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The Unstrung Harp

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  1,197 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
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 th ...more
Hardcover
Published 2000 by Bloomsbury (first published 1953)
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48th out of 133 books — 59 voters
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47th out of 56 books — 15 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Emm ☿ Synklaire
Sep 15, 2016 Emm ☿ Synklaire rated it it was amazing
Oh, writers. Our novels drive us so crazy sometimes.
They lurk around in our heads begging to be written, yet when we have the time and materials, they latch in their claws and refuse to come outside. Alas.

I have this shady feeling people who don't like to write would not understand this in the same way. Unstrung Harp is a pretty good (and stunningly illustrated) portrait of the devil that is Writer's Block. Among other melancholies the writer experiences - literary criticism, envy over their tal
...more
Amy (Other Amy)
Mr. Earbrass stands on the terrace at twilight. It is bleak; it is cold; and the virtue has gone out of everything. Words drift through his mind: 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...

I really cannot explain this. I don't know why this is the most charming, delightful book upon books I h
...more
Sharon Lee
Sep 27, 2009 Sharon Lee rated it it was amazing
What I learned from this book? I am not alone. I have no idea how much sense it would make to someone who isn't a writer or other creative artist, but it's spot on, trust me.
Callie Rose Tyler
Oct 28, 2012 Callie Rose Tyler rated it did not like it
Shelves: picture-books
I pretty much hated this book. I don't get the humor, I know that it is supposed to be funny, but I just thought it was stupid. Who is this book for? Certainly not children, I would classify this as a picture book for adults. This story goes on and on and on and on and on. So boring. To me it is very self-indulgent to write about the torments of writing.

I visualize the fans of this book as self-proclaimed 'writers', as they read they chuckle with a wink and a nod, "ha ha, I get this book because
...more
lethe
I read that this was Gorey's first independent work, so it's probably rather fitting that it should deal with an author's struggles with the Muse. Not being a writer, or generally very creative, I did not feel much empathy, but I did find it amusing.

Gorey's trademark strange creatures were already there in several of the illustrations, and I enjoyed Mr Earbrass's visiting such illustrious places as Collapsed Pudding, Something Awful, and especially Lying-in-the-Way. Very English-countryside.
Ksenia Anske
Nov 03, 2015 Ksenia Anske rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
If you're a writer, you must read this. It will take you 20 minutes and you will choke on your own laughter. And die.
Jesse
Oct 19, 2007 Jesse rated it it was amazing
Shelves: us, him
Mr. Earbrass - surrounded by comforts that make him visibly uncomfortable - is the most perfectly realized and sympathetic character who would ever emerge from Gorey's pen. Second place probably goes to the doubtful guest of The Doubtful Guest.
Kthxbai!
Mar 24, 2015 Kthxbai! rated it really liked it
For the names alone this book gets three stars. Scuffle and Dustcough. The West Mortshire Impassioned Amateurs of Melpomene. Col. Knout, M.F.H. of the Blathering Hunt. The fourth star is for Gorey's illustrations, the classic pen & ink scratchings which never fail to capture the absurd pathos of poor Mr. C(lavius) F(rederick) Earbrass, the well-known novelist, struggling with his latest literary effort. The story itself is sketchy, but by no means negligible, and amply augmented by the image ...more
Jim
Feb 23, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, re-read, 2016
"Mr Earbrass stands on the terrace at twilight. It is bleak; it is cold; and the virtue has gone out of everything. Words drift through his mind: 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 else wards…" God I love this fucking book.

The Unstrung Harp has the subtitle "or, Mr Earbrass writes a novel" and b
...more
Mary Bird
Mar 04, 2016 Mary Bird rated it it was amazing
You can actually find this online in PDF form, and if you've ever tried to write (or do, really) anything, then take a look at this. It's accurate and also hilarious in how overblown and dramatic people can get (*cough*definitelynotme*cough*) when trying to put together a creative piece. There's work and self doubt, along with a hefty dose of humor and preoccupation (and names like Hobbies Odd), and it's just fun satire with too much truth in it.

Now I want a backwards athletic shirt...
Sara
Nov 17, 2013 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: matita
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.

Un anno sì e uno no, il 18 novembre, Mr Earbrass pone mano al suo "nuovo romanzo". In questo caso il titolo è già pronto da qualche settimana
...more
Eddie Watkins
Oct 08, 2014 Eddie Watkins rated it it was amazing
Shelves: visual-art
Must be the longest book Gorey ever wrote, in that you actually have to pause in between turning pages to completely read the text. It also contains some of his most highly wrought illustrations. It's a droll story about a man attempting to write a novel and all the obstacles, uncertainties, drippy literary chit-chat, and plush scarves attendant upon him in the process.
Nate D
Dec 08, 2010 Nate D added it
Edward Gorey's first published book, and one of the finest. I think it may also have more text than any of the others that followed, a full paragraph for each illustration. Not that the illustrations don't stand alone in all his work, but his sharp, amusing commentary on the creative process would be difficult to convey in image alone.
Sally Tarbox
Oct 21, 2014 Sally Tarbox rated it it was amazing
'He wrote for so long and with such intensity that when he stopped he felt quite sick.',, October 21, 2014

This review is from: The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr. Earbrass Writes a Novel (Hardcover)
I defy anyone to read this without bursting into laughter! The tale of Mr Earbrass, and his efforts to produce a novel -
'Weeks ago he chose its title at random from a list of them he keeps...It being tea-time of the 17th, he is alarmed not to have thought of a plot.'
We follow his days while composing (such as
...more
Amy Sturgis
Apr 23, 2014 Amy Sturgis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gothic, 20th-century
Dedicated to RDP (Real Dear Person), The Unstrung Harp begins like this: "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."

