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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Unstrung Harp Or, Mr. Earbrass Writes a Novel. Ewdard Gorey. (1953) Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

This a a wonderfully funny and horribly truthful book about the toil of writing a novel. Edward Gorey uses the cloak of absurdity to poke very sharp fun at literary pretensions as well as to look at the sheer labour involved in writing a novel. Mr. Clavius Fredrick Earbrass, a noted novelist is about to launch on his next book, always begun on November 18th of each alternative year. The process that follows is hard on mind and body, between the highs of having a good day and the awful lows of reading the work to date and realising that it is terrible. While the struggle to end the book is titanic, it is nothing to the horrors of revision nor the torment of creating a clean copy for the publishers. The struggle continues through proof reading the galleys, approving or disappoving the cover artwork and deciding what to do with the free copies from the publisher.
Edward Gorey provides a wonderful commentary on the action captured superbly in the beautiful line drawings on each facing page. Each stage of the process is affectionately mocked while the genuine effort required for a creative process is revealed with a witty understanding. The ridiculous names and absurd situations are never irritating or tiresome, they are a critical part of the light hearted style of the writing. The book is a remarkable work of art, the writing is very precise, without a wasted word and the illustrations are pitch perfect, the whole package is book to be cherished.

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