amphigoreyTitle: Amphigorey

Author: Edward Gorey

Summary: The title of this deliciously creepy collection of Gorey’s work stems from the word amphigory, meaning a nonsense verse or composition. Gorey’s painstakingly cross-hatched pen and ink drawings are perfectly suited to his oddball verse and prose. 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.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4.5/5

Review: I found out about this books through a goodreads giveaway. I didn’t win it, but i liked the sound of it enough to add it to my to-read shelf. A couple of weeks ago i went to a nearby comic and graphic novel shop with the express intention of buying something, but i didn’t know what. I found a few books on my to-read list, but it was Amphigorey i settled on, i think because of the awesome cover.

What i hadn’t realised was that Edward Gorey had written and drawn these short stories and verses way back in the 50s and 60s. I don’t know why, but i had seen graphic novels as a much more modern thing. It was really nice to think the words and images i was reading had been read and enjoyed for so many years. And the work–in terms of the language and the art–has not dated at all; this fits right in with any other graphic novel you can pull of the shelf.

I also hadn’t expected poetry, verse, limerick and rhyme, but bloody hell, did i love it. There are a few limericks in French, which i tried to translate online. I got the gist of them, but the rhythm and rhymes were lost.

The art is impressive. The majority of it is fine lines of black ink, and the detail and texture created is amazing. One of my favourite panels is in fact simply of a room with its door open, showing the hallway and another open door beyond. I also can’t fault the amount of moustaches scattered throughout the pages. There is a slow, careful, gothic unease in most of the artwork, which itself is a complexly drawn simplicity.

Best of all, though, is that Gorey’s work mixes perfectly two things i adore: imaginative rhyming and morbid horror. He deals with such dark and sinister subjects, such as child deaths, domestic violence and suicide, but he juxtapositions that with light and jaunty language, upbeat and jolly rhymes. Sometimes it was only the dark foreboding in the his images that reminded me that some lines weren’t as cheerful as they appeared…


There were a couple of stories which, on the face of it, seem much more innocent and suited to children’s stories. There are in colour, with one being about a family of happy ants, while the other is about a group of children and a creature called the Wuggly Ump. However, Gorey doesn’t let his narratives off so easily, and both end with death.

Overall, there wasn’t actually anything i disliked about this book, and the instant i finished it i added the further three Amphigorey volumes to my to-read list. The reason this books isn’t getting five stars is simply because i didn’t get that feeling. You know, that feeling. (I don’t know.) I loved everything about it, it just didn’t give me that five-star punch. I also think i might love it more on a re-read, when i know what i’m getting myself into much more clearly, and i can have that anticipation. For that, i also have high hopes for the next three books!

This knocks three squares off my Bookish Bingo: A graphic book, one-word title and found out about on goodreads.


About Wendleberry
I'm odd.

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