Gilda Radner Does a Comic Impersonation of Patti Smith: Watch the Classic SNL Skit, “Rock Against Yeast” (1979)

Gimme Mick, gimme Mick
Baby’s hair, bulgin’ eyes, lips so thick
Are you woman, are you man
I’m your biggest funked-up fan
So rock me and roll meeee…
‘Til I’m sick

                                —(the fictional) Candy Slice, Saturday Night Live

Sir Michael Philip—aka Mick Jagger—celebrated his 77th birthday earlier this summer, a milestone his fellow Rolling Stones Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood observed remotely, as befits seniors at particular risk from COVID-19 infection.

You, Mick Jagger, are English and go out with a model and get an incredible amount of publicity

You, Mick Jagger, don’t keep regular hours

You, Mick Jagger, have the greatest rock ‘n roll band in the history of rock ‘n roll, and you don’t even play an instrument yourself

It’s a bit sobering, watching the late Gilda Radner, expertly preening and prancing as the then-36-year-old, yet-to-be-knighted Mick in "Rock Against Yeast," the star studded Saturday Night Live Sketch from 1979, above.

Readers over the age of 36 who want to get seriously bummed out, poll your under-35 friends to see who’s heard of the versatile Gilda, an original Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Player and one of America’s most complicated sweethearts.

Fortunately, she’s not entirely forgotten:

I can personally attest, and I feel comfortable speaking for Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch when I say that seeing Gilda as a kid…[she was] so authentically herself and so regular in so many ways. She was not a piece of casting, she was who she was on TV. We all saw that and said, ‘I want to do that, and it’s possible because I see her doing that. It was an early example for me of how important representation is, for everyone from every walk of life. Gilda was our equivalent of Michelle Obama. —Tina Fey

Gilda’s not alone in having left us at a young age. Some of her "Rock Against Yeast" castmates and the celebrities they spoofed made similarly shocking early exits:

John Belushi 

Bob Marley

Guest host Ricky Nelson, appearing as himself

Music producer Don Kirshner—embodied here by musician Paul Shaffer—made it to a ripe old age, ie: just a year younger than Sir Mick is now.

Actually, Gilda’s Mick routine was filtered through the fictional Candy Slice, a satirical take on Godmother of Punk Patti Smith—now a venerable 73-year-old National Book award-winning memoirist, gearing up for next month’s “high-end multi-camera visual and sonic experience,” i.e. virtual book reading for last year’s Year Of The Monkey.

Smith, who over the years has proved herself to be a very good egg, admitted to NPR that while  her band found Gilda's characterization "hilarious," she took a while to warm up to it:

When I was younger, I—it sort of bothered me because, you know, she makes a big thing about, you know, I think it's like the white powder and the vast amounts of cocaine in the recording studio. I had never even had cocaine. It wasn't how—it's not how I work. But I thought it was actually hilarious besides that. She was a great artist.

It was—actually, it was a privilege to be played—it was a privilege to have Gilda Radner project what she thought I might be like. And the funniest part was since there was a big controversy over the armpit hair on the cover of "Easter," she brushed the hair under her arms, and I think she had like a foot of hair coming from her armpit, and we were all laughing so hard.

She was a great artist, and cocaine or not, I salute her. And I feel very lucky to have been, you know, portrayed by Gilda.

Read a full transcript of "Rock Against Yeast" here, while heaving a sigh of relief that that singer Dolly Parton (Jane Curtin) continues to walk so vigorously amongst us.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

When Salvador Dalí Met Alice Cooper & Turned Him into a Hologram: The Meeting of Two Kings of Camp (1973)

Kings of camp Alice Cooper and Salvador Dalí made a natural pair when they met in New York City in April of 1973. "A mind-melding of sorts took place," writes Super Rad Now. "Over the course of about two weeks" Cooper and Dalí "ate together, drank together, and basked in the glow of each other's exceptional uniqueness." Then Dalí decided to turn Cooper into a hologram, the First Cylindric Chromo-Hologram Portrait of Alice Cooper's Brain.

How did this come about? It was only a matter of time before Dalí sought out the "godfather of shock rock." The Surrealist prankster "knew how to promote himself and others," notes historian and writer Sophia Deboick in a fantastic understatement. Dalí had been shocking audiences decades before Vincent Furnier, lead singer of the band Alice Cooper—who took the name for himself in 1975—was born, making transgressive films like Un Chien Andalou and getting tossed out of the Surrealists for possible fascist sympathies and unabashedly commercial aspirations.

Dalí used his connections to the world of pop music to meet "figures such as Brian Jones, Bryan Ferry and David Bowie" in the late 60s and early 70s. He came calling at Cooper's door after the 1972 "rapier-waving performance of 'School's Out' on Top of the Pops [drew] the opprobrium of Mary Whitehouse... and a truck carrying a billboard image of Alice wearing only a snake... mysteriously 'broke down' on Oxford Circus the same summer, causing chaos."

