More than 500 people, including children and parents, packed into the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa to meet the prolific children’s author Lemony Snicket on Saturday afternoon. But the teasing, brusque speaker who came to the stage and claimed not to be the author of the award-winning books, “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”
It started after Jessica Ruskin, the museum’s education director, gamely introduced him to the exuberant audience as Snicket.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know that woman and why she would tell such a terrible lie,” said the author, who later revealed himself to be Daniel Handler, the American writer, musician and journalist whose children’s books carry the catchy pseudonym.
But Snicket was unable to make the book signing at Schulz Museum after an unfortunate event, Handler explained. Snicket was impaled in the armpit by a sharp stick while at a picnic, he said. The puncture wound caused Snicket to become paralyzed from the armpit down, he said.
And the shtick went on. Children, who came with books in tow seeking autographs from their beloved author, instead were bestowed with a rubber stamp of Snicket’s signature.
Handler only once let it slip that he was in fact the author of the series of books that were turned into the 2004 film “A Series of Unfortunate Events” starring Jim Carrey, and a new Netflix series of the same name starring Neil Patrick Harris.
The appearance wasn’t your everyday visit of a children’s author.
Handler chided children in his exchanges with them, invaded the personal space of dozens, questioned the cleanliness of an audience member’s clothing and often paced around yelling.
He even went so far as to critique the work of famed illustrator Charles Schulz, the Peanuts cartoonist, saying he made a career drawing pictures of depressed children.
“It was all under the thematic idea that there is good in grief,” he said.
Still, the crowd ate it up. Laughs, giggles and gasps continued unabated throughout the hour.
San Francisco resident Julia Bazolli, 19, who came to the United States from Brazil four months ago, started reading “A Series of Unfortunate Events” books in Portuguese when she was 9.
For Bazolli, the world Handler created tops two other blockbuster children’s series of this generation — J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins.
“I love the despair of his work,” she said. “It’s not all about magic and happy endings.”
You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @nrahaim.