Dorothy, a publishing project

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BARBARA COMYNS was born in England in 1909 and raised in a Warwickshire country house. She and her siblings were largely in the care of governesses, and allowed to run wild. She began writing, and illustrating her work, when she was a girl. In her teens she attended art school in London. She then married a painter and had two children. To support her family, she dealt in antiques and vintage cars, renovated apartments, and bred poodles. She later lived in Spain for eighteen years. In addition to writing, she was an accomplished painter, and exhibited with the London Group. She died in 1992 leaving two children, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and eleven books.

PAGES: 216
FORMAT: paperback
ISBN: 978-0-9844693-1-4
PUBLISHED: November 2010


Barbara Comyns

“. . . re-printed beautifully by a new small press called Dorothy Project. Barbara Comyns’ novel is deranged in ways that shouldn’t be disclosed.” ben marcus, the millions

For reviews and coverage, please see our news page or follow Dorothy on Facebook.

This is the story of the Willoweed family and the English village in which they live. It begins mid-flood, ducks swimming in the drawing-room windows, “quacking their approval” as they sail around the room. “What about my rose beds?” demands Grandmother Willoweed. Her son shouts down her ear-trumpet that the garden is submerged, dead animals everywhere, she will be lucky to get a bunch. Then the miller drowns himself . . . then the butcher slits his throat . . . and a series of gruesome deaths plagues the villagers. The newspaper asks, “Who will be smitten by this fatal madness next?” Through it all, Comyns’s unique voice weaves a text as wonderful as it is horrible, as beautiful as it is cruel. Originally published in England in 1954, this “overlooked small masterpiece” is a twisted, tragicomic gem.

Read Brian Evenson’s Introduction here.

“Comyns is one of those writers you can barely believe ever goes out of print. Her books are so funny, so exact, so twisted, you imagine their appeal would last for generations. Luckily for us, Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead, originally published in 1954, has been rescued by the new publishing project Dorothy.” jessa crispin,

“The strange off-beat talent of Miss Comyns and that innocent eye which observes with childlike simplicity the most fantastic or the most ominous occurrence.” graham greene

“[Comyns] stands with one foot in the plain-spoken world of early 20th-century England, and another in a realm of cracked-mirror fairy tales.” david auerbach, the quarterly conversation

COVER ART: commissioned from Yelena Bryksenkova

Yelena Bryksenkova was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia and migrated to the Great Lakes eight years later. Her favorites include world exploration, fancy urns, books, elephants, folklore, elaborate textiles, Japanese visual culture, Russian ballet, Napoleon Bonaparte, silent cinema, and mysterious circumstances. In 2010, Yelena earned her BFA in illustration from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She lives in Baltimore.