Cooper's schtick was catnip to Dalí, but as usual, the artist had something more sophisticated in mind when he staged what looked like a typically bizarre publicity stunt. Cooper was invited to Dalí's studio to pose with "an ant-covered plaster brain topped with a chocolate éclair." This Dalí placed behind Cooper's head on a red velvet cushion as Alice "sat on a rotating turntable wearing over a million dollars-worth of diamonds from the famous Harry Winston jewelers on Fifth Avenue (Cooper remembers it in the short video clip at the top as 4 million dollars worth), holding a fragmented Venus de Milo as a microphone."

For Cooper and the band, the collaboration helped bring their own particular artistic vision to fruition, lending them the imprimatur of the most popular shock artist of the century. "Five of the original band members were art majors," he later recalled, "and we worshipped Dalí: we thought of ourselves as surrealists." (He also named one of his boa constrictors Dalí.)

For Dalí, the resulting holographic image fulfilled a longstanding exploration of new ideas and a new medium—as well as a deliberate movement away from his devotion to Freudian psychoanalysis.

Throughout the 1970s Dalí worked with optical illusions and stereoscopic images... but his interest in working in the third and fourth dimensions dated back further. His 1958 Anti-Matter Manifesto proclaimed his intent to abandon his exploration of the interior world for a focus on “the exterior world and that of physics [which] has transcended the one of psychology,” saying he had swapped Freud for Heisenberg. The tesseract cross of his Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus) (1954) was inspired by the diverse influences of mathematical theory, cubism, and works of Philip II’s architect Juan de Herrera and Catalan mystic Ramon Llull. The Alice hologram may have taken an emerging popular icon as its subject, but the medium was one which fulfilled Dalí’s artistic ambitions at the end of his career to embrace science and break out of the two dimensional.

The attention may have gone to Cooper's head. He attended the unveiling of the hologram without his band members, then went on to record 1975's Welcome to My Nightmare without them and promoted "an ABC television special starring Vincent Price" that same year, again with a new band. His star fell over the decade, but his essential place in rock and roll history had already been fully secured.

Alice Cooper's (the band) gender-bending had influenced David Bowie and the New York Dolls. The Sex Pistol's John Lydon breathlessly proclaimed them his favorite and sang ("or at least mimed to") their "I'm Eighteen" at his audition. "The direct line between Alice Cooper and every possible genre of metal is obvious," Deboick writes.

Like the Surrealist master, Cooper became something of a parody of his earlier incarnation in later years, and in sobriety, the preacher's son from Detroit reappeared as a "golf-playing born-again Christian." But however else he is remembered, the man born Vincent Furnier will also always be the only rock star to have his ant-covered brain turned into a hologram by Salvador Dalí, who knew a kindred spirit when he saw one. See a video of the hologram, which resides in Spain, just above.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Errol Morris Makes His Groundbreaking Series, First Person, Free to Watch Online: Binge Watch His Interviews with Geniuses, Eccentrics, Obsessives & Other Unusual Types

Who do we normally see interviewed on television? Actors, pop singers, politicians, and other famous figures, many of whom have undergone rigorous media training, few of whom have especially interesting personalties in the first place, and none of whom could stand up to Errol Morris' Interrotron. Essentially a teleprompter modified to display Morris' face on its screen, the Interrotron made a new kind of filmed interview possible: "For the first time," Morris has said, "I could be talking to someone, and they could be talking to me and at the same time looking directly into the lens of the camera. Now, there was no looking off slightly to the side. No more faux first person. This was the true first person."

Hence First Person, the Interrotron-centered television series Morris produced and directed in the early 2000s. By that time Morris had already become well known for his interview-based documentaries, which went deep into unusual subjects like the pet cemetery business (Gates of Heaven), a dubious murder trial in Texas (The Thin Blue Line), and the mind of Stephen Hawking (A Brief History of Time). In 1997's Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control Morris invited into the Interrotron a lion tamer, a topiary gardener, a roboticist and a hairless mole-rat expert, weaving the four interviews together into threads to do with themes of emergence and control. But what could tie together conversations with a true-crime author, a cryonics promoter, a lawyer to the mob, and an authority on giant squids?

Those are just four of First Person's seventeen subjects, each of whom has their uncommon knowledge, distinctive ability, harrowing experience, or dirty job — or some combination thereof — probed by Morris for an entire episode. Some of them, such as animal-behavior expert and autism spokeswoman Temple Grandin, have become much more well-known since appearing on the show. Others have been sentenced to serve 15 years in prison. And given the two decades that have passed since the show first aired, some of them have since shuffled off this mortal coil: Dennis Fitch, for instance, the pilot who assisted in the "impossible" crash-landing of United Airlines Flight 232 after its sudden and complete loss of control — and whose story is the most gripping hour in First Person's entire run.

