Childhood & Early Life
Daniel Handler was born on February 28, 1970, in San Francisco, California. His mother, Sandra Handler, was a college dean, and his father, Louis Handler, worked as an accountant.
His father, a Jewish refugee from Germany, is distantly related to British writer Hugh Walpole. Daniel grew up with his sister, Rebecca.
Daniel attended the ‘Commodore Sloat Elementary,’ ‘Herbert Hoover Middle School,’ and ‘Lowell High School.’ After graduating high school, Daniel attended ‘Wesleyan University’ in Middletown, Connecticut.
He graduated with a BA degree in 1992. He is also an alumnus of the ‘San Francisco Boys Chorus.’
Daniel loved reading since childhood. However, he loved dark works, such as those of Roald Dahl, more than happy books.
His father once recalled, “...if a book had syrupy ending, he’d toss it aside.”
Daniel loves the works of William Keepers Maxwell.
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His first novel, ‘The Basic Eight,’ was rejected by 37 publishers, leading him to host a reading series named ‘Great Writers Who Can’t Get Published.’ His book was rejected mostly because the publishers felt the book was extremely dark.
‘The Basic Eight’ was finally published in 1998 and received critical acclaim for its subject. The book was about a character named ‘Flannery Culp,’ sent to prison for the murder of a teacher and a fellow high-school student.
The book was in the form of a diary recalling the events of her senior year that led to the said murders.
His next novel, ‘Watch Your Mouth,’ was published in 2000. It received mixed reviews. The novel was about a college student and depicted his love-life affecting his studies.
His third novel, ‘Adverbs,’ was published in 2006. It was a collection of stories about love. This was followed by his award-winning novel ‘Why We Broke Up,’ which was released in 2011.
In 2013, he wrote and published a children’s picture book titled ‘The Dark.’ In 2015, his next novel, ‘We Are Pirates,’ was released, followed by his latest novel, ‘All the Dirty Parts,’ which released in 2017. He released six novels under his original name.
However, his most famous book series, ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events,’ written under his pen name, “Lemony Snicket,” was published between 1999 and 2006. His pen name was the result of Handler not wanting to be on unwanted mailing lists.
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When he was researching for his first novel, ‘The Basic Eight,’ he had to contact a few right-wing political organizations and groups. However, he did not want his name to be on their mailing lists. The book series, exclusively written for children, tells the story of three orphaned children, who start experiencing terrible events after losing their parents and home.
In the beginning of his book, Handler warns his readers that the story does not have a happy ending. He also states that it does not have a happy beginning either and has very few happy things in the middle. The first book of the 13-book-series was titled ‘The Bad Beginning’ (1999), followed by the other books of the series: ‘The Ersatz Elevator’ (2001), ‘The Slippery Slope’ (2003), ‘The Penultimate Peril’ (2005), and ‘The End’ (2006).
“Lemony Snicket" was also the narrator of three audio books of the series.
After narrating for the third book, he passed on the job to Tim Curry, the original narrator of the series. The book series was adapted into a TV series by ‘Nickelodeon.’
In 2017, the series ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events,’ starring Neil Patrick Harris, made its debut on ‘Netflix.’ Its screenplay was written by Handler.
He also published a four-book series titled ‘All the Wrong Questions’ that explored the life of “Lemony Snicket.” The books were published between 2012 and 2015.
‘The Composer is Dead’ and ‘The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming’ were two other books written under Handler’s pen name. He wrote a satirical play titled ‘Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of The Ghost of The Dead Rabbit,’ performed at the ‘Berkeley Repertory Theatre’ in 2017.
The play was written after Handler’s emotional breakdown following his father’s death. He wrote the screenplay of the film ‘Rick’ in 2003.
He also wrote eight drafts for the film ‘Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events’ but left the project, handing it over to Robert Gordon. He also wrote the movie ‘Kill the Poor’ in 2006.
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The ‘Netflix’ series ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’, starring Neil Patrick Harris, made its debut in 2017 and became an instant hit.
Handler was part of two bands in his college, namely, ‘The Edith Head Trio’ and ‘Tzamboni.’ He learnt to play the accordion and performed various tracks in the album ‘69 Love Songs’ by ‘The Magnetic Fields.’
He also contributed to the lyrics of the theme song of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events.’
Family & Personal Life
Handler is married to Lisa Brown, a graphic artist he had met in college. Their son, Otto Handler, was born in 2003.
The family lives in San Francisco. Handler donates huge portions of his income to charity.
He and his wife donated $1,000,000 to the ‘Planned Parenthood’ movement. He has also supported the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement.
However, his philanthropic nature has not helped him avoid certain controversies. At the ‘National Book Awards’ event in 2014, Handler’s comment related to the racist watermelon stereotype, directed toward African–American author Jacqueline Woodson, invited a lot of criticism.
Handler later took to ‘Twitter’ to apologize and also donated $10,000 to ‘We Need Diverse Books.’ He also promised to donate up to $100,000.
In 2018, he was accused of verbal sexual harassment by multiple women. He had signed an online pledge to boycott conferences that do not have harassment policies.
Following this, author Kate Messner accused him of asking her, “Are you a virgin, too?,” at some point in the past. She also recounted Handler commenting about children’s book festivals turning into orgies.
Following this, many women accused him of speaking to them in a sexually perverse manner. Handler apologized to everyone, stating that it was never his wish to insult any of his colleagues. He also stated that being a survivor of sexual violence, he understood how words or behaviors that are harmless or even liberating to some people could be upsetting to others.
As an aftermath of the accusations, Handler avoided delivering a commencement speech at ‘Wesleyan University.’ Reportedly, the students had protested against him.