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am 30. Mai 2000
I used to pick up my dad's Edward Gorey books when I was a wee boy, read them in half an hour and put them back on the shelves, quivering with fear. Admittedly I was also scared of Doctor Who, old people and "Strawberry Fields Forever". But Gorey has definitely tapped into a seam of subterranean panic; his hollow-eyed pseudo-Edwardian families have a look about them as though some sort of hideously deformed ancestor has been chained up in the attic for centuries. The Doubtful Guest is ostensibly for kids, telling the story of a strange, aardvarkesque creature in tennis shoes (typical Gorey touch, the tennis shoes) that comes to stay one "wild winter night", but maybe you have to be an adult to find it truly unnerving. The creature slopes about the house, eating plates, lying in doorways and hiding towels, and the hapless family can't bring itself to dispose of the thing. At the end of the book it's been there for seventeen years and is sitting in the drawing room with the same look of wide-eyed expectancy, while the enervated family stands about aimlessly with as little of a clue as ever.
This isn't quite my favourite Gorey. Other contenders would be the almost absurdly depressing The Hapless Child (small girl is born, parents die, is sent to workhouse, winds up perishing in the street, is found by its actually-not-dead-but-until-recently-in-Africa father who, typically, fails to recognise his daughter) and the surreal The Object Lesson (classic Gorey opening line: "It was already Thursday, but his Lordship's artificial limb could not be found..."). Or else there's the sexy but menacing The Curious Sofa...
He's still a master and a true original. Check out the way that the house in The Doubtful Guest seems to have been invaded by a black fog; Henry James took over a hundred pages to write The Turn of the Screw, but Gorey can squeeze comparably effects into 26 pages. Not many "children's" books of 43 years ago still have this power to charm and alarm.