A Gorey/Bellairs Discovery
February 5, 2024 3:17 AM   Subscribe

"Sometimes treasures are hidden in plain sight and it only takes the curiosity of an astute observer to properly identify them. Such was the case with a piece of original artwork by Edward Gorey that is on display at the F. Brooke Whiting Museum in Cumberland, Maryland."

The Whiting Museum. The always-delightful Edward Gorey. Gothic mystery author John Bellairs.
posted by cupcakeninja (26 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've been a lover of all things Gorey since watching the Mystery television show intro [YT] as a tot, and a couple years later I was drawn at the library to the cover of Bellairs' The Curse of the Blue Figurine, subsequently becoming a Bellairs reader.
posted by cupcakeninja at 3:21 AM on February 5 [8 favorites]


Ooh, interesting! And timely for me-- I just re-read Bellairs' The House With The Clock In Its Walls for the first time in about 40 year.s. It's always a little fraught going back to a book I loved as a kid but I'm happy to report that The House With The Clock In Its Walls held up. And Gorey is the perfect illustrator for Bellairs.
posted by yankeefog at 4:04 AM on February 5 [11 favorites]


My wife and I visited the Edward Gorey House on Cape Cod this summer. It is small but delightful, and if you think there's any chance that you'll enjoy it then you absolutely 100% will.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:24 AM on February 5 [8 favorites]


My wife and I visited the Edward Gorey House on Cape Cod this summer.

I hope you found Neville!
posted by those are my balloons at 4:33 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]


"Sometimes treasures are hidden in plain sight and it only takes the curiosity of an astute observer to properly identify them.”

‘Treasures’ seems arguable then. ‘Curiousities’ perhaps?
posted by pompomtom at 4:34 AM on February 5


Perhaps! I’m biased, of course, but after an artist has died, the number of new works they produce tends to fall off dramatically, and thereby become more precarious. There’s also something (to me) magical about Gorey’s originals—the fact that they are so small, often reproduced at full size. Seeing the Gorey exhibit in Chicago at the LUMA was a revelation—the amount of work he’d done in such a small space.
posted by cupcakeninja at 6:02 AM on February 5 [7 favorites]


I love this, thanks for posting! I even pulled out my original The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb to check the artwork. Very cool to see the alternate art. Gorey's creepy vibe really got my imagination going about the stories.

I was a huge John Bellairs fan as a 9-10 year old, even writing him a fan letter asking if I could make a Sierra Online-style adventure game out of one of his books -- months later he replied "go for it!" and I was thrilled (and the project's been in development hell ever since.)
posted by frenetic at 6:07 AM on February 5 [22 favorites]


I hope you found Neville!

There is a cat two doors down from me who often sits looking out the glass section of the front door. This section is just high enough that all that is visible of the cat is the eyes and ears.

The cat is actually named Clementine but I think of her as Neville.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:16 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


The Bellairs books kicked off a lifetime of compulsive reading for me, and shaded it heavily with interests in the occult, small town strangeness, Victoriana, practical magic, eccentrics, holdovers, things hidden in plain sight, cemeteries, and local history. Thanks for this.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:40 AM on February 5 [6 favorites]


If you don't work in a library or archive or museum you may be surprised to learn how often things like this happen, wherein something is found just stuffed in a box having been forgotten about for years/decades/centuries, or its true nature is unknown to staff until an outside source of expertise stumbles across it and is like "holy cow, people."
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:35 AM on February 5 [6 favorites]


I have a signed print of Gorey's, and it is one of my treasures. It's probably not special as such, but it's very special to me. The ink was starting to fade on his signature, so I had to put it behind museum glass, which probably cost more than what I paid for the print itself.

Gorey often had art for sale at the old Gotham Book Mart -- I remember a wonderful series of dancing mammoths -- but at the time I was a student, and the prices were juuuuust out of reach. And now they're completely out of reach. But I have my one little thing and it ties me to this man I love so much.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:43 AM on February 5 [8 favorites]




IIRC, J.K. Rowling said she was inspired by Bellairs.

