M is for Maud who was swept out to sea
N is for Neville who died from ennui
To say I love Edward Gorey is an understatement. I was introduced to his dark, hilarious drawings by an aunt who gave me a copy of The Doubtful Guest when I was about 12 years old. She was my favorite aunt; she always gave me gifts that didn’t condescend to my young age. At the time she gave me my first Gorey book, I didn’t really understand his humor that well. But I loved the macabre nature of his work. His finely lined etchings were as enchanting as they were weird. I loved the strange scarf-wearing creature in The Doubtful Guest so much I’m thinking of getting it as a tattoo.
The Gashleycrumb Tinies is a, well, tiny book of ABC’s where each page features a child dying in some ghastly way. I always like the first page—“A is for Amy who fell down the stairs”—given that my name is Amy and I’m very clumsy. What a way to go!
One of the things I really love about this short book, besides the creepy drawings, is it doesn’t stint on the gruesome deaths, while still rhyming tick-tock like any chidren’s book. Hector is done in by a thug (the picture showing reaching arms with a cloth to strangle a little boy in a sailor suit looking blankly in the other direction); Kate is struck with an axe; Leo swallowed some tacks; Xerxes was devoured by mice; and Victor was squashed under a train. My favorite, if not violent death, is Neville who died from ennui. I sometimes feel that way too.
I have a collection of Gorey’s work, which I also highly recommend. Not all of them are twisted children’s books, but all of them feature Gorey’s amazing art and glowering text.