On Monday, posters like the one above were put up all over campus, including on most (if not all) senior house doors. The posters call for the removal of Daniel Handler ’92 as Commencement Speaker after repeated instances of racism and sexual harassment. They also call attention to the fact that Dr. Anita Hill, who is known for speaking out against workplace harassment, will receive an honorary degree (a lesser honor and a shorter speech) at the same event.
The poster also links to Wesleying’s Write-In: “Commencement 2018: Lemony Snicket, Anita Hill, and Silencing Women of Color in the Age of #MeToo” and a recent article in Pacific Standard by David M. Perry ’95 detailing Handler’s history of sexual harassment.
On February 15th, President Roth emailed an announcement of this year’s commencement speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients. The 186th Commencement Address will be delivered by Daniel Handler ’92, also known under his pen name Lemony Snicket. Fellow degree recipients are Anita Hill, Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University, and Joshua Boger ’73, scientist and chair emeritus of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees. Commencement will be Sunday, May 27, 2018.
The decision has sparked conversation among students, both in light of Handler’s past controversial remarks and the ongoing #MeToo movement, for which Anita Hill laid the foundation when, in 1991, she testified against Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court nomination on the basis of sexual harassment. Sarah Chen Small ’18 has written in with a response to the commencement decisions, which you view below along with President Roth’s original announcement email:
In case you missed it, Daniel Handler ‘92 (aka Lemony Snicket) came to Wesleyan last week to speak in promotion of his new novel We Are Pirates. Handler’s visit has been covered by multiple campus publications, and the discord surrounding his visit, in other words, the racist joke he made last year when he was presenting the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature to Jacqueline Woodson, has been dissected endlessly by the press and members of the Wesleyan community. This includes Sonya Bessalel’s ’18 measured and nuanced defense of Handler in this week’s edition of The Argus (seriously go read it).
Provided here are selected questions from Handler’s Wesleying interview with astag_rocky before his lecture in the Chapel (scroll down for these). In addition, we will share one tense moment from a meeting Handler attended with students at Downey House earlier that day:
From the folks at the Russell House Series:
Bestselling author Daniel Handler will read from his new work on Thursday, February 5th, 2015 at 8:00 p.m. in Wesleyan University’s Memorial Chapel, 221 High Street, Middletown, CT. This event is free and open to the public, no tickets required. A book signing will follow the reading and books will be available for purchase at the event. For more information, please call (860) 685-3448 or visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/writingevents.
Daniel Handler’s newest novel is the highly-anticipated We Are Pirates, which Bloomsbury will publish in February 2015 and Neil Gaiman describes as “honest and funny, dark and painful.” He is also the author of the novels The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, Adverbs, and, with Maira Kalman, Why We Broke Up, which won the Michael J. Printz Honor. His criticism has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Believer.
As Lemony Snicket, he has written the best-selling series All The Wrong Questions as well as A Series of Unfortunate Events, which has sold more than 60 million copies. Snicket is also the creator of several picture books, including the Charlotte Zolotow Award–winning The Dark, illustrated by Jon Klassen, and 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy, illustrated by Lisa Brown.
Date: Thursday, February 5
Time: 8-10 PM
Place: Memorial Chapel
You probably know him better as Lemony Snicket (author of the incredibly successful A Series of Unfortunate Events books), but Wesleyan alum Daniel Handler ’92 has been in the news quite a bit for the past week or two. The downside? It hasn’t always been in the most positive light.
So, let’s break it down.
Want to join the coveted ranks of WesCelebs Claire Dougherty ’13 and Daniel Handler ’92? You can start by applying to become a Wesleyan student poet, as Handler did in 1991. Max Bevilacqua ’12 knows how:
Are you a poet? Then apply for Writing At Wesleyan’s Poetry Contest for a chance to become an official Wesleyan Student Poet and for a position on the 2012-2013 Connecticut Poetry Circuit Team!
Submit 5 pages of poetry to the Writing Programs Office (Downey 112) by 12:00 P.M. on Wednesday, October 24th. Note the time: NOON! Wesleyan’s top contenders will become the Wesleyan Student Poets and will be published in the 2012-2013 Russell House poetry pamphlet. One nominee will be selected to enter the statewide competition for the Connecticut Student Poetry Circuit Team, who will read their work at universities across the state.
Monday Wednesday, October 24
Handler: “I’m aware of the fact that I’m a semi-pretentious liberal arts student. I don’t think anything I feel is terribly important to anybody else.”
Continuing our recent slew of notable alumni coverage (never change, Das Racist, Joss Whedon ’87, bear-fighting Vermont governor Peter Shumlin ’79), here’s one I recently stumbled upon in the archives. On February 21, 1992, The Argus profiled a student poet, a senior at the time from California. His name was Daniel, and he had made it to the Connecticut Students Poet reading. He even skipped his Chaucer class to save his raspy voice. Today, he is Daniel Handler ’92—or Lemony Snicket, as the case may be.
“These books are questionable and contain questions.”
Great news for every moderately nerdy 20-something who came of literary age in the early ‘2000s. (Hey. That’s you, broseph.) In between defending Occupy Wall Street, waxing philosophic on literary theory, and jamming with Magnetic Fields, elusive Unfortunate Events-plotmaker and occasional Butts resident Lemony “Daniel Handler ’92” Snicket has somehow found time to—well, write again. And the miserable, disaster-prone world is better off for it.
In fact, a whole series is on the way (though likely not as epic as the last one). This one has an autobiographical focus, and the first volume is on its way this fall:
Publishers Weekly noted today that Little, Brown Books for Young Readers will begin a four-book series by Snicket on October 23, with the release of “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” It’s described as the first in the “autobiographical” All the Wrong Questions series, which will explore Snicket’s youth. The announced printing is a monstrous one million copies.
This is to be Snicket’s first literary venture since concluding the aforementioned series. What remains fairly ambiguous is whether this series will detail Handler’s youth (which likely involves Wesleyan) or Snicket’s youth (which likely does not) or whether there’s even a difference at this point.
You probably didn’t notice, but just hours ago one of our trained bonobo typists churned out a piece about Amanda Palmer’s current project. In a completely separate Internet adventure, I stumbled upon a December interview with Daniel Handler ’92, another ’90s alum who’s involved in a musical project you’ve likely heard [about] and bears a well-documented fondness for dark humor.
Check out the interview at the well-named Fictionaut Blog, where the Reigning World Champion of Literary Handleage gives short and sweet responses to six questions spanning his current work, the creative process, and why he derives a different kind of pleasure from playing the accordion than writing prose. Here’s a brief snippet on why he thinks the idea of a likeable character is rather silly:
… character is bunk. There is plot, and there is voice, and they conspire to create an illusion we call “literature.” It is a glorious illusion and a compelling one. When a writer tells me they’re worried about a character they usually mean there’s a flaw in the plot, or the prose just isn’t pulling things together.
For more on the writer, the musician (he’s recorded with The Magnetic Fields), and the legend, might I recommend the following: