Friday, November 1 will be the LAST PUBLIC APPEARANCE of Lemony Snicket, a.k.a. Daniel Handler—and, I am frankly relieved to add, MYSELF.
After Mr. Handler finishes his presentation for the Chicago Humanities Festival about his latest (indeed last) book in his “All The Wrong Questions” series, and I follow up with my own presentation while he autographs books, Mr. Handler and I will both be WHISKED BY ARMORED AMBULANCE to the University of Chicago Medical Center, where a certain uncomfortable and arguably unnecessary SURGICAL OPERATION shall be, at last, REVERSED.
Whether mere relief, or oblivion, or ACTUAL ARMAGEDDON, will be the result, remains to be seen; but one thing can be said: at midnight on November 1, both Daniel Handler and James Kennedy will CEASE TO BE; and something new—perhaps monstrous, perhaps incomprehensible, perhaps APOCALYPTIC IN ITS OTHERWORLDLY PURITY—will come to pass.
I have not seen Daniel Handler since 1997, when the HORRIFIC PROCEDURE was first performed.
I hope you can grant me that it is understandable that Mr. Handler and I would be hesitant to spend much time in the same room as each other after that operation, since up to then we had spent so much of our lives together, indeed all of it, we were inseparable, literally so, physically one flesh, that is to say, there is no point in hiding it any longer, let us all make a clean break, put all the cards on the table, a full disclosure, DANIEL HANDLER IS A KIND OF GROWTH I HAVE EXHIBITED SINCE INFANCY, an errant polyp, a dermatological curiosity, a kind of SENTIENT TUMOR I had that, far from causing me discomfort or inconvenience, provided companionship throughout my difficult childhood.
Medically improbable and yet indisputably real, this homonculoid Daniel Handler would intermittently manifest on my dermis as a kind of itinerant swelling, a lumpish excrescence—a fully adult, well-dressed, miniaturized LITERARY GENTLEMAN sprouting at some times on my forehead, other times on my neck, or my back, or elsewhere; this Daniel Handler polyp, I hasten to stress, was not a hindrance to me, but rather a blessing, a BOSOM FRIEND and BOON COMPANION; for throughout my otherwise lonely youth, this cystlike “Daniel Handler” and I would have long, intense conversations, he and I would regale each other with invented stories, indeed we workshopped the entire 13-book “Series of Unfortunate Events” series together, though I always believed the stories would remain our private mythology, an inside joke just for the two of us; fate, of course, took a different course; but whenever I reread “The Bad Beginning,” or “The Ersatz Elevator,” or any of the excellent books in that series, I cannot help but smile, and muse fondly upon the childhood experiences that directly inspired my tumor’s stories; indeed, I was proud of my Daniel Handler tumor; Daniel Handler, I firmly believed, and still do, is THE MOST TALENTED TUMOR IN AMERICA.
The author with Snicket polyp
Those were the happy years. But my parents, perhaps understandably concerned that I should have a small writer growing out of my body, perhaps fretting that I spent too much time talking to him, and not consorting with my playfellows, decided to have him excised. My parents knew I would never agree to this, but an UNSCRUPULOUS ONCOLOGIST was consulted, and one day I came home from school, and was offered by my nervous-seeming mother, as an after-school snack, A “BERRY BLAST” CAPRI SUN LOADED WITH PROPOFOL AND METHOHEXITAL—when I woke up, I was strapped to a surgical table, and realized immediately that Daniel Handler and I were no longer one creature.
I howled for my loss—and for the loss of America’s innocence.
For a time, we endured. Daniel Handler and I tried to keep in touch, but the pain of being physically separate was too keen. He went his way, and I went mine.
Daniel Handler went on to become a BESTSELLING AUTHOR.
I simmered for decades in a kind of toxic miasma of shame, jealousy, and THWARTED NOSTALGIA.
But recently both Daniel Handler and I have been suffering parallel unexplainable symptoms. Both of us, unbeknownst to each other, spontaneously SPEAKING IN TONGUES—simultaneously—the exact same words—in languages from Etruscan to hexadecimal code. Both of us, exhibiting sporadic INVOLUNTARY LEVITATION. Our fingernails and toenails, in tandem, growing abnormally long and sharp, literally inches in a minute, twisting and curving into TERRIFYING, EVER-LENGTHENING SPIRALS. Sudden pustules that ooze a VENOMOUS HALLUCINOGEN that allows us to see exactly what the other is doing at any moment. Both of us are followed everywhere we go by LEGIONS OF CHITTERING INSECTS, that seem irresistibly attracted to some pheromone we are spewing out, such that neither Daniel Handler nor I can walk down a city street without entire buildings-full of cockroaches, centipedes, and beetles wriggling out and scuttling after us, veritable seas of ENTOMOLOGICAL HORROR. Both of our skeletons slowly turning into RUBBER, our internal organs melting into an UNDIFFERENTIATED SLURRY of radioactive grease. Both of us sneezing out libraries’-worth of literal letters and numbers that, arranged in order of appearance, spell out HORRIFYING PROPHECIES. Both of us falling asleep for weeks at a stretch, and experiencing identical feverish dreams of a chanted curse, a world-cleansing fire, and the birth of a monstrous organism whose VERY SHAPE IS GIBBERING MADNESS.
At last we both submitted ourselves to weeks of rigorous testing by elite biologists, psychologists, and theologians, and the verdict is clear: unless Daniel Handler and I are reunited, grafted together again, RECOMBINED INTO ONE FLESH, one organism—we will both wither, and perish, NOT WITH A WHIMPER BUT WITH A BANG, a fiery, Earth-rattling paroxysm equivalent to a dozen hydrogen bombs. For there can be no James Kennedy without Daniel Handler; there can be no Daniel Handler without James Kennedy; we are eternally linked in a SYMBIOTIC ENTANGLEMENT.
And yet no expert can predict what new entity will arise from our reunion on November 1—yes, fittingly, the “DAY OF THE DEAD.” The experts only know it cannot be a repeat of the previous arrangement, not merely a small Daniel Handler growing out of me again, but a second coming—they know that, whatever takes place when he and I are reunited, on the surgeon’s table, when Daniel Handler and I look into each other’s eyes one final time as separate entities, and our genetic codes again merge, when our CONGRUENT VISCERA once again lock into place, and THRUM WITH ELDRITCH ENERGY—the experts only know that, at that moment, something entirely unprecedented will be introduced into the world, that is neither just Daniel Handler nor myself or any combination but an SUBLIMELY UNHOLY GESTALT or SERAPHIC ARCHWRAITH that may be the end of us all, or our salvation, or some fiery truth, or a planet-eating brain, or a vaporous ogre, or a mountain of disembodied lips shrieking blasphemous incantations, or indeed some nightmare theorem from the back of the world relentlessly and hideously solving itself through the medium of our very flesh, and its conclusion being . . . some rough beast, its hour come round at last.
For on November 1, the falcon shall at last hear the falconer, Daniel Handler. You and I are turning and turning in a narrowing gyre, towards the center that holds us all, our blood-dimmed tide is now a melancholy, long, withdrawing roar; everywhere the ceremony of innocence shall be unleashed, as you and I, incarnated once more, into one being, with a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, shall cause darkness to drop again, for twenty centuries of stony sleep.
I will see Daniel Handler—and you, my friends—one final time, on November 1. And God have mercy on our souls.
James Kennedy, author of Order of the Odd Fish, will appear for a special post-program event after Lemony Snicket: All the Wrong Questions. Face painting and other treats will make for an enjoyable evening!