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From The Gashlycrumb Tinies to The Doubtful Guest, Edward Gorey's wickedly funny and deliciously sinister little books have influenced our culture in innumerable ways, from the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman to Lemony Snicket. Some even call him the Grandfather of Goth. But who was this man, who lived with over twenty thousand books and six cats, who roomed with Frank From The Gashlycrumb Tinies to The Doubtful Guest, Edward Gorey's wickedly funny and deliciously sinister little books have influenced our culture in innumerable ways, from the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman to Lemony Snicket. Some even call him the Grandfather of Goth. But who was this man, who lived with over twenty thousand books and six cats, who roomed with Frank O'Hara at Harvard, and was known--in the late 1940s, no less--to traipse around in full-length fur coats, clanking bracelets, and an Edwardian beard? An eccentric, a gregarious recluse, an enigmatic auteur of whimsically morbid masterpieces, yes but who was the real Edward Gorey behind the Oscar Wildean pose? He published over a hundred books and illustrated works by Samuel Beckett, T.S. Eliot, Edward Lear, John Updike, Charles Dickens, Hilaire Belloc, Muriel Spark, Bram Stoker, Gilbert & Sullivan, and others. At the same time, he was a deeply complicated and conflicted individual, a man whose art reflected his obsessions with the disquieting and the darkly hilarious. Based on newly uncovered correspondence and interviews with personalities as diverse as John Ashbery, Donald Hall, Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Anna Sui, Born to be Posthumous draws back the curtain on the eccentric genius and mysterious life of Edward Gorey.


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From The Gashlycrumb Tinies to The Doubtful Guest, Edward Gorey's wickedly funny and deliciously sinister little books have influenced our culture in innumerable ways, from the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman to Lemony Snicket. Some even call him the Grandfather of Goth. But who was this man, who lived with over twenty thousand books and six cats, who roomed with Frank From The Gashlycrumb Tinies to The Doubtful Guest, Edward Gorey's wickedly funny and deliciously sinister little books have influenced our culture in innumerable ways, from the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman to Lemony Snicket. Some even call him the Grandfather of Goth. But who was this man, who lived with over twenty thousand books and six cats, who roomed with Frank O'Hara at Harvard, and was known--in the late 1940s, no less--to traipse around in full-length fur coats, clanking bracelets, and an Edwardian beard? An eccentric, a gregarious recluse, an enigmatic auteur of whimsically morbid masterpieces, yes but who was the real Edward Gorey behind the Oscar Wildean pose? He published over a hundred books and illustrated works by Samuel Beckett, T.S. Eliot, Edward Lear, John Updike, Charles Dickens, Hilaire Belloc, Muriel Spark, Bram Stoker, Gilbert & Sullivan, and others. At the same time, he was a deeply complicated and conflicted individual, a man whose art reflected his obsessions with the disquieting and the darkly hilarious. Based on newly uncovered correspondence and interviews with personalities as diverse as John Ashbery, Donald Hall, Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Anna Sui, Born to be Posthumous draws back the curtain on the eccentric genius and mysterious life of Edward Gorey.

30 review for Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey

  1. 4 out of 5

    Miranda Reads

    3.5 stars But did anyone really know him? Did he even want to be known. Edward Gorey is famously infamous. Being nil, Gorey decided, was the safest policy. His work provided the scaffolding and inspiration for Neil Gaiman's Coraline, for Tim Burton's creeptacular movies, for Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and so much more. And yet, surprisingly little is known about him. He wrote many delightfully macabre books, which alternately impressed and horrified publishers. 3.5 stars But did anyone really know him? Did he even want to be known. Edward Gorey is famously infamous. Being nil, Gorey decided, was the safest policy. His work provided the scaffolding and inspiration for Neil Gaiman's Coraline, for Tim Burton's creeptacular movies, for Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and so much more. And yet, surprisingly little is known about him. He wrote many delightfully macabre books, which alternately impressed and horrified publishers. "There's so little heartless work around," said Gorey. "So I feel I am filling a small but necessary gap." His books could never fit into one category, which often resulted in his work being shuffled off to the side. Publishers were reluctant to market them to children, fearing their morbid subject matter and gleeful amorality were inappropriate... But Gorey never let that stop him - he quietly puttered around with his odd little books and while he has faded from pop culture, his immortal influence lives on. What a cool biography! (And you don't see me saying that very often!) I never knew much about Gorey but I was definitely aware of Gaiman, Snicket and Burton - so I had a lot of fun getting to know the man behind the murders. I love how Gorey kept making his horrendously amoral books solely because he felt like it. I now have this huge itch to pick up everything Gorey has ever written and just read it - cover to cover - especially his murderous ABC books. The book really emphasizes Gorey's commitment to his incredibly fine line art drawings - which have an etching-like feel - and I totally agree. I loved all of the illustrations that the author included. They were so intricate and detailed - truly amazing that those were hand-drawn. I honestly regretted that there were not more shown in this biography. Dery described the images so well that I kept wishing that he included more! I really appreciated how much time and effort the author spent researching this novel (the sources section alone took up nearly sixty pages!) but, and this is more of a personal preference, but this book felt too detailed. There were a few times where it really felt like we were circling back over and over to rehash the same topic. For example, one thing the author never tired of discussing was Gorey's sexuality. The author states several times that: Gorey's own preference, of course, was that he be seen not as a type - a gay artist or even an artist - but as an individual. And yet, every few chapters, we would spend pages analyzing minute crumbs of Gorey's sex life (or lack thereof): Everyone who encountered him assumed he was gay, yet he maintained, to his dying day, that he was a neutral. It just became a bit wearisome the fourth time we went around the whole was-Gorey-gay-or-asexual shtick... Overall - I really enjoyed my foray into Goreyland and I am absolutely excited to pick up a few of his novels! Life, in Goreyland, is a random walk, full of mystery and melancholy, punctuated by the unpredictable and inexplicable. All quotes are from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”Only now are art critics, scholars of children’s literature, historians of book-cover design and commercial illustration, and chroniclers of the gay experience in postwar America waking up to the fact that Gorey is a critically neglected genius. His consummately original vision--expressed in virtuosic illustrations and poetic texts but articulated with equal verve in book-jacket design, verse plays, puppet shows, and costumes and sets for ballets and Broadway productions--has earned him a place ”Only now are art critics, scholars of children’s literature, historians of book-cover design and commercial illustration, and chroniclers of the gay experience in postwar America waking up to the fact that Gorey is a critically neglected genius. His consummately original vision--expressed in virtuosic illustrations and poetic texts but articulated with equal verve in book-jacket design, verse plays, puppet shows, and costumes and sets for ballets and Broadway productions--has earned him a place in the history of American art and letters.” I first experienced Edward Gorey without even knowing I was in his world. The introduction to PBS’s long running series MYSTERY! was where I first brushed up against the uniqueness of Gorey’s imagination. I was in 8th grade. I can remember sitting there completely taken aback, unsure of what I’d just seen, but I knew I’d never seen anything like it before. Every week I watched the opening very carefully looking for anything that I missed the week before. It never occured to me to find out who the creator was of this wonderful opening or pursue other work by him. I wasn’t a fully developed researcher and collector of those things that pleased me...yet. So when Little, Brown contacted me to see if I was interested in reviewing a biography of Edward Gorey, I felt a whole host of emotions. A) Even though I had occasionally browsed his books, I had never really allowed myself to be seduced by his work. B) I’d been in a Victorian phase for many years now and still had never delved into the carefully cross-hatched Victorian figures that Gorey created. C) This book could be the impetus to encourage me to finally launch a full out investigation of all things Gorey. D) I was thrilled with the opportunity to maybe finally close a circle begun when I was 13 years old. Gorey was all that I hoped he would be. He was a voracious reader. He took a book with him everywhere so that any time he found himself waiting in line or stuck in a boring situation he could pull out his book and take himself elsewhere. He had over 21,000 books in his library at his death. He watched over 1,000 movies a year. Think that is impossible? Not if you don’t sleep. He was a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, cats, and, most of all, Balanchine's ballet performances. To list all the things he enjoyed would maybe be contained in a scroll ten feet long if one wrote them in small, spidery script. Gorey considered himself asexual. ”Thomas Garvey coins the useful term glass closet to describe ’that strange cultural zone’ inhabited by people in the public eye who ‘simultaneously operate as both gay and straight. Gorey kept perfectly mum about his true nature to the press; he only spoke about it in his art.’” I think that Gorey did not want to be pigeonholed as anything really. He was fussy about just being considered an artist when he really saw himself as a writer first. He was flamboyant in his appearance with wearing floor length fur coats year round and sporting rings on every finger. Supposedly, there was a lot of gay coding into his artwork for book covers that he designed for writers such as Herman Melville for Anchor Books. Looking at any form of art with an eye for overt or hidden symbols always makes me a bit nervous. Sometimes you find what you are looking for because that is what you want to find. That all said, every crush that Gorey had throughout his life was some form of unrequited love for a member of the same sex. I wonder when we will reach a time when we are not categorized by our sexual preferences. Gay musicians/artists/politicians, etc. are still pressured by interest groups to declare their sexual preference, but by doing so they are generally suddenly defined first by their sexual preference, and everything else they do almost becomes a footnote to that revelation. The melancholy deaths of Gorey’s children. His books were dominated by infanticides. They caused parents to be uneasy and made it hard for booksellers to categorize his work. The awkward size of his books was also difficult and forced many publisher’s to design counter displays for his books at the register. Kids, in general, I have found, love his books. The creative deaths of the children in his books could be scary, but we do like to be frightened, especially when Gorey leads us onward to an ending that leaves us smiling. He didn’t mind confusing us either. ”N is for Neville who died of ennui.” Or how about this one: ”Still later Gerald did a terrible thing to Elsie with a saucepan.” What terrible thing could anyone do to another person with a saucepan? The mind of the reader was forced to ponder and ponder some more. Usually, I ended up laughing at the scattershot directions that my mind went, trying to pluck the right thread that would lead me to where Gorey intended me to go. Or maybe he wanted the readers to lead himself to his own meaning. Clavius Frederick Earbrass One of my favorite stories of his was ”The Unstrung Harp”, which was about a writer named (C)lavius (F)rederick Earbrass. ”’The best novel ever written about a novelist,’ Graham Greene called it in all apparent seriousness.” The book covered all the hazards of a writer’s life: ”disappointing sales, inadequate publicity, worse than inadequate royalties, idiotic or criminal reviews, terrors of the deadline and the blank page.” The idea to have Gorey design the sets for the Broadway production of Dracula was simply a moment of brilliance. He threw himself completely into the project with “every leather-bound volume lovingly rendered of the books in Dr. Deward’s sanatorium library”. The bats, skeletons, death’s-head pansies, coffins, mummified corpses, Dracula’s watch chain strung with teeth, the drapes, and the exquisite wallpaper were all drawn with delicate care. This showed the world that Gorey was much more than just a cartoonist or “children’s” book author or really categorized any which way except that he was capable of showing exceptional talent in whatever medium he chose to express it. The show ran for 925 performances over three years and made Gorey a wealthy man. I was constantly, gleefully googling arcane references while reading this book. Gorey’s interests were wide and varied. By reading about his interests, I expanded my own passions, and really anyone who cares about the creative process should read this book. He was a Renaissance man, not only in talent but also in the way he found the world so fascinating. People might have been disappointing, but then he could always create more acceptable characters with the nib of pen. I will certainly be pursuing many more lines of inquiry inspired by this book. Mark Dery will take you on a journey into the development of a creative mind and introduce you to a man who figured out a way to live his life the way he wanted to. So few of us get that opportunity. My thanks to Little, Brown who supplied me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  3. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    So, are we just all gonna ignore the fact that Dery posthumously outed Gorey? Page 136: "If such articles are to be believed, then 'Gorey wasn't necessarily gay, even though he was a lifelong bachelor who dressed in necklaces and furs....he was just asexual, a kind of lovable eunich.'" Page 138: "Gorey kept perfectly mum about his true nature to the press; he only spoke about it in his art. And in a way, to be honest, the glass closet was appropriate to his artistic persona, which was neither her So, are we just all gonna ignore the fact that Dery posthumously outed Gorey? Page 136: "If such articles are to be believed, then 'Gorey wasn't necessarily gay, even though he was a lifelong bachelor who dressed in necklaces and furs....he was just asexual, a kind of lovable eunich.'" Page 138: "Gorey kept perfectly mum about his true nature to the press; he only spoke about it in his art. And in a way, to be honest, the glass closet was appropriate to his artistic persona, which was neither here nor there, but locked in a kind of alienated stasis." Page 139: "In New York, Gorey came closer to self-identifying as gay--IF ONLY IN HIS MIND AND TO A FEW CLOSE FRIENDS (emphasis mine)--than any other time in his life." Page 174: "Gorey, of course, would've let out a theatrical groan at the suggestion that he was some sort of agent provocateur for the incipient counter culture." (Oh, cool, Dery admits even Gorey wouldn't have been on board with all this.) Gorey himself has, fairly famously, publicly stated that he was generally sexless and asexual. From Ascending Peculiarity: "I'm neither one thing nor the other particularly. I am fortunate in that I am apparently reasonably undersexed or something ... I've never said that I was gay and I've never said that I wasn't ... what I'm trying to say is that I am a person before I am anything else ... " Yeah, yeah, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it might be a duck, but isn't that up to the maybe-duck to decide? Gorey might have been gay. Or not. Either way, it wouldn't have mattered, because it was up to him to decide how public he wanted to be with something as private as his sexuality. Dery very clearly overstepped a boundary. Dick move, man. You don't out another person, ever. Dery spends nearly the entire book pushing an agenda that purports Gorey is an underappreciated gay icon, which he might be...if he ever self-identified as gay. WHICH HE NEVER DID. First of all, asexual is a valid identity, and to steamroll over Gorey's declaration as such does a disservice and is incredibly disrespectful to those who also identify as asexual--an identity wholly misunderstood and underrepresented. Secondly, BIOGRAPHIES SHOULDN'T HAVE AGENDAS. Biographies are based in fact. A good biographer tells the story of a person's life, all based in truths. Wanna start espousing *theories* about a subject? Write a theoretical art history book. Write cultural criticism. You could literally take this exact book and just change the title to not imply this was a biography. But none of that happened. Dery took information, developed a loose theory his subject was conveniently too dead to refute, and ran with it. That is not a biography. This should never have been called a biography. And frankly, I couldn't get past the outing--I after the first hundred pages, I hate-read the rest of this book, because I love Edward Gorey so damn much, and you, Mark Dery, RUINED IT. Who cares if Gorey was gay?! For a writer like Gorey, his sexuality, or lack thereof if you follow his own comments rather than Dery's, is wholly irrelevant to the collected body of work. Honestly, based on his childhood and his comments about children, I'd say looking at his views on family in relation to his work would be way more interesting, and *relevant*. Gorey clearly wanted to keep his sexuality private, for whatever reason, and that was his prerogative. For someone who claims to admire Gorey as much as he does, Mark Dery sure was disrespectful of him. A book about a great subject does not make that book great. As much as I want to give this book one star, I can't. It's still well-written and well-researched, even if it completely disregards what a biography should be. The second star is also to maybe give Dery the benefit of the doubt and hope that maybe, just maybe, he wasn't the one who picked that title. His back-flap bio indicates he has a history of cultural criticism--which would make a Gorey-as-gay-icon treatise make a lot more sense. Just as photographers sometimes get blamed for retouching gaffes they didn't make (spoiler alert: most of the time, the magazines do their own retouching, and it has nothing to do with the photographer), maybe Dery is the victim of a bad title someone else picked? In any case, Dery outed Gorey, and that's inexcusable.

