Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Amphigorey Too is a second selection from the vast back catalogue of the incredibly prolific, hugely influential Edward Gorey. It collects twenty of his small, intense works in one large volume. Most of the individual titles are rearranged from their original book layouts to fit the larger pages, but are otherwise unaltered.
The Beastly Baby concerns the fate of an infant “capable of making only two sorts of noises, both of them nasty”. The Nursery Frieze features a black Capybara-esque creature speaking multi-syllabic words such as ‘antigropelos’, ‘ophicleide’ and ‘sparadrap’. The Pious Infant is sanctimonious Henry Clump, who concerns himself with the salvation of every soul he meets until the day he encounters a widow in the snow. The Evil Garden is filled with carnivorous vegetation: “Alexa watches while her Aunt / Is pulled feet first inside a plant.” The Inanimate Tragedy is a drama featuring pins and needles, a heroic No. 37 pen nib, a glass marble, two buttons, a half-inch thumbtack, and an evil piece of knotted string. The Gilded Bat concerns a talented girl who grows up to be a prima ballerina: “After Federjenska did a grand jeté into the wings one matinee and was never seen again, Maud took over.”
The Iron Tonic, or A Winter Afternoon in a Lonely Valley is set near a sanatorium: “The people at the grey hotel, / Are either aged or unwell” which has some unusual features: “It’s known the skating pond conceals / A family of enormous eels”. The Osbick Bird is the tale of Emblus Fingby and a bird that adopts him as a loyal companion: “The years passed by in pressing weeds / And making bell-pulls out of beads.” There are two versions of The Chinese Obelisks, a sketch form and the finished version. It’s the alphabetical story of A, “an author who went for a walk” who appears to be Gorey himself in the fur coat that he always wore, ending with Z, “the zither he left to the maid.”
The Deranged Cousins are Rose Marshmary, Mary Rosemarsh and Marsh Maryrose, who all live together in a rose-covered house at the edge of a marsh. “Since they were orphans and there was no one to stop them, they were often merry far into the night” until an incident leads to the ‘Rabbit’s Restroom’. The Eleventh Episode begins with a woman falling into a well. The Untitled Book is images of a garden overlooked by a window, from which a child gazes upon what happens beneath. The Lavender Leotard: or, Going a Lot to the New York City Ballet is exactly that. The Disrespectful Summons concerns blameless Miss Squill, who is assaulted by the Devil.
The Abandoned Sock decides the life of clothing is tedious, so “persuaded the clothespin to relinquish its hold” and goes awol. The Lost Lions stars Hamish, a handsome young man, who becomes ‘overstrung.’ Story for Sara is about a bad little girl, two birds and a cat. The Salt Herring is suspended from a string, “dry, dry, dry”. Leaves from a Mislaid Album are 17 wordless images, including one of The Doubtful Guest, previously published as a pack of cards. A Limerick is about little Zooks, “of whom no one was fond”.
Many of these titles were published in limited editions, so Amphigorey Too is the best way to acquire a generous serving of them in one place. There’s very little middle ground with Gorey – readers either become rabid fans or wander away, mystified. This is an excellent introduction to his work for new readers, and if you enjoyed the first collection Amphigorey, this is an absolute must-have.