Edward Gorey: An Author Who Went for a Walk

« Painstaking drawings with an eloquent orchestration of hatchings and tickings, marvelous details of period and setting, a narrative that leapfrogs from the precise to the unexplained, a tone of vague delights in both visual and linguistic oddities. » — ‘Mr. Earbrass Jots Down a Few Visual Notes: The World of Edward Gorey’ by Karen Wilkin (1994)

So very much has already been written and said, in all media, about Edward St. John Gorey (February 22, 1925 – April 15, 2000) that there seems little of substance to add. As his work’s ultimate appeal rests in its enduring, expertly wrought sense of mystery, it should be in the Master’s spirit to show rather than tell. Consequently, here’s a gallery of favourite extracts from Gorey’s voluminous œuvre. I’ve omitted both my personal pick, The Willowdale Handcar or  The Return of the Black Doll (1962) and the too-obvious-by-half The Ghashlycrumb Tinies or After the Outing (1963), the former because I’m planning to examine it more leisurely in the future, while the latter… still manages to squeak in, after a fashion. See our bonus at the end.

The Doubtful Guest (1958).
The Hapless Child (1961).
The Wuggly Ump (1963).
The Osbick Bird (1970).
The Disrespectful Summons (1971).
The Glorious Nosebleed (1975).
The Broken Spoke (1976).
The Broken Spoke (1976).
The Loathsome Couple (1977).
The author and his creature in New York City, 1958.
Bonus bits: An entry from The Ghashlycrumb TiniesN is for Neville, who died of ennui ») turned up, of all places, in Byron Preiss‘ splendid The Beach Boys (1979), which chronicled the band’s history up to that point through reams of quotations and illustrations, matching a gazillion visuals artists with a favourite BB tune. Gorey’s entry (reprinted and détournée with the author’s consent) was the setup for a dyptich. It provides a visual for Busy Doin’ Nothing (1968) one of Brian Wilson‘s finest compositions from his years in the wilderness; well before Seinfeld, it’s a song about nothing, set to a lilting bossa beat. Hey, get the mug!
I generally have little use for Walt Simonson‘s work, which I find overly-mannered and illegible, but I give him full marks here for wit, creativity and musical discernment. His contribution to Byron Preiss’ book focused on Brian Wilson’s bucolic I Went to Sleep (also 1968), a companion to Busy Doin’ Nothing and a fascinating miniature that gives a sense of Brian’s eventual creative direction had he not been forced to stick with the tried-and-true, official Beach Boys sound to this day. Simonson does a very effective Gorey pastiche, don’t you think?

« You know, the kids had quarrelled, so they’re taken off to see a corpse, which is decayed and completely hanging. It was parody. » — Gorey, interviewed by Clifford Ross (1994)

Oh, and if you should find yourself in the vicinity of in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, do drop by the Edward Gorey House!


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