Curiouser and curiouser…

The Curious Sofa: A Pornographic Work by Ogdred Weary
Book #29 of 2009
I took a break from reading In the Company of the Courtesan first, as I dropped by Mall of Asia after work to hit Book Sale, and get my stash of “carmel”-cheddar popcorn from the Chicago Popcorn Shops (yum!) with my sister.
So I got home around 10 and stretched out on the padded divan with The Curious Sofa. When I picked it up at Book Sale, I actually recognized Edward Gorey’s illustration style instantly, so it was a cinch to figure out that Ogdred Weary was a pseudonym, an anagram of his name.
To those who don’t recognize him, Edward Gorey is an artist/writer known for his macabre pen and ink illustrations and over a hundred books, the type that blur the line between adult books and children’s books.

The Curious Sofa
instantly caught my attention due to the subtitle (a pornographic work), so of course I had to buy it, haha, I thank my lucky book-scavenging stars that it was only P25 (Squee!).
The book is about a young woman named Alice, who meets the well-endowed Herbert in the park, and they hop from place to place and are joined by more and more “well-endowed” people, and they all do, erm, “naughty” things together.

“Naughty” is in quotation marks because Gorey leaves it to the reader’s imagination. The picture book is actually as just as pornographic as you think it is, because while it makes a lot of suggestions, it doesn’t actually contain anything overtly pornographic, and the characters could all be twiddling their thumbs or having wild wild sex, depending on how much fun you want to have with the book.

Curiously (pun intended), the book reminds me of one other book on my shelf — Audrey Niffenegger’s The Three Incestuous Sisters, which is about six times the size of this book. I got my copy at the National Book Store cut price sale, for P299.

The Three Incestuous Sisters is in full color, albeit a muted palette and sepia undertones, painstakingly created using watercolor and a technique called aquatint, where a pattern is scratched through a layer of wax on a zinc plate. The plate is then submerged in an acid bath. The acid erodes the zinc where the pattern is scratched and creates grooves for the ink to fall into to create a print. No wonder it took Niffenegger 14 years to finish the book! The paintings are haunting, and bizarrely beautiful at the same time.

Niffenegger (author of The Time Traveler’s Wife), calls it a novel in pictures. It tells a twisted story of three sisters who lived by the sea: Ophile, the smart one; Clothilde, the talented one; and the youngest, Bettine, the pretty one. When Ophile and Bettine fall in love with the same man, the storyline goes off on a surreal tangent, as tragedy after tragedy strikes, and the sisters’ relationship is never the same again.
Both books employ the noir style and surrealism, although The Curious Sofa was some three decades ahead, copyrighted in 1961. They differ in tone, though, as Gorey’s work is cheeky and humorous while Niffenegger’s is evocative, and deep-seated in emotion.
I lean more towards Gorey though, as I felt really drained after reading The Three Incestuous Sisters, as if I’d absorbed all the emotions flying around in the book. And also because I’m not a big fan of the surreal; there’s just a point where it becomes hokey to me.

My copies: The Curious Sofa, hardbound; The Three Incestuous Sisters, hardbound

My rating: The Curious Sofa, 5/5 stars; The Three Incestuous Sisters, 4/5 stars