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Edward St. John Gorey
February 22, 1925
|Died||April 15, 2000 75) (aged|
|Education||Art Institute of Chicago, Harvard University|
|Known for||Writer, illustrator, poet|
|The Gashlycrumb Tinies , The Doubtful Guest , Mystery!|
|Movement||Literary nonsense, surrealism|
|Awards||Tony Award (costume design); Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (writing)|
Edward St. John Gorey (February 22, 1925 – April 15, 2000) was an American writer and artist noted for his illustrated books. His characteristic pen-and-ink drawings often depict vaguely unsettling narrative scenes in Victorian and Edwardian settings.
Americans are nationals and citizens of the United States of America. Although nationals and citizens make up the majority of Americans, some dual citizens, expatriates, and permanent residents may also claim American nationality. The United States is home to people of many different ethnic origins. As a result, American culture and law does not equate nationality with race or ethnicity, but with citizenship and permanent allegiance.
In the history of the United Kingdom, the Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. The era followed the Georgian period and preceded the Edwardian period, and its later half overlaps with the first part of the Belle Époque era of Continental Europe. In terms of moral sensibilities and political reforms, this period began with the passage of the Reform Act 1832. There was a strong religious drive for higher moral standards led by the nonconformist churches, such as the Methodist, and the Evangelical wing of the established Church of England. Britain's relations with the other Great Powers were driven by the colonial antagonism of the Great Game with Russia, climaxing during the Crimean War; a Pax Britannica of international free trade was maintained by the country's naval and industrial supremacy. Britain embarked on global imperial expansion, particularly in Asia and Africa, which made the British Empire the largest empire in history. National self-confidence peaked.
The Edwardian era or Edwardian period of British history covers the brief reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910, and is sometimes extended in both directions to capture long-term trends from the 1890s to the First World War. The death of Queen Victoria in January 1901 marked the end of the Victorian era. Her son and successor, Edward VII, was already the leader of a fashionable elite that set a style influenced by the art and fashions of continental Europe. Samuel Hynes described the Edwardian era as a "leisurely time when women wore picture hats and did not vote, when the rich were not ashamed to live conspicuously, and the sun really never set on the British flag."
Edward St. John Gorey was born in Chicago. His parents, Helen Dunham (née Garvey) and Edward Lee Gorey,divorced in 1936 when he was 11, then remarried in 1952 when he was 27. One of his stepmothers was Corinna Mura (1909–1965), a cabaret singer who had a small role in the classic film Casablanca as the woman playing the guitar while singing "La Marseillaise" at Rick's Café Américain. His father was briefly a journalist. Gorey's maternal great-grandmother, Helen St. John Garvey, was a popular nineteenth-century greeting card writer and artist, from whom he claimed to have inherited his talents.
Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois, as well as the third most populous city in the United States. With an estimated population of 2,716,450 (2017), it is the most populous city in the Midwest. Chicago is the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as Chicagoland, and the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States. The metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States, and the fourth largest in North America and the third largest metropolitan area in the world by land area.
Corinna Mura was a cabaret singer and diseuse. She had a small role in the classic film Casablanca as the woman playing the guitar while singing "Tango Delle Rose" and "La Marseillaise" at Rick's Café Américain.
Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison's unproduced stage play Everybody Comes to Rick's. The film stars Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid; it also features Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Dooley Wilson. Set during contemporary World War II, it focuses on an American expatriate who must choose between his love for a woman and helping her and her husband, a Czech Resistance leader, escape from the Vichy-controlled city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis.
Gorey attended a variety of local grade schools and then the Francis W. Parker School. He spent 1944 to 1946 in the Army at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. He then attended Harvard University, beginning in 1946 and graduating in the class of 1950; he studied French and roomed with poet Frank O'Hara.
Francis W. Parker School is an independent school serving students who live in the Chicago area from junior kindergarten through twelfth grade. Located in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, the school is based on the progressive education philosophies of John Dewey and Colonel Francis Wayland Parker, emphasizing community and citizenship. Tuition and fees range from $29,710 for kindergarten to $37,240 for grade 12.
The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.
Dugway Proving Ground (DPG) is a U.S. Army facility established in 1942 to test biological and chemical weapons, located about 85 miles (140 km) southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah and 13 miles south of the 2,624 sq mi Utah Test and Training Range forming the largest overland special use airspace in the United States.
In the early 1950s, Gorey, with a group of recent Harvard alumni including Alison Lurie (1947), John Ashbery (1949), Donald Hall (1951) and O'Hara (1950), amongst others, founded the Poets' Theatre in Cambridge, which was supported by Harvard faculty members John Ciardi and Thornton Wilder.
