Thursday, February 11, 2010

FFB: The Strange Case of Edward Gorey...

FFB: The Strange Case of Edward Gorey by Alexander Theroux
I recall my mother watching the PBS series Mystery! when I was young, and liking the title sequence more than the shows. It was only later in the '90s, when I was in the throes of my Horror Punk years, that I really started to explore the world of Edward Gorey and see the influence that he had on many of the things that I held dear. His morbid, dark, and sketchy cartoons seemed to be remnants of a past era, and built a world and body of work that was in many ways a dark American version of the great P.G. Wodehouse.

A reclusive and cult figure, it was only after his passing in 2000 (and isn't it fitting that a man who was so stuck in the 1900s would only live only to see the turn of the century) that this slim 68 pages biographical volume was issued. It's a quick read that includes examples of Gorey's work, and some insight to his world. Writer Alexander Theroux was not only a fan of Gorey, but a friend and neighbor, giving him an authority on the subject that many biographers don't have.

Alas my Horror Punk years are behind me, and slowly as I have drifted around my book collection has drifted away, however this little biography has stayed.

Thoughts, Comments?


Todd Mason said...

Do you mean that he was stuck in the 19th Century?

I caught the Gorey bug early, since Henry Mazzeo's anthology HAUNTINGS was a major milestone in my youth and it was extremely well-illustrated by Gorey...but it took me years to discover AMPHIGOREY and his own sort of sequential art/text work. That Kirby McCauley had the good sense to commission "The Stupid Joke" for his original anthology DARK FORCES was a welcome reintroduction for me. New York Review of Books Press has an edition out of Gorey's own anthology of horror chestnuts, oddly enough also well illustrated by Gorey...a good way to initiate the youth of a certain literary stripe...though AMPHIGOREY collections certainly work the same magic.

Anonymous said...

I discovered Gorey pretty early on too, and was able to recognize the artwork used on Mystery! first time out. It was AMPHIGOREY, AMPHIGOREY II and so on that really made me a devoted fan, and I have over a dozen, perhaps twice that Gorey books at this point. I thought I'd read a biography of Gorey, but it wasn't this, so now I'm not sure.

For me it's the deft use of line as well as the subject matter he presents that makes me return to the drawings over and over.

Evan Lewis said...

The comparison to Wodehouse is interesting and seems apt.

irenzero said...

Todd- I intended to say the early 1900s. There is some spill over of 19th century imagery, but I get more of a 1900-1930 America feel from his work.

Richard- You should take a look at the work of Richard Sala, I think he is the heir apparent to Gorey.

Evan- It wasn't until I was writing this that I really made the connection with Wodehouse-- but you are right the more I think about it the more I see the parallels. One almost has to wonder what a collaboration between the them would have looked like.

ArtSparker said...

What a beautiful book cover.It reminds me of a William Steig cartoon from the fifties of a little man in a box with the caption "People are no damn good", I imagine you can find it in google images. Gorey looks very magisterial. I do like the comparison with Wodehouse, which had never occurred to me. There have been two very good books released in the last few years, Elephant House, a tour of his house which has been preserved, and Ascending Peculiarity, a collection of essays.