Daniel Handler

Daniel Handler

Born: February 28, 1970
Age: 54
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Daniel Handler (born February 28, 1970) is an American writer and journalist. He is best known for his work under the pen name Lemony Snicket, having published children's series A Series of Unfortunate Events and All the Wrong Questions under this pseudonym. He has also published adult novels under his real name; his first book The Basic Eight was rejected by many publishers for its dark subject matter. His most recent book is We Are Pirates. Handler has also played the accordion in several bands.


Personal life

Handler was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Sandra Handler Day (née Walpole) and retired City College of San Francisco Dean, and Louis Handler, an accountant. His father was a Jewish refugee from Germany, and he is distantly related to British writer Hugh Walpole through his mother. He has a younger sister, Rebecca Handler. Handler has been a voracious reader since childhood, and his favorite author was William Keepers Maxwell, Jr. He attended Commodore Sloat Elementary, Herbert Hoover Middle School, and Lowell High School. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1992. He is an alumnus of the San Francisco Boys Chorus.

He is married to Lisa Brown, a graphic artist whom he met in college. They have a son, Otto Handler, born in 2003. They live in an old Victorian house in San Francisco.

Handler is politically active and helped form LitPAC. In the June 10, 2007 edition of The New York Times Magazine, Handler revealed ambivalence toward his wealth and the expectations that it creates. He stated that he is often asked for money for charitable causes and often gives. He has supported the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Handler describes himself as a secular humanist. In addition, he says, "I'm not a believer in predetermined fates, being rewarded for one's efforts. I'm not a believer in karma. The reason why I try to be a good person is because I think it's the right thing to do. If I commit fewer bad acts there will be fewer bad acts, maybe other people will join in committing fewer bad acts, and in time there will be fewer and fewer of them."

Professional work


Four of Daniel Handler's major works have been published under his name. His first, The Basic Eight, was rejected by many publishers for its subject matter and tone (a dark view of a teenage girl's life). Handler claims that the novel was rejected 37 times before finally being published.

Watch Your Mouth, his second novel, was completed before The Basic Eight was published. It follows a more operatic theme, complete with stage directions and various acts. It is described by HarperCollins, the book's reprint publisher, as an "incest opera", mixing Jewish mythology with modern sexuality. Watch Your Mouth's second half replaces the opera troupe with the form of a 12-step recovery program, linguistically undergone by the protagonist.

In April 2006, Handler published Adverbs, a collection of short stories that he says are "about love." In January 2011, Why We Broke Up was released; it received a 2012 Michael L. Printz honor award.

He served as a judge for the PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship in 2012.

Handler's most recent adult novel is titled We Are Pirates and is about a modern-age pirate who "wants to be an old-fashioned kind of pirate." It was released on February 3, 2015.

Lemony Snicket

Main article: Lemony Snicket

Handler began writing A Series of Unfortunate Events under the Snicket pseudonym in 1998. The books concern three orphaned children who experience progressively terrible events following the alleged death of their parents and burning of their home (done by a man named Count Olaf and his troupe of associates), and Snicket acts as the narrator and biographer of the fictional orphans. He has also narrated the audiobooks for three consecutive books in the series, before deciding to quit because he found it too difficult, handing back the narrating job to the original narrator, Tim Curry.

Handler has also appeared at author appearances as "Lemony Snicket's handler," as well as appearing as Snicket himself in various other books and media, including the commentary track for the film version of his books, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. He also wrote an introduction to Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography under his own name.

The Lemony Snicket books have been international best-sellers, and the 13th and final installment of the series came out Friday, October 13, 2006. On the day the thirteenth book came out, Handler appeared on the Today show as Lemony Snicket's representative.

Handler has also written some short fiction and picture books under the Lemony Snicket pseudonym. As part of his support of Occupy Wall Street, Handler wrote "Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance", which was published on the Occupy Writers website.

Handler has recently completed a series of novels, All the Wrong Questions, which serve as prequels to A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Lemony Snicket has his own website which has a section about "The Afflicted Author". In this autobiographical section, Snicket is very vague, saying things such as: "His family has roots in a part of the country which is now underwater" and, without any previous mention of this scandal, "The aftermath of the scandal was swift, brutal and inaccurately reported in the periodicals of the day". Also on this site, Mr. Snicket discusses his "representative" to the public, Daniel Handler. He does not go in depth about Handler, but states, "Mr. Handler has had a relatively uneventful life..." HarperCollins Publishers published a short interview with Lemony Snicket on their website, asking personal questions, such as "What were some of your hobbies as a child?" to which Snicket answered, "Taxidermy and playing the harpsichord."


