Encyclopedia Gothica

Goth goodies

ENCYCLOPEDIA GOTHICA by Liisa Ladouceur, illustrated by Gary Pullin (ECW), 330 pages, $22.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN

Asking “What is goth?” is not unlike asking “What is teenager?” In both cases there are many variations on the theme. But that doesn’t stop Liisa Ladouceur from delivering a comprehensive collection of (almost) all things goth and a wickedly funny portrait of this community in black.

In her introduction to Encyclopedia Gothica, Ladouceur notes that the annoying but frequently posed question “What is goth?” is nearly impossible to answer. The goth community ranges from puffy-sleeved romantics to bondage punks.

Encyclopedia Gothica is a collection over 550 words, phrases and names – things self-professed goths have defined as goth(ic). This encompasses music (Cocteau Twins to Skinny Puppy), fashion (Doc Martens to Hot Topic), television (Addams Family to True Blood) and literature (Poppy Z. Brite to Anne Rice).

The list is well researched, with room left for subsequent editions and debate – like why is Morrissey not included here? Many of the entries include cross-references, making for an interesting read if you hop from one connection to the other rather than reading straight through from A to Z.

Encyclopedia Gothica manages to be seriously smart without taking itself too seriously (see emo). This book is evidence that, when it comes to goth humour, goths get the joke. We know our dance moves (see gothic two-step, Kicking the Smurf) are ridiculous. That’s part of the joy of goth.

Gary Pullin’s illustrations, especially his portraits of bands and other goth celebrities, are a fabulous addition.

If you’re the sort who gives out gifts on Hallow’s Eve, Encyclopedia Gothica is ideal for babybats and elder goths who’ll appreciate the wealth of reminders of the experiences that make up goth life.

Write Books at susanc@nowtoronto.com

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