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Book Review: The Doubtful Guest

Edward Gorey and Ralph Steadman are my favorite artists. I was browsing through a bookstore not too long ago and I found an old copy of The Doubtful Guest, which is my personal favorite book that Gorey wrote. If you’re not familiar with the author I would backtrack and read my review of The Gashlycrumb Tinies. You might also enjoy the book Ascending Peculiarity, which is a series of interviews recorded with Mr. Gorey.

doubtful guestThe Doubtful Guest is a perfect example of just what is so great, strange, and inimitable about his work. First of all, here is a picture of the eponymous guest, over on the right. This odd fellow in the scarf–I have no idea what it is actually supposed to be–arrives at a house full of stodgy Victorian people. When Gorey draws adults, they are usually very, very serious and grim-looking. Like the people who have to deal with the Guest. 

He shows up, starts to scream, and then they apparently have no choice but to let him stay. He tears up their books, messes up just about everything he comes into contact with, and nobody is very happy about it. This may sum up the true strangeness of Mr. Gorey’s books, because nobody ever asks the Guest to leave. 17 years go by and the Guest shows “no intention of leaving.”

I love it. I doubt that I’ll ever stop.

Like most of his books, this one is about 20 pages long, about a quarter of an inch thick, and worth leafing through about every other day. Without the accompanying pictures, it might not sound that great, but the combination of his peculiar word choices, the flow of the language, the bleak style of the pen and ink drawings, and the fact that there is simply nothing else like a Gorey book make every single one something really special.This packaging is one of the few things that I don’t see ebook readers ever being able to duplicate. It’s more than the words and the pictures. It’s all of it, from the feel of the cover to the rustle when the last page is turned. “And it shows no intention of leaving.”

Read The Doubtful Guest.

Also, I collect these books, so if you’re crazy, you have some, and you don’t want them, send them my way.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Bethy January 2, 2011, 11:25 am

    I couldn’t imagine someone who would have one and NOT want it. Unfortunately, this probably means you will not have a sudden influx of packages on your doorstep. 🙁

    • Josh Hanagarne January 2, 2011, 11:52 am

      I always have books arriving on the doorstep, but they’re usually from people who want me to review them!

    • Elisabeth Eilir Rowan January 4, 2011, 11:00 pm

      I knew someone who pitched a fit because a friend dared to give her son ‘The Gashlycrumb Tinies’. So I guess there are people out there who just don’t get Gorey. On the other hand, they are silly people.

  • Heather January 3, 2011, 6:59 am

    OO! OO! OO! Haunted Tea Cosy! LOVE the Haunted Tea Cosy! “THAT WILL BE ENOUGH OF THAT!” 🙂

  • Elisabeth Eilir Rowan January 4, 2011, 10:58 pm

    I just received a wall calendar from Amazon today that has the text and pictures from ‘The Deranged Cousins’. 🙂 Gorey is great!

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