3 mar. 2011

Fanmail to Lemony Snicket

Dear Mr Snicket,

You probably remember me as the little girl of about twelve years old who tried to hide the lo mein noodle stains on her shirt and was accompanied by the flamboyant -a word which here means "not very shy at all"- peer who exclaimed that your pseudonym -a word which here means "pen name"- sounded like dishwashing detergent at your book signing in Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC, many years ago. Or, most likely, you don't remember me at all. Back then, your books were something I had in common with my friends an my siter as we all marelled over the mysteries of VFD. Your unauthorized autobiography gave me the creeps and made me jump at sounds that of course were "only the wind".

I grew up and came back to my native land, Mexico, but your books stayed on the shelf of my bookcase next to Roald Dahl and Philip Pullman and the like. The book you had autographed, however, was lost by my siter, a loss which I bitterly mourned. I couldn't stay angry at her forever, of course, and eventually she bought me a replacement to The Bad Beginning and the series was complete. I went on to study English Literature and moved on to more exciting and elevated poems and essays.

I never imagined the series would come in handy at a psyhiatric clinic a month before my 20th birthday, but that was, as some would say, my destiny.

I had been going down the road frequently travelled by which I thought was the road never before travelled by of Messianic -a word which here means "thoughts of being the Antichrist, the Third Eve of mankind come to tempt the serpent an redeem a doomed world beginning with a collective meditation in Tepoztlan the day after Christmas with certain soul mates which would each play a role, such as oracles, pearls of wisdom, and devil's advocates"- thoughts induced by too much pot and LSD.

So I ended up at the psychiatric clinic. It took me two weeks to react to the medication they were injecting me with and even longer to really land and wake up to reality. In my psychosis, I adopted a phrase that had stuck in my mind from early days: "The world is quiet here". Oh, how I wished the world were quiet! I wished it so hard it made me mad. Maybe this memory detonated a desire to read the series again: I knew it would not bore me in the anxiety and dullness of the clinic routine, of the separation from all my loved ones, of the constant uncertainty of when I would leave and what I had done and what my life would be like when I got out.

All the nurses an nuns marvelled at how many books in English I had in my room: your series was accompanied by Joyce's Dubliners, Chejov's stories, the Complete Works of Shakespeare, and the Oxford Anthology of English Literature vol II. But your books I could read effortlessly, and find amusement as they brought me back down to Earth. I had dreams at night that I was Violet Baudelaire (although I'm much more like Klaus in many ways). Your books reminded me that more tragic things can occur than my predicament, and that we can't carry the weight of all the trechery and decadence, as well as the shared opinion that tea should be as bitter as wormwood. Nothing beats Count Olaf quoting Philip Larkin at his death-sand. The books also helped me remember that I truly was not an orphan; thanks to my very real parents who supported me I was surviving this great mental fire.

I tend to view it all in a humoristic light now. Your life is certainly not unfortunate as far as I can gather and as for me, this tragedy, instead of creating more schisms, has created a harmony between my separated parents that I had never seen before. I believe in miracles now and consider myself The Little Engine that Could, but Couldn't. Certainly what I couldn't do was save the world, and what I can't do ever again is drink or do drugs because I already sat on a wall and had a great fall and thank God that all the king's horses and all the king's men COULD,so that I didn't end up like Gollum or like a fellow (but permanent) patient at the clinic; an old lady who exclaimed whenever you approached her "¿No me van a cortar la cabeza, verdad?"

We all have to know our limitations, and I write this to you as an associate, a volunteer who wishes to be quotable one day, and perhaps comfort other young minds as they realize that being well-read is not normal, and probably will never be.

Thank you for your Series of Unfortunate Events that made my recovery far more fortunate. You are still being read and re-read, and I can only imagine how good that must feel.

Adriana Toledano Kolteniuk

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