Alison Lurie is an American novelist and academic. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her 1984 novel Foreign Affairs. Although better known as a novelist, she has also written numerous non-fiction books and articles, particularly on children's literature and the semiotics of dress.
John Lawrence Ashbery was an American poet. He published more than twenty volumes of poetry and won nearly every major American award for poetry, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. Renowned for its postmodern complexity and opacity, Ashbery's work still proves controversial. Ashbery stated that he wished his work to be accessible to as many people as possible, and not to be a private dialogue with himself. At the same time, he once joked that some critics still view him as "a harebrained, homegrown surrealist whose poetry defies even the rules and logic of Surrealism."
Donald Andrew Hall Jr. was an American poet, writer, editor and literary critic. He was the author of over 50 books across several genres from children's literature, biography, memoir, essays, and including 22 volumes of verse. Hall was a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy, Harvard, and Oxford. Early in his career, he became the first poetry editor of The Paris Review (1953–1961), the quarterly literary journal, and was noted for interviewing poets and other authors on their craft.
He frequently stated that his formal art training was "negligible"; Gorey studied art for one semester at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1943.
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is one of America's largest accredited independent schools of art and design. It is located in the Loop in Chicago, Illinois. The school is associated with the museum of the same name, and "The Art Institute of Chicago" or "Chicago Art Institute" often refers to either entity. Providing degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels, SAIC has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top graduate art programs in the nation, as well as by Columbia University's National Arts Journalism survey as the most influential art school in the United States.
From 1953 to 1960, he lived in Manhattan and worked for the Art Department of Doubleday Anchor, illustrating book covers and in some cases, adding illustrations to the text. He illustrated works as diverse as Bram Stoker's Dracula , H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds and T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats . In later years he produced cover illustrations and interior artwork for many children's books by John Bellairs, as well as books begun by Bellairs and continued by Brad Strickland after Bellairs' death.
Manhattan, often referred to locally as the City, is the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City and its economic and administrative center, cultural identifier, and historical birthplace. The borough is coextensive with New York County, one of the original counties of the U.S. state of New York. The borough consists mostly of Manhattan Island, bounded by the Hudson, East, and Harlem rivers; several small adjacent islands; and Marble Hill, a small neighborhood now on the U.S. mainland, physically connected to the Bronx and separated from the rest of Manhattan by the Harlem River. Manhattan Island is divided into three informally bounded components, each aligned with the borough's long axis: Lower, Midtown, and Upper Manhattan.
Doubleday is an American publishing company. It was founded as the Doubleday & McClure Company in 1897 and was the largest in the United States by 1947. It published the work of mostly U.S. authors under a number of imprints and distributed them through its own stores. In 2009 Doubleday merged with Knopf Publishing Group to form the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, which is now part of Penguin Random House. In 2019 the official website presents Doubleday as an imprint, not a publisher.
Abraham "Bram" Stoker was an Irish author, best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as the personal assistant of actor Sir Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned.
His first independent work, The Unstrung Harp, was published in 1953. He also published under various pen names, some of which were anagrams of his first and last names, such as Ogdred Weary, Dogear Wryde, Ms. Regera Dowdy, and dozens more. His books also feature the names Eduard Blutig ("Edward Gory"), a German-language pun on his own name, and O. Müde (German for O. Weary).
The New York Times credits bookstore owner Andreas Brown and his store, the Gotham Book Mart, with launching Gorey's career: "it became the central clearing house for Mr. Gorey, presenting exhibitions of his work in the store's gallery and eventually turning him into an international celebrity."
Gorey's illustrated (and sometimes wordless) books, with their vaguely ominous air and ostensibly Victorian and Edwardian settings, have long had a cult following.He made a notable impact on the world of theater with his designs for the 1977 Broadway revival of Dracula, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Costume Design and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Scenic Design. In 1980, Gorey became particularly well known for his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! In the introduction of each Mystery! episode, host Vincent Price would welcome viewers to "Gorey Mansion".
Because of the settings and style of Gorey's work, many people have assumed he was British; in fact, he only left the U.S. once, for a visit to the Scottish Hebrides. In later years, he lived year-round in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, where he wrote and directed numerous evening-length entertainments, often featuring his own papier-mâché puppets, an ensemble known as Le Theatricule Stoique. The first of these productions, Lost Shoelaces, premiered in Woods Hole, Massachusetts on August 13, 1987. The last was The White Canoe: an Opera Seria for Hand Puppets, for which Gorey wrote the libretto, with a score by the composer Daniel James Wolf. Based on Thomas Moore's poem The Lake of the Dismal Swamp, the opera was staged after Gorey's death and directed by his friend, neighbor, and longtime collaborator Carol Verburg, with a puppet stage made by his friends and neighbors, the noted set designers Herbert Senn and Helen Pond. In the early 1970s, Gorey wrote an unproduced screenplay for a silent film, The Black Doll.
