Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 11 Aug 2015

The Dwindling Party by Edward Gorey

Can anyone resist a pop-up book? Not me. Especially when the pop-up illustrates a slight verse from the twisted imagination of Edward Gorey, the American illustrator and tale-teller who embodies the dark side of American Gothic. Gorey is often thought of as a children's author but I think that is a substantial misunderstanding of what Gorey is all about - his work isn't aimed at people of a particular age but at people with a specific sideways take on reality. He invites you to share his malicious glee at the terrible fates that await us all in the land somewhere between dream, reality and wish-fulfilment. 

The Dwindling Party tells the story of the MacFizzet family who pay a visit to the Hickyacket Hall - something that looks like a traditional British stately house. As the family enter the grounds the first of them is whisked off to a grizzly end and each member of the family falls prey to the monsters of the forest and the lake. Ultimately all of them meet their end except for the very youngest - Neville - who turns out to be something of a philosopher:

And so the MacFizzets, they vanish forever,

At least each and every last one of the rest

Except for small Neville - who said : 'Well I never!

But then. I expect it was all for the best.

The paper engineering of this book is proficient without being outstanding but big special effects are not really the point here. Gorey belongs to the same tradition as Edward Lear or Lewis Carroll except he lives in the shadows of that world and records those things only seen out of the corner of your eye as he waits for the unsuspecting to venture into the unlit corners of the room.


Terry Potter

August 2015