It should be forbidden by law for any writer to practice the trade without owning a copy of The Unstrung Harp by Edward Gorey. My copy came courtesy of Sophie Blackall, illustrator extraordinaire and collector of tiny things, and I laughed and cringed with agonizing recognition all the way home from Brooklyn.   Here’s how it begins:
On November 18th of alternate years, Mr Earbrass begins writing ‘his new novel.’  Weeks ago he chose its title at random from a list he keeps in a little green note-book.  It being tea-time of the 17th, he is alarmed not to have thought of a plot to which The Unstrung Harp might apply, but his mind will keep reverting to the last biscuit on the plate.”

Speaking as someone whose mind is almost constantly reverting to the last biscuit on the plate, I knew instantly I was in the hands of a man who knew his stuff.  Needless to say, Mr Earbrass’ publishers (Scuffle and Dustcough) get the cover hideously wrong (“On any book it would be ugly, vulgar and illegible.  On his book it would be these, and also disastrously wrong.)    And of course that awful panic that sets in 3/4 of the way through each book: “He now sees TUH for what it is. Dreadful, dreadful, DREADFUL. He must be mad to go on enduring the unexquisite agony of writing when it all turns out drivel.”Sometimes I read it and laugh till I cry.  Or vice versa.

This is a very short book, so I’ll make this a very short post.
Thank you, Sophie.  Thank you, Mr Gorey.


6 thoughts on “The Unstrung Harp

  1. Meg 9 years ago

    Oh, I’ve only just started. It’s going to get expensive by the time I’m through.

  2. Candy 9 years ago

    yes. this is going to be expensive. my childhood favourite of gorey’s was The Shrinking of Treehorn. someday i will use that plot.

  3. Kim 9 years ago

    Wow, another moment of synchronicity! I really must buy this book, just because it sounds so much like me. With my art and my writing. Thanks for the recommendation 🙂

  4. Nina Killham 9 years ago

    I think I’m going to cling to this book like a life raft…

  5. Pingback: The god of cover art. | Meg Rosoff

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