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Music notes: Author's show is a fortunate event

Lemony Snicket wows crowd at Skyline High with his presentation

Daniel Handler
Daniel Handler
Jeff Chiu, Associated Press

Last week my wife and I had the chance to see Daniel Handler at Skyline High School. You may know Handler by his pen name, Lemony Snicket.

He's the author of the best selling "Series of Unfortunate Events" children's books. His new book is called "The Penultimate Peril." The King's English bookstore produced the event.

Usually when an author makes a presentation, he gives a short lecture, reads passages from a book he wrote and then, with a heavy sigh, signs copies of his new publication.

Not Daniel Handler. Instead, he gave a concert.

Yes, he did speak to the audience. Yes, he did read passages from his first book, "The Bad Beginning." But he didn't just stand at the podium.

Handler did what Clay Aiken does during a concert. The author made his entrance at the back of the auditorium, then, as he spoke to the audience, he roamed the auditorium — in the same way former Styx bassist Glen Burtnick used to do during the live version of "Love Is the Ritual."

Then came the clincher: Handler actually played music.

He walked to the stage, climbed the stairs and sat down at a piano. "I'm going to sing a song," he said. "I'm going to sing a song about what you should do when you come face to face with a tall, balding, terrible villain."

To the delight of the audience, Handler pounded out a few minor-scale chords. He got ready to sing but then stopped dead. "This doesn't feel right, " he said as he got up and paced the stage. "I need an accordion. Does anyone have an extra accordion in the audience?"

To most of the audience members' surprise, some hands raised. Yes, indeed, there just happened to be a spare accordion under one of the seats.

Handler strapped it on, went to the stage and began to sing.

He even did a bit of audience participation. "When I sing 'run, run, run,' everyone in the audience can stamp their feet like they were running from a tall, balding, terrible villain. When I say 'die, die, die,' stop stomping and fall limp on the person next to you."

Sure, it wasn't the high-decibel audience participation Gwen Stefani had during her concert at the E Center last week. But it was a delight to see children and adults stomping their feet and playing dead.

After the song and dance, Handler made his exit, stage left.

There were about 900 people at the event. And about half that number had books for him to sign. Handler made it a point to stay until each was autographed.

This was one of the most enjoyable author presentations I've ever attended. I'm glad I went.

Two days later, I went to the Alan Lee presentation at Borders. Lee, as some of you may remember, is a world-renowned artist who was recruited to help Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop design the sets and props for the Academy Award-winning "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

While Lee didn't sing, he put on a good show.

But that's for another column.


E-mail: scott@desnews.com