A Series of Unfortunate Events
|Cover artist||Brett Helquist|
|Genre||Gothic fiction, Absurdist fiction, Steampunk, Mystery|
|Published||September 30, 1999 – October 13, 2006|
A Series of Unfortunate Events is a series of children's novels by Lemony Snicket (the pen name of American author Daniel Handler) which follows the turbulent lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire after their parents' death in an arsonous house fire. The children are placed in the custody of their distant cousin Count Olaf, who treats them rudely and openly plots to embezzle their inheritance. After the Baudelaires are removed from his care by their parents' estate executor, Arthur Poe, Olaf begins to doggedly hunt the children down, bringing about the serial slaughter and demise of a multitude of characters.
The entire series is actively narrated by Snicket, who makes numerous references to his mysterious, deceased love interest, Beatrice. Both Snicket and Beatrice play roles in the story along with Snicket's family members, all of whom are part of an overarching conspiracy known to the children only as "V.F.D."
Since the release of the first novel, The Bad Beginning, in September 1999, the books have gained significant popularity, critical acclaim, and commercial success worldwide, spawning a film, video game, and assorted merchandise. The thirteen books in the series (or "tridecalogy") have collectively sold more than 60 million copies and have been translated into 41 languages.
- 1 Origins
- 2 Plot summary
- 3 Setting
- 4 Genre
- 5 Distribution
- 6 Reception
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 Prequel
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The author of the series, Lemony Snicket (the pen name of American novelist Daniel Handler) has said in an interview with online entertainment-magazine The A.V. Club that he decided to write a children's story when he was trying to find a publisher for his first novel, The Basic Eight. One of the publishers, HarperCollins, passed on The Basic Eight, but they were interested in his writing a story for children. Handler thought it was a terrible idea at first, but met with the publishers to discuss the book. They challenged him to write the book he wished he could have read when he was ten. He retooled a manuscript he had for a mock-Gothic book for adults, which became a "Gothic novel about children growing up through terrible things", a concept which the publishers liked, to Handler's surprise. The first book in the series was The Bad Beginning, released September 30, 1999. When asked in a Moment Magazine interview about the Baudelaire children and Handler's own Jewish heritage he replied "Oh yeah! Yes. The Baudelaires are Jewish! I guess we would not know for sure but we would strongly suspect it, not only from their manner but from the occasional mention of a rabbi or bar mitzvah or synagogue. The careful reader will find quite a few rabbis." Handler claimed that watching the local news frequently and seeing the depressing stories of crime, violence and hardship was part of the inspiration of the book series.
The series follows the adventures of three siblings: the Baudelaire orphans. Violet Baudelaire, the eldest, is fourteen when the series begins and is an inventor. Klaus Baudelaire, the middle child, is twelve when the books begin; he loves books and is an extraordinary reader. Sunny Baudelaire is a baby in the beginning of the series, and has a talent for biting things; she also develops a love for cooking later on in the series. In the early books, Sunny speaks in single word utterances which are often a variety of incomplete sentences or short word sentences. She has four very sharp teeth and loves to bite things and speaks in random phrases, although her English improves as the series goes on. In the end chapter (chapter fourteen of The End) she finally learns to speak properly.
The children become orphans after their parents are killed in a fire at the family mansion. In The Bad Beginning, they are sent to live with a distant relative named Count Olaf after briefly living with Mr. Poe, a banker in charge of the orphans' affairs. Count Olaf orders the siblings to cook and clean in his gloomy, dirty house. The siblings discover that he intends to get his hands on the enormous Baudelaire fortune, which awaits Violet when she turns eighteen. In the first book, he attempts to marry Violet, pretending it is the plot for his latest play, but the plan falls through when Violet uses her left hand to sign the marriage document. Klaus also tries to foil the plan by reading up on marriage law.
In each of the first seven books, Olaf disguises himself, finds the children wherever they are and, with help from his many accomplices, tries to steal their fortune, committing arson, murder, and other atrocities along the way. Their roles switch in the eighth through twelfth books, in which the orphans adopt disguises while on the run from the police after Count Olaf frames them for his own murder through use of a body double. The Baudelaires routinely try to get help from Mr. Poe, but he, like many of the adults in the series, is oblivious to the dangerous reality of the children's situation. Mr. Poe is in all of the books, except The Hostile Hospital, The Carnivorous Carnival, The Slippery Slope, and The End.
As the books continue, the three children uncover more and more of the mystery surrounding their parents' deaths and soon find that their parents were in a secret organization, V.F.D., along with several of their guardians.
The siblings are followed by misfortune wherever they go, but occasionally something good happens. In the fifth book, Violet, Klaus and Sunny make friends with the Quagmires, also orphans who lost their parents in a fire which is suspected not to be a mere coincidence. In The Slippery Slope Violet shares a tender moment with Quigley Quagmire (it is never detailed exactly what happened), who was originally believed to have died in the same fire that killed his parents. In The Grim Grotto, Klaus falls in love with Fiona, one of Count Olaf's accomplices, who later breaks his heart by leaving them to live with her brother. In The End, the Baudelaires attempt to uncover the mystery and finally find a place they can call home. This never happens, however—the mystery is left mostly unsolved, and the remainder of the orphans' life is left under speculation.
Each of the three siblings has a distinctive skill that often helps them in dire situations. Violet always invents things to help them, Klaus always finds out information from books, and Sunny has extremely sharp teeth that can bite almost anything into pieces. In The Ersatz Elevator, Sunny actually manages to climb up an elevator shaft with her sharp teeth in order to save her siblings from a terrible fate. In later books, Sunny begins to grow normal size teeth and learns how to cook which becomes her primary skill. She also learns how to walk in the seventh book, The Vile Village.
The books seem to be set in an alternate, "timeless" world with stylistic similarities to both the 19th century and the 1930s, though with contemporary, and seemingly anachronistic scientific knowledge. Credit cards are mentioned in The Bad Beginning. One example of this "technological disconnect" is documented in The Hostile Hospital, where the Baudelaire children send a message via Morse code on a telegraph, yet in the Last Chance General Store, there is fiber-optic cable for sale. An "advanced computer" appears in The Austere Academy, which, while outdated by current standards, is nonetheless more advanced than the earliest computers; this computer's exact functions are never stated, as its only use in the book is to show a picture of Count Olaf (which both Mr. Poe and Vice Principal Nero believe will keep him away), but in the companion book The Unauthorised Autobiography, one of the letters describes the computer as capable of an advanced act of forgery. Also, in The Austere Academy, Mr. Remora mentions that he watched television at a telling of one of his classroom stories, suggesting television exists as well. One of the few clues to the exact date comes towards the end of the final book in the series, where Klaus mentions he plans to read a set of novels by PG Wodehouse, which would put the novel no earlier than the 20th century. The setting of the world has been compared to Edward Scissorhands in that it is "suburban gothic". Although the film version sets the Baudelaires' mansion in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, real places rarely appear in the books, although many are mentioned. For example, in The Reptile Room, Uncle Monty and the Baudelaires plan a trip to Peru, and in "The Ersatz Elevator", a book in Jerome and Esmé Squalor's library was titled Trout, In France They're Out; there are also references to the fictional nobility of North American regions, specifically the Duchess of Winnipeg and the King of Arizona, perhaps allusions to the setting of Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Slapstick which features similar North American fictional nobility. Interestingly, Vonnegut's novel focuses on artificial family as the cure for loneliness and strife which seems to also be the aim of the 'artificial family' of VFD.
Recurring themes and concepts
The majority of the books in A Series of Unfortunate Events pick up where the previous book ended, and the plots of the first seven books follow the same basic pattern: the Baudelaires are in a new predicament in a new location with a new guardian who has a literary name. There are thirteen books in the series and each book has thirteen chapters, with the exception of "Book the Fourteenth": a single chapter found at the end of The End. The location of each book's critical events is usually identified in the book's title. Snicket works the siblings' respective skills into the story line. Violet always has something to invent, Klaus always finds a library to do research in, and in the early books, Sunny always finds something to chew on or, in later books, cook, as she begins to grow into her teeth and develops culinary skills. The one exception is in The Miserable Mill, where Violet and Klaus swap roles, Klaus struggling to invent something and Violet trying to be the researcher.