The combination of Edward Gorey's prose and illustrations is perfect
...more
Louise
Sep 30, 2015 Louise rated it really liked it
Another wonderful little book in Edward Gorey's distinctive style; it is nicely laid out, with an illustration opposite each page of text. A very slight story, in length and in what actually takes place within it. I could almost imagine it as a sequence from a Wes Anderson film, with a narrator describing a series of sequences in the life of the character Mr. Earbrass. I loved it, although it may not be to everyone's taste, but if you are a fan of Edward Gorey it is a lovely way to pass a little ...more
Amanda - Go Book Yourself
May 13, 2013 Amanda - Go Book Yourself rated it really liked it
I adored the droll humour and beautiful pen and ink drawings in The Unstrung Harp. I smiled while reading this but then a growing sense of unease crept in as I felt a wave of familiarity with this story.

Mr Earbass is the voice in your that tells you to just type one more sentence, to just paint one more stroke or to just finish this chapter. Then you raise your head and realise that, that was 4 hours ago.

He is the niggling voice that reminds you of something long ago that you cannot quite rememb
...more
Christopher
Jul 24, 2007 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE UNSTRUNG HARP was Edward Gorey's first novel, published in 1953. Although full of the droll humour that makes all of his efforts true pleasures to read, it is a little different from later, typical Gorey. There is more text with each illustration, and the characters involved are not as realistic as later, although these illustrations are still pen and ink drawings set in Edwardian times.

The story concerns C. F. Earbrass, the "well-known novelist". Earbrass is at work on a new book, and each
...more
Laura Roberts
Dec 26, 2015 Laura Roberts rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
If you’ve never read anything by Edward Gorey, let me be the first to tell you that you’ve been wasting your life most miserably.

Then, allow me to recommend the first Edward Gorey book you ought to read in order to rectify this situation: The Unstrung Harp, Or Mr Earbrass Writes A Novel.

To read the rest of my review (with pictures!), check out my Hump Day Reviews post at http://buttontapper.com/2015/09/02/hu...
Lauren
Jan 11, 2016 Lauren rated it really liked it
This very short, not-very-sweet tale of an author as he shepherds a book through the writing, revising, and publishing process is hilarious. I normally get tired of authors writing about authors, but this one is the exception. It’s a dry martini set to words, and the illustrations elevate the already clever text. Highly recommended.
Jennavier
How do you judge a book com out of it's time? The Unstrung Harp was lovely, funny, and a little bit odd. I liked it a lot, but I wouldn't feel comfortable rating it. There is no way I could truly understand it's flaws without being part of the time period that birthed it. Since that time is long gone I think I will leave this book be.
Max
Sep 05, 2013 Max rated it it was amazing
My personal favorite of Edward Gorey's books. I couldn't get into it the first time I read it - but it grew on me after a few more readings. It became an "acquired taste". As a writer AND publisher, I can certainly relate to Mr. Earbrass and his tribulations in writing his novel. In fact, I'm probably more like Mr. Earbrass than I realize; his challenges and stumbling as he goes along is something that many writers out there can resonate with.

From a technical standpoint, Edward Gorey's pen-and-i
...more
Shawn Lahr
Aug 06, 2016 Shawn Lahr rated it did not like it
I read this on the recommendation of Michael Dirda, who claimed it was pornographic...joke's on me.
Dull.
I must have missed the subtext.
I'll file this next to The Sugar Frosted Nutsack on my emergency-toilet-paper shelf and happily return to more middlebrow artifacts.
Jaimie
Sep 21, 2014 Jaimie rated it did not like it
In theory, I thought that this story would be charming and quirky (what's not to like about oddball authors and their writing processes), but I found that its rambling structure didn't quite carry the story for me.
Quitealice
Aug 25, 2015 Quitealice rated it it was amazing
I love pretty much all of Edward Gorey, but this one is exceptional even for him. Anyone who has ever written professionally/tortuously will recognize themselves in Mr. Earbrass. And wonder about putting a fantod under glass.
Melanie
Mar 04, 2016 Melanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fabulous little book about the agony of the writing process, and of publication. I like Mr. Gorey more with each book of his I read. This one may be my favourite so far.
Jessica
May 03, 2015 Jessica rated it really liked it
All about regret and overthinking things. The first bit I have ever read by Gorey. I think that its a great book.
Betty
Jun 23, 2014 Betty rated it really liked it
Absolutely delightful. Gorey's illustrations and his writings fully compliment each other.
Lauren Lynch
Feb 08, 2014 Lauren Lynch rated it it was amazing
I think anyone would be entertained by this book, but writers will find it especially amusing!
Jessica
Jan 16, 2016 Jessica rated it it was amazing
The struggles of being an author are captured here succinctly and with warmth and humor.
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Born in Chicago, Gorey came from a colorful family; his parents, Helen Dunham Garvey and Edward Lee Gorey, divorced in 1936 when he was 11, then remarried in 1952 when he was 27. One of his step-mothers was Corinna Mura, a cabaret singer who had a brief role in the classic film Casablanca. His father was briefly a journalist. Gorey's maternal great-grandmother, Helen St. John Garvey, was a popular ...more
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“On November 18 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.” 14 likes
“Mr. Earbrass has rashly been skimming through the early chapters, which he had not looked at for months, and 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. Mad. Why did n't he become a spy? How does one become one? He will burn the MS. Why is there no fire? Why are n't there the makings of one? How did he get in the unused room on the third floor?” 4 likes
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