After Gorey's death, one of his executors, Andreas Brown, turned up a large cache of unpublished work complete and incomplete. Brown described the find as "ample material for many future books and for plays based on his work".
Although Gorey's books were popular with children, he did not associate with children much and had no particular fondness for them. Gorey never married, professed to have little interest in romance, and never discussed any specific romantic relationships in interviews. In the book The Strange Case of Edward Gorey, published after Gorey's death, his friend Alexander Theroux reported that when Gorey was pressed on the matter of his sexual orientation, he said that even he was not sure whether he was gay or straight. When asked what his sexual orientation was in an interview, he said,
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 ... Well, I’m neither one thing nor the other particularly. I suppose I’m gay. But I don’t identify with it much.
Edward Gorey agreed in an interview that the "sexlessness" of his works was a product of his asexuality.
From 1995 to his death in April 2000, the normally reclusive artist was the subject of a cinéma vérité -style documentary directed by Christopher Seufert. (As of 2016, the film has been screened as a work-in-progress; the finished film and accompanying book are in post-production.) He was interviewed on Tribute to Edward Gorey, an hour-long community, public-access television cable show produced by artist and friend Joyce Kenney. He contributed his videos and personal thoughts. Gorey served as a judge at Yarmouth art shows and enjoyed activities at the local cable station, studying computer art and serving as cameraman on many Yarmouth shows. His Cape Cod house is called Elephant House and is the subject of a photography book entitled Elephant House: Or, the Home of Edward Gorey, with photographs and text by Kevin McDermott. The house is now the Edward Gorey House Museum.
Gorey left the bulk of his estate to a charitable trust benefiting cats and dogs, as well as other species, including bats and insects.
Gorey is typically described as an illustrator. His books may be found in the humor and cartoon sections of major bookstores, but books such as The Object Lesson have earned serious critical respect as works of surrealist art. His experimentation—creating books that were wordless, books that were literally matchbox-sized, pop-up books, books entirely populated by inanimate objects—complicates matters still further. As Gorey told Lisa Solod of The Boston Globe , "Ideally, if anything were any good, it would be indescribable."Gorey classified his own work as literary nonsense, the genre made most famous by Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear.
In response to being called gothic, he stated, "If you're doing nonsense it has to be rather awful, because there'd be no point. I'm trying to think if there's sunny nonsense. Sunny, funny nonsense for children—oh, how boring, boring, boring. As Schubert said, there is no happy music. And that's true, there really isn't. And there's probably no happy nonsense, either."
Gorey wrote more than 100 books, including the following:[ clarification needed ]
Many of Gorey's works were published obscurely and are difficult to find (and priced accordingly),[ citation needed ] however, the following four omnibus editions collect much of his material. Because his original books are rather short, these editions may contain 15 or more in each volume.
He also illustrated more than 50 works by other authors, including Samuel Beckett, Edward Lear, John Bellairs, H. G. Wells, Alain-Fournier, Charles Dickens, T. S. Eliot, Hilaire Belloc (where new illustrations to Cautionary Tales for Childrenwere published posthumously), Muriel Spark, Florence Parry Heide, John Updike, John Ciardi and Felicia Lamport.
Gorey was very fond of word games, particularly anagrams. He wrote many of his books under pseudonyms that usually were anagrams of his own name (most famously Ogdred Weary). Some of these are listed below, with the corresponding book title(s). Eduard Blutig is also a word game: "Blutig" is German (the language from which these two books purportedly were translated) for "bloody" or "gory".
Gorey has become an iconic figure in the goth subculture. Events themed on his works and decorated in his characteristic style are common in the more Victorian-styled elements of the subculture, notably the Edwardian costume balls held annually in San Francisco and Los Angeles, which include performances based on his works. The "Edwardian" in this case refers less to the Edwardian period of history than to Gorey, whose characters are depicted as wearing fashion styles ranging from those of the mid-nineteenth century to the 1930s.