Handler was in two bands following college, The Edith Head Trio and Tzamboni, but it wasn't until 69 Love Songs, a three-album set by The Magnetic Fields, that his music attracted attention. Handler played accordion on a number of tracks in 69 Love Songs. In the box set of the project, Handler provides a lengthy interview with band leader Stephin Merritt about the project, as well as conversations about each song. Handler also appears in the 2009 documentary Strange Powers, by Kerthy Fix and Gail O'Hara, about Merritt and the Magnetic Fields.

He has gone on to play accordion in several other Merritt projects, including music by The Magnetic Fields, The 6ths and The Gothic Archies, the last of which provided songs for the audiobooks in the A Series of Unfortunate Events children's book series. On October 10, 2006, an album by the Gothic Archies was released with all thirteen songs from the thirteen audiobooks in A Series of Unfortunate Events, along with two bonus songs.

In the audio commentary on the film adaptation Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Handler plays a song about how depressing it is to have leeches in a film.

Daniel Handler wrote the lyrics to the song "Radio," performed by One Ring Zero, and the lyrics to "The Gibbons Girl" by Chris Ewen's The Hidden Variable.


  • 69 Love Songs - The Magnetic Fields
  • Hyacinths and Thistles - The 6ths
  • The Tragic Treasury: Songs from A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Gothic Archies
  • Distortion - The Magnetic Fields
  • Nevermind the Context - Moth Wranglers
  • The Composer Is Dead - A collaboration with Nathaniel Stookey, premiered in San Francisco at Davies Symphony Hall on July 8, 2006
  • Realism - The Magnetic Fields
  • "Barricade" - Stars
  • Love at the Bottom of the Sea - The Magnetic Fields

Film and television

Handler has also had some success in film work. He produced the screenplay for Rick, which was based on the Verdi opera Rigoletto, as well as Kill the Poor, which was based on the novel by Joel Rose.

Handler was involved in the screenwriting process for the film Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, but was ultimately removed from the project. He had completed eight separate drafts of the film before giving up following a change in those who were producing the film. Robert Gordon (screenwriter of Galaxy Quest) was hired to replace Handler and eventually received credit for the film's screenplay, under Handler's request.

Handler did submit a commentary track for the DVD version, alongside director Brad Silberling. In character as Lemony Snicket, he derides the Lemony Snicket in the film - played by Jude Law - as an impostor, as well as choosing to play accordion and sing about leeches rather than pay attention to the film. At numerous times during the track he shows great sympathy towards the Baudelaire children, and implies that he is being held captive by the director in order to do the commentary.


  • Rick (2003)
  • Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
  • Kill the Poor (2006)

Television credits

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events - Executive Producer


At the National Book Awards ceremony in November 2014, Handler made a controversial remark after author Jacqueline Woodson was presented with an award for young people's literature. Woodson, who is black, won the award for Brown Girl Dreaming. During the ceremony, Handler noted that Woodson is allergic to watermelon, a reference to the racist watermelon stereotype. His comments were immediately criticized; Handler apologized via Twitter and donated $10,000 to We Need Diverse Books, and promised to match donations up to $100,000. In a New York Times op-ed published shortly thereafter, "The Pain of the Watermelon Joke", Jacqueline Woodson explained that "in making light of that deep and troubled history" with his joke, Daniel Handler had come from a place of ignorance, but underscored the need for her mission to "give people a sense of this country's brilliant and brutal history, so no one ever thinks they can walk onto a stage one evening and laugh at another's too often painful past".


Further information: Lemony Snicket bibliography

Handler has published a variety of books under the name Lemony Snicket; this section lists works published under his own name.

Books published as Daniel Handler

  • Handler, Daniel. The Basic Eight. New York: Thomas Dunne 1995.
  • Watch Your Mouth St. Martin's Press/HarperCollins (2000)
  • How to Dress for Every Occasion, by the Pope (with illustrations by Sarah "Pinkie" Bennett, pseudonym for Lisa Brown) McSweeney's (2005)
  • Adverbs St. Martin's Press/HarperCollins (2006)
  • Why We Broke Up (2011)
  • We Are Pirates (2014)

As editor or contributor:

  • Nonsense Novels by Stephen Leacock (Introduction) New York Review of Books Classics (2004)
  • Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs and Some Other Things That Aren't as Scary, Maybe, Depending on How You Feel About Lost Lands, Stray Cellphones, Creatures from the Sky, Parents Who Disappear in Peru, a Man Named Lars Farf and One Other Story We Couldn't Quite Finish, So Maybe You Could Help Us Out by McSweeney's (Introduction and Unfinished story)
  • The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville (Preface) Dalkey Archive Press (2007)
  • The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto by Bernard DeVoto (Introduction) Republished by Tin House Books (2010)
  • "Half-Minute Horrors"

What the Swedes Read columns in The Believer

"A reader makes his way through one book by each Nobel Laureate."

Year Country Nobel Laureate Work discussed Issue and date
1959 Italy Salvatore Quasimodo The selected writings; (trans) Allen Mandelbaum 11/3 (Mar-Apr 2013)

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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