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Posted By TheWitchIsIn     December 1, 2015     480 views     0 likes     0 comments

Edward Gorey
February 22, 1925-April 15, 2000...  more


Mooncusser at en.wikipedia [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Edward Gorey

February 22, 1925-April 15, 2000


You may have heard of the Gashlycrumb Tinies, an alphabetical rhyme of the way children die; or seen the beautiful—and grim—animated intro to PBS’s Mystery! program, complete with fainting waifs and winking skulls. Or perhaps you were lucky enough to catch a Broadway revival of Dracula in 1977, with dark and menacing backgrounds and lush costumes. Each of these—and many more books, illustrations, and plays—were the accomplishments of Edward Gorey, one of the most beloved writers and illustrators of the 20th century. He was also part of the asexual community, going public at a time when asexuality was hardly discussed.


Though Gorey was reputed to be intensely private, he was a warm interviewee, full of charisma and wit. His appearance married influences, masculine and feminine, casual and glamorous: a lush beard and hands decked with rings; sneakers and a fur coat. This playful contrast infuses his work—his black and white ink drawings, shaded with heavy hatch strokes, invoke old Edwardian illustrations like those in The Illustrated Police News and often depict subjects like abuse, sickness, and murder. But the figures aren’t wholly realistic and their charm brings an odd levity that marries well with his rhyming prose. There’s something to be said about a man who can make the image of a little girl engulfed in flames funny.


Gorey was candid about his asexuality, speaking to Lisa Solod in a Boston Magazine interview in 1980. After talking about his cousin’s little boy, Kenny, and the contrast between his childhood and the current generation’s, Solod asks:


Lisa Solod: So back then you had lots of girlfriends. But now the press makes a point of the fact that you never married. What are your sexual preferences?


Edward Gorey: Well, I’m neither one thing nor the other particularly.


Solod: Why not?


Gorey: …I am fortunate that I am apparently reasonably undersexed or something…I’ve never said that I was gay and I‘ve never said I wasn’t. A lot of people would say I wasn’t because I never do anything about it. What I’m trying to say is that I am a person before I am anything else.


And later:


Solod: Is the sexlessness of your books a product of your asexuality?


Gorey: I would say so. Although every now and then someone will say my books are seething with repressed sexuality.


One book in question may be The Curious Sofa: a pornographic work, which doesn’t actually include any pornography the reader can see. The book mirrors Anne Desclos’ The Story of O, in which a woman is picked up by a lover in a park and engages in series of increasingly lurid acts. However, Gorey’s book works on pure suggestion in its illustration and prose—a stray hand here, a leg sticking out over the back of a sofa there, and, ahem, “engorged” language. Gorey once quipped “I think [The Curious Sofa] is about a girl who’s got an obsession for grapes more than anything else”. It is, like all of Gorey’s work, disquieting and hilarious.


When not writing about murder and orphans, Gorey read classical Japanese literature, watched soap operas, and doted on his beloved cats, who were constant companions throughout his life. In 1979 he bought a sea-captain’s 200 year old home in Yarmouth, Massachusetts—since his death in 2000, the Edward Gorey House works as a museum preserving his work and educating the public on his passion for animal welfare.


If you’re interested in reading his interviews in full, Ascending Peculiarity is a wonderful collection. Samples of his work are scattered throughout, as well as photos of the author himself, young, old, and—most shocking—beardless.





Ascending Peculiarity, Edited by Karen Wilkin



Image Attribution:


Mooncusser at en.wikipedia [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons