A book festival for all ages
Lemony Snicket gives an unusual lecture
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 21:10
The Boston Book Festival, boasting around 40 events and 150 presenters, took place on Saturday, Oct. 27 in Boston’s Copley Square. The festival featured writers and artists such as Junot Diaz, Regie Gibson, Richard Ford, Lizz Winstead, Kevin Bleyer, Baratunde Thurston and Wellesley’s own English Professor, Lisa Rodensky. There were booths of used books for sale, various colleges promoting their Master of Arts or Master of Fine Arts programs, authors willing to sign their books and panels on topics including “The City in the Novel” and “The Iliad.” For many, the all-day festival began at 11 a.m., in the Old South Sanctuary with the Kid’s Keynote speaker, Lemony Snicket.
Lemony Snicket is the pen name of Daniel Handler, the author of “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” a book series that follows the turbulent lives of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire after their parents’ death in a house fire. Although the series was marketed to children, its readers span from elementary school students to young adults; this large range is a result of the seven year period during which the books were published.
Handler began his speech by introducing himself as the representative of the elusive and mysterious Lemony Snicket. The event ended with Handler running out of the chapel. Apart from singing and dancing, playing the accordion, taunting young children and generally providing a hilarious spectacle, Handler left the audience with some words of wisdom. While talking about the first volume of his recently published autobiography, he stated, “We hate things because we don’t understand them.”
That statement stands as the theme throughout Snicket’s work. In “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” bad things happen to the poor Baudelaire children constantly. However, instead of sulking and hating life, they continue to search for answers as to why these things are happening. It is a lesson to people of all ages about the importance of pushing through failure instead of hating life or giving up.
In addition to the Kid’s Keynote, a panel titled “Serious Satire” drew almost as large of an audience in the Trinity Sanctuary. The event featured Lizz Winstead, co-creator and former head writer of “The Daily Show,” Kevin Bleyer, author of “Lizz Free or Die,” Emmy award winner and “Daily Show” writer, and stand-up comedian Baratunde Thurston, author of “Me the People,” and former head of digital for “The Onion” who just recently published a book titled “How to Be Black.”
As suggested by its title, the event proved to be hilarious; highlights included Thurston reading chapters from his book on “How to be the Next Black President,” Winstead talking about her mishaps and refusal to play with baby dolls, and Bleyer’s speech about rewriting the U.S. Constitution.
However behind all of the humor, there was a surprising bit of advice as well. When listening to the panelists, it was clear to see that in order for them to become successful they had to take a very non-traditional path. Keeping with Snicket’s message, their refusing to give up and “hate the world,” while still asking questions enabled them to accomplish their dreams.
Books have an uncanny ability to transport people to other time periods and settings, so it was no surprise that the Boston Book Festival was able to dole out some much-needed advice. It just goes to show that no matter where you are, if you are open to finding wisdom, it can be found everywhere. Sometimes it isn’t always about following the crowd and living the perfect life. Often success can be found along the most unconventional paths, that don’t always give all the answers.