My first child was born this January, and I couldn't be happier. Nonetheless, I have to admit that there are times when I regard my fatherhood with dread. I worry that I will be inadequate, that my son will be inadequate, and worst of all, that my inadequacies will cause my son to grow up into a beast. Combine these fears with the secret suspicion that my son will destroy all the freedom I once had, replacing it with never ending tantrums, vomits, belches, diaper changes (come on and admit it -- if you've ever even come close to having a baby you've had these fears), and you'll understand the psychological anxiety that makes a book such as The Beastly Baby so darkly appealing.
Leave it to the late Edward Gorey to make an infant, the symbol for all that is innocent and pure, into a character that the reader loves to hate. The beastly baby really is wicked to the core, performing such diabolical acts as the decapitation of a house cat. Gorey's distinctive pen and ink illustrations are accompanied by dark yet enchanting words, pulling the reader along from sympathy for the poor child to the fervent desire to have it done away with. Gorey pulls no punches, and such satisfaction is guaranteed.
The Beastly Baby isn't really a cruel story, but it is a dark one. As in most of Gorey's works, the reader is entertained by the simultaneous sensations of attraction and repulsion. It takes a certain kind of reader to appreciate his wit. If you're the type who agrees that Hollywood violence is to blame for our nation's moral decay, go turn on the Disney Channel and don't waste your time with this book. You'll just get outraged and turn out like Tipper Gore.
For readers who take glee in temporarily turning off their sense of indignation, The Beastly Baby is a sure hit. No one has ever done a better job at exploring the weird secret desires of the human mind than Edward Gorey and this book is one of the most deliciously extreme of his explorations.