Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey, Interviews Selected and Edited by Karen Wilkin. Harcourt 2001

This is a sort of mini-autobiography of artist/writer Edward Gorey (1925-2000), presented through the medium of interviews that took place over the years from 1973 to 1999. Edward Gorey has- and has had, for many years- a cult following for his slightly skewed, morbid but funny books. Working almost exclusively in pen and ink, his drawings most often present a late Victorian or Edwardian setting, frequently drawn with lush detail- particularly the backgrounds- where something is just off. Gardens contain plants that eat people; strange looking guests appear uninvited, people die off constantly. But Gorey was not just interesting for his work; he was a bona fide eccentric, dressing in sneakers, ankle length fur coats, and lots of chunky jewelry. And, of course, his cats. He loved his cats above all things, allowing them to do their will unimpeded, and left his estate to animal charities.

Telling a person’s life through interviews results in being able to see what Gorey thought about from various times in his life. A lot of things didn’t change; his voracious appetite for reading, his lack of need for human contact, his artistic style. Some things did; he moved away from New York City permanently because the one thing that held him there, the ballet, evolved into something he no longer cared for.

Because interviewers tend to ask the same questions as each other, there is a lot of repetition in the book. Throughout the years, he tends to answer them the same way every time. It would have been hard to edit all the repetitions out, and it’s easy enough to skim past those sections. But even with the repetitions, each interview reveals something just a little different about Gorey. The book has illustrations from his various works scattered throughout. It’s a fun, interesting book that’s fast to read. 


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