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The Willowdale Handcar: 04/12/08
I can't remember if my introduction to Edward Gorey's gothic humor was his animated opening to Mystery! or his illustrations in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot (one of my cherished books of poetry). Anyway, I love his books and his art.
The back of the book describes The Willowdale Handcar or the Return of the Black Doll thusly:
Who are the pilgrims and where are they going? The first part is easy; they are Edna, Harry and Sam. They are going wherever the Willowdale handcar will take them. The mystery comes in the form of a number of characters they meet along the way including Nellie Flim who apparently is missing.
Who then is Nellie Flim from Miss Underfoot's Seminary? She's the mystery and the pilgrims Edna, Harry and Sam keep on her trail throughout the short book.
The peril then comes in the form of a number of misadventures and misfortunes: falling rocks, unexplained explosions, crashing cars and bad weather.
The religious community comes in many forms: Sam's experience at the seminary, the abandoned cemetery and the Halfbath Methodist Church. None of these places are enough of a draw to stop the pilgrims' progress.
So what is the meaning of their progress? I think an entire essay could be written on deciphering this cryptic little book: it's place names, it's character names and the artwork itself probably all mean something. I think on the surface it's a story about the journey, not the destination. Beyond that, I don't know except that I have enjoyed reading and rereading it.
Sounds very cool. I will have to find my Old Possums Book of Pratical Cats and look for illustrations. "
When it was first published in 1940 it had illustrations by Nicolas Bentley. The 1982 and 2001 reprints have the Edward Gorey illustrations. "