Comment: Basic Eight vs. Lowell

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Here are some comments which people sent in about Basic Eight vs. Lowell

My (Larry's) replies appear like this.
Mahlen Morris 2007 Dec 17 A Series of Unfortunate Events at Lowell

I never went to Lowell or read The Basic Eight, but an interesting side note to this novel; based on the strength of the characterizations in The Basic Eight, Daniel Handler's agent (I believe) suggested he try his hand at writing children's fiction. He thought it was a terrible idea, but lacking any other success at the time, he wrote a short book that was pretty much the opposite of any of the children's books he disliked as a child. He also decided to use a pen name so that this wouldn't be associated with his serious fiction career. The name he choose was "Lemony Snicket", the book was "A Series of Unfortunate Events", and the rest is history.


I guess I should be glad that The Basic Eight wasn't a humongous commercial success. Then there would have been sequels, and Handler would have eventually needed to kill off every Lowell student.

Judy Yim Robertson 2007 Dec 14 The Basic Eight vs. Lowell High School

Hi Larry. Found your blog when I was searching online for references to Daniel Handler's book The Basic Eight. I've just started reading the book. I graduated from Lowell in 1974, but some of the Lowell personalities who became characters in the book were there during my years.

The teacher Joanne Milton is obviously based on Joan Marie Shelley. I never took any of her classes but she was quite well known in the community.

The other teacher characters I recognized were vocal music teacher Johnny Land (Johnny Hand in the book) and English teach Flossie Lewis (Hattie Lewis in the book).

Mr. Land was a good voice teacher when I was at Lowell; I was sad to see his character described as a lush in the book.

I didn't have any of Ms. Lewis's classes, but I was on the editorial board of the lit magazine Myriad, which she guided. I have a great deal of affection for her, as do all of the Lowell students who were fortunate enough to have contact with her.

The various student characters are quite familiar to me, because they tend to occur in the Lowell population no matter what year we're talking about. In your blog, you refer to a character named Shannon, who is the head of the prop crew for student plays. That could have been me in high school.

If any other specific similarities occur to me, I'll send you a follow-up. Thanks for the blog.

Judy Yim Robertson
Lowell Class of 1974

I never heard of Joan-Marie Shelley, but some old news articles describe her as head of the teachers' union, so I guess she's big-time.

Christina B Castro 2007 Sep 30 Just an observation...

Especially with an overwhelming Chinese-speaking student body (with many non-native speaker parents) ... Roewer is Lowell with a heavy accent.

Christina B Castro

Kids today mumble too much.

Jorge Parada 2007 Apr 18 Lowell High School and The Basic Eight


I was searching for articles detailing parallels between Lowell High School and Roewer High and came across your website. The John Hand character is modeled after Mr. Johnny Land, who taught music and choir classes at Lowell.

He died in 2005, you can read his obituary here:

Was any character modeled after Mr. McMains? He was a real asshole, I remember the time he made a girl break down and cry during geometry class. Rumor had it that he was suspended for a semester after he called a Latino student a "spic" and slammed the student against the lockers.

- Jorge

Maybe he missed his calling as a prison guard.

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