Fuse #8

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The End in NYC - More Than You Ever Wanted To Know

In September I received an invite that read as follows:
HarperCollins Publishers invites you to join us on Wednesday the Eleventh of October, 2006 to mourn THE END; The thirteenth and final book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Weeping commences at six in the evening. Tissue service ends at eight.
...and later...
Daniel Handler, official representative of Lemony Snicket, and illustrator Brett Helquist on hand to accept condolences. Strong cocktails and unamuses bouches served.
Hot diggety dog, says I. I'm going to a party!
Whereupon I misread the invite and assumed that the event would occur on October sixth since apparently my lentil-sized brain believes that the words "RSVP by" actually mean "Come on". On the sixth I dressed up in black, realized my mistake mid-way through the day, and had to endure high heels through the homeschooler bookgroup I run, which is never a good idea. By the time the eleventh came about I decided to dress in black from the waist down and take my chances with red from the waist up.

Now the party was to be held at 632 on Hudson. I don't know how familiar you are with this establishment, but it's safe to say that by and large librarians do not often get asked to this locale. A quick glance at its website reveals that it was a sausage factory in the 19th century. What this history does not mention, however, was that it was the location of the very first Real World New York way way back in the day. Sadly, there were no open jars of peanut butter in memorandum (ten points to those of you who get the reference). The website gives you a vague sense of how cool the location is, but photos hardly do it justice. If I could locate the cord to hook up my digital camera to my computer I would show you how HarperCollins took great pains to make the place as Snickety as possible. As it is, that cord is currently cramming itself into a small crevice in my apartment somewhere so as to avoid allowing you this pleasure. The only picture of the event I have on hand, then, is this one taken by John Peters, head of the Central Children's Room.

Originally uploaded by Ramseelbird.

That was the bathroom. But I get ahead of myself.

The night of the eleventh was, if you New Yorkers recall, monsoonish. And while West 14th Street may not be the prettiest walk in the city, it's just that much more unpleasant when you miss your step off a curb and soak your left foot to the bone.

Inside the building, however, all was well. I was right ahead of Leonard Marcus when I came in and for quite some time I was convinced that he was the only person I knew there. The fact of the matter was that the place was FILLED with unfamiliar faces. I was baffled. It's not like I could walk into a HarperCollins staff meeting and greet everyone by name, but I've learned a little bit about who's who, and frankly the sheer number of strangers overwhelmed my senses. Turns out that a lot of them were apparently film people. Remember the movie? I guess the guys who made it were still kicking about. And no, Jude Law was not present. More's the pity.

On the second floor was a drink room with a large flat screen television. The television was playing what I at first took to be Bob Dylan's famous Subterranean Homesick Blues presentation from the documentary film Don't Look Back. You know. The one that looks like this:

And there was a certainly a man holding cards, just as Dylan had. Only, this fellow seemed to be wearing a hat of some sort and the cards were being held in front of his face. The song playing was Scream and Run Away, which has been on my iPod for the last 2 months or so because, yes, I am not actually very cool. In any case, you can see the video for yourself because they have it online for public consumption. Maybe they've had it up for months. I dunno. Anywho, while watching that I could have had the official drink of the night which was a lemony snicket. It involved lemon vodka of some sort and a sugar rim. Unaware of it, I had wine. I am not complaining.

I soon located a cadre of fellow librarians and huddled with them as I watched people zero in on Daniel Handler from various parts of the room. He was not hard to miss, after all. His suit had pin-stripes and everything. I did not actually think it would be a good idea to talk to him, though, since I couldn't think of a single intelligent thing to say aside from a question of whether or not he'd be writing more books for children in the future(and even that question didn't come to mind until this morning). So I would watch him, have a sip of wine, watch him some more, and enjoy the food.

Because the food, the FOOD was magnificent. HarperCollins I salute you foodishly! There was an enormous Parmesan cheese the size of the Statue of Liberty's earlobe (sorry... that was the only thing large enough that I could compare it to), fruits, and tasty little dipping sauces, and at the end of the room tiny ramekins of chicken something and macaroni and cheese. They even had a man whose sole job, as far as I could ascertain, was to slice mozzarella for hours on end. Of course, this was all done in a narrow little kitchen-like area. And what is the rule of any party? If there is a kitchen, people will gravitate to it. Perhaps the steamy quality of the area lured the formerly wet denizens of Manhattan. In any case, it was so cramped that I managed to whack Daniel Handler in the back soundly with my overlarge bag before the night was over. Authors I have whacked this month: 1.

But before that happened, though, I explored the rest of the rooms in the building. Almost every one would reward your discovery by placing delicious little foods here and there. Lotsabruschetta was consumed by yours truly as she crept from place to place. For those rooms that did not have food, Mr. Helquist had left little pictures from the series (usually of Count Olaf) hither and thither. It was more fun than I had expected and it cheered me up considerably to think of the time and care that somebody had put into this thing. There was also a woman who, towards the end of the evening, handed each and every one of us tissues for our tears.

