I'm standing in a line dominated by tousle-headed kids, grandparents with tousle-headed kids, and soccer moms with tousle-headed kids. The antsy kids range in age from seven to fifteen years old. There are about three hundred of us in total. We're waiting to see Lemony Snicket, the elusive author of the multi-volume An Unfortunate Series of Events books, which to date have sold over sixty milllion copies. Forty-five minutes later, I'm sitting in the auditorium waiting for the mysterious Mr. Snicket to at last reveal himself to his excited audience when out of the wings a man who resembles a younger (say 40ish) Alfred Hitchcock-type character emerges and informs us that Mr. Snicket cannot attend due to an accident. This man goes on to tell a hilariously macabre tale—told mostly deadpan—of how Snicket fell victim to a bat-like creature who bit him in the armpit and Snicket was thus rendered paralyzed from the armpit down. According to our narrator, luckily Mr. Snicket declared him the official surrogate for tonight's reading, which our narrator tells us isn't really a reading but a secret meeting. At this secret meeting a group of kids are called on stage to read a note relating to Snicket's new book, Who Could That Be At This Hour. He prompts them through farcical pronunciations that have the crowd in stitches. In his droll manner, our substitute refers to a low rumbling sound from his mic as coming from "all those plaintains I ate." He perambulates through the aisles reading from the new book and ends the evening by singing "a dreadful song, but a song nonetheless," to his own accompaniment on "an instrument that's been around a thousand years and despised by thousands of people." It's the accordion. He's right; the song is dreadful, though funny. He sings about Snicket's latest release. Before the evening comes to an end, Lemony Snicket's proxy informs us that while the author can't make it, he will be happy to sign the book.
I'm disappointed, but I wait in line anyway to have my first volume of Unfortunate Events signed. The man is very genial. He writes his signature: Daniel Handler. Hmm, I'm going to have to see if he ever wrote anything.
WLRN is collaborating with the Florida Book Review to cover this year's Miami Book Fair International. Check back all weekend for updates.