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Amphigorey: Fifteen Books Paperback – January 28, 1980

4.6 out of 5 stars 103 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The title of this deliciously creepy collection of Gorey's work stems from the word amphigory, meaning a nonsense verse or composition. As always, Gorey's painstakingly cross- hatched pen and ink drawings are perfectly suited to his oddball verse and prose. The first book of 15, "The Unstrung Harp," describes the writing process of novelist Mr. Clavius Frederick Earbrass: "He must be mad to go on enduring the unexquisite agony of writing when it all turns out drivel." In "The Listing Attic," you'll find a set of quirky limericks such as "A certain young man, it was noted, / Went about in the heat thickly coated; / He said, 'You may scoff, / But I shan't take it off; / Underneath I am horribly bloated.' "

Many of Gorey's tales involve untimely deaths and dreadful mishaps, but much like tragic Irish ballads with their perky rhythms and melodies, they come off as strangely lighthearted. "The Gashlycrumb Tinies," for example, begins like this: "A is for AMY who fell down the stairs, B is for BASIL assaulted by bears," and so on. An eccentric, funny book for either the uninitiated or diehard Gorey fans.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (January 28, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399504338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399504334
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 0.5 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I was introduced to this book by a friend of mine whose sense of humor is almost as twisted as that of Gorey himself. He delighted in sharing with me "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" (in which small children meet their doom in alphabetical order) and "The Curious Sofa: a pornographic tale" (in which Gorey lays sexual innuendo so thick that it becomes absurd and absolutely hilarious). After wresting the book from the aforementioned friend's hands, I read the rest of it. To my delight I found morbid limericks and quatrains, stories apparently composed of random sentences, and tales of tales of mishap and tragedy--each accompanied by illustrations in Gorey's macabre style. I would recommend this collection to anyone who has outgrown Dr. Seuss but still wants to look at the pictures.
An incautions young lady named Venn
Was seen with the wrong sort of men
She vanished one day
But the following May
Her legs were retreived from a Fen
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Format: Paperback
Edward Gorey was a master of the macabre. Seemingly inappropriate, always bizarre, Mr. Gorey walked the taboo tightrope in his stories and illustrations. Here are fifteen such delightfully atrocious tales, compiled for the convenience of his very demented fans (including yours truly).
First is "The Unstrung Harp" about a befuddled and (in appearance) paranoid writer who trudges through his maddening existence, as so many a writer inevitably will. The casual reader might find this tale odd, but anyone who has ever taken to writing seriously will feel nothing but empathy. Has one of the greatest ending lines of any story I've ever read.
Next is "The Listing Attic", a series of devilish ryhmes with correlating illustrations. Many of these are horrible in design yet strangely you'll find yourself laughing at the unfortunate mishaps that fall upon the characters.
Now, on to "The Doubtful Guest" about a mysterious penguin-like creature that arrives at a residence only to act in a seemingly irrational way, doing things for inexplicable reasons. Personally I think this is nothing more than a metaphor for the unexpected in life and how it's more irrational for people to waste time trying to make sense out of these things. But that's just me.
"The Object Lesson" is just plain confusing, as if Mr. Gorey was just penning random thoughts and then illustrating them. Definitely weird.
"The Bug Book" is pretty childish in design and, to me, not particuarly noteworthy.
"The Fatal Lozenge" is another series of ryhmes, although the level of morbidity and violence is pretty much maxed out. Reading these you won't find yourself able to laugh, only maybe able to produce a nervous twitter as you ponder how very real these situations could be.
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Format: Paperback
If for no other reason than cost-efficiency, you ought to buy this collection of the late Edward Gorey's books; it doesn't cost very much more than the individual hard-cover original editions of the fifteen books collected here.
Most people will recognise Gorey as the designer of the credits for the long-running PBS series "Mystery!", if nothing else; but he is so much more.
If i were forced to guess, based strictly on the contents of the fifteen volumes collected here, i would have had to say that Edward Gorey was obviously an elderly and somewhat dotty Englishman. As a matter of fact, he was neither elderly nor English -- but that's the type of material he excelled at; that somewhat macabre but utterly devastating straight-faced black humour that seems to a Mere Colonial such as myself as Utterly British.
One could, for instance, question whether the untimely demise of twenty-six children -- in alphabetical order, with lovingly-rendered illustrations of their antepenultimate moments -- was a fit subject for humour. Whether or not it is becomes a moot question almost as soon as one begins reading "The Gashleycrumb Tinies" -- "'A' is for ANNA, who fell down the stairs. 'B' is for BASIL, assaulted by Bears..." Sick or not, if you can read all twenty-six pages of this little monograph and not laugh, there is something wrong with you.
Possibly the best thing in the book -- though it's *all* excellent -- is "The Unstrung Harp, or, Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel", which has been described by an acquaintance who works as an editor at a major New York publisher as one of the more accurate portrayals of the process he has ever read. {Horrifyingly so, i inferred from his comments.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The stories this anthology contains are in order as follows:

The Unstrung Harp, The Listing Attic, The Doubtful Guest, The Object-Lesson, The Bug Book, The Fatal Lozenge, The Hapless Child, The Curious Sofa, The Willowdale Handcar, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Insect God, The West Wing, The Wuggly Ump, The Sinking Spell, and The Remembered Visit.

I bought this book knowing it would be great, but it would have been nice if I knew which stories it contained. Perhaps this information is in a place where i did not notice it and my post here is redundant, but in any case, here it is.
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