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Literature / Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography

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Lemony Snicket, Author and Fugitive

This obituary is filled with errors - most importantly - I AM NOT DEAD!
L. S.

Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography is one of the supplementary materials for A Series of Unfortunate Events.

The story begins with a packet of information on reclusive author and fugitive Lemony Snicket changing hands from the aunt of a gentleman, to aforementioned gentleman, to another gentleman as he has no nieces or nephews, to a woman, to a doorman, and then to the people who later gave it to Daniel Handler, who gives the introduction to the Autobiography.

Divided into thirteen chapters titled with questions, which are promptly scratched out and replaced with more relevant (though less illuminating) questions, it does not directly answer them. However, it does offer a lot of behind-the-scenes information on Lemony Snicket and the V.F.D. as a whole. As it was published before the completion of A Series of Unfortunate Events, yet dropped several well-buried hints, extremely careful readers were spoiled for the end of the series.


  • All There in the Manual: For readers who don't mind digging a little.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Often. A photograph of a baby labelled "Who took this?" is one of the earlier ones. Whether "this" refers to the photograph, or the baby, is unclear.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: The members of V.F.D. are scrupulously polite and formal. Mr. Snicket, for example, always uses the phrase "engaged to be married" rather than simply "engaged". The only people who avert this are the villains.
  • Arc Words: The pledge of VFD, "The World is Quiet Here".
  • Bait-and-Switch: A letter from the Duchess R is accompanied by an unlabeled photograph of herself with Mr. Snicket's sister. Along with another unlabeled picture, which they told everyone was of them, but really wasn't.
    • The chapter index, which lists a dozen important questions like "who is Beatrice" and "is there anything a concerned citizen can do to help the Baudelaires" but has them all crossed out and replaced with significantly more cryptic questions. However, each chapter does answer (or at least address) both the original question and the replacement question; it's just that the answers are very oblique.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Apparently Beverly Cleary, E. B. White, and many other authors were involved with VFD.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Detective Smith, Detective Jones, and Detective Smithjones.
    • Not in the exact order. A V.F.D. member lists address books, blueprints, and coffee grinders. Said member proceeds to mention false address books, false blueprints, and false coffee grinders.
  • Clandestine Cover: The hardcover North American version had a dust-jacket which could be reversed to a cover of the first book in a fictional series, The Luckiest Kids in the World.
  • Dawson Casting: Exaggerated. A part for the play The World Is Quiet Here which was meant for a six year old had a roughly forty year old man cast instead.
  • Dissimile: Riddled with them.
    Today was a very cold and bitter day, as cold and bitter as a cup of hot chocolate, if the cup of hot chocolate had vinegar added to it and were placed in a refrigerator for several hours.
  • Double Entendre: Several, most notably "theatrical critic" in regards to Mr. Snicket, which could refer to his subject of criticism or his dramatic personality.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The plays of Al Funcoot, entitled The Most Handsome Man In The World and Why I Believe I've Become Even More Handsome, and including such charming musical numbers like Throw All Your Valuables Onto The Stage Or Something Dreadful Might Happen To You.
  • The Faceless: Photographs of Mr. Snicket never reveal his face.
  • Footnote Fever: The index is full of cross-references.
    Disguise Training, Phase Two. See Disguise Training, Phase One
    Disguise Training, Phase One. See disguises
    disguises. See noble causes
    noble causes. See necessary evils
    necessary evils. See moral uncertainty
    moral uncertainty. See villainy
    villainy. See conspiracies
    conspiracies. See overall feeling of doom
    overall feeling of doom. See doom, overall feeling of
    doom, overall feeling of, ix-211
    • And many of them direct the reader to a single page, displaying a photo which has been burned.
  • Grammar Nazi: Usually in conjunction with Ambiguous Syntax. Another editor's note stated that "Some of the photographs in this book were taken by Julie Blattberg", which was promptly followed by a note from Mr. Snicket reading:
    To My Kind Editor,
    Please rewrite another editor's note to read as follows:
    Some of the photographs in this book were not taken by Julie Blattberg.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: The title itself. How could an autobiography (meaning a biography by the person whom is being described) be unauthorized?
  • Last-Name Basis: While the letter supposedly from the Duchess R of Winnipeg is riddled with things she would never say, Mr. Snicket never comments on a dear friend of the family calling him "Mr. Snicket".
  • Long List: Several, most notably the one in the transcript of a V.F.D. meeting recited by a nine-year-old member:
    R: If these young people are up all night, helping us move all of the novels, sleeping bags, decanters, cameras, files, disguise kits, maps, coffee grinders, blueprints, codebooks, fishing rods, notebooks, false menus, briefcases, corkscrews, bird guides, office supplies, goldfish bowls, false maps, garden hoses, magnifying glasses, musical instruments, nets, electrical cords, jewelry, toolboxes, spectroscopes, projectors, pet food, heavy winter coats, playing cards, curtains, caviar spoons, lockpicks, ropes, folding tables and ottomans, dictionaries and atlases, cages, chopsticks, bicycles, grappling hooks, sailing equipment, tin cans, storage tanks, false address books, false blueprints, telegraph devices, smoke canisters, building facades, false coffee grinders, disguise kits—
    J: You already said disguise kits.
  • Master of Disguise: Parodied with the Disguise portion of the volunteer training programme. Phase One: Veiled Facial Disguises is simply one person with different expressions. In Phase Two: Various Finery Disguises, a photo of a volunteer, B, with "her actual face and regular clothing"—an attractive young woman in elaborate theatrical attire—is accompanied by a picture of an old man in front of a pickup truck. The label describes B (now calling herself D) as completely unrecognizable with the Various Finery Disguises. Particularly with the older gentleman standing in front of her.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Specifically, the transcript of the meeting of the "Building Committee". Even the narrator didn't know of some issues being discussed, and he was technically in attendance.
  • Only Known by Initials / One-Steve Limit: The former averts the latter. This results in complications during role-calls.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: A letter, supposedly sent from the Duchess R, is filled with errors that she would never have made. Or, errors she might have made as a coded signal that all was not well. Or, errors she might have made due to disruptions in her training which were caused by constant moving of the V.F.D. Headquarters.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Mr. Snicket, who had the curious experience of attending his own funeral.
  • Scrapbook Story: Filled with photographs, maps, pamphlets, diary entries, ticket stubs, letters, drawings, transcripts, pages from screenplays, newspaper articles, invitations, sheet music, pages from books, and various other paraphernalia.
  • Song Parody: On the pages concerning the ballad "The Little Snicket Lad", Snicket notes that the song seems to have been incorrectly placed to the tune of "a theme of naval disaster." Sharp-eyed musicians will recognized those notes to be the music of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" (the entire thing being a meta-joke about the book not bothering to come up with proper sheet music for the song, but borrowing one from the public domain instead).
  • The Unreveal: On the last page, a photograph is burnt to a crisp. The index labels it Beatrice.
    • The index labels it a lot of things, actually.
  • Readers Are Geniuses
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: The members of V.F.D. in general, as exemplified in the transcript of a VFD meeting:
    R: I'm nine years old, but I'm concerned that this kind of disruption will seriously affect our younger members.
    • A photograph, labeled with the name of film director and doctor Gustav Sebald beginning work on the snowman featured in Zombies In The Snow, depicts a young child building a snowman. Whether this is an error or an indication that he directed more than 17 films and earned a doctorate before puberty is unclear, as the members of V.F.D. are quite intelligent.
      • It seems deliberate, seeing that there is a later photograph showing the actor who plays Sebald in a play and it's a very young boy. (It is also one of several meta-references to the fact that many of the photographs in the book are stock photos.)