Lemony Snicket frequently explains words and analogies in incongruous detail. When describing a word the reader may not be aware of, he typically says "a word which here means...", sometimes with a humorous definition, or one which is only relevant to the events at hand (for example, he describes "adversity" as meaning "Count Olaf").
Despite the general absurdity of the books' storyline, Lemony Snicket continuously maintains that the story is true and that it is his "solemn duty" to record it. Snicket often goes off into humorous or satirical asides, discussing his opinions of various matters, or his personal life. The details of his supposed personal life are largely absurd, incomplete and not explained in detail. For example, Snicket claims to have been chased by an angry mob for sixteen miles. However, some details of his life are explained somewhat in his fictional autobiography, Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography.
Lemony Snicket's narration and commentary is characteristically cynical and despondent. In the excerpt for each book, Snicket warns of the misery the reader may experience in reading about the Baudelaire orphans and suggests abandoning the books altogether. However, he also provides ample comic relief with wry, dark humor. In the excerpt for The Grim Grotto, he writes: "[...] the horrors [the Baudelaire children] encounter are too numerous to list, and you wouldn't even want me to describe the worst of it, which includes mushrooms, a desperate search for something lost, a mechanical monster, a distressing message from a lost friend and tap-dancing". Snicket's narration has been described as "self-conscious" and "post-modern".
Snicket displays an amazing aversion to macabre elements, but also gives off a sense of squeamishness with passages like the above excerpt. When giving accounts of bravery or resilience on the part of the Baudelaires, Snicket often calls himself a coward either explicitly or otherwise. His tone portrays admiration for the children as well as his own severe insecurity. This contrast between the Baudelaires' actions and Lemony Snicket's bemused, reverent reactions underscores one of the themes of the books. By emphasizing the vitality of the Baudelaire orphans, Daniel Handler seems to urge the reader to find courage in him or herself and in his or her friends and if not to challenge despondence then at least to take it with a grain of salt. In this way he uses the persona of Lemony Snicket as a foil for the Baudelaires.
Snicket translates for the youngest Baudelaire orphan, Sunny, who in the early books can say only words or phrases that make sense to her siblings. Their meaning is often disguised by being spelled phonetically: 'surchmi' in The Slippery Slope and 'Kikbucit?' in The End; being spelled backwards: 'edasurc' in The Carnivorous Carnival, and 'cigam' in The Miserable Mill; or through cultural references: such as 'Matahari', followed by a definition of 'If I stay, I can spy on them and find out.' They may also be references to people: for instance, when Sunny says "Busheney" (an assumed portmanteau of Bush and Cheney), followed by the definition of "you are a vile man who has no regard for anyone else", or being written in other languages like the words "Shalom", "Sayonara" or "Arigato". This becomes less common as Sunny begins to speak real words, one of her first longer sentences in the series being "I'm not a baby" to her sister Violet in The Slippery Slope.
When describing a character whom the Baudelaires have met before, Snicket often describes the character first and does not reveal the name of the character until they have been thoroughly described. Lemony Snicket starts each book with a "post-modern dissection of the reading experience" before linking it back to how he presents the story of the Baudelaires and what their current situation is. Snicket often uses alliteration (repeated starting sounds on consecutive words) to name locations throughout the story. He uses this writing technique for the titles of the books (the only exception being the final book, The End). Many of the books start with a theme being introduced which is continually referenced throughout the book – such as the repeated comparisons of the words 'nervous' and 'anxious' in The Ersatz Elevator, the consistent use of the phrase 'where there's smoke, there's fire' in The Slippery Slope and the descriptions of the water cycle in The Grim Grotto.