Then came the speeches. Daniel Handler's editor, a Ms. Susan Rich spoke at length about the highly profitable series. She presented Mr. Handler with a rare Lachrymose leech under pressed glass (no, I am not making this up) and Mr. Helquist with his very own accordion. Mr. Handler began his own speech by saying something along the lines of, "A peculiar gift and a touching speech... I'm reminded of my own bar mitzvah". He spoke briefly and eloquently, giving praise both to his wife and to the designer who came up with the now much-copied look of the Snicket books after Handler merely said to her, "I'd like them to look like books you might find in an old dusty bookstore." Had I been thinking I would have a) written down her name and b) asked if there was a way that libraries could reinforce the spines on the series. For all their beauty, A Series of Unfortunate Events books fall apart faster than any other books in libraries today. Wear and tear show on these puppies, I'm afraid.

Anywho, I retrieved my bags from the bagcheck, returned to the room to snap some photos, ker-whalloped Mr. Handler in the back, escaped before he could have me arrested, and went home alongside the charming Monica Edinger.

It was lovely, all told, but there was a clear indication that this party was not for librarians. There was no free stuff. Oh, the alcohol and the food, sure. But HarperCollins was being careful with their baby and they weren't gonna let reviewers like myself get their grubby little mitts on their precious baby until Friday the 13th. Which brings us to yesterday...

I debated the relative merits of attending the whacked-out crazy release party of the last Snicket book at the Union Square Barnes & Noble to myself. Hundreds of fans crowded into a very large but easily filled space just to catch a glimpse of a fellow I'd stared at from close range a couple days before? Where's the fun in that? But there was Stephen Merritt to consider. Ah, Stephen Merritt. The Gothic Archies would be present to release The Tragic Treasury and I would be able to see Mr. Merritt live. He had not (though I have no evidence to support this theory) attended the 632 on Hudson party, so this would give me a chance to hear him. Plus a person should never willingly give up a chance to see Mr. Handler perform Scream and Run Away. So off I went.

I was late, but it didn't really matter as people had apparently been lined up since 10 that morning to get their little getcher-book-signed wristbands and seats for the presentation. I found a nice corner near a ladder where three girls and what may have been a mom were sitting on the floor. Oblivious to Mr. Handler's presentation, they were carefully constructing their own version of Violet's Notebook with watercolors. Probably to present to Mr. Handler later, I suppose. I took several pictures of it, so charmed was I by their intensity, but you'll have to wait to see that as well.

Up front I just barely caught Merritt performing a rousing rendition of Shipwrecked from his album. It was lovely. Then he immediately left and you can check out his MySpace page if you would like to see if he'll be performing in your own city soon. Handler put on his own show and several times caused me to curse the gods that I hadn't brought along a pen to write down some of what he said. I do know that he referred to the space we were in as a synagogue, and for that I was grateful. Once he finished I merrily skipped to the first floor to purchase the cd and who should I see there but Meghan McCarthy. Oh, fine, so I was kind of scouting around for her anyway. She didn't get to see the show, but I assured her as I am assuring you all now, that we'll be having another kidlit blogger drink night soonish, probably in November, so that'll be fun. Is anyone going to be in town in November that we should plan around? If so, drop me a line. We'll figure it out.

Now why, you may ask, did I buy the cd and not the new book? Aren't I just as anxious as the rest of the nation to find out how the series ended? I am. I am also, however, spoiled senseless. The idea of spending money on a children's book right now is curious to me. Why I'm sure a copy will magically appear on my work desk any day now, right? Should I really spend money on it? The cd might definitely disappear from stores someday soon, but the book will be around for years and years. Heck, I work in a library for crying out loud. I'll just check it out from there. So works the cheap-o justifications of my tired little brain.

Today I am at a wedding, so no additional news aside from the usual Review of the Day. I wonder what the final Harry Potter release party will be like. Oh, Cheryl...


At 9:57 AM , Blogger MotherReader said...

Fantastic post on the two events! I feel like I was there. Except for this residual jealousy I'm feeling over NOT having been there.

I myself did buy the book and read it yesterday. My overall impression is on my blog - though in deference to all my fellow readers, I did not talk about the plot itself. It will also take weeks to figure out all of the literary and popular references in Sunny's utterances, but hey, I got nothin' but time.

At 10:29 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the lengthy, detailed, food-laden, back-whacking description. So satisfying.

Please go to more book launch parties and write about them. I know you must get invited all the time. Stop being so snooty and turning down all those invitations. The rest of us depend on you.

At 6:43 PM , Blogger Nancy said...

Fabulous summary. Thanks!

At 7:01 PM , Blogger Jenny Han said...

Was Eric Nies grinding on the dance floor?! Heather B snacking on moz? I'm jealous!!

At 10:11 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have only read the first Unfortunate Events book, so I'm behind the times and need to catch up. Sounds like it was quite a bash!

As for author-whacking, I'm glad I'm not alone. I stepped on Justine Larbalestier's feet as I entered the room today for Scott Westerfeld's book signing. I was trying to be unobtrusive. :/ Hopefully that will be the only author-stepping-on for me this month.

At 11:45 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Sounds wonderful. Thanks for posting this. My 11-year-old son is really jealous! (He's also gone off singing "The Reptile Room" after seeing the picture of the bathroom decorations.)

At 11:50 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

You are all very kind. I also enjoy the idea that I am so popular that I can turn these kinds of things down (especially when the truth of the matter is that I am far more prone to forget the date). I will definitely read the book when I get the chance = it falls into my lap unannounced.

Oh. And the CD is faaaaaabulous. I'm turning this one over to my children's CD reviewer Warren ASAP.

At 3:46 PM , Blogger Stefan said...

Here's my review from last week of the CD (review here) -- if you're a Snicket fan, I think it's great...


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