Twenty Years, John Bellairs

Posted by: on Mar 8, 2011 | One Comment

a portrait of John BellairsTwenty years ago this very day, one of my favorite writers passed on to the great hereafter. Why John Bellairs isn’t more widely appreciated perplexes me, especially now that “young adult fantasy” novels are so much the rage. I always got the feeling Bellairs wrote himself into his books; he was Lewis Barnavelt, Johnny Dixon and Anthony Monday. Or maybe it’s just that I identified with his characters so much. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only person in the world who was chubby and shy and weird.

front cover of The House with a Clock in Its WallsI tracked down “The Face in the Frost”, his first novel, a few months ago. It’s for “adults”, but it has all the spookly-ookly charm of his better known books, which always have great titles, like “The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn” and “The Dark Secret of Weatherend”. And the stories always live up to the hype. A great place to start is his first real success, “The House with a Clock in Its Walls”. After reading it you’ll think “No one could be better than Lewis Barnavelt”, but Johnny Dixon and Anthony Monday will win you over, I promise.

The Mummy, the Will and the Crypt, illustration by Edward GoreyBellairs was also my introduction to the illustrations of Edward Gorey. Gorey and Bellairs are one of those perfect combinations, like thunder and lightning, or peanut butter and jelly. Gorey’s legend has only grown after his death, while Bellairs, for some reason, has faded a bit. It’s maddeningly hard to find editions of Bellairs’ books with Gorey’s illustrations; it’s hard to find Bellaris’ books at all. I love Gorey’s original books as much as anyone else, I just there were a wider appreciation of his Bellairs illustrations. If ever a publisher did a comprehensive edition of Bellairs’s writing with Gorey’s illustrations, I’d gladly buy ten copies of the complete set.

There’s a very loving Wikipedia entry on Bellairs, which led me to a wonderful Web site devoted to him, and a comprehensive entry on the morbid-in-the-best-way possible It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who loves John Bellairs so much. Rest in peace, John.

1 Comment

  1. Arvid's mother MOMBO
    March 12, 2011

    I love the information you are sharing! Thanks!

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