« It’s well we cannot hear the screams we make in other people’s dreams. » — Edward Gorey
It was inevitable that the eminent Edward St. John Gorey (1925 – 2000) would grace my Hallowe’en countdown… but surely I deserve credit for holding out until midway through the third edition. Instead of the excellent but overexposed The Gashlycrumb Tinies, here’s an excerpt from what is, to my mind, his most ominous tale, The Willowdale Handcar or The Return of the Black Doll (1962), « In which three Pilgrims find mystery abort peril and partake of religious community. And the discerning Reader discovers Meaning in their Progress. » Last February, when I noted Mr. Gorey’s birthday (see that post here), I pledged to return to this specific work, and I wasn’t speaking with a forked tongue… at least not that time.
Gorey’s work largely remains open to interpretation, whether it’s stating something of import or just being coy. Still, not wishing to deprive anyone of the thrill of discovery, I’ve excluded the tale’s beautiful concluding panel. The entire story (I’ve provided seven of its thirty illustrations, not counting the cover) is available separately or as part of the classic 1972 collection Amphigorey (in the company of fourteen of his other works).
In closing, a quote from the man that sums up the essence and appeal of this « at once deeply vexing and utterly hilarious, darkly mysterious and amusingly absurd* » yarn:
« All the things you can talk about in anyone’s work are the things that are least important…. You can describe all the externals of a performance – everything, in fact, but what really constitutes its core. Explaining something makes it go away, so to speak; what’s important is what’s left over after you’ve explained everything else. »
And if you should find yourself in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, don’t pass up the chance to visit Gorey’s house! http://www.edwardgoreyhouse.org/
*sez his publisher, accurately.