Book Review: ‘Encyclopedia Gothica’ – Liisa Ladouceur

By on 3 January 2012

Over the years many have tried to define goth and what it means to be part of this dark subculture. Music historians, sociologists, psychologists, both inside and outside the genre, have all investigated the music, style and habits of goths but Liisa Ladouceur has taken a different approach. Her ‘Encyclopedia Gothica’ details over 550 words, phrases and pillars of gothic life with a dark and humourous spin that only an insider could give.

After a short introduction detailing her gothic credentials and reasons for compiling the encyclopedia¬† the alphabetised list of Gothdom begins (including ‘Gothdom’). The usual suspects are all there including pivotal bands The Sisters, The Cure and The Birthday Party and iconic figures¬† like Astbury, Hussey and Bram Stoker. Fictional characters beloved by goths are also given listings – Jack skellington, Lydia Deetz and Wednesday Addams -as well as fashion labels and essential items of clothing but the most entertaining entries are the ones dealing with gothic slang. Even though Ladouceur is from Canada the terms are universal and often hilarious. Dominion also gets a mention – “Essential reading to keep up with the European kids”.

PERKY GOTH. A goth who smiles. No, seriously…Prone to bouncing.

EMO. Not goth.

UBERGOTH. Most definitely, excessively, exquisitely Goth…or someone who goes out dressed to the nines in full-on transmuters, pvc and whiteface to get bread from the corner store.

At the end of the book there are thirteen (of course) places you must visit as a goth before you die and a comprehensive ‘Goth Band Tree’, a musical family tree of bands that exemplify each sub-genre of goth. Ladouceur, however, is well aware of how goths like to argue about what is and what isn’t goth and admits that her book cannot possibly hope to include everything – she invites anyone to submit more entries, ammendments or criticisms.

The book, beautifully illustrated by horror artist Gary Pullin, is designed to be dipped into rather than read from cover to cover but after reading a few entries, especially ones that reference further items in the book, it becomes very difficult to put down. It is also hard to resist reading particularly funny descriptions out loud to anyone in the vicinity, whether they want to hear or not, and some how there is also something quite satisfying about having Liisa cite terms that you recognise and use, as though your membership to a certain shadowy club is being confirmed.

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About Miranda Yardley

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