  4. 5 out of 5

    thefourthvine

    DNF. Dery spends a good chunk of the introduction (and as much of the book as I could bear to read) insisting that Gorey was gay, when his own statements on that matter were that he wasn’t much interested in sex and, when asked if he was gay, that he wasn’t one thing or the other. That seems pretty clear to me, but Dery goes the “ignoring everything he actually said in favor of tired stereotypes” route, insisting that Gorey was gay because everyone knew he was (uh, Gorey doesn’t seem to have?), DNF. Dery spends a good chunk of the introduction (and as much of the book as I could bear to read) insisting that Gorey was gay, when his own statements on that matter were that he wasn’t much interested in sex and, when asked if he was gay, that he wasn’t one thing or the other. That seems pretty clear to me, but Dery goes the “ignoring everything he actually said in favor of tired stereotypes” route, insisting that Gorey was gay because everyone knew he was (uh, Gorey doesn’t seem to have?), because he wore fancy coats and loved ballet and had “bitchy wit” (seriously). It’s infuriating. I honestly don’t know why Dery did this. He was really determined to interpret Gorey’s work through a queer theory lens, but he could as easily have done that while acknowledging that Gorery’s queerness was, apparently, asexuality. And it’s possible that he, as a queer writer himself, just wanted Gorey to be like him. Which, dude, I get it; I myself was pretty excited when I realized Gorey was queer. We’re always hoping our heroes will turn out to be like us. But — that doesn’t make it okay to overrule what Gorey himself said about his sexuality. It still just a gross, violating thing to do, to Gorey and to every asexual reader out there. The rest of the book wasn’t worth enough to outweigh the damage done in stereotyping and erasing Gorey himself. This one gets a yikes from me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Deryis a book I requested and the review is voluntary. I didn't even know who Edward Gorey was when I started this book, is that bad? Well I sure do now! I love how this book is written. It is full of character and is very colorful just like the subject! Each chapter heading is unique, and the interviews, the subjects, the content, and the personal details are totally remarkably! I started out knowing nothing Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Deryis a book I requested and the review is voluntary. I didn't even know who Edward Gorey was when I started this book, is that bad? Well I sure do now! I love how this book is written. It is full of character and is very colorful just like the subject! Each chapter heading is unique, and the interviews, the subjects, the content, and the personal details are totally remarkably! I started out knowing nothing about this man and ended up knowing more than I ever expected to! Brilliantly written about quite an interesting person. I thank Little, Brown and Company for letting me learn so much from this talented author!

  6. 4 out of 5

    HBalikov

    First, you must decide if you like the work of Edward Gorey Next, you must decide if you want to know more about him than what you can see in his art and illustrations Next, you must decide if you want to read almost 500 pages about him Next, you must decide if Mark Dery is a reliable person to provide that information to you Finally, you must decide if the price (list $35 US, $44.50 CAN) is worth it. (And I guess, you must decide if you want to read any further in this review.) This book is intended First, you must decide if you like the work of Edward Gorey Next, you must decide if you want to know more about him than what you can see in his art and illustrations Next, you must decide if you want to read almost 500 pages about him Next, you must decide if Mark Dery is a reliable person to provide that information to you Finally, you must decide if the price (list $35 US, $44.50 CAN) is worth it. (And I guess, you must decide if you want to read any further in this review.) This book is intended to “…get to the bottom of a man whose mind was intricate as Chinese boxes…” Dery vows to “…use the tools of psychobiography to make sense of Gorey’s relationships with his absent father and smothering mother and of the lifelong effects of growing up an only child with a prodigious intellect (as measured by the numerous IQ tests he endured). Gay history, queer theory, and critical analyses of Wildean aestheticism and the sensibility of camp will be indispensable, too, in unraveling his tangled feelings about his sexuality, his stance vis-à-vis gay culture, and the “queerness” (or not) of his work. A familiarity with the ideas underpinning surrealism will help us unpack his art, and a close study of nonsense (as a literary genre) will shed light on his writing. An understanding of Balanchine, Borges, and Beckett will come in handy, as will an appreciation of Asian art and philosophy (especially Taoism), the visual eloquence of silent film, the mind-set of the Anglophile, and the psychology of the obsessive collector (not just of objects but of ideas and images, too).” Gorey lists George Balanchine as “…the great, important figure in my life…sort of like God.” Though, Gorey worked with Balanchine, the best that Dery can suggest of a relationship between the work of these men is that “Gorey’s characters often strike balletic poses and tend to stand with their feet turned out in ballet positions.” Yet, he goes on to note: “…his carefully staged tableaux seem about as dynamic as daguerreotypes next to the action-packed drawings of illustrators like Ralph Steadman and cartoonists like Jack Kirby, whose characters explode out of the picture plane.” I loved the chapter on Masterpiece Mystery and Gorey’s contributions…but much of the book was a lot of work, and speculation. I appreciated this Dery insight: “…his clarity and concision---the witty brevity of his writing, the economy of his line, his eloquent use of negative space, his beautifully balanced compositions---harmonize with the Balanchine aesthetic.” With this I would agree but I had consumed over three hundred pages of less than sparkling prose before finding this acorn.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John

