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Oct 102011

The Strange Case of Edward GoreyThe Strange Case of Edward Gorey Alexander Theroux

I grew up reading and loving Edward Gorey. His are the kind of books you might glance at and assume they are for children, then look inside with horror to find bludgeonings, beheadings, and (intimations of) all sorts of interpersonal depravity, though generally taking place out of frame, behind pillars, etc… But not always.

He reminds me a little sometimes of Hilaire Belloc, the same sort of arch, dark humor in the context, sort of, of work for children – I say ‘sort of’ because in Gorey’s case I don’t think he really did intend his work for children, though children I think generally love it – their capacity for imaginary violence and depravity much higher than adults give them credit for I think. I love the sinisterness, the obsessively crosshatched black chasms, obscure and ominous shapes on the horizon, peculiar old carpets and tall, thin, ghostly Victorian figures.

Edward Gorey, B is for Basil

A few things you may not have known about Edward Gorey:

  • Mostly self-taught in art
  • Harvard man (roomed with Frank O’Hara!), studied French
  • Lover of cats
  • Writer of plays
  • Illustrator of book jackets (not his own)
  • Collector of various things including teddy bears and fridge magnets
  • Lover of television, especially old movies on television

A sampling of Gorey’s favorite words and phrases:

  • “spiffy”
  • “icky”
  • “bunty”
  • “twee”
  • “cunning as a bisset”
  • “I would rather be smothered in bunny fur”

The book is published by Fantagraphics who have quite an amazing catalogue. It is a slim volume chock-full of interesting Goreyana as above, written by his friend and neighbor Alexander Theroux. For longtime Gorey-lovers like me it is a real treat to find out that the man himself is more or less just as we would have pictured him had we had the imagination to do so.

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