Wednesday, January 13, 2016

More-Than-Gorey Reflection on the Alphabet

Review: Alphabeticus Atrocitus by Michael C. Romeo

Edward Gorey captured the alphabet in a gruesome, yet whimsical, way, with The Gashlycrumb Tinies and its illustrations of 26 alphabetically-named children dying in unusual ways. 

A is for Amy who fell down the stairs, B is for Basil assaulted by bears, C is for Clara who wasted away. D is for Desmond thrown out of a sleigh... —Gorey's alphabet

I must have had some expectation of finding the same whimsy in art and text from Romeo's Alphabeticus Atrocitus, because my initial reaction was horror. There is no whimsy here. Don't expect chuckles.

But don't flip through and discard this little book, either. There is some real meat in these images. Consider the page: T is for Tree. In the foreground, a sketch of a tree-trunk, grass at its roots, provides the obvious image. Yet on a hill in the background, a trio of rather different trees raises Golgotha limbs over the landscape.

Or F is for Fire: My first impression was of a burning factory with a stream of workers escaping the flames. But then... Who are the men with guns on either side of them? Perspective flips, and I see that these people are being herded into the fire.

No, these images have neither the brilliance of Gorey's art nor the Gothic humor of his verse. What they do have is depth and weight

Spend a little time to learn how atrocious our English alphabet can be. Neither your time nor the pittance of a price will be wasted.

Liner Notes:

Three things cost the book a star in my rating:

  • This eBook-only publication is restricted to Portrait-only. This is unfortunate, as the illustrations would be better viewed in Landscape.
  • The illustrations are in a format that does not permit Zoom. (This may be because they are restricted to Portrait, and the image is already at maximum zoom level.)
  • Text is part of the image, thus the font cannot be adjusted.