    I'm less than thrilled with the idea of readers receiving a book from a publisher in exchange for a review. I'm unsure why that is permitted at all, but at least it is noted when it occurs. I found this book neither good nor bad. Does it capture Gorey's unique genius? No. Does it focus too much on his sexuality? Yes. Meh. Stick to Gorey himself. I'm less than thrilled with the idea of readers receiving a book from a publisher in exchange for a review. I'm unsure why that is permitted at all, but at least it is noted when it occurs. I found this book neither good nor bad. Does it capture Gorey's unique genius? No. Does it focus too much on his sexuality? Yes. Meh. Stick to Gorey himself.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jason Das

    Sigh ... what a squandered opportunity. Well-researched, dully conceived, poorly written. I learned a lot about Edward Gorey (for which I am quite grateful) and I experienced a lot of how limited and tiresome Mark Dery is (for which I am quite annoyed). An abridged version of this book (just the history and contemporaneous criticism, please!) would be a joy. Instead it’s a slog, mired in Dery’s overbearing neediness to act as the readers’ guide, interpreter, and self-conciously witty friend. On t Sigh ... what a squandered opportunity. Well-researched, dully conceived, poorly written. I learned a lot about Edward Gorey (for which I am quite grateful) and I experienced a lot of how limited and tiresome Mark Dery is (for which I am quite annoyed). An abridged version of this book (just the history and contemporaneous criticism, please!) would be a joy. Instead it’s a slog, mired in Dery’s overbearing neediness to act as the readers’ guide, interpreter, and self-conciously witty friend. On top of that, Dery is driven to categorize, define, look for hidden meaning, connect dots, Freudian-analyze, speak authoratively about specialized topics he doesn’t really understand, etc. (and show off his legwork for all of the above). If only he’d just get out of the way of the story—it’s a consistantly interesting one. I like that images are distributed where they ought to occur in the text (rather than clumped in glossy inserts) but there should be many, many more. Time and again, Dery will spend a paragraph describing an illustration or object in superficial detail when we would be much better off just seeing the thing. (I’m sure the rights are expensive, but so is gumming up the book with all these extra words; maybe just tell us where to find the pictures in other books.) That said, I did appreciate the descriptions of things we can’t see as easily, such as theatrical works. For all the minutiae in some areas, I miss it in others. Who paid for his theater company? How did he travel between NYC and Cape Cod? Why did Gorey think Philadelphia was closer to Pittsburgh than to NYC? Who took care of his cats in New York when he went to Cape Cod? Where did his cats come from? What were their names? Did he take them to the vet? (We do get a tiny bit of info about his cats, mostly those who survived him, but info on them seems like the most obvious hole in the book; they seem to have been much more important to Gorey than they are to Dery.) Some of the endnotes are good and important (on such topics as David Bowie, the whiteness of Gorey’s world and art, the origin of the Black Doll), so take some time to scan for the long ones. I recommend Joan Acocella’s review in The New Yorker and Robert Gottlieb’s review in the New York Times Book Review, both of which I read in the middle of slogging through this book. They are both enjoyable reads featuring valuable infomation and insight about both Gorey’s greatness and this book’s shortcomings.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jim Coughenour

    I first stumbled on Amphigorey in the summer of 1980 in a bookstore off Harvard Square – the moment of that discovery is cross-hatched in memory. (Up to that collection, according to Mark Dery, Gorey had been known only to the lucky few, particularly patrons of the Gotham Book Mart.) Later in the 1980s, at Booksellers Row in Chicago, I found 20 or more of the actual oblong books, seemingly moments after some ex-collector had dropped them off – and on Goreyesque winter evenings I lost myself amon I first stumbled on Amphigorey in the summer of 1980 in a bookstore off Harvard Square – the moment of that discovery is cross-hatched in memory. (Up to that collection, according to Mark Dery, Gorey had been known only to the lucky few, particularly patrons of the Gotham Book Mart.) Later in the 1980s, at Booksellers Row in Chicago, I found 20 or more of the actual oblong books, seemingly moments after some ex-collector had dropped them off – and on Goreyesque winter evenings I lost myself among their pages. I can still recite some inspired passages by heart, which is nothing unusual among enthusiasts. Mark Dery has done an exhausting job documenting the solitary cartoonish man behind the books. He's also taken something of a beating, in the reviews I've read – especially the one by Robert Gottleib – for making too much of the non-mystery of Gorey's sexuality. (Was there ever any doubt?) Hardly the most interesting thing about him (especially as he seems to have had almost no sex with anyone), but in the way of things his work would not have been what it was without it. Let's just say that when I first read The Gashlycrumb Tinies there wasn't any doubt in my mind that the wicked dark humor behind it was gay at its core – and that knowledge isn't something easy to explain. Set that sterile debate aside. Dery's book is a gift to those of us who love Edward Gorey's work, who still marvel at his weird intelligence and splintered humor every time we look at it. Dery leads us through the work book by book, into the opacity of Gorey's eccentric and artful life. Many nights, reading it before sleep, I found myself laughing out loud at an aperçu Dery had rescued from oblivion, or getting out of bed to find one of the books in the tumble of my shelves and marvel again.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Michael Martin

    Mark Dery’s 500-page biography of Edward Gorey takes on an influential and immensely talented illustrator and concentrates the bulk of its pages on endless and needless speculation about the artist’s sexuality. Gorey is such a talented, colorful personality with nearly five decades of work that he deserved a far better author and presentation than this. We learn precious little about how Gorey worked (other than quick references to Dover costume books and pen nibs) but we sit through chapter after Mark Dery’s 500-page biography of Edward Gorey takes on an influential and immensely talented illustrator and concentrates the bulk of its pages on endless and needless speculation about the artist’s sexuality. Gorey is such a talented, colorful personality with nearly five decades of work that he deserved a far better author and presentation than this. We learn precious little about how Gorey worked (other than quick references to Dover costume books and pen nibs) but we sit through chapter after chapter after chapter of Dery speculating on his sexuality. Most infuriating are some of the rambling footnotes. In two cases he speculates that Gorey and Warhol must have met, even though a close associate tells him “No, they never did.” Dery insists they must have... because in one case they were featured in the same magazine. Another footnote speculates, with absolutely NO evidence to confirm the statement, that Gorey might have been sexually abused by a member of the Catholic clergy. This is in a bio? With no evidence anywhere? There is yet another troubling footnote taking on Gorey for racism, because most of his Edwardian/Victorian costumed characters were white. All in all, I don’t regret reading the book. If nothing else, it made me pull my Edward Gorey collections off my bookshelf and reread and enjoy THEM. I suggest you do the same.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Betsy Decillis

