian:
Rather than allowing these poor creatures to take shelter one minute longer, inform them there is no room at the inn, and banish them to a nearby manger to do whatever it is they were planning on doing. This may seem cruel, but I am told that these actions follow a long tradition of one of the holidays celebrated this month.

Dear Mr. Snicket: You went though an awful lot in order to bring the terrible plight of the Baudelaire orphans to our attention. What can your loyal fans do to show their appreciation? Would you like a hug?
--BSam

Dear BSam:
As you may know, total stranger, I've always wondered why people who do not know one another offer displays of physical affection. Thank you for finally providing a solution to this mystery and for sustaining me until I see you again.

More Holiday Advice: Humiliating Deaths, Puttanesca, and Italian Literature (Guest Blogger: Lemony Snicket)

006157428701_mzzzzzzz_ The sled dogs have returned with the latest of Mr. Lemony Snicket's replies to your questions. We still must endure his holiday visits for two more Tuesdays, so please keep adding your questions in the comments below.

Dear Mr. Snicket: I have recently met a most wonderful young man, and we have determined to marry. My family, however, has deemed him unsuitable, a word which here means "the young son of a rival family, whom we have vowed to murder for the slightest of offenses." Though we have known each other only a short while--less than 24 hours, in fact--we are deeply in love and wish to gain the blessing of our families. As the holiday season fast approaches, how can we declare our love and bury our parents' strife? With sincere thanks,
--Juliet

Dear Juliet: When choosing to model one's life on a work of literature, one must choose carefully.  Romeo and Juliet, for instance, begins rather romantically, with two young people having the dual pleasures of first love and rebelling against one's family, but eventually ends in a series of humiliating deaths via miscommunication, which is why everyone in the audience is fidgeting by the end of the performance. Consider instead the model of Kevin Henkes's recent novel Bird Lake Moon, in which all of the misunderstandings happen at the beginning and then are carefully unravelled, the better for a friendship to blossom. It is also a short book, although I do not necessarily recommend trimming your lifespan accordingly.

Dear Mr. Snicket: I must first admit I am a tremendous fan of your aptly titled "Series of Unfortunate Events," firstly, because the Baudelaire recipe for puttanesca is unparalleled, a word which here means far superior to any other puttanesca recipes to be found in un-unfortunate books; secondly, because my various family members often acquire the less savoury traits of Count Olaf during the holiday season. Do you have any suggestions for surviving this month of familial cruelty?
--Saturnine in Seattle

159017076801_mzzzzzzz_ Dear Saturnine: I find your letter alarming, flattering, and puzzling, in that order: alarming that you have been reading my dreadful books, flattering that you find the Baudelaires' recipe for puttanesca to be useful, and puzzling that you find this month so troubling. Personally I have always found the Hanukah season to be a cheering one. As Hanukah is a minor holiday, there is no need to make much fuss: a few candles, a latke or two, and a little spinning-top-based gambling will do the trick, and on the 25th of December you can hole up and simmer a puttanesca sauce for hours while reading Italian literature, such as Cesare Pavese's Disaffections or Dino Buzzati's The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily, while the rest of the world finds themselves embroiled in family melodramas and an overabundance of capitalist indulgence.

I am, of course, assuming that you participate in the cultural tradition of Hankuah, rather than one of those other holidays that fall at the same time as Hanukah. Your enthusiasm for food marks you as somewhat unusual in the Gentile world.

Dear Mr. Snicket: I was anxiously anticipating the opportunity to meet you, Mr. Snicket, at a recent literary event, but was instead greeted by an accordionist who said you were ill. Who was this handsome accordionist? And are you feeling better?
--Still Available in San Fernando

Dear Still Available: As with many people who were closely following the recent election, I have recently regained a healthy sense of confidence and justice. My representative is the novelist Daniel Handler, and he is happily married, although I'm sure he would appreciate your admiration of what is admittedly a gorgeous physique.

Holiday Advice: Use at Your Own Risk (Guest Blogger: Lemony Snicket)

006157428701_mzzzzzzz_ By means of a procedure whose byzantine intricacies we ourselves have only the barest hint of--we do know for certain that dog sleds, semaphore flags, and cereal-box prizes were involved--we have, as promised, transmitted the questions we've received to the author Lemony Snicket and received his replies, filled with so-called "advice," in return. (It's a procedure, I'm told, identical to that used by the late Ann Landers, who spent the last twenty years of her career living not as claimed in a Chicago apartment but in a ramshackle lean-to in Honduras made from beach logs.)

At this point I ought to say it is an honor and a privilege to have Mr. Snicket joining us as a "guest blogger" this month, but I mistrust his motives too much to honestly do so. But I do, reluctantly, urge you to continue to submit questions to him in the comments field below, if only to give him something to do in his three other visits to our blog this month (every Tuesday, if you haven't heard). He throws tantrums when he's bored.

