Monday, July 10, 2006

Reader's Diary #123- Edward Gorey: Amphigorey (up to "The Willowdale Handcar")

I've never been much of a comic book aficionado. In fact, could I tell you the difference between a comic and a graphic novel? No. I assume a graphic novel is merely a comic in long form. From what I can surmise, Amphigorey is a graphic novel as it is a compilation of shorter comics. I hardly know where to start with such a book, except for being honest: I don't particularly care for it, but I can understand the appeal. I do enjoy Gorey's style. There's a feel about his drawings with their hatching and cross-hatching and characters dressed in Victorian or Edwardian garb that is unmistakably eye-catching and fitting to the macabre humour. It's easy to see that Tim Burton was heavily influenced by Gorey. There's a sense of old wood prints from the Brothers Grimm stories, yet something even more sinister. Grimm fairy tales often had violent outcomes to peasant characters who were often pretty desolate to begin with (ex. Hansel and Gretal). Gorey's tales, on the other hand, seem to revolve around more of the upper crust of society. There's something a little more perverse about these characters whose violent and twisted tendencies cannot be as easily explained using sociology.

My lack of interest in the books is perhaps due to desensitization. Maybe when most of these stories were written (i.e., mid to late 1900s), it was easier to shock people. And maybe people are still as easily shocked and the fault lies with me. Personally, I find shock art a little boring. When someone, be it Howard Stern or Marilyn Manson (okay, not great examples of art), have made it pretty clear earlier on that their sole intention is to ruffle feathers, their schtick quickly becomes predictable. It becomes clear early in this Gorey collection, that he too intends to shock- mostly through violent words/ images (often revolving around children) put to a kitschy verse. There's an undeniable appeal to such verse, else we wouldn't have made up a cutesy little rhyme about axe-murderer Lizzie Borden. I can respect that Gorey has made a rather artsy homage to this violent side of human nature. But in a large collection, I quickly lose interest. And maybe after watching the Aristocrats, its rather hard to be shocked by anything as mild as Gorey.


John Mutford said...

Something about his work reminds me of a book I loved as a kid- 101 Uses For A Dead Cat by Simon Bond. Who says sick humour is purely for adults?

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I always thought graphic novel was just a fancy-assed word for comic book. But I have been known to be wrong before...

John Mutford said...

You're probably right.

Incidentally, does anyone know where the term "fancy ass" came from? All I can picture are those frilly panties that Chrissy used to wear on Three's Company.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Oh, I just snorted tea out my nose on that one!
Great. Now I'll be thinking of Three's Company. Blast you, man!