Tormented Orphans, Coming Soon to Theaters

By Gloria Goodale Arts and culture correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, November 8, 2002 | Go to article overview

Tormented Orphans, Coming Soon to Theaters


Gloria Goodale Arts and culture correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Orphans have a universal appeal, says Daniel Handler, aka the dolorous writer, Lemony Snicket. And the more put-upon, apparently, the better, if book sales are any indication.

Mr. Handler is the author whose Gothic tales about a trio of deeply unfortunate, parentless siblings are being snapped up by Harry Potter, Book 5-deprived fans (as well as by many others) at a record clip.

The 13-part "A Series of Unfortunate Events," saga of the three Beaudelaire orphans, is flying off bookshelves into the hands of readers with a stomach for a darker, more sarcastic view of the world than the basically good world J.K. Rowling characters inhabit. Now, the books are being made into a movie.

Nickelodeon has purchased the rights, and Handler himself is working on the screenplay. Handler says working on a Hollywood script, particularly using the "smart" software that "the powers that be" insisted he use, couldn't be more different from his usual storytelling style. "[The software] tries to guess what's going on and offer suggestions," he says with a dark laugh. "I suppose that might explain a lot about some films."

Lemony Snicket's alter ego says he prefers to begin a story with an idea and see where that takes him. "I know major things that are going to happen, but I like to leave myself things to do as characters develop."

In the world the Beaudelaire children inhabit, adults are greedy and endings are not happy - all detailed with good, Gothic relish, of course. The ghoulish travails of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Beaudelaire already have filled nine of the proposed 13 books, and the author has promised a faithful delivery of a book a year until the series is complete.

"I thought 13 volumes was perfect," says Handler, first because of the superstitions that surround the number. "But that also seemed plenty long and melodramatic enough, like a Russian novel, where many awful things happen over and over and only achieve their impact by their sheer volume. …

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