And in that same spirit of reluctance, I also mention some of the books he has written, though I hardly endorse their contents. In addition to the well-known Series of Unfortunate Events (a series I was pleased to see end, although, bizarrely, it remains in print), he has "authored" two picture books that treat the holiday season with nowhere near the respect it deserves: The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story and, this year, The Lump of Coal. (And next March, look for--or look out for--his first book with musical accompaniment, The Composer Is Dead. Killed, no doubt, by an accordion.)

And as for recommending his holiday advice, well, reluctance doesn't even begin to describe it, but here you go:

Dear Mr. Snicket: Every Christmas I have to buy gifts for my nieces and nephews who I only see once a year. Anything they might have been into the last time I saw them is deeply uncool by the time I see them again (and they let me know it). How do I stay ahead of the curve? Thanks!
--Uncle Joe

Dear Uncle Joe: An important model for any adult who sees the same children regularly but intermittently is Herr Drosselmeyer, the godfather in Hofffman's tale The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, frequently produced in ballet incessantly during the holiday season. Herr Drosselmeyer brings his young goddaughter a nutcracker, a gift which is neither fashionable nor appropriate but turns out to be quite handy indeed, given what occurs shortly after bedtime.

B0019x400801_mzzzzzzz_ The trick, therefore, is not to stay ahead of the curve, but to remain firmly behind it. The novels of Robert Louis Stevenson, the poetry of H.D., the music of Milton Babbitt, the films of Guy Maddin, french-cuff shirts, ascots, formal gloves, highball glasses, croquet sets, fondue pots, and cacti are among the unfashionable items that come to mind, and any niece or nephew not grateful to receive them deserves to be attacked by man-size rodents.

Dear Mr. Snicket: Every year, my mom makes the most delicious cheese potatoes for the holiday dinner. This year, however, I am away from home, and will be dining with friends at a new house. The catch is that the person hosting will allow me to bring the cheese potatoes, but she is not a fan of onions. The onions are the third-most key ingredient to the cheese potatoes! How can I enjoy a holiday dinner without cheese potatoes as they were meant to be? Also, is this hostess insane?
--Third-Cousin Alex

Dear Third-Cousin Alex: "Cheese potatoes" is an unnerving name for a dish, which should be named something alluring rather than simply a list of ingredients, the way nobody names a child Blood Bones And Assorted Organs. I would suggest that you call your dish potatoes au gratin, which sounds gloriously culinary. Gloriously culinary items frequently use shallots instead of onions. Shallots, of course, are a close relative of the onion, just as potatoes au gratin are a close relative (albeit a French, pretentious relative) of cheese potatoes, which will lead to the following conversation:

Hostess: Are there onions in this?
You: You asked me not to put onions in my potatoes au gratin. [Notice how this statement is truthful.]
Hostess: But what is this?
You: That is a shallot.
Hostess: What is a shallot?
You: A close relative of the onion.
Hostess: So there are onions in this?
You: You asked me not to put onions in my potatoes au gratin.
Hostess: Then what's this?
You: A shallot.
Hostess: But a shallot is a close relative of an onion.
You: Yes.
Hostess: So there are onions in this!
You: You asked me not to put onions in my potatoes au gratin.
etc.

If she is not insane, she will be driven insane by the end of this conversation, and you can enjoy your meal in peace.

Dear Mr. Snicket: Why does it always have to be coal? Why shouldn't a concerned parent give their ill-behaved youngsters something more accessible for modern times, say, a stick of firewood or a dried lump of mud?
--Woody

Dear Woody: Under enough pressure, a lump of coal may eventually become a diamond, but a stick of firewood, in the hands of an ill-behaved youngster under pressure from a concerned parent, invariably becomes a prop in a nice rousing game of Joan of Arc.  Does anyone smell something burning?

Dear Mr. Snicket: What is mince meat?  Why do people seem to like it so much?  Do I have to eat it?
--A Loyal Reader

Dear Loyal Reader: I am afraid to try mincemeat, as it appears to be made from the innards of ungrateful nieces and nephews, demanding hostesses, and concerned parents. Apparently some people like such things. One of the great things about the world, even at holiday time, is that you do not have to eat it.

Next Guest Blogger: Lemony Snicket Answers Your December Questions

006157428701_mzzzzzzz_ In December, the elusive Lemony Snicket will be here giving advice for the holiday season, a phrase which here means "that awkward time of year filled with unwanted gifts, distant relatives, and ill-dressed turkey." Submit your questions for him in the comments section below.

[Ed.: Yes, this is true. Mr. Snicket, author of the lamentably popular Series of Unfortunate Events as well as the more appropriately themed picture books, The Lump of Coal and The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story, will be visiting Omnivoracious on Tuesdays during December for the express purpose of helping you with your problems, and, in general, telling you what to do when you can't figure that out for yourself. Please ask him now about anything you please: orphans, accordions, or, especially, the most terrible time of the year, the holidays.]

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