    This is a book that reveals more about the author than it does the subject matter. Based on the cover and the description, I expected to be swept up into an incredible journey about an incredible man. That did not happen. Whenever I did lock into the book and writing, that would be about when the author's extreme interest in whether Gorey was homosexual or asexual would rear its ugly head. It became uncomfortable and downright disrespectful to the man he was writing about. In the end, the author This is a book that reveals more about the author than it does the subject matter. Based on the cover and the description, I expected to be swept up into an incredible journey about an incredible man. That did not happen. Whenever I did lock into the book and writing, that would be about when the author's extreme interest in whether Gorey was homosexual or asexual would rear its ugly head. It became uncomfortable and downright disrespectful to the man he was writing about. In the end, the author would do well to learn a few lessons from Gorey: Just be and be comfortable with the empty spaces.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    2.5 Fascinating figure but an unsuccessful bio. It was much too long and overblown with suppositions that made for dull reading. And evidently Gorey himself identified as Ace if anything at all but the biographer came back over and over and over to speculating that he was closeted gay. Maybe he was and I understand the importance of lit crit through a queer lens but it was oddly inserted here and focused so much more on the author assuming homosexuality than asexuality, which is what Gorey actua 2.5 Fascinating figure but an unsuccessful bio. It was much too long and overblown with suppositions that made for dull reading. And evidently Gorey himself identified as Ace if anything at all but the biographer came back over and over and over to speculating that he was closeted gay. Maybe he was and I understand the importance of lit crit through a queer lens but it was oddly inserted here and focused so much more on the author assuming homosexuality than asexuality, which is what Gorey actually often described himself.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    Read the introduction, and was put off by the tone/approach/bias of the author, and abandoned this in the to-read pile for long enough to make it obvious that I won't be reading this one right now. I mean, in the intro, the author quotes Gorey saying "I don't think I'm much one thing or the other", and then goes on and on about how he must be in denial -- he wore fur coats! He went to the ballet all the time! Obviously gay! Meanwhile, I was hoping for discussion of art, and process, and inspirati Read the introduction, and was put off by the tone/approach/bias of the author, and abandoned this in the to-read pile for long enough to make it obvious that I won't be reading this one right now. I mean, in the intro, the author quotes Gorey saying "I don't think I'm much one thing or the other", and then goes on and on about how he must be in denial -- he wore fur coats! He went to the ballet all the time! Obviously gay! Meanwhile, I was hoping for discussion of art, and process, and inspiration. I might try reading it again another time when I don't feel so irritated about it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Esther Espeland

    This one was a doozy! I think biographies can generally be hard for me to get through, but I quite liked this one! I think it lagged in the middle third, but I loved especially the chapters on the end of his life

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ariel

    I love everything every done by Edward Gorey so I just had to read this book. And I enjoyed the biographical bits of it, the parts about his life, how at one stage he went to NYCB every single night of ballet season for about 20 years and wore rings and a long fur coat and sneakers and a big Santa beard, but then moved to Cape Cod where he collected cats and crystal doorknobs and potato mashers and other peculiar objects (I once visited the house, which is now a museum, and greatly admired the d I love everything every done by Edward Gorey so I just had to read this book. And I enjoyed the biographical bits of it, the parts about his life, how at one stage he went to NYCB every single night of ballet season for about 20 years and wore rings and a long fur coat and sneakers and a big Santa beard, but then moved to Cape Cod where he collected cats and crystal doorknobs and potato mashers and other peculiar objects (I once visited the house, which is now a museum, and greatly admired the doorknobs). What I didn't like was the vast quantities of critical analysis of Gorey's oeuvre which is, at heart, specifically not meant to be analyzed. It's supposed to be silly and mysterious and a little creepy all at the same time. I especially did not enjoy the attempt to fit Gorey's persona and oeuvre into queer theory and the apogee of camp, and the author's endless speculations on whether Gorey ever consummated his gay crushes or was, as Gorey himself suggested pretty openly, asexual. It seemed somewhat beside the point to me, like my grandmother proudly claiming famous people as Jews, culminating in the announcement that Modigliani's mistress had been half-Jewish. (True story.) Yes, there's something campy and queer about Gorey's aesthetic. But that's not WHY he's great. It's just HOW he's great. Or part of it, anyway. I must admit I rather skimmed toward the end, which ended with a perfect Gorey touch of him leaving most of his money to benefit animals, including "the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee; the Xerces Society in Portland, Oregon, dedicated to invertebrate conservation, and Bat Conservation International in Austin, Texas."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Beth Adams

    oh C'mon, you know? I don't think Edward Gorey was "born to be posthumous" so it's a ridiculous title. I didn't think the Author was up to the task of this bio. Edward Gorey's work was larger then life in a way but also nonchalant. I didn't like the authors tone. I got this as a Christmas gift, read like the first chapter then felt ill and had to put it down. Corey was a genius. "The Elephant House" about his home and work habits, eccentricities, just weird tidbits about his life is a way better oh C'mon, you know? I don't think Edward Gorey was "born to be posthumous" so it's a ridiculous title. I didn't think the Author was up to the task of this bio. Edward Gorey's work was larger then life in a way but also nonchalant. I didn't like the authors tone. I got this as a Christmas gift, read like the first chapter then felt ill and had to put it down. Corey was a genius. "The Elephant House" about his home and work habits, eccentricities, just weird tidbits about his life is a way better book and has lots of photos of his house which he called this, because if I remember correctly of a toilet that looked like a elephant's trunk or something. I've visited his house, (it is a museum of sorts) and that was really interesting. He collected strange things, he had an amazing eye, of course. Go out and find "The Elephant House" much better then this.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Pluck

