Have a taste for the macabre*? Then you have a copy of Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies.
To be honest, I inherited my copy from Sean, but I claim proud ownership of it just the same. Why ever for? because it is a delightful little alphabet book, and who doesn’t find those absolutely charming? Dr. Seuss’s ABCs was a long running favorite in our house–ok, it still is.
For every letter of the alphabet is the story of child and his or her untimely death told in rhyming couplets. Y is for Yorick whose head was knocked in; Z is for Zillah who drank too much gin. Each letter child gets a page. And to heighten the enjoyment of the text, there are Gorey’s exquisitely ominous black & white illustrations.
Many (like the two above) you can feel the weight of Portend. F and X give me chills every time.
A few depict the After. I find K a bit much…
Do not overlook the front and back covers of the book, especially in light of the “or” on the title page, “or, After the Outing.” There is that added horror that perhaps these were no mishaps or accidents. The dark skeletal figure looming over these darling children, with his neighborly smile. Perhaps he is merely there to collect his own, out for a stroll gathering up his dead chicks; which is not any less disturbing to my mind.
Needless to say, The Gashlycrumb Tinies or, After the Outing needn’t be seasonal fare, but it is delectable this time of year. And if you’ve just met someone and invited them over, leave this on the coffee table. You’ll either have a friend for life with which to trade books, or they’ll make a quick exit and you won’t have to figure out how to make them ever leave.
If you like The Gashlycrumb Tinies you will very likely enjoy The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy by Tim Burton.(thank you, Logan, for the connection in the comments.)
The Gashlycrumb Tinies or, After the Outing by Edward Gorey Harcourt Brace & Company, 1963.
macabre (ma·ca·bre) : Pronunciation:/məˈkäbrə, -ˈkäb/: adjective
Disturbing and horrifying because of involvement with or depiction of death and injury:a macabre series of murders
Origin: late 19th century: from French macabre, from Danse Macabre ‘dance of death’, from Old French, perhaps from Macabé ‘a Maccabee’, with reference to a miracle play depicting the slaughter of the Maccabees
~Oxford English Dictionary