Director Mark Romanek's music video for the Nine Inch Nails song "The Perfect Drug" was designed specifically to resemble a Gorey book, with familiar Gorey elements including oversized urns, topiary plants and glum, pale characters in full Edwardian costume.Also, Caitlín R. Kiernan has published a short story entitled "A Story for Edward Gorey" ( Tales of Pain and Wonder , 2000), which features Gorey's black doll.
A more direct link to Gorey's influence on the music world is evident in The Gorey End,an album recorded in 2003 by The Tiger Lillies and the Kronos Quartet. This album was a collaboration with Gorey, who liked previous work by The Tiger Lillies so much that he sent them a large box of his unpublished works, which were then adapted and turned into songs. Gorey died before hearing the finished album.
In 1976, jazz composer Michael Mantler recorded an album called The Hapless Child (Watt/ECM) with Robert Wyatt, Terje Rypdal, Carla Bley, and Jack DeJohnette. It contains musical adaptations of The Sinking Spell, The Object Lesson, The Insect God, The Doubtful Guest, The Remembered Visit, and The Hapless Child. The last three songs also have been published on his 1987 Live album with Jack Bruce, Rick Fenn, and Nick Mason.
The opening titles of the PBS series Mystery! are based on Gorey's art, in an animated sequence co-directed by Derek Lamb.
In the last few decades of his life, Gorey merchandise became quite popular, with stuffed dolls, cups, stickers, posters, and other items available at malls around the United States.
In 2007, The Jim Henson Company announced plans to produce a feature film based on The Doubtful Guest to be directed by Brad Peyton. No release date was given and there has been no further information since the announcement.
The online journal Goreyesque publishes artwork, stories, and poems in the spirit of Edward Gorey's work.The journal is co-sponsored by the Department of Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago and Loyola University Chicago. Goreyesque was launched in tandem with the Chicago debut of two Gorey collections: Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey and G is for Gorey. The collections were shown at the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) in Chicago, Illinois from February 15 to June 15, 2014. Goreyesque features the work of both emerging talents and seasoned professionals, such as writers Sam Weller and Joe Meno.
Contemporary American cartoonists with similar macabre style include:
Edward Lear was an English artist, illustrator, musician, author and poet, now known mostly for his literary nonsense in poetry and prose and especially his limericks, a form he popularised. His principal areas of work as an artist were threefold: as a draughtsman employed to illustrate birds and animals; making coloured drawings during his journeys, which he reworked later, sometimes as plates for his travel books; as a (minor) illustrator of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poems. As an author, he is known principally for his popular nonsense collections of poems, songs, short stories, botanical drawings, recipes, and alphabets. He also composed and published twelve musical settings of Tennyson's poetry.
John Anthony Bellairs was an American author, best known for his fantasy novel The Face in the Frost and many gothic mystery novels for young adults featuring the characters Lewis Barnavelt, Rose Rita Pottinger, Anthony Monday, and Johnny Dixon.
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley was an English illustrator and author. His drawings in black ink, influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts, emphasized the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic. He was a leading figure in the Aesthetic movement which also included Oscar Wilde and James A. McNeill Whistler. Beardsley's contribution to the development of the Art Nouveau and poster styles was significant, despite the brevity of his career before his early death from tuberculosis.
Edward Bawden, (1903–1989) was an English painter, illustrator and graphic artist, known for his prints, book covers, posters, and garden metalwork furniture. Bawden taught at the Royal College of Art, where he had been a student, worked as a commercial artist and served as a war artist in World War Two. He was a fine watercolour painter but worked in many different media. He illustrated several books and painted murals in both the 1930s and 1960s. He was admired by Edward Gorey, David Gentleman and other graphic artists, and his work and career is often associated with that of his contemporary Eric Ravilious.
Arthur Burdett Frost, usually cited as A. B. Frost, was an American illustrator, graphic artist and comics writer. He was also well known as a painter. Frost's work is well known for its dynamic representation of motion and sequence. Frost is considered one of the great illustrators in the "Golden Age of American Illustration". Frost illustrated over 90 books and produced hundreds of paintings; in addition to his work in illustrations, he is renowned for realistic hunting and shooting prints.
Drew Friedman is an American cartoonist and illustrator who first gained renown for his humorous artwork and "stippling"-like style of caricature, employing thousands of pen-marks to simulate the look of a photograph. In the mid-1990s, he switched to painting.
Bob StaakeSTAK is an American illustrator, cartoonist, children's book author and designer. He lives and works in Chatham, Massachusetts on the elbow of Cape Cod.
Philippe Jullian was a French illustrator, art historian, biographer, aesthete, novelist and dandy.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a 1973 juvenile mystery fiction novel written by John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey. It is the first in the series of twelve novels featuring the fictional American boy Lewis Barnavelt.
