January 03, 2007

Gorey Details

This book was a nomination for the graphic novels category of the 2006 Cybil Awards.

I have all three of Edward Gorey's other collections in the Amphigorey series, and though Amphigorey Again isn't quite as polished or as consistently excellent as the first three, it's still going to be a winner for most Gorey fans. This one contains a lot of previously uncollected, unpublished, and unfinished work, so it has a little less of the tightly-drawn, minutely-inked, lushly detailed art that characterizes his more polished finished works.

Dedicated "in fond collaborative memory" to all the anagrams and aliases he used in many of his short works—Ogdred Weary, Regera Dowdy, D. Awdrey-Gore, and so on, the collection begins with the single-panel (perhaps unfinished) "The Galoshes of Remorse" and includes a variety of classically Gorey titles: "Neglected Murderesses," "Tragedies Topiaires," and "The Unknown Vegetable," among others.

His titles alone usually bring a smile to my face, and his sense of humor—skewed as it may be—has always appealed to me, ever since my first exposure to his work during the opening credits of "Mystery" and in an old version of T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. There are a few standouts in this collection, too—"Tragedies Topiaires" is a set of postcard-shaped panels, captioned in French, depicting unfortunate topiary occurrences: l'Ours (the bear), for instance, shows a child trapped in the arms of a topiary bear. Le Canon shows a man being propelled out of a topiary cannon.

My favorite by far, though, was "The Raging Tide," a sort of Edward Gorey version of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story. However, the story is completely ludicrous, and the choices are so surreal as to be nearly Fluxus. For instance, on page 2: "Figbash scattered cracker crumbs on Hooglyboo," reads the text. "If this makes you uncomfortable, turn to 3. If it doesn't, turn to 8." Or page 9: "Naeelah dropped from the chandelier onto Figbash and Skrump. If you find this not unamusing, turn to 17. If you want to benefit spiritually, turn to 15."

Some stories seem like he was still working on them—the art is little more than thumbnail drawings—and there are a few true sketches, too. But if you're a fan, you'll want to add this one to your collection, too.

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