Morris' fans will sense in First Person themes the director explored before and has explored further since. Take the nature of intelligence, at the forefront of First Person's two episodes on men with some of the highest IQ-test scores on record. Morris finds Chris Langan thinking his way toward something called a "Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe" and an intellectual priesthood meant to govern the world to come. Richard Rosner, despite his equally formidable brain, divides his time between nude modeling and obsessively re-litigating a failed Who Wants to Be a Millonaire? appearance. (At the time Morris got them into the Interrotron, both men also worked as bar bouncers.) You may well come away from these episodes wondering just what a high IQ gets a person. But if you watch the complete First Person, broken into playlists of its first and second season, on Errol Morris' Youtube channel, that will be just one of the fascinating and troubling questions running through your mind for years to come.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Explore an Interactive, Online Version of the Beautifully Illustrated, 200-Year-Old British & Exotic Mineralogy

What if I said the problem with STEM education is that it doesn’t include nearly enough art? For one thing, I would only echo what STEAM proponents have said for years. This doesn't only mean that students should study the arts with the same seriousness as they do the sciences. But that science should be taught through the arts, as it was in the 19th century when Naturalists relied on fine art illustration.

Maybe increasing complexity demands charts and graphs, but there are reasons other than hip antiquarianism to cherish 19th century scientific art, and to aim for something close to its high aesthetic standards. Humans seem to find nature far more awe-inspiring when it’s mediated by painting, poetry, narrative, music, fine art photography, etc. We want to be emotionally moved by science. As such, few guides to the natural world have elevated their subjects as highly as British & Exotic Mineralogy, a multivolume reference work for… well, rocks, to put it vulgarly, published between 1802 and 1817.

During these years, “notable naturalist, illustrator, and mineralogist James Sowerby drew intricate pictures of minerals in an effort to illustrate the topographic mineralogy of Great Britain and minerals not yet known to it,” writes Nicholas Rougeux. “These illustrations were some of the finest on the subject and are still considered by some to be to this day.” Though he was surely compensated for his work, Sowerby’s detailed drawings come across as labors of devotion.

Rather than just printing them on postcards or tote bags (though he does sell posters), Rougeux has done for Sowerby’s minerals what he had previously done for other classic textbooks and taxonomies from the past, such as the 200-year-old Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours and Euclid’s Elements from 1847. Digitizing the 718 illustrations on one sprawling interactive page allows him to retain their educational value: click on any individual mineral and you’ll bring up an enlarged image followed by excerpts from the text.

You have never seen such rocks as these, no matter how many uncut gems you’ve held in your hand. Because these illustrations turn them into something else—crystalline palaces, alien organs, petrified explosions, moldy loaves of bread... all the many shapes that time can take in rock form. They aren’t all beautiful rocks, but they are each beautifully-rendered with lines that might remind us of the most skilled comic artists, who are perhaps some of the last inheritors of this kind of graphic style. Sowerby himself illustrated several other scientific works, including series on biology, mycology, and a color system of his own devising.

“We feel much pleasure in presenting our friends with a figure and account of the most perfect and rare specimen yet found of this substance,” begins the text accompanying Hydrargillite, above, which resembles a small, misshapen moon or asteroid. Rougeux also takes quite a bit of pleasure in his work of recovering these reference books and making them beautifully useful once again for 21st century readers. You can read his detailed account of the original illustrations and his adaptation of them for use on the web here.

While appreciating the finer points of color, line, and composition in Rougeux's tapestry of vintage mineral illustrations, you might just inadvertently expand your knowledge and appreciation of mineralogy. You can also read the entire British & Exotic Mineralogy, if you’ve got the time and inclination, at the Internet Archive.

via Kottke

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

One of the Oldest Buddhist Manuscripts Has Been Digitized & Put Online: Explore the Gandhara Scroll

Buddhism goes way back — so far back, in fact, that we're still examining important evidence of just how far back it goes. Take the exhibit above, which may look like nothing more than a collection of faded scraps with writing on them. In fact, they're pieces of the laboriously and carefully unrolled and scanned Gandhara Scroll, which, having originally been written about two millennia ago, ranks as one of the oldest Buddhist manuscripts currently known. You can read the scroll's story at the blog of the Library of Congress, the institution that possesses it and only last year was able to put it online for all to see.

"The scroll originated in Gandhara, an ancient Buddhist kindgom located in what is today the northern border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan," writes the Library's Neely Tucker. "Surviving manuscripts from the Gandharan realm are rare; only a few hundred are known to still exist." That realm "was under the rule of numerous kings and dynasties, including Alexander the Great, the Mauryan emperor Ashoka and the Kushan emperor Kanishka I," and for a time "became a major seat of Buddhist art, architecture and learning. One of the region’s most notable characteristics is the Hellenistic style of its Buddhist sculptures, including figures of the Buddha with wavy hair, defined facial features, and contoured robes reminiscent of Greco-Roman deities."

