Three Ladies Beside the Sea
Three Ladies Beside the Sea
New York Review of Books, Hardcover, 9781590173541, 40pp.
Publication Date: July 13, 2010
The place is remote:
Three houses beside the sea.
The Characters are Few:
Laughing Edith of Ecstasy,
Edith so happy and gay.
Smiling Catherine of Compromise,
She smiles her life away.
And then there is Alice of Hazard,
A dangerous life leads she.
The question in the plot is quite simple:
Why is Alice up in a tree?
The answer can be discovered:
Edith and Catherine do.
Edward Gorey (1925 2000) was born in Chicago. He studied briefly at the Art Institute of Chicago, spent three years in the army testing poison gas, and attended Harvard College, where he majored in French literature and roomed with the poet Frank O Hara. In 1953 Gorey published "The Unstrung Harp," the first of his many extraordinary books, which include "The Curious Sofa," "The Haunted Tea-Cosy," and "The Epiplectic Bicycle."
In addition to illustrating his own books, Edward Gorey provided drawings to countless books for both children and adults. Of these, New York Review Books has published "The Haunted Looking Glass," a collection of Gothic tales that he selected and illustrated; "The War of the Worlds" by H. G. Wells; "Men and Gods," a retelling of ancient Greek myths by Rex Warner; in collaboration with Rhoda Levine, "Three Ladies Beside the Sea" and "He Was There from the Day We Moved In"; and "The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories," a collection of tales by Saki."
"A rhymed story of charming eccentricity, Rhoda Levine's Three Ladies Beside the Sea has a fable-like quality. Three friends — Edith of Ecstasy, Catherine of Compromise and Alice of Hazard — live in harmony, doing their chores, drinking tea and playing chamber music. (Once you've seen Edward Gorey's pictures of their elongated figures and their odd, tower-shaped cottages, it's impossible to imagine them otherwise.) Alice has a disturbing habit of climbing a tree — in all weather! — and gazing intently out at the sky. It's a compulsion, she explains when her friends confront her about it...Ah, then why does she do it? There's the question, to which Levine and Gorey's answer seems to be: One has to accept all kinds of mysteries in friends." --Los Angeles Times
"Ms. Levine's wry imagination and Mr. Gorey's powerfully epicene drawings (figure that one out) constitute a whole new country for a child to visit or for a lucky grandfather to act as tour guide. ...This is, of course, a must for the many Edward Gorey fans of all ages, and a chance to discover the fine poetry of Rhoda Levine. I read this one to my five year old grand-daughter because it is just long enough to be engaging and just short enough to be wiggle proof, and just wise enough to set a young imagination free as a bird." –Sherman Yellen, The Huffington Post
“Three Ladies by the Sea consists of more nonsense about the formal activities of the three ladies of nobility with the exception of Alice who insists upon in a tree where she seeks a bird she saw long ago.” —Charlotte Jackson, Los Angeles Times