February 22nd was Edward Gorey’s birthday. Of course, he is D for Dead. No matter; we still have his drawings and weird stories. All week, we’ll have Gorey posts in anticipation of a nice, little party that celebrates the man who brought us poor Xerxes and cloven Kate (whom we miss): yes, the Edwardian Ball.
Courtesy of our own Clay Soot, who brought us a nice interview with Gregory the Curator, comes this confession of obsession.
Like most of his younger fans, I entered into the kingdom of Edward Gorey through the animated title sequence for the PBS series MYSTERY! The aforementioned title sequence features a cornucopia of crosshatched characters, resplendent in vaguely Victorian garb, initiating intrepid investigations, grieving in graveyards and then fainting in fright. As I child, I found Gorey’s ethereal animation enchanting and this experience seemed to set the pace for the rest of my young life as a connoisseur of creepy (or as Lydia Deetz gravely put it, “the strange + unusual”) .
It had to have been ten years later, as a teenager outcast, that I first came upon a battered paperback copy of AMPHIGOREY circa 1972 and fell into a breathless infatuation with Gorey’s art + prose. I began my collecting of Gorey soon after. Highlights of my current collection include a first edition of AMPHIGOREY, a first edition of The Gashlycrumb Tinies and an elegant copy of T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (signed by Edward Gorey on a MYSTERY! bookplate) as well as piles and shelves of other various Goreyana. I am always on the hunt for more, in particular the Gorey illustrated classics from his days as the first graphic designer for Doubleday in the 1950’s. These Doubleday Anchor titles are surprisingly accessible and usually under $10 (but don’t come to my bookstore looking for them as I hoard them greedily). However, if you are interested in exploring the “mildly unsettling” world of Edward Gorey I present to you…
EDWARD GOREY: A REPELLENT READING LIST
1. AMPHIGOREY: The best place to start is always at the beginning. Amphigorey is a collection of fifteen of Gorey’s earliest works (some of which are extremely hard to find individually). Some of his most popular and widely known books are included in this collection, including his iconic alphabet The Gashlycrumb Tinies, the strange and humourous The Doubtful Guest, and two of my favorites, the poetic The Listing Attic and abstract The Object Lesson.
2. AMPHIGOREY TOO: The second collection of Gorey’s books, this one is also tremendous in a disquieting way and includes the elegantly illustrated fable of the ballerina known as The Gilded Bat, a verdant tale of terror on a sunny afternoon in The Evil Garden, a tale of three deplorable cousins in The Deranged Cousins and the bleakly beautiful The Iron Tonic, which written in iambic pentameter includes the ominous intro “The people at the grey hotel, Are either aged or unwell. The guests who chose to stay aloof, Lie wrapped in carpets on the roof”.
3. ELEGANT ENIGMAS: The Art of EDWARD GOREY by Karen Wilkin. An accessible overview of the works of Gorey, written by critic and art historian Karen Wilkin. This inviting volume includes hundreds of reproductions of his art as well as sketches, costume + set designs, doodles + musings.
4. The Strange Case of Edward Gorey by Alexander Theroux. A charming character study of Edward (known to his friends as Ted) written by his neighbor Alexander Theroux, who at times seems to annoy Gorey to no end with his visits, and at other times amuses him with clever conversation.
5. ASCENDING PECULIARITY : EDWARD GOREY ON EDWARD GOREY. A charming collection of Edward Gorey interviews in which he discusses everything from his collection of cats to his immense range of influences. A compelling read which, along with The Strange Case of Edward Gorey (see above) paints an impressive portrait of the distinctly unique and charismatic artist.
6. Edward Gorey: His Book Cover Art and Design (essay by Steven Heller). Published last year, this is one of the newer books on the art of Edward Gorey. An attractive hardcover which focuses more on the graphic design and commercial aspect of Gorey’s artwork and specifically the covers he created for other authors at Doubleday, Grosset + Dunlap and Random House. Gorey’s terrific talent is unveiled in his use of typography, layout and logo design making this a great addition to any Gorey fan (or graphic designer’s) library.
7. Elephant House: Or, the Home of Edward Gorey by Kevin McDermott. A photographic tribute and intimate portrait of the life of Edward Gorey using black and white photographs of his home in Cape Cod taken only a week after his death. There are so many haunting photographs in this collection that evoke a sense of voyeurism and mystery.
Clay Soot is an anagram of Lacy Soto who is the Art + Rare Annex Manager of The Last Bookstore + who implores you visit the bookstore and sell her your collectible Edward Gorey books.