A theme which becomes more prevalent as the series continues is the simultaneous importance and worthlessness of secrets. In the final book, The End, the concept is especially important, as demonstrated by a several page long discussion of the phrase In the dark. Ultimately, however, the mystery of the books is revealed as a massive struggle within the organization of V.F.D. that was once noble, but became filled with corruption by villains who initiated a schism that split the organization and caused a decades long and secret war between the two factions with the Baudelaire orphans being caught in between due to their parents' loyalty to one side. The vast secret consisting of the V.F.D., Count Olaf, the orphans' parents, and so forth is never explicitly stated, though numerous clues can be found throughout the books, in the author's expositions, and in various comments by the characters that answer many of the series' questions. While most of the critical plot points are given strong implications as to what they truly mean, Snicket makes a point to explain that no story can be fully devoid of questions as every story is intertwined with numerous others and every character's history is shared in a great web of mysteries and unfortunate events that make up the world's legacy, making it impossible for anyone to know all the answers to every question. The Baudelaire children and Count Olaf's story is revealed as merely a fragment of a much bigger story between numerous characters with the central connection being the organization of V.F.D.; a story that is impossible to be told fully as even the author himself only knows so much.
Social commentary is a major element in the books, which often comment on the seemingly inescapable follies of human nature. Although the books are melodramatic and escapist, they also depict "the sinister menace of an all-too-real adult world". The books consistently present the Baudelaire children as free-thinking and independent, while the adults around them obey authority and succumb to mob psychology, peer pressure, ambition and other social ills. A high account is given to learning: those who are "well-read" are often sympathetic characters, while those who shun knowledge are villains.
The books have strong themes of moral relativism, as the Baudelaires become more confused during the course of the series about the difference between right and wrong, feeling they have done wicked things themselves and struggling with the question of whether the end justifies the means. In the final book, in an allusion to the Book of Genesis, a snake offers the children a life-giving apple.
Evil characters are shown to have sympathetic characteristics and often have led difficult lives. Similarly, good characters' flaws become major problems. Almost every major character in the books has lived a life as difficult as that of the Baudelaires, especially the villains. The books highlight the inevitability of temptation and moral decision-making, regardless of external situation. This indicates that regardless of one's outside influences, one always has the final choice in whether they will be good or bad. Characters that make brave decisions to fight back and take charge are almost always "good" and characters that just go along end up as "bad". However, people are also described as being neither good nor bad, but a mix of both.
At the end of each book, there is a letter to the editor, which explains to the editor how to get a manuscript of the next book. Snicket is writing from the location of the next book and reveals its title. Snicket notes that the editors will find various objects along with the manuscript, all of them having some impact in the story. For the first three books, the letters are on ordinary pieces of paper. However, starting with the fourth book (which previews the fifth book) each letter has a specific quality to do with the next book, such as torn edges, fancy stationery, sopping wet paper, or telegram form. The letters change dramatically starting with the letter previewing The Carnivorous Carnival. For this preview letter, the letter is ripped to shreds. Only a few scraps remain, one of them showing the title. The remaining letters are difficult to read, and some do not even show the title at all. At the end of The Carnivorous Carnival, there are only a few letters visible, one showing the title, which Lemony Snicket makes an excuse that his typewriter is occasionally freezing due to the cold air in the Mortmain Mountains. The Grim Grotto's preview letter has sopping ink. At the end of The Grim Grotto, there are several letters and each of them is torn in half. The letter (which is written on a napkin) previewing the last book in the series simply reads: "To My Kind Editor: The End is near. With all due respect, Lemony Snicket." Without explicitly revealing it, Snicket shows the name of the final book: The End.
There is also a full page picture at the end, showing the state of the orphans, and a hint as to what the next book will be about. This is done usually by showing a flyer drifting by, though sometimes also by a significant object: a snake appears at the end of The Bad Beginning, referring to Montgomery's snake collection in the following book, and at the end of The Penultimate Peril the helmet containing the Medusoid Mycelium is shown.
Following their first mention by the Quagmires in The Austere Academy, the letters V.F.D. dog the orphans. In The Ersatz Elevator, a lot at an auction is captioned "V.F.D." (very fancy doilies); the Baudelaires stay in a town named "V.F.D." (Village of Fowl Devotees) in The Vile Village and The Hostile Hospital features the Volunteer Fighting Disease. Throughout the rest of the series, they try to uncover more about the actual V.F.D. organization to which the Quagmires referred.
In The Bad Beginning, Snicket makes reference to a woman named Beatrice, who seems to be a lost love and these references continue throughout the series. At the end of The End, it is revealed that Beatrice was the Baudelaire's late mother.
