Thursday, 28 February 2013


The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey

It’s a jolly good thing my kids are grown up and out of harm’s way. Because I am not the sort of mother who is on trend these days. I drink too much, swear too much, wear the wrong things, say the wrong things and above all, I do the wrong things … usually while drinking and swearing. (I may have a lot of bad habits but by God they are beautifully co-ordinated!) 
My worst sin, by today’s standards, is that I hate how we overprotect our kids. I hate how we mollycoddle them. I hate how we sanitize their lives so thoroughly that alarms go off and the police appear at your door if you let your kid watch Bugs Bunny and The Roadrunner instead of The Care Bears Save Kittens. 

One of my proudest moments as a mom was the day my firstborn’s kindergarten teacher put up a gallery of the children’s paintings: there were flowers, frolicking lambs, clouds, stars … and a blood-soaked tableau of a Doberman and a wolf locked in fang-to-fang combat. My baby! So proud! (Say, if you ever need a babysitter, I’m good with kids. And crafts!) 
Anyway, now that I’ve set the table it will come as no surprise to you that I used to read Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies alphabet book to this little lass. And she loved it. LOVED it. Just as I loved it when I was a child. Oh how I longed to be Zillah, who died in the best way of them all! By today’s neutered standards, Gorey's books are borderline child abuse. By mine, they are brilliant. I’ve reprinted the fabulous alphabet poem below. Now that’s what I call literature.

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

E is for Ernest who choked on a peach

F is for Fanny sucked dry by a leech

G is for George smothered under a rug

H is for Hector done in by a thug

I is for Ida who drowned in a lake

J is for James who took lye by mistake

K is for Kate who was struck by an axe

L is for Leo who swallowed some tacks

M is for Maud who was swept out to sea

N is for Neville who died of ennui

O is for Olive run through with an awl

P is for Prue trampled flat in a brawl

Q is for Quentin who sank in a mire

R is for Rhoda consumed by fire

S is for Susan who perished of fits

T is for Titus who flew into bits

U is for Una who slipped down a drain

V is for Victor squashed under a train

W is for Winnie embedded in ice

X is for Xerxes devoured by mice

Y is for Yorick whose head was knocked in

Z is for Zillah who drank too much gin