Ascending Peculiarity, Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey
Selected and edited by Karen Wilkin
(Harcout Brace)

The Object-Lesson
Edward Gorey
(Harcout Brace)

Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson, writers of The Royal Tenenbaums, owe a huge debt to author and illustrator Edward Gorey: The high-collared fur coats, heavy eyeliner and mascara, bland expressions on the actresses, luscious architecture, and understated morbidity--this is all Edward Gorey. Beyond the style and props, the plot is also Gorey derived: a dysfunctional, macabre family living in a romantically ruined estate, with a mix of tangled love and lingering death.

Edward Gorey passed away about two years back, at 75. I've been a fan of his work as long as I can remember, luxuriating in the cryptic, charming gloom of his fantastic world. In almost 50 years of working, he produced over 30 books, a slew of magazine contributions, ballet sets, and at least one film script. Some books, like The Curious Sofa (a naughty, sex romp), he claims were written and illustrated in a weekend, while others took longer.

A new edition of The Object-Lesson has just been released. The Object-Lesson is less narrative than some others, based on a series of compelling nonsequiturs, accompanied by Gorey's distinctive illustrations. "It was already Thursday," he writes, with an image of a women in a black dress, listing in front of ornately detailed Victorian wallpaper. "...but his lordship's artificial limb could not be found;/therefore, having directed the servants to fill the baths/he seized the tongs/and setout at once for the edge of the lake/where the Throbblefoot Spectre still loitered in a distraught manner..."

Gorey was notoriously reclusive, living in a house full of cats, offering only selective interviews. Ascending Peculiarity collects together the various interviews to create a picture of the man himself, as though in hope of clarifying and explaining some of the mystery. Fortunately, the interviews are only enough to skate along the surface, leaving Gorey's work still mysterious and satisfying, as it should be.