I dated Bellairs' son, who like his father died young. Fuck addiction with a thousand fucks.
posted by Melismata at 9:38 AM on February 5 [11 favorites]


What a fun discovery. I was also struck by this passage describing the original collector of the artwork:

F. Brooke Whiting (Dec. 5, 1918 - July 27, 1998) earned a Master's degree in Library Science in 1957 and served for thirty-two years as Curator of Rare Books and Literary Manuscripts for UCLA. Mr. Whiting maintained his family home in Cumberland and was a long time member of the Allegany County Historical Society. Together with his partner Wesley Griswold, Mr. Whiting traveled the world collecting remarkable furniture and objects of interest. Mr. Whiting eventually donated his home and collections to the Historical Society along with an endowment to maintain the house as a museum.

Mr. Whiting sounds like a gem.
posted by ZaphodB at 9:42 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]


IIRC, J.K. Rowling said she was inspired by Bellairs

A bit unrelated, but I have always suspected The Da Vinci Code of basically being a charmless Bellairs rip-off. Mysterious artifact maguffin related to biblical apocrypha, shadowy pursuers, atmospheric treasure hunt with some puzzle solving and light action and fairly transparent clues, secret histories, it's sorta all there.
posted by Rinku at 9:51 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]


cupcakeninja - me, too! A big smile.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 10:37 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


The Bellairs books kicked off a lifetime of compulsive reading for me, and shaded it heavily with interests in the occult, small town strangeness, Victoriana, practical magic, eccentrics, holdovers, things hidden in plain sight, cemeteries, and local history.
So this is why I am the way I am. Cool.
posted by entropyiswinning at 10:46 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]


I'm another "Bellairs kid" - Bellairs' books shaped me forever, and Gorey's creepy art marked me as well. Something about his featureless faces. This was a real pleasure to see/read about - thank you! Any Gorey fans that haven't would do well to visit his house in Yarmouth, which has been turned into a museum.
posted by signsofrain at 12:45 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


Recently was trying to find the Bellairs books with these covers but apparently the license has expired - the new cover art is text only.
posted by iamck at 1:15 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I was also a huge John Bellairs fan as a kid; I think I read almost everything he wrote that was for kids, going to multiple libraries to find new books. I'm almost forty and whenever I hear the phrase "bell, book, and candle" I still think of him. It's strange to get old.
posted by an octopus IRL at 2:37 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Yet another Bellairs kid! Bellairs was my introduction to horror and to Gorey. When I got to college and everyone was obsessed with Gashlycrumb, I was the weirdo who was all "those are just like the illustrations on those books I used to love."

For those Bellairs fans who didn't see it, the Jack Black House with a Clock in its Walls that came out a few years back was not terrible. In addition to being Bellairs on the big screen, it holds a special place for me because the cemetery where the necromancy happens is literally around the corner from our old house in Decatur, GA, and the crypt they CGIed is a real crypt that I used to go by on my runs.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:43 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


Thank you for posting, I like the Gorey blog a lot (although I do NOT need to think about purchasing original artwork, I don't don't don't). I have most of Gorey's original small books and was aware that he did cover work for other authors but had no idea how much work is out there.
posted by winesong at 3:30 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


winesong, a book was published about Gorey’s covers a few years back, in case you are interested. He seems (from what I’ve read) to view the covers more or less simply as work, Bellairs’ included. Which makes the Gorey/Bellairs alchemy all the more astounding, as far as I am concerned!
posted by cupcakeninja at 4:05 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


12 years ago there was a panel at the gorey house describing how his alpha cat stayed on his bed for a week after he died
posted by brujita at 6:15 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Agreed that the Jack Black movie for THWtCiiW is not terrible and pretty true to the story.

I read the first book as a kid a solid handful of times but it took a while to realise there were sequels...but I remember trying to read the second book (something about a femaie friend with long hair and glasses and a medal?) and not liking it much and being disappointed. I don't think I ever finished it or went back.

Some other kids books I am remembering right now after mumble years that have a similar vibe, at least in my head:

The Red Room Riddle, by Scott Corbett [I still remember this book as being creepy as BALLS]
Witch's Sister, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor [apparently there were 5 more?!]
The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, by Penelope Lively [creeped me out until I saw the TV special which kind of humanized it]
aaand of course a handful of books by Ruth Chew.

Because my mind is a silly garbage can I just remembered TRYING to read "The Active Enzyme, Lemon Freshened, Junior High School Witch" by E.W. Hildick, because it SEEMED like something I should like, but I never got through it.
posted by hearthpig at 4:24 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


For as long as I live I will never forget the Fuse Box Dwarf.
posted by Typhoon Jim at 3:49 PM on February 6


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