Mark Dery is an American author, lecturer and cultural critic. He writes about "media, the visual landscape, fringe trends, and unpopular culture." From 2001 to 2009, he taught media criticism, literary journalism, and the essay in the Department of Journalism at New York University. In January 2000, he was appointed Chancellor's Distinguished Fellow at the University of California, Irvine. In summer 2009, he was awarded a scholar-in-residence position at the American Academy in Rome, Italy.
The Iron Tonic: Or, A Winter Afternoon in Lonely Valley is a Surrealist country-house mystery—that is, a series of clues that don't add up to a solution—written and illustrated by Edward Gorey. It was published in 1969 by Albondoncani Press in a limited edition of 226 copies. It was republished for the trade market by Harcourt, Inc. in the form of a small, hardbound book that is illustrated on both front and back covers.
The Gashlycrumb Tinies: or, After the Outing is an abecedarian book written by Edward Gorey that was first published in 1963. Gorey tells the tale of 26 children and their untimely deaths in rhyming dactylic couplets, accompanied by the author's distinctive black and white illustrations. It is one of Edward Gorey's best-known books, and is the most notorious amongst his roughly half-dozen mock alphabets. It has been described as a "sarcastic rebellion against a view of childhood that is sunny, idyllic, and instructive". The morbid humor of the book comes in part from the mundane ways in which children die, such as falling down the stairs or choking on a peach. Far from illustrating the dramatic and fantastical childhood nightmares, these scenarios instead poke fun at the banal paranoias that come as a part of parenting.
The Curious Sofa is a 1961 book by Edward Gorey, published under the pen name "Ogdred Weary". According to the cover, the book is a "pornographic illustrated story about furniture". Reviews of the book clarify there is nothing overtly sexual in the illustrations, although innuendos abound. The New York Times Book Review described it as "Gorey's naughty, hilarious travesty of lust". Gorey has stated that he intended to satirize Story of O.
Historia animalium, published at Zurich in 1551–58 and 1587, is an encyclopedic "inventory of renaissance zoology" by Conrad Gessner (1516–1565). Gessner was a medical doctor and professor at the Carolinum in Zürich, the precursor of the University of Zurich. The Historia animalium is the first modern zoological work that attempts to describe all the animals known, and the first bibliography of natural history writings. The five volumes of natural history of animals cover more than 4500 pages.
John Vernon Lord is an illustrator, author and teacher. He has illustrated texts including Aesop's Fables,The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear; the Folio Society's Myths and Legends of the British Isles,, and In addition, he has illustrated classics of English literature including the work of Lewis Carroll and James Joyce. Lord has written and illustrated several children's books, which have been published and translated into several languages. His book The Giant Jam Sandwich has been in print since 1972
Rohan O'Grady is the pen name of Vancouver-born Canadian novelist June Margaret O'Grady (Skinner). After graduating from Lord Byng Secondary School in 1940 Skinner worked for the Capilano Golf and Country Club as assistant resident manager, and then in the library at the Vancouver Sun. There she met husband Frederick Snowden Skinner with whom she raised three children in West Vancouver.
The Doubtful Guest is a short, illustrated book by Edward Gorey, first published by Doubleday in 1957. It is the third of Gorey's books and shares with his others a sense of the absurd, meticulous cross-hatching, and a seemingly Edwardian setting. The book begins with the sudden appearance of a strange, penguin-like creature in a turn-of-the-century manor house. An aristocratic family struggles to coexist with the creature, who is by turns despondent and mischievous. By the final page, the guest has stayed for seventeen years, and shows "no intention of going away".
Anushka Ravishankar is an award-winning author of children's books, and co-founder of Duckbill Books, a publishing house.
The Object-Lesson (1958) is a picture book by Edward Gorey. A work of surrealist art and literature, it is typical of Gorey's avant-garde style of storytelling, with Victorian and Edwardian-esque line drawings and settings, each described with a sentence fragment which adds to a larger continuous narrative. The pictures and text combine to tell a strange and obscure story. Although internally consistent, coherent, and structured, the story has a disjointed and disorienting quality, with melancholic and morbidly humorous effects.
The Vinegar Works: Three Volumes of Moral Instruction (1963) is a box set of three picture books by Edward Gorey: The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Insect God, and The West Wing, each revolving around themes of death and terror, in the Gothic tradition. The Vinegar Works and its three constituent books can be found in the first of the four collections comprising Gorey's work, Amphigorey (1972).