To see more examples of allusions to literature and the real world in A Series of Unfortunate Events, see the individual article for any book in the series.
While the books are marketed primarily to children, they are written with adult readers in mind as well; the series features references more likely to make sense to adults, such as references to Monty Python apparent in the series (the Baudelaire children's uncle Monty has a large snake collection, including a python, allusions to the Self Defense Against Fresh Fruit sketch).
Many of the characters' names allude to other fictional works or real people with macabre connections. More obscure literary references abound, perhaps in keeping with the common theme of being "well-read".
For example, the Baudelaire orphans are named after Charles Baudelaire, and Sunny and Klaus take their first names from Claus and Sunny von Bülow, while Mr. Poe may be a reference to Edgar Allan Poe. (One should also take note that Mr. Poe has two sons, Edgar and Albert, a reference to Edgar Albert Guest.) Strangely, Charles Baudelaire met Edgar Allan Poe, and many of Poe's loved ones had died from tuberculosis, a disease involving coughing up blood, and Mr. Poe often suffers from a terrible cough throughout the series. Also, in the seventh installment, The Vile Village, Count Olaf's disguise, Detective Dupin, is an allusion to C. Auguste Dupin, a fictional detective created by Edgar Allan Poe.
Beatrice may also be an allusion to the poem La Beatrice by Charles Baudelaire. The poem references an "actor without a job," much like the actor Count Olaf. The poem also begins with the line, "In a burnt, ash-grey land without vegetation," similar to the Baudelaire mansion burning down at the beginning of the series.
The name Beatrice could also be an allusion to Dante. Dante dedicated all of his works to "Beatrice," with whom he was obsessed, who was also dead, like Snicket's Beatrice.
This series is most commonly classified as children's fiction, but it has also been classified in more specific genres such as gothic fiction, or some variety thereof, whether it is mock-gothic, a satire of gothic literature, neo-Victorian or "suburban gothic".
The series includes thirteen novels as follows:
- The Bad Beginning (1999)
- The Reptile Room (1999)
- The Wide Window (2000)
- The Miserable Mill (2000)
- The Austere Academy (2000)
- The Ersatz Elevator (2001)
- The Vile Village (2001)
- The Hostile Hospital (2001)
- The Carnivorous Carnival (2002)
- The Slippery Slope (2003)
- The Grim Grotto (2004)
- The Penultimate Peril (2005)
- The End (2006)
There are books that accompany the series, such as The Beatrice Letters, Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, and The Puzzling Puzzles; journals The Blank Book and The Notorious Notations; and short materials such as The Dismal Dinner and 13 Shocking Secrets You'll Wish You Never Knew About Lemony Snicket. The books were at one point published at the rate of three or four books per year. The endpapers were "designed in a suitably Victorian style", with cloth binding on the spines matching the colours of the cover.
A paperback release of the series, featuring restyled covers, new illustrations and a serial supplement entitled The Cornucopian Cavalcade happened with The Bad Beginning: or, Orphans!, The Reptile Room: or, Murder!, and The Wide Window: or, Disappearance!, but stopped after the third for unknown reasons.
In an interview with the 667 Dark Avenue fansite, Daniel Handler alluded to more Lemony Snicket books focused on the world of A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Every book's dedication is to a woman named Beatrice, who is supposedly the dead beloved of Lemony Snicket, who married another and died before the events of the books.
Every book in the main series has a clue in a form of a picture about the next book at the end of the book that can be seen before the letters to the editor. At the end of "Chapter Fourteen", however, a shape of a question mark is seen in the picture (possibly the Great Unknown from books 11 and 13).
A four-part prequel series chronicling a young Lemony Snicket called All the Wrong Questions has been announced. The first installment, Who Could That Be at This Hour?, was released on October 23, 2012. The second prequel is called When Did You See Her Last? and was released on October 15, 2013.