    It illuminates without washing out the wonder of the works or the man himself. A worthwhile read, like discovering Gorey's unique world again. It illuminates without washing out the wonder of the works or the man himself. A worthwhile read, like discovering Gorey's unique world again.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    I know it's already enormous but this book desperately needed more illustrations, if not colour plates. Also, RELENTLESSLY and NON-IRONICALLY Freudian. My God. I know it's already enormous but this book desperately needed more illustrations, if not colour plates. Also, RELENTLESSLY and NON-IRONICALLY Freudian. My God.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    The only thing I knew about Edward Gorey before reading this book was that he wrote and illustrated The Gashlycrumb Tinies, a book I had spotted years before at a tiny shop. I loved the dark sense of humor and his tiny, detailed drawings. Fast forward many years later and after seeing this title, I purchased it without even reading the synopsis. Gory was part of an influx of designers who transformed cover art and pushed the boundaries. Yet as much as he was known as an artist, I was surprised to The only thing I knew about Edward Gorey before reading this book was that he wrote and illustrated The Gashlycrumb Tinies, a book I had spotted years before at a tiny shop. I loved the dark sense of humor and his tiny, detailed drawings. Fast forward many years later and after seeing this title, I purchased it without even reading the synopsis. Gory was part of an influx of designers who transformed cover art and pushed the boundaries. Yet as much as he was known as an artist, I was surprised to discover that he would always think of himself as "first a writer, then an artist." Dery paints a picture of Gorey as an intellectual savant, someone who seemed to know about everything and be inspired by everything he consumed. His books, like himself, are uncategorizable. He too, went on to inspire famous men such as Neil Gaiman, Tim Burton, and Lemony Snickett. Gorey was a study in opposites, someone who actively worked not to become famous while also achieving a cult status amongst followers. He kept his friends and acquaintances at arm's length, keeping them in boxes so that different groups didn't overlap with others. Yet he craved companionship and closeness with others, while eventually pushing people who got too close to him away. People in his life only got to see the parts of him that he chose to share. Unlike the last "biography" I tried to read by DNF'd (Ahem Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career), this book wasn't just an amalgamation of reminiscences from former acquaintances and friends. This book was thoroughly researched and provides readers with a fascinating glimpse into the life of a notoriously private man. It was well researched and well written. My only qualm about the book is that Dery continually implied throughout the book that Gorey was gay, despite the fact that Gorey publicly identified as asexual, when pressed. Dery's agenda to out Gorey as gay flies in the face of the assumption of the impartial biographer. Had Gorey been alive to read this book, I think he would not be accepting of Dery's attempts to out him, which could be interpreted as character maligning. Despite this limitation, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend this to anyone who values dark humor and art.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 'Things impermanent, incomplete: these were the sorts of things Gorey loved best.' I was excited to learn months ago that there would be a book coming out about Edward Gorey, the man whose genius inspired the likes of Tim Burton and Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), among others including Anna Sui. Ahead of his time, the ‘too strange and eccentric nature’ of his creations later found a wider audience, certainly with my generation and those born af via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 'Things impermanent, incomplete: these were the sorts of things Gorey loved best.' I was excited to learn months ago that there would be a book coming out about Edward Gorey, the man whose genius inspired the likes of Tim Burton and Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), among others including Anna Sui. Ahead of his time, the ‘too strange and eccentric nature’ of his creations later found a wider audience, certainly with my generation and those born after. Gorey is the father of it all, a man who found beauty in ‘things withered’ as he took ‘pleasure in that which is old, faded and lonely.’ As to his sexuality, admittedly I am not interested in the speculation so much but can understand his hesitance during his time to claim homosexuality. During his youth, it certainly wasn’t a time embracing any peculiarities of arts nor any deviate from the so-called ‘norms.’ He was flamboyant in his dress, certainly it all seemed to be theater but reading about the way he kept his home, when he finally allowed someone deeper access into it, not everything was about ‘show’, with his home ever changing almost as if a stage for his entertainmen, a show for one. He seemed a man unto himself, someone who lived for his pleasures without the need to explain himself. I always find it interesting when we try to explore the sexuality of others, that it still makes people uncomfortable if someone doesn’t chose a label. Maybe it’s because I have family members who are attracted to people but aren’t (or weren’t for those now deceased) much interested in the complications of relationships, who chose to live their lives freely, to come and go as they pleased and put their time and attention into their passions, be it art, study work, travel. As well as others who once were married and when it ended invested in themselves, didn’t chose to have more relationships later in life. In fact, I see it all the time in neighbors, friends. Not everyone wants someone in their life, at their side all the time and would rather visit with friends and then go home to the quiet of their beloved solitude. Don’t confuse being sometimes alone with chosing to live as a recluse. Why is that so hard to accept? There are people who don’t really feel invested in their sexuality at all, who find their passions in other things beyond the body. Certainly the gay imagery in some of Gorey’s work fuels the whisperings that he was homosexual, as well as his own comments in interviews. There was also the earlier crush. In fact, Maurice Sendak (himself gay) met Edward Gorey and understood him, the need to hide his sexuality, as well as the struggle as an artist to be taken seriously, to become successful. Whatever his sexual preference was, Gorey was a wildly creative, fascinating, private man. Before he went to Harvard, his education was delayed by serving in the Army. It’s hard to associate the Edward we all know and love with the clean-cut military picture of one Private Gorey, circa 1943. His childhood certainly doesn’t seem as ordinary as he led people to believe as you will read about in the chapter entitled “A Suspiciously Normal Childhood”. As the author asks, is it normal to be ‘cutting your eyeteeth on Victorian Novels’, learning to read at three? What about a grandmother’s madness? Seems he had plenty of gothic drama to fuel his future work, within his own upbringing. As this is a review, I won’t go into more, it’s in Mark Derry’s book, read it! It seems current times would have been perfect for Gorey’s talents, but maybe for someone enamored of his privacy fame would have been too itchy a coat for the man. Certainly I can imagine the shallow narcissism of our times would have been fodder for his work, even his later plays that seemed to become a bigger passion than releasing books for his fans. We can all learn so much from the pleasure Edward Gorey revelled in while creating something for the sake of doing it simply because you enjoy it and not worrying so much about the reception. In time, those naysayers will come around, which he learned years before with a certain magazine cover he landed after prior rejection. There was a lot I didn’t know about Gorey, and this book isn’t so much about revealing deep dark secrets as it’s a peek into the life of one heck of a peculiar artist, one whose macabre style was rich in texture, his shading with only a pen is incredible, his meticulousness evident with crosshatching. He had a signature style, creepy little stories that an untold number of artists have mimicked, but will we ever know the man fully? A man of biting wit, melodramatic about the smallest events and yet seemingly indifferent about the big stuff, lover of cats who he allowed free reign, even if it meant messing up work he spent hours on, contrary to his core, highly intelligent, a lover of the ballet, avid collector, a lover of things old, faded and lonely. Can we ever know even ourselves? For fans and people new to Edward Gorey, this is a wonderful read. Available Tomorrow November 6, 2018 Little, Brown and Company

