"his collections of things — cats, rocks, beanbags, books"
December 5, 2018 5:19 AM   Subscribe

Edward Gorey's enigmatic world. Article in The New Yorker by Joan Acocella. Lots of Gorey previously.
posted by paduasoy (20 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
The biographer sounds unsufferable.

I love Edward Gorey, and bought Gorey holiday cards this year. One of the four is the "Victorian family, bundled against the cold, disposing of unwanted fruitcakes . . . by heaving them into a hole in the ice." It is delightful.
posted by minsies at 5:49 AM on December 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I think the biographer from that article didn't really get that Gorey was gonna Gore, and didn't give a shit if anyone understood the "why". I remember seeing some TV piece on him from some news-magazine type of show, where the reporter visited him in Cape Cod and was just following him around seeing what he did for hobbies - and one of them was making little stuffed toys, creatures he called a "figbash". And the reporter got into a delightful back-and-forth with him over this:

"But what is a figbash?"

"It's this." (Gorey holds up the toy in his hands.)

"But what is that?"

"....It's a figbash."

"But what is a figbash?"

"It's this."

They went back and forth a couple times before the sequence skipped on to something else.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:28 AM on December 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

I loooove Gorey, almost more for his persona and what he represents (odd, delightful hermit) than for his work anymore, which I've been admiring since i was a kid in the 80s. The book didn't have nearly enough images, either of gorey or his work. I would love to see drawings by a teenaged or early 20s Gorey, and more rare and obscure photos of the man himself at all ages.
posted by whistle pig at 6:35 AM on December 5, 2018

Oooh, I went looking for the figbash clip and found this instead. Looks like he sold them and it's a collectible item.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:36 AM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Amphigorey was one of my favourite (and formative) books as a child, and while I'd love to pretend that I stumbled across it in a library or stole it from a bohemian relative, the truth is that I got an advance on my allowance so I could buy it from the souvenir stand at a touring production of Cats.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:56 AM on December 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

My mother somewhat uncharacteristically recommended Amphigorey to me when I was about ten or eleven. (I think that she had a whole interior life around books that she liked but didn't really discuss with anyone, because every once in a while she'd recommend something that just seemed utterly out of character but was obviously something very familiar to her.)

I think I must have seen some Gorey illustrations before that because I remember reading The CURSE...of the BLUE...FIGURINE!!!!! (as I always think of it) by John Bellairs when I was in grade school and being absolutely petrified by it. It still scares me now, actually - probably the scariest of the Bellairs childrens' books.

My favorite will always and forever be The Unstrung Harp: Or Mr. Earbrass Writes A Novel, both because it captures the truth about writing professionally, which is that you always want to have written but not, in the moment, to write, and because I too often feel that I'd like to spend a few weeks recuperating on the Continent. The only issue is that Gorey made a little mistake - the main character is obviously named Mr Earbass, not "brass".
posted by Frowner at 7:42 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

"But what is that?"

"....It's a figbash."

"But what is a figbash?"

"It's this."

FIGBASH has been my licence plate for a long time, and every time someone asks me what it means, I have to resist having this conversation with them.

"It's a character in a book by Edward Gorey." "Who?" "You know, they guy who drew the PBS Mystery opening animation." "oh"
posted by anastasiav at 7:53 AM on December 5, 2018 [17 favorites]

Thanks for reminding me of my love of Gorey, whom I grew up with (book-wise, not personally). For a good stretch of my childhood, my mother drove a gray Toyota Corona station wagon named Mr. Earbrass, which is probably significant.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 8:24 AM on December 5, 2018

I was unaware of Figbash (es?) before despite being a moderate Gorey fan.

They are adorable and I intend to make them as I have lots of fabric cutoffs that would be perfect.

In fact I'm visualising a part mock suede and faux leather one in my head right now..
posted by Faintdreams at 8:37 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

The title Born to Be Posthumous is pretty much perfect for a book on Gorey. I first discovered him when I was a teenaged biscuit and I was astonished some time later to discover that he was (a) American and (b) still alive — indeed, not much older then than I am now. My perhaps understandable assumption was that he had been born in London in 1832 or something of the sort.

I was quoting from The Doubtful Guest at dinner a couple of days ago, in reference to one of my mom’s cats, for whom “Every Sunday it brooded and lay on the floor,/ Inconveniently close to the drawing room door,” could well have been written.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:31 AM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Here to recommend visiting the Edward Gorey House on Cape Cod. You get a guided tour and hear about his life, see his collections and a lot of his art. I've been three times and learned new information each time because each docent has favorite stories. The store is, of course, perfect.
posted by tangosnail at 10:04 AM on December 5, 2018

did anybody else reread gorey as a grownup queer and be like "damn this stuff is gay as hell" or is that just me

just reread it all a couple weeks ago and it's still p great

i got into the man i think reading like, my weird uncle's copy of Amphigorey when i was 5 or something and it was off to the races since then. i'd like to go see his house on cape cod.
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 10:24 AM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

I thought it was extremely gay when I read it as a child. That was part of why I was surprised that my mother recommended it to me.

You know whose work shines out as extremely About The Gays when you return to it as an adult? John Bellairs. Prospero and Roger in The Face In The Frost are obviously exes who are still close, for one thing, and Uncle Roger and Mrs Zimmerman are also obviously queer people. No coincidence to have so many Gorey illustrations!
posted by Frowner at 10:32 AM on December 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

nixon's meatloaf, according to the Gorey House docents, he was absolutely queer!
posted by tangosnail at 10:38 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Totally agreed on Bellairs, Frowner! Also agreed therefore on how perfect it was to have Gorey illustrate his books. Hand-in-glove. ♥
posted by theatro at 10:50 AM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

have you guys seen gorey's illustrations for Muriel Spark's The Very Fine Clock because there is a bunch of eccentric dudes having an outing in a moon crater and it feels very like - Bellairs universe
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 12:25 PM on December 5, 2018

I've loved Edward Gorey ever since I was a small child and found a copy of Amphigorey on my parents' bookshelf. "Oh look!" I remember thinking, "Comics with cats!" I'm sure that early exposure to Gorey has had some lasting effect on my sense of aesthetics...no wonder I like words and urns so much.
posted by k8bot at 2:27 PM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I learned his style very early because when I was little, I had a pop-up book of his, in which a family visited an Evil Garden (a different book) and was done away with one by one. It scared me a little, but I played with it so much that some of the bits came off. If you can find it used, I highly recommend it.

His work reminds me, now that I think of it, of a more genteel, asexual* B. Kliban, but unlike B. Kliban, he was able to cash in on his own aesthetic, whereas B. Kliban made it big with his cat drawings instead of his bizarrerie.

* Occasionally sexual things do happen in Gorey books, but they are always unspeakable horrors that the eye cannot view. I approve.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:37 PM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

"the worlds tallest albino asparagus" made me give out a burst of surprised delighted laughter.
posted by hippybear at 6:04 PM on December 5, 2018

Frowner, thank you very, very much for calling attention to the obvious subtextual queerness of John Bellairs books; Rose Rita Pottinger always gave me a lot of complicated feelings about gender identity, for sure.

Also, strongly agree that The Curse of the Blue Figurine has a scariness that holds up.
posted by elsilnora at 7:55 PM on December 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

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