Lemony Snicket author Daniel Handler gets 'dirty' with new novel about teenage sexuality
Best-selling children’s book author Daniel Handler (AKA Lemony Snicket) has a new novel coming this year that’s decidedly not geared toward that same audience. All the Dirty Parts follows Cole, a sex-obsessed high school student, whose exploits develop into a reputation he’s not quite sure he likes. At the same time, something exciting starts buzzing between Cole and his best friend, and he meets a new person called Grisaille. Intrigued? So are we.
Here’s a peek at the opening sentence: “Let me put it this way: This is how much I think about sex. Draw a number line, with zero is you never think about sex and ten is, it’s all you think about, and while you are drawing the line, I am thinking about sex.”
EW is thrilled to reveal the novel’s cover, below, as well as an interview with Handler about the story’s genesis, and the challenges he faced during the writing process.
All the Dirty Parts will be released on August 29, 2017.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did the idea for this book come from?
DANIEL HANDLER: I was asked to give a talk on encouraging reading and teenage boys, who often fall off the literary bandwagon. I had just been on tour for my YA novel Why We Broke Up, and I’d noticed that for the first time there was a real gender imbalance in my audiences — the crowds were almost entirely young women. I went home and reread some of my favorite novels from when I was a teenager — classics and new fiction, highbrow and lowbrow, brilliance and trash, but all with one thing in common: they had a lot of sex. I looked around for books published now that were honest about the sexuality of young men, and didn’t find much. I sensed a gap in the literary landscape, a gap that would be interesting to precisely the audience we worry about losing.
How long was it ruminating?
Oh, several years. “Sex” is not quite an idea for a novel, and I had to keep my eyes and ears open for what story might be an occasion for such material.
I feel like when you see a horny teen boy in a book, he’s often a virgin — but Cole isn’t. Why? What more do you get to explore with an “experienced” character?
Yes, this is a familiar stock character — the inadequate, fumbling, inexperienced young man, often a subject of derision or humor. Meanwhile, of course, many young men are having a fantastic and fascinating time in non-virginity, and that’s where I saw an opportunity for a story that’s universally recognizable but rarely talked about, or at least not honestly. I write a book when I see something missing from the shelf. I don’t see boys like Cole anywhere in literature.
What kind of research — if any — did you do for the book?
One only has to take public transportation in a large city, invisible to young people, to eavesdrop and get the goods.
Are you worried about your young readers, Lemony Snicket fans, picking it up? Or do you hide your true identity from them pretty well?
It’s funny, isn’t it, that we worry about young people reading about sex, instead of, say, people shooting each other with laser beams. This anxiety is precisely what led to the novel.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing “all the dirty parts” — the book and the actual dirty parts?
Balancing a feminist consciousness with a desire to write honestly about sexuality in young men.