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jim Dooley

    There just isn’t any way to sugar-coat this. For the first two-thirds of the book, there were several times when I wanted to throw the book through the window. (All right, I’d actually donate it to the public library.) The final third interested me much more and I looked forward to my reading sessions ... and I can even say that I was sorry to have the book end. (It will still be donated to the public library, though.) My consternation wasn’t with the style of writing, or the fact that there wer There just isn’t any way to sugar-coat this. For the first two-thirds of the book, there were several times when I wanted to throw the book through the window. (All right, I’d actually donate it to the public library.) The final third interested me much more and I looked forward to my reading sessions ... and I can even say that I was sorry to have the book end. (It will still be donated to the public library, though.) My consternation wasn’t with the style of writing, or the fact that there weren’t all that many definitive conclusions shared with the Reader. No, after 7-years of writing this tome, Mark Dery found it necessary to pose the question over and over (and over) again, “Was Edward Gorey gay?” He then provides many examples to support that he was, but always comes back to not being certain ... and asking again. It is even mentioned at the end of the book, for cryin’ out loud! Now, I’m not so naïve as to suggest that sexuality has nothing to do with an artist’s creativity. Of course, it does! But, in many instances, it isn’t the over-riding influence. If Gorey was gay, not EVERYTHING that he created or that held his interest was gay lifestyle-driven. However, from the number of times that the issue is brought to the forefront in this book, the Reader would soon surmise that understanding a person’s sexuality is always the key to understanding that person’s life. If that was the writer’s intent, I think there is a flaw in the logic. Although I was aware of fellow artist, Charles Addams, much more through the television series, “The Addams Family,” and the publication of his drawings, Edward Gorey first took hold of my attention when his drawings were animated as the “intro and outro” for the PBS television series, “Mystery.” It reached the point that even if I wasn’t particularly interested in the story that week, I would tune-in to see the Gorey introduction. In later years, I discovered that he had created the sets for the Frank Langella DRACULA play on Broadway. I would also run across some of his drawn images from time to time in magazines ... not always understanding them, but still fascinated by them. My culmination came a year ago when I purchased a 1000-piece Gorey jigsaw puzzle from the Columbus Museum Of Art, and it became a focal point for visitors who would tackle putting together a portion of the picture. Now, there were aspects of the book that I really enjoyed: * Although not pointed out as a theme, there were many examples of Gorey having an abundance of curiosity. Whereas most of us are curious for a moment and then let the thought go as we hurry on to the next aspect of our busy lives, he would explore it, turning it over in his mind until he found “a way in” to appreciating it. Being aware of the present moment was certainly a factor; * He did not explain his Art, an aspect that frustrates followers of David Lynch. Gorey would set up a situation, but he left plenty of gaps ... often literally ... inviting his audience to participate with their own mind’s image or interpretation. This was undoubtedly why I didn’t always feel as if I understood his work, and yet I was still fascinated by it; * There were many book, Art, music, and ballet references that were new to me, several of which I have already started tracking down; * Gorey didn’t take himself or the opinions that others had of him too seriously. This led to him enjoying so much of what he did, and putting himself in the enviable position (as Dick Cavett noted) of living the life that he wanted to live. Cool! Before I even finished the book, I was ordering Gorey books on Amazon, and I’m very much looking forward to enjoying them soon. So, I certainly can thank the writer for stirring me to do some further investigation, including more self-analysis of how I perceive my own life. All of this is a long way of saying that your enjoyment of BORN TO BE POSTHUMOUS: THE ECCENTRIC LIFE AND MYSTERIOUS GENIUS OF EDWARD GOREY will depend greatly on your mood when you start it ... and if you can absorb without annoyance the continual sexuality questions.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Having gathered slightly less than a handful of Gorey's books, and having been delighted and frustrated by them in equal measure, the publication of Dery's biography was a timely one for me. Perhaps now I would be provided with a key to understanding what on earth Gorey was on about! Well, mission accomplished! Somewhat... Dery explains for the uninitiated that the point of most of Gorey's work is that there is no specific point. Gorey's interest is in atmosphere, feeling, the unsaid, and in leavi Having gathered slightly less than a handful of Gorey's books, and having been delighted and frustrated by them in equal measure, the publication of Dery's biography was a timely one for me. Perhaps now I would be provided with a key to understanding what on earth Gorey was on about! Well, mission accomplished! Somewhat... Dery explains for the uninitiated that the point of most of Gorey's work is that there is no specific point. Gorey's interest is in atmosphere, feeling, the unsaid, and in leaving room for the reader (observer?) of his books to find such meaning as they may. What a relief! Released from the agony of interpretation I find myself more able to connect with the books and enjoy them for what they are, rather than what I'm trying to make them be. That service provided, as a biography, Dery’s book is (so far as I can tell) detailed, sympathetic and insightful. Gorey is presented as somebody it would have been difficult, and interesting, and pleasant, and stimulating, and frustrating to know. Placing Gorey within the stream of LGBTQI+ culture, counter-culture and mainstream culture seemed a worthwhile exercise to me, however I think that a little too much time is spent by Dery discussing Gorey’s sexuality. From the quotes Dery gives by Gorey on the subject, he addressed the topic adequately and the “long stare” seems somewhat intrusive when cast upon a person who protected their privacy so carefully. The foregoing point aside, this is a fantastic work of biography which I thoroughly enjoyed.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laura Floyd

    Edward Gorey's art is fascinating, so he must be a fascinating man, right? I think the answer to that is, "right!" but, unfortunately, I could not read this book. I made it through chapter one, which was as far as I had to go to become convinced that the author has an agenda. This book is not a biography so much as it seems to be an attempt to posthumously prove that Edward Gorey was gay, and therefore worthy of being a gay icon. IF the man was gay, that's cool. If he'd wanted to be an icon of a Edward Gorey's art is fascinating, so he must be a fascinating man, right? I think the answer to that is, "right!" but, unfortunately, I could not read this book. I made it through chapter one, which was as far as I had to go to become convinced that the author has an agenda. This book is not a biography so much as it seems to be an attempt to posthumously prove that Edward Gorey was gay, and therefore worthy of being a gay icon. IF the man was gay, that's cool. If he'd wanted to be an icon of any kind, cool. But Gorey was (as was made very clear, even through only chapter one) famously averse to discussing his sexuality, claiming directly in one interview to be asexual. BUT! exclaims Dery triumphantly. BUT! He was flamboyant and didn't date women. GOTCHA! Okay, so by the end of chapter one we hadn't gotten around to any gotcha-ing, but that did feel like the conclusion we were likely heading inevitably toward. Let the man keep his own council on who he did or did not want to have sex with - even in death! He didn't want that to be a topic of conversation, so why are you making it one? Why CAN'T he be both flamboyant and asexual? Blah. Sorry for the rant. Instead of reading this, I'm going to go find some of Gorey's books that I haven't read before which is, honestly, all of them. Everything I know about him I've learned from posters and illustrations without written context.

  24. 4 out of 5

    V. Briceland

    Mark Dery pulls off some kind of sleight of hand by claiming, in his introduction to Born to Be Posthumous, that there's not much to say about illustrator, author, and notoriously private Edward Gorey . . . and then proceeding to write one of the year's most engaging (and hefty) biographies. Dery charts Gorey's life through an improbable stint in the military, followed by years designing book covers for classics, before stumbling into unexpected fame as his pen-and-ink illustrations gained apprec Mark Dery pulls off some kind of sleight of hand by claiming, in his introduction to Born to Be Posthumous, that there's not much to say about illustrator, author, and notoriously private Edward Gorey . . . and then proceeding to write one of the year's most engaging (and hefty) biographies. Dery charts Gorey's life through an improbable stint in the military, followed by years designing book covers for classics, before stumbling into unexpected fame as his pen-and-ink illustrations gained appreciation. At the height of his mainstream success and fame, he retired, by all accounts, to potter around his Cape Cod home with his cats and engage in amateur avant-garde theatrics. Throughout the biography, he manages solidly to position Gorey's output in the context of a larger creative movement of post-war, post-McCarthy disengagement with intellectualism—and how Gorey's sexuality (which appears to have been un-acted upon, despite his many same-sex infatuations with younger men) informs his work through sometimes subtle, and sometimes barely-veiled, camp. Lively, informative, and always interesting, Born to Be Posthumous is a must-read for any fan of Edward Gorey, Dogear Wryde, D. Awdrey-Gore, or any of the artist's many pseudonyms.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mark Wheaton

    That incredibly rare artist’s bio that makes you think you would’ve liked to know the subject IRL

