On November 18th of alternate years Mr Earbrass begins writing 'his new novel.' Weeks ago he chose its title at random from a list of them 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." So begins what the Times Literary Supplement called "a small masterpiece." TUH is a look at the literary life and its "attendant woes: isolation, writer's block, professional jealousy, and plain boredom." But, as with all of Edward Gorey's books, TUH is also about life in general, with its anguish, turnips, conjunctions, illness, defeat, string, parties, no parties, urns, desuetude, disaffection, claws, loss, trebizond, napkins, shame, stones, distance, fever, antipodes, mush, glaciers, incoherence, labels, miasma, amputation, tides, deceit, mourning, elsewards. You get the point. Finally, TUH is about Edward Gorey the writer, about Edward Gorey writing The Unstrung Harp. It's a cracked mirror of a book, and it's dedicated to RDP or Real Dear Person.
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Edward Gorey (1925-2000) wrote and illustrated such popular books as The Doubtful Guest, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, and The Headless Bust. He was also a very successful set and costume designer, earning a Tony Award for his Broadway production of Edward Gorey's Dracula. Animated sequences of his work have introduced the PBS series Mystery! since 1980.From Kirkus Reviews:
The clichs of English country-house fiction and the more generic ``unspeakable horror of the literary life'' are memorably skewered in this urbane jeu first published in 1953 (and, scandalously, out of print ever since). Its protagonist, Mr. Earbrass, is a reclusive well-to-do bachelor author of middle years, with a profile (as seen in Gorey's serenely sinister accompanying drawings) rather resembling a benign croquet mallet and a neurasthenic sensibility hilariously vulnerable to every harrowing stage in the process of conceiving, completing, and publicizing his new novel. He himself, we're surely to infer, is the unstrung harpand the deadpan tale of his inharmonious relations with the dangerous world of letters is both a caution to would-be writers and (to use a word utterly inappropriate to Mr. Earbrass's strangled gentility) a hoot. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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