Books: Strange Goings-On in a Gorey Old World; the Gashlycrumb Tinies and the Doubtful Guest. by Edward Gorey (Bloomsbury, Pounds 5.99). Reviewed by Richard Edmonds

By Edmonds, Richard | The Birmingham Post (England), May 29, 1999 | Go to article overview

Books: Strange Goings-On in a Gorey Old World; the Gashlycrumb Tinies and the Doubtful Guest. by Edward Gorey (Bloomsbury, Pounds 5.99). Reviewed by Richard Edmonds


Edmonds, Richard, The Birmingham Post (England)


Edward Gorey's books are a subversive imitation of children's books. For Gorey, existential dread isn't the subject it's the punchline, it's the Dong with the Luminous Nose, with a hooter which lights up the sky like a searchlight beam.

It's books called The Listing Attic and The Unstrung Harp .

Gorey wrote The Broken Spoke and The Object Lesson . He is a man of enormous erudition and of course, a writer of genius. His books are spooky, funny in an unnerving way and his horrors - mostly of an Edwardian kind amongst the upper middle class - are related in a kind of cultured deadpan.

He doesn't like to think of his work as macabre, since he doesn't linger on the violent bits and doesn't invest any of it with any emotion whatsoever.

Gorey claims that his devastatingly funny and totally unique tales are not horror stories in the gothic tradition but have much more to do with nonsense.

"Inexplicable things happen to me, things that are so inexplicable that I'm not even sure that something happened. And you suddenly think, "Well, if that could happen, then anything could happen."

Now 73, Edward Gorey is a recluse. He lives in Cape Cod and he is, he says, "reasonably undersexed".

He never travels and has only been out of the country once, when he went to the Orkneys, the Shetlands and Outer Hebrides. If he was pushed, this extraordinary man would say that he was a Taoist.

"You know, the Way. Go with the flow. Keep in tune with it all."

His influences are eclectic and they include silent films, Japanese literature, the 19th century novel - presumably the three-decker and 19th century book illustration. …

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