Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Autumnal Genius Of John Bellairs

Grady Hendrix at writes about the nostalgia that this time of year brings to mind: burning autumn leaves on an overcast day, a static-filled radio station playing Brylcreem advertisements, a scratchy wool blanket ... it's the nostalgia of John Bellairs:

This is the flavor of occult nostalgia conjured up by author John Bellairs and his illustrator, Edward Gorey, in their middle grade gothic New Zebedee books featuring low-key poker-playing wizards, portents of the apocalypse, gloomy weather, and some of the most complicated names this side of the list of ingredients on a packet of Twinkies.

To a purist, there are really only three New Zebedee books that count: The House with a Clock in Its Walls (1973), The Figure in the Shadows (1975), and The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring (1976). After that, it would be 1993 before another New Zebedee book appeared, and this one would be authored by Brad Strickland based on an unfinished manuscript by Bellairs, who left behind two unfinished manuscripts and two one-page outlines that would become the next three New Zebedee books. Ultimately, the series would total twelve volumes, but the first is the one that captured lightning in a bottle and is, as far as I’m concerned, the only one that counts.

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