Most of the series of unabridged audio books are read by British actor Tim Curry, though Handler as Lemony Snicket reads books 3 to 5. Of narrating the audio books, Handler has said: "It was very, very hard. It was unbelievably arduous. It was the worst kind of arduous." As such, future narrating duties were handed back to Curry, of whom Handler states: "he does a splendid job". The “Dear Reader” blurb is usually read by Handler (as Snicket) at the beginning, although it is missing in The Hostile Hospital. Handler usually reads the 'To my Kind Editor' blurb about the next book at the end. Starting at 'The Carnivorous Carnival' there is another actor who replaces Handler in reading the two blurbs, although they are skipped entirely in The Grim Grotto. All of the recordings include a loosely related song by The Gothic Archies, a novelty band of which Handler is a member, featuring lyrics by Handler's Magnetic Fields bandmate Stephin Merritt.
In October 2006, The Tragic Treasury: Songs from A Series of Unfortunate Events by The Gothic Archies was released. The album is a collection of thirteen songs written and performed by Stephin Merritt (of The Magnetic Fields), each one originally appearing on one of the corresponding thirteen audiobooks of the series. Two bonus songs are included.
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is a film adaptation of the first three titles in the series, mixing the various events and characters into one coherent story. It was released on December 17, 2004. Directed by Brad Silberling, it stars Jim Carrey as Count Olaf, Meryl Streep as Aunt Josephine, Billy Connolly as Uncle Monty, Emily Browning as Violet, Liam Aiken as Klaus, Timothy Spall as Mr. Poe, and Jude Law as the voice of Lemony Snicket. The film was successful, but many viewers who had read the books were disappointed, as the movie only loosely related to the book. The movie was also criticized because the movie was comical, when the books were solemn and serious with occasional wry humor.
Considering the success of the movie, the director and some of the lead actors hinted that they are keen on making a sequel, but no one has written a script yet.
When I took the decision to take the movie I said I’d obviously do it with the right to refusal, I’m not going to give in to anything. I asked the studio how they were going to deal with the sequel. But they didn’t want to talk about it until the first film was out. It’s amazing; a script has not yet been worked on for the sequel, which I find a bit baffling.
Browning has said that further films would have to be produced quickly, as the children do not age much throughout the book series. Violet and Klaus both have a birthday in the series (Klaus turns 13 in The Vile Village and Violet turns 15 in The Grim Grotto), Sunny becomes a toddler, and in Chapter Fourteen, the children have been castaways for exactly a year. All in all, the children can appear, at most, two years older than they were in The Bad Beginning.
Daniel Handler has stated in a Bookslut Interview that another film is in the works, but has been delayed by corporate shake-ups at Paramount. In June 2009, Silberling confirmed he still talked about the project with Handler, and suggested the sequel be a stop motion film because the lead actors have grown too old. "In an odd way, the best thing you could do is actually have Lemony Snicket say to the audience, 'Okay, we pawned the first film off as a mere dramatization with actors. Now I'm afraid I’m going to have to show you the real thing.'"
The film takes place in and around Boston, Massachusetts: the envelope at the end of the film is addressed to Boston, Mass.
The film's plot, because based upon only the first three novels in the series, hugely varied from the books, with a fast resolution, which also varies from the books.
A video game based on the books and film (more so the film, as the name and many plot elements seen in the movie but not the book are seen) was released in 2004 by Adrenium Games and Activision for the PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, and the PC as Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. The player plays as all three orphans at points in the game, and encounters characters such as Mr. Poe, Uncle Monty and Aunt Josephine, along with villains such as Count Olaf, the hook-handed man, the white-faced women, and the bald-headed man. The game, like the movie, follows only the first three books in the series. Although never mentioned in the game there are some references to V.F.D. such as while in the first level a package is delivered from the "Very Fast Delivery Service." The note attached to the package also reads at the end "P.S. The world is quiet here," which is the motto of V.F.D.
A board game based on the books was distributed by Mattel in 2004, prior to the movie. "The Perilous Parlor Game" is for 2–4 players, ages 8 and up. One player assumes the role of Count Olaf, and the other players play the Baudelaire children. Count Olaf's objective in the game is to eliminate the guardian, while the children try to keep the guardian alive. The game employs Clever Cards, Tragedy Cards, Secret Passage Tiles, and Disguise Tiles in play.
