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The Unstrung Harp

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,350 Ratings  ·  109 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, 64 pages
Published 2000 by Bloomsbury (first published 1953)
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Calista
The more of Edward's books I read, the more I love the Gorey. This is from the 50s and it is so different. Thank heavens his work is still around.

This little book is about breathing life into an idea to make it become a story. It looks like a laborious process. There is much humor here. I simply love the fact that he keeps a list of titles and every 2 years on November 18th, he picks a title and begins to write the book. It's like clockwork. Thank you to all the artists who go through this.

The d
...more
❤Emm❤ - The Eternal Novelty
Writers. Our novels drive us so crazy.
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.

I have this feeling people who don't like to write might not understand this in the same way. Writing can be a stressful skill, but if you're born with the urge to write, it's impossible to ignore it! Unstrung Harp is a very true-to-life portrait of the demon that is writer's block, amongst other annoyances a writ
...more
Jim
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, re-read, 2016, 2017, 2018
"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
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
Jason
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
Have you ever wondered what an author goes through when creating a novel? The beginnings of an idea, creating characters which start to become more and more real, the insecurities, self doubt, beginnings of madness, figuring out how to end the book, the book taking over your dreams, rewrites, publishers, reviews, friends opinions and eventually trying to get away from it all. You really have to ask why they put themselves through it.

This is an interesting attempt to get all those feelings and ex
...more
Callie Rose Tyler
Oct 28, 2012 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
Gerry
Sep 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
The trials and tribulations of Mr Earbrass as he writes a new novel, 'The Unstrung Harp' (what use is that?!!), having already completed and had published three others including the unusually titled 'A Moral Dustbin'. He eventually has his new novel 'done up in pink butcher's paper' for delivery to his publisher as he goes perplexingly on his way.
Sharon Lee
Sep 27, 2009 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.
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.
Jesse
Oct 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: him, us
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.
Ksenia Anske
Oct 18, 2015 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.
Zedsdead
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who love words.
Edward Gorey writes a book about a man writing a book.

In high school I wrote a sonnet about writing a sonnet. Great minds, etc.
Kthxbai!
May 27, 2010 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
aconeyisland
Nov 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: matita, copertina
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
Mary Bird
Mar 04, 2016 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...
Nate D
Dec 08, 2010 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.
Eddie Watkins
Aug 15, 2008 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.
Shan (Secondhand Shan)
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Wonderful art and a fantastically short and darkly funny story about the tortured life of a writer. Really loved this one.
Kellie Ewilson
Dec 31, 2017 rated it liked it
J. K. Simmons looks like Mr. Earbrass. I liked the ending.
Rhys Livingstone
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Edward Gorey's loveliest quality was that he explored ideas without slapping a Capital 'M' Message on them like a big fat rubber stamp. His world-- one of atmosphere, humor, contrast, and wordplay-- was designed to stay with you and be visited multiple times. Gorey's works, short as they are, have serious mileage.

Unfortunately they can suffer without context, which brings us to The Unstrung Harp. This begins as a self-deprecating roast of writers, with attendant mockery of their quirks, foibles
...more
Christopher
Jul 24, 2007 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
Amanda - Go Book Yourself
May 12, 2013 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
Max
Sep 05, 2013 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
Sally
Oct 21, 2014 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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 20th-century, gothic
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
Thabata
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, favorites
In “The Unstrung Harp” Gorey leads us through the process of writing a book. In a very peculiar fashion, this is a breath of fresh air in its uptake on creativity and the process. It is dealt with intimacy, as it gives the reader permission to explore the quotidian of a writer. The long hours, the pacing around, the dullness, fatigue, the creative torture – it is all very present. Extremely relatable and human, the main character, Mr. Earbass, is as strange as he is a mirror of many. A book wort ...more
Louise
Sep 30, 2015 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
Sarah
Nov 13, 2007 rated it liked it
I read this tiny book twice during my lunch break. Not a big time commitment. The first time I was not getting it... so many absurd names and references to the characters and story of the novel the Mr. Earbrass is writing. But then I read it a second time, pausing to look at the illustrations, and it became the story of the creator struggling through the process of creating. Loving it, hating it, having it haunt you, exposing it to other's opinions.

Although it's not something I will likely re-re
...more
Ashley
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Mr Earbrass belongs to the straying, rather than to the sedentary, type of author. He s never to be found at his desk unless actually writing down a sentence. Before this happens he broods over it indefinitely while picking up and putting down again small, loose objects; walking diagonally across rooms; staring out windows; and so forth. He frequently hums, more in his mind than anywhere else, themes from the Poddington Te Deum."
Laura Roberts
Dec 26, 2015 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...
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1,458 followers
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.” 16 likes
“Mr Earbrass was virtually asleep when several lines of verse passed through his mind and left it hopelessly awake. Here was the perfect epigraph for TUH:

A horrid ?monster has been [something] delay'd
By your/their indiff'rence in the dank brown shade
Below the garden...

His mind's eye sees them quoted on the bottom third of a right-hand page in a (possibly) olive-bound book he read at least five years ago. When he does find them, it will be a great nuisance if no clue is given to their authorship.”
6 likes
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