Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘Edward Gorey’

13 DECEMBER, 2013

The Pious Infant: Edward Gorey’s Rare Illustrated Allegory about the Dangers of Dogmatism

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A darkly delightful allegory about what happens when we take our convictions to an extreme.

Beloved mid-century illustrator Edward Gorey used a variety of anagrammatic pseudonyms, formed by remixing the letter of his real name, for his prolific and diverse creative output, spanning irreverent children’s books, paperback covers for literary classics, naughty delights for grownups, and illustrated envelopes. Among Gorey’s multiple female pseudonyms was Mrs. Regera Dowdy, an imaginary 19th-century persona, under which he penned the rare and wonderful gem The Pious Infant (public library), included in the altogether fantastic collection Amphigorey Too (public library) — the characteristically dark story of obsessively devout Little Henry Clump, illustrating the absurdity of religious dogmatism, the perils of self-righteousness, and the notion that any ideology or set of rigid beliefs taken to an extreme is likely to backfire into self-destructiveness.

I was fortunate enough to track down a surviving copy — a signed one, at that — digitized and preserved here for our shared delight:

Although long out of print, used copies of The Pious Infant can still be found online and at some public libraries, and Amphigorey Too, which includes this one and fourteen other Gorey treasures, is still in print. Complement it with The Green Beads and consider supporting the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust with a donation to the Edward Gorey House.

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26 NOVEMBER, 2013

Anatomy of Anagrammatic Pseudonyms: The Many Incarnations of Edward Gorey

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An infant poet, a postcard-writer, a movie reviewer, a girl detective, and a spirit control walk into a bar…

A master of the subversive and the darkly delightful, Edward Gorey is among the most celebrated illustrators of the past century. His creations, ranging from irreverent children’s books to paperback covers for literary classics to naughty delights for grownups to his illustrated envelopes, are as singularly distinctive as they are timelessly enchanting. But Gorey, himself a darkly enigmatic character, was himself a curious creation — so much so that people have regularly questioned his very name. While many were surprised to know it was real, Gorey did indeed have a number of pseudonyms. In Who’s Writing This?: Notations on the Authorial I with Self-Portraits (public library) — the same fantastic 1996 volume that gave us famous authors’ illustrated self-portraits — Gorey draws his self-portrait and tells the story of his name and his pseudonyms.

What’s particularly interesting is that while the question of whether Gorey was gay has been the subject of much speculation — speculation he gladly played into by stating, “I’m neither one thing nor the other particularly… I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t.” — most of his imaginary pen-name personae are female:

About the time the first book was published over forty years ago I found my name lent itself to an edifying number of anagrams, some of which I’ve used as pen names, as imaginary authors, and as characters in their or my books. A selection of examples follows.

Ogded Weary has written The Curious Sofa, a porno-graphic work, and The Beastly Baby, a book no one wanted to publish.

Mrs. Regera Dowdy, who lived in the nineteenth century, is the author of The Pious Infant and such unwritten works as The Rivulets of Gore and Nets to Subdue the Deranged; she also translated The Evil Garden by Eduard Blutig, the pictures for which were drawn by O. Müde.

Madame Groeda Weyrd devise the Fantod Pack of fortune-telling cards.

Miss D. Awdrey-Gore was a celebrated and prolific mystery writer. . . . Her detective is Waredo Dyrge, whose favorite reading is the Dreary Rwedgo Series for Intrepid Young Ladies. . . .

Dogear Wryde’s work appears only on postcards.

Addée Gorrwy is known as the Postcard Poetess.

Wardore Edgy wrote movie reviews for a few months.

Wee Graddory was an Infant Poet of an earlier century.

Dora Greydew, Girl Detective, is the heroine of a series (The Creaking Knot, The Curse on the Sagwood Estate, etc.) by Edgar E. Wordy.

Garrod Weedy is the author of The Pointless Book.

Agowy Erderd is a spirit control.

However, I am still taken aback whenever someone asks me if that indeed is my real name.

Edward Gorey

You can see, and support, more of Gorey’s work and legacy at Edward Gorey House. Meanwhile, Who’s Writing This?, which features contributions from such beloved authors as John Updike, Susan Sontag, Mark Helprin, Diane Ackerman, Edward Albee, Arthur Miller, and Margaret Atwood, remains well worth the full read.

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22 JULY, 2013

When Edward Gorey Illustrated Dracula: Two Masters of the Macabre, Together

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“No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and dear to his heart and eye the morning can be.”

As if knowing that the great Edward Gorey illustrated a small stable of little-known and wonderful paperback covers for literary classics weren’t enough of a treat, how thrilling it is to know that he also illustrated the occasional entire volume, from classic fairy tales to H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds to T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. But out of all his literary reimaginings, by far the greatest fit for Gorey’s singular brand of darkly delightful visual magic is Edward Gorey’s Dracula (public library), a special edition of the Bram Stoker classic originally published in 1977 and eventually adapted as a magnificent toy theater of die-cut foldups and foldouts. Gorey’s illustrations of the characters are terrifyingly charming and charmingly terrific:

Mina Murray

Jonathan Harker

Lucy Westenra

Dr. John Seward

R. M. Renfield

Dr. Abraham Van Helsing

Count Dracula

The gorgeously Gorey endpapers are particularly marvelous:

The book also includes some pages from Bram Stoker’s original Dracula manuscript:

Manuscript notes and outlines, p. 35 verso b. (Courtesy of the Rosenbach Museum & Library, Philadelphia)

Manuscript notes and outlines, p. 2 (Courtesy of the Rosenbach Museum & Library, Philadelphia)

But the greatest Gorey-goodie of all is the toy theater set:

Complement Edward Gorey’s Dracula with a look back at this gallery of the beloved illustrator’s other literary masterpieces.

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