"The Catastrophic Card Game" is the second game based on the books. In this card game, players are looking to complete sets of characters. There are 4 different sets: The Baudelaire Orphans, Count Olaf in Disguise, Olaf's Henchmen and the Orphans Confidants. Players take turns drawing a card from either the draw pile or the top card from the discard pile in hopes of completing their sets. For 2–4 players, ages 14 and under.
Reviews for A Series of Unfortunate Events have generally been positive, with reviewers saying that the series is enjoyable for children and adults alike, and that it brings fresh and adult themes to children's stories. The Times Online refer to the books as "a literary phenomenon", and discuss how the plight of the Baudelaire orphans helps children cope with loss—citing the rise in sales post September 11, 2001 as evidence. Although the series has often been compared to Harry Potter due to the young heroes and the sales of the two series, reviewer Bruce Butt feels that the series' tone is closer to Roald Dahl and Philip Ardagh. Handler acknowledges Edward Gorey and Roald Dahl as influences. Mackey attributes the series' success to the "topsy-turvy moral universe".
The series has come under criticism from some school districts for its dark themes. Citing objections to the suggested incest (referring to Olaf's attempt to marry his distant niece Violet in The Bad Beginning, although his motivation was not sexual in nature, but rather an attempt to gain the Baudelaire fortune) and the word "damn" being said twice in The Reptile Room. Handler later commented that the word's use was "precipitated by a long discussion of how one should never say this word, since only a villain would do so vile a thing! This is exactly the lily-liveredness of children's books that I can't stand." Access to the books was similarly restricted at Katy ISD Elementary School, Katy, Fort Bend County, Texas.
The series has also been criticized for formulaic and repetitive storytelling.
In addition to its strong reviews, The Bad Beginning won multiple literary awards, including the Colorado Children's Book Award, the Nevada Young Readers Award and the Nene Award. It was also a finalist for the Book Sense Book of the Year. Its sequels have continued this trend, garnering multiple awards and nominations. Among these are three IRA/CBC Children's Choice Awards, which it received for The Wide Window, The Vile Village, and The Hostile Hospital; a best book prize at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, and a 2006 Quill Book Award, both for The Penultimate Peril. While not technically awards, The Ersatz Elevator was named a Book Sense 76 Pick, and The Grim Grotto is an Amazon.com Customers' Favorite.
In popular culture
- In the Arthur episode "Fern & Persimmony Glitchet", the series is parodied with Fern writing letters to Lemony's counterpart "Persimmony" about writing. Persimmony is portrayed as a real and very secretive writer involved in dangerous work (like the fictional writer of the series). At the end of the episode, the gang goes to the signing for the 14th book in the series. In the episode "I Owe You One", Arthur reads a book called The Belicose Bathroom and on the cover it says Persimmony Glitchet; this is a parody of the fact all the books have alliteration in their title.
- In The Simpsons episode "The Bonfire of the Manatees", Homer was in debt to the Mafia. He repaid the Mafia by allowing them to film their adult film at his house. The film was titled Lemony Lick-It's A Series of Horny Events, a spoof on the series.
- Main Topic: All the Wrong Questions
Lemony Snicket's All the Wrong Questions is focused on Snicket's (a fictional character in the series) childhood at the V.F.D. and elaborates on the Great Unknown as first seen in the 11th book of the A Series of Unfortunate Events Series, The Grim Grotto. The 1st book of this new series was entitled Who Could That Be At This Hour?, which released on October 23, 2012. This series will consist of 4 books, with each sequel continuing where the previous book left off.
-  Lemony Snicket Sneaks Back with 'File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents'. Retrieved July 11, 2014.
- Daniel Handler – AVClub.com — Interview by Tasha Robinson, November 16, 2005. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
- "The Mysterious Mr. Snicket". Salon.com. Retrieved September 5, 2007.
- Nadine Epstein (February 2007). "The:P Jewish Secrets of Lemony Snicket". Moment Magazine. Retrieved June 20, 2011.
- The Jewish Secrets of Lemony Snicket
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|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: A Series of Unfortunate Events|
- A Series of Unfortunate Events series listing at the Internet Book List
- Lemony Snicket official website