Book: The Strange Case of Edward Gorey
Author: Alexander Theroux
Type of Book: Non-fiction, biography, utter pants
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Because it is a biography (ostensibly) about odd-icon, Edward Gorey.
Availability: Published by Fantagraphic Books in 2010, you can get a copy here:
Comments: As biographies go, I guess you could say this is one. But if you love a good biography, you’re not going to want to read this book. You may not even want to read this review.
But if you, like me, are a Gorey fan, you will both buy this book and read it even after I tell you it’s largely a worthless read. Gorey fans, like all fanatics, want to read anything and everything about the man. I am a moderate Gorey fan. I have one of his drawings tattooed on my body, I have a little shrine set up to him and one day I want to have a collection of Gorey first editions. So even with the status of being just a moderate Gorey fan, I know that had I read a review like the one I am writing before I put this book on my Amazon wish list, I would have purchased it and read it anyway (actually, my copy is a Yule gift from Mr. Oddbooks). Because that’s what an ardent fan does. We collect things relating to the object of our adoration, even if those things are mediocre.
This book has interesting moments but they are few and far between, and those moments are generally content that will not be new to long-term Gorey fans. Still, it was pleasant being reminded of how eccentric Gorey was, how he eventually stopped wearing fur because of his love of animals, how he sewed stuffed animals by hand as he watched television, how he would do work for anyone who asked, even those who could pay very little.
But after one admits that this book has some charm, one can only list its many problems. The first is that in the first fifteen pages, Theroux manages to write in a way that is so alienating that a casual reader might be tempted to give up. I am a reasonably intelligent woman who has devoted my adult life to reading. I fancy that if a reasonably well-educated person with a devotion to books found Theroux’s verbiage cumbersome, then it is safe to say it was, in fact, too much for a biography of a beloved pop culture icon. But who knows? Perhaps the words enchiridion, coloraturas, the French phrase le cercle lugubrieux, and karfreutagian have slipped into the common lexicon without me noticing. If not, they were odd word choices in a biography such as this. This is not the sort of book that can tolerate the interruptions that come when the reader is forced to put the book down in order to look up words and French phrases. But luckily Theroux stops showing off so egregiously around page 15. Still, not a good beginning.