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robert Boyd

    It gets four stars mainly because Edward Gorey's life story was so interesting and odd. But Mark Dery is not a great writer--his interest in his subject seems to lag in the second half of the book. His like as an eccentric school boy (in a high school that regularly churned out geniuses who made huge impact on American culture), and oddball Harvard man (who was close to Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery), to the strange balletomane and George Balanchine super-fan who churned out tiny, enigmatic book It gets four stars mainly because Edward Gorey's life story was so interesting and odd. But Mark Dery is not a great writer--his interest in his subject seems to lag in the second half of the book. His like as an eccentric school boy (in a high school that regularly churned out geniuses who made huge impact on American culture), and oddball Harvard man (who was close to Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery), to the strange balletomane and George Balanchine super-fan who churned out tiny, enigmatic books combining his own illustrations and text. But as he becomes old and successful and moves to Cape Cod, his life becomes less interesting and Dery's enthusiasm flags. Cliches creep in, as well as bad puns. Nonetheless, I suspect this is all we're going to get--there really isn't need for another biography of Gorey--and Gorey was so private that I suspect there isn't much else anyone could write about him. Given his lack of close friends and lovers (he apparently had none in his entire life), there aren't any more wells to go to for more Gorey information. I feel bad about judging Dery somewhat harshly--writing a detailed biography of Gorey would be difficult for any biographer giving Gorey's reticence.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    I loved Edward Gorey's work ever since I first saw the Mystery! intro as a kid. It's one of those pieces that really stuck with me for a long time. It wasn't until the internet took off and I was older that I was able to find it again and learn of Edward Gorey. Luckily, I waited for the internet because if I had waited for this book instead, I would have been sorely mislead. This book is offensive to every asexual person out there with the typical dismissal of asexuality with the "repressed gay" I loved Edward Gorey's work ever since I first saw the Mystery! intro as a kid. It's one of those pieces that really stuck with me for a long time. It wasn't until the internet took off and I was older that I was able to find it again and learn of Edward Gorey. Luckily, I waited for the internet because if I had waited for this book instead, I would have been sorely mislead. This book is offensive to every asexual person out there with the typical dismissal of asexuality with the "repressed gay" trope. It is evident that though the author was well-researched on Edward Gorey, using many primary sources, he forgot to look up what asexuality was, what it means, and only looked through a queer lens. He wanted Gorey to be something even Gorey said he wasn't. I would have waved it aside if there wasn't (at what felt to be the end of every paragraph) a rhetorical question, "He claimed he wasn't gay... or wAs hE?!?!" Everything about his art and his friends' art is somehow homoerotically repressed. It gets irritating... First thing's first, for those who may not be aware of asexual theory, slang, etc.: a crash course. Asexuality is the absence of sexual attraction to anyone and everything. Instead, the asexual community (sometimes shortened to "aces") recognize different types of attraction: aesthetic (anything to do with the senses), romantic (wanting to be in a close relationship), and sexual. Asexuals do not feel the latter. Aromantics (often overlap with asexuals, but not necessarily) do not feel romantic attraction (though this doesn't mean they can't love). In some ways, it's similar to how ancient Greeks viewed love (agápe, éros, philía, philautia, storgē, and xenia). Sexual people (allosexuals) typically experience all three and usually experience them at once. This is why a lot of allos cannot distinguish the difference between finding someone "hot" and wanting to bone them or think sex = love. Part of this may be limited to English, which combines all of these into the same word, indistinguishably. Sex repulsed is another term used in the ace community with its meaning being self evident. Not all aces identify as sex repulsed, some are neutral and a few enjoy sex. Ace/allo relationships happen, but with some agreement in place, especially if the ace person is sex repulsed. Note that though the DSM recognizes sexual disinterest as a mental illness (Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder), diagnosis of HSDD is ONLY IF IT CAUSES UNDO STRESS and was meant for people dealing with sexual performance issues, not attraction ones. Now... I get how people may mistake Gorey for being gay. He was flamboyant, he liked ballet, he read gay authors... I mean, it would be prejudice to assume so, but I can see how one can jump to conclusions. Based on what I said about asexuality above, Gorey probably wanted to convey he was a "sex repulsed homoromantic asexual," meaning he was romantically attracted to other men, but asexual. These words weren't invented until later (maybe the 2000's). From the biography itself: "Gorey's own sexuality was famously inscrutable. He showed little interest in the question, claiming... to be asexual, by which he meant 'reasonably undersexed or something,' a state of affairs he deemed 'fortunate.'" "Entering the hormone-addled years of adolescence, he showed no sign that his thoughts were turning to romance. As always, the objects of his affection were cats." (wow, I'm feeling a bit called out by this description, haha *closes Youtube cat video*) "Life... is a foot-draggingly gloomy procession of 'frustrated desires' and 'sex entanglements from what they tell me--I wouldn't know...' (Interesting to note that at eighteen--an age when most young men are feeling their oats--he's already holding the subject of 'sex entanglement' at arm's length." Lurie, a co-worker and friend of Gorey's says, "Not everybody wants to wake up in the morning and there's somebody in the bed with them, you know? Some people value their solitude, and I think Ted was like that. He wanted to live alone; he wasn't looking for somebody to be with for the rest of his life. He would have romantic feelings about people, but he wouldn't really have wanted it to turn into a full-blown relationship, and that's why he never did." (pg 108) Quoting a late friend's wife on Gorey, "'Most of the other servicemen thought they were both gay,' says Jan, 'but Gorey never put his foot under the bathroom partition,' so to speak." "Did Gorey want to be wanted? Or did he really require nothing more than books, Balanchine, cats, and his work?" (I'm seriously being called out now, hahaha) "He confides [in a letter] that he feels... that, while he doesn't envy his friends the turbulence of their love lives, he does think he 'ought to be having a few direct emotional experiences, however small.'" I had more tagged but my post-its fell out.... so... I don't care if he was dubbed the Queen of Queers and sailed around on a flying unicorn for Pride Month. I don't even care if he dated people or had sex with people, he's the only one who can comment on what sort of attraction he felt. Otherwise, we could go around assuming all gay people forced into straight marriages are bi. "What? You say you're gay? But you're married to a woman. Clearly, actions speak louder than words." You know who else is asexual and largely thought to be gay, Tim Gunn. The "make it work" guy from Project Runway. So there you go. Go look up some pictures of cats.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    An enjoyable, insightful biography of the artist and writer. Dery does a particularly good job discussing Gorey's life and work and artistic as cultural influencers. An enjoyable, insightful biography of the artist and writer. Dery does a particularly good job discussing Gorey's life and work and artistic as cultural influencers.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    This would have been a great book and half the length if Dery didn't obsess over Gorey's sexuality. It became tiresome and was clearly antithetical to Gorey's own wishes. Per a quote from a Gorey associate near the end of the book, "He didn't want it to become the sole center of his life," and yet Dery constantly forces the reader's focus toward exactly this. It was frustrating and unkind. Setting all that aside, I read around this crap and enjoyed pulling quotes and references to explore Gorey's This would have been a great book and half the length if Dery didn't obsess over Gorey's sexuality. It became tiresome and was clearly antithetical to Gorey's own wishes. Per a quote from a Gorey associate near the end of the book, "He didn't want it to become the sole center of his life," and yet Dery constantly forces the reader's focus toward exactly this. It was frustrating and unkind. Setting all that aside, I read around this crap and enjoyed pulling quotes and references to explore Gorey's unique aesthetic and perspectives.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maggi LeDuc

    This book blew me away. I found myself repeating lines of Gorey's work to myself as I read and then randomly throughout the day. This book blew me away. I found myself repeating lines of Gorey's work to myself as I read and then randomly throughout the day.

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