Hopefully it is no secret that we buy pre loved books, we have a regular ebb and flow of customers who bring us their papery possessions which hopefully find new happy hands and eyes. Some people come on a regular basis. There is this elderly gentleman who comes and sells us books on a regular basis (I am pretty sure before retiring he used to sell books for a living and is now selling for either the love or kicks. Fact is he is a sweet old man.
The concept behind “The Gashlycrumb Tinies or, After the Outing,” by Edward Gorey, is brilliant in its simplicity. It consists of a series of rhymes about small children who suffer various macabre deaths. All the children have name beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, and their grim fates are arranged alphabetically by name. Each fate is also accompanied by one of Gorey’s awesome ink drawings. Sample lines: “E is for Ernest who choked on a peach. F is for Fanny sucked dry by a leech. G is for George smothered under a rug. H is for Hector done in by a thug.”
This book hilarious. Gorey’s children have a proper Victorian look to them which makes their scenarios that much more bizarre. Most of the drawings show the unfortunate children just before their deaths only a few of the pictures actually show explicit death or violence, parental guidance not required.
One could read “Gashlycrumb Tinies” as an outrageous parody of children’s books, it’s a wicked delight.
Gorey is typically described as an illustrator. The Object Lesson have earned serious critical respect as works of surrealist art. His experimentations — creating books that were wordless, books that were literally matchbox-sized, pop-up books, books entirely populated by inanimate objects — complicates matters still further. As Gorey told Richard Dyer of The Boston Globe, “Ideally, if anything [was] any good, it would be indescribable.” Gorey classified his own work as literary nonsense, the genre made most famous by Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear.
In response to being called gothic, he stated, “If you’re doing nonsense it has to be rather awful, because there’d be no point. I’m trying to think if there’s sunny nonsense. Sunny, funny nonsense for children — oh, how boring, boring, boring. As Schubert said, there is no happy music. And that’s true, there really isn’t. And there’s probably no happy nonsense, either.”
When Plays like Ionesco’s Bald Primadonna and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot began to be produced in the early 50’s, critics and audiences were caught with their underthings in knots facing a phenomenon which appeared to flout every accepted standard of drama. Since then the “theater of the absurd’ has become a major dramatic form expressing something of the sense of spiritual desolation which followed the shock of the Second World War shaking religious, spiritual and moral foundations.
In this volume Ionesco’s first full-length play, Amedee and three short plays: Adamov’s Professor Taranee, Arrabal’s The Two executioners and my favorite Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story.
There is an elaborate introduction by Martin Esslin suggesting the antecedents and showing how the development of the plays as poetic images gives them an inner realism and rich theatrical quality.
A husband smashes a paperweight on the hand of his nympo wife as she rumages through his desk. The brutality is not payback for her affairs, but a warding off of her perceived attempt to snoop into his unfinished “poisonous opus.”
Are we, the morbid readers of a piece which the master never finished and, as the legend goes, he gave instructions to destroy on his death bed, the ones who really deserve the bruised knuckles? Many who shell out full price for this thick hardcover which contains less than four thousand words will no doubt feel a certain feeling of being shafted. The decision to publish photographic images of Nabokov’s original index cards side-by-side with a typeset version is kind of charming. Is this a way of adding more pages to the big hardback???
The novel is about a fat, aging professor who copes with death by turning it into a sexual game and who copes with his wife’s serial infidelities by writing a humiliating novel about her.
As a side project, the professor is deconstucting, “The Interpretation of Dreams.” We get plot and character in fragments. Yet the story is full of surging emotions. These are disturbed and quite often really nasty folks. One can still care for the characters nevertheless, despite them and despite the fact that the novel is barely a first draft. Less is more, and with Nabokov nothing is more than less.
The story behind the book’s journey to print overshadows the actual story in the book, which itself is a unique literary achievement. In the introduction, Dimitri Nabokov explains the curse of his inheritance: does he go ahead and destroy the text or does he publish it. In the end, he decides for our benefit: he is no longer going to deal with the debate, no more being hounded by academic stalkers. He has made us all the caretaker of his curse. We even get our own set of index cards…