I’m never quite sure where to put Edward Gorey when it comes to books. Is he for children? Is he for grown ups? Is he for grown ups who still want to be children? I wrestled with this for a while and then decided that it didn’t really matter as long as you love him, and it seems a shame for children or adults not to get a go at reading him, so I’m reviewing him here and on my grown ups blog for good measure. You can never get enough Gorey is the moral.
The Iron Tonic is a strange one. Unlike The Gashlycrumb Tinies it doesn’t really have a theme or a narrative. It’s just a collection of macabre drawings and odd ideas all stuck together under a title that doesn’t really throw any light on the subject. It doesn’t really matter, just like it doesn’t really matter who he writes for. What matters is that Gorey is absolutely glorious and every, single opportunity you get to experience him, you should seize with both hands.
My sadness is that I didn’t discover him until I was grown up. I know that if my parents had had this book kicking around on their shelves, I would have become totally obsessed with it, for I was a morbid infant who loved looking at troubling pictures and reading sad tales, as I amply illustrated in my previous blog post about Red Riding Hood.
I think books like this are fun to share with kids initially. There’s so much detail in these pictures and looking at them together and talking about what might be happening and what there is to see is brilliant fun, and also great training for small children in key reading skills. Once you’ve shared them, and if your child loves them, let them pore over them for themselves. This kind of book is always more alluring to children if you make a big show of telling them that you’re not sure if they’ll get it, and that it really is for grown ups but you think you might just let them have a look. It could be the beginning of a grand obsession.