Written in the Gandhari variant of Sanskrit, the "Bahubuddha Sutra" or "Many Buddhas Sutra," as this scroll has been called, constitutes part of "the much larger Mahavastu, or 'Great Story,' a biography of the Buddha and his past lives." Here Tucker draws from the scholarship of Richard G. Salomon, emeritus professor of Sanskrit and Buddhist studies at the University of Washington, another institution that holds a piece of the Gandharan Buddhist texts. Many more reside at the British Library, which acquired them in 1994. The Library of Congress bought its Gandhara Scroll from a British dealer more recently, in 2003, and it arrived in what Tucker describes as "an ordinary pen case, accompanied by a handwritten note: 'Extremely fragile, do not open unless necessary.'"

So began "several years of thought and planning to devise a treatment strategy," an effort that at one point saw the Library's conservator practicing "her unrolling technique on a dried-up cigar — an item that only approximates the difficulty of working with a compacted birch bark scroll." Then came "gradual humidification over a few days, careful unrolling by hand with precision tools on a sheet of inert glass, followed by placing another sheet of glass on top once the scroll was completely unrolled," a "dramatic and silent affair" described in greater detail by Atlas Obscura's Sabrina Imbler.

The result was six large fragments and more than 100 smaller ones, together constituting roughly 80 percent of the scroll's original text. You can see all those fragments of the Gandhara Scroll, scanned in high resolution, at the Library of Congress' web site. This will naturally be a more edifying experience if, like Salomon, you happen to be able to read Gandhari. Even if you can't, there's something to be felt in the experience of simply beholding a 2,000 year old text composed on birch bark through the digital medium on which we do most of our reading here in the 21st century — where interest in Buddhism shows no signs of waning.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Flying Train: A 1902 Film Captures a Futuristic Ride on a Suspended Railway in Germany

We’ve been focusing a lot recently on old films from the turn of the century that a small group of enthusiasts have been “remastering” using AI, smoothing out the herky-jerky framing, upping the frame rate by interpolating between-frames, and more.

So what a surprise to find a recent look at a film in the Museum of Modern Art’s film collection from 1902 that already has the fidelity and smoothness, no AI needed.

The above footage is taken from the Wuppertaler Schwebebahn, the suspension railway built in the German city of Barmen in 1901. The Biography production company—best known to film students as the place where D.W. Griffiths got his start—was one of the most popular of the early film companies, and produced mini-docs like these, called Mutoscopes.

The Mutoscope used 68mm film, a film stock twice as large as most films at the time. (70mm film really only came into its own during the 1950s.) The 30 frames per second shooting rate was also faster than the usual 18fps or 24fps, which means the illusion of reality is closer to the video rate of today. The Mutoscope was also the name of the company’s viewer, where the frames were printed on cards and could be watched through a viewfinder. So we are watching a film that was never meant to be projected. (If you’re thinking that the Mutoscope was also used for private viewings of What the Butler Saw, you are correct.)

Despite the fidelity our favorite upscaler Denis Shiryaev still had a go at improving the footage and adding color and sound. (There’s also a competitor working on their own upscale and colorization version called Upscaled Studio). Which one is better, do you think? And how much was the experience improved?

And in case you’re wondering, the Wuppertal Schwebebahn still operates to this day, looking very much like it did back in 1902. The total route is just over eight miles long and follows the river Wupper for a lot of it, and services 82,000 commuters a day. (Less so during COVID of course.) You can check out footage below. It definitely looks fun fun fun on the Schwebebahn.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

Milton Glaser’s Stylish Album Covers for Bob Dylan, The Band, Nina Simone, John Cage & Many More

Milton Glaser hardly needs an introduction. But if the name somehow doesn’t ring a bell, “Glaser’s many contributions to pop culture,” as Ayun Halliday writes in a previous post, certainly will. These include “the  I ❤NY logo, the psychedelic portrait of a rainbow-haired Bob Dylan, DC Comics’ classic bullet logo.” All images that “confer undeniable authority.” Many children of the sixties know Glaser well for his album covers, such as the halo photo on the front of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, within whose covers purchasers found the rainbow-haired poster.

Glaser designed the album art for The Band’s classic Music from Pink, this time stepping back and putting one of Dylan’s paintings on the cover. He designed covers for classics like Peter, Paul & Mary’s The Best Of: (Ten) Years Together and Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Lightnin’! Volumes One and Two.

“Glaser had a long history with record labels,” writes designer Reagan Ray. “According to Discogs, he was credited with the design of 255 albums over the course of 60 years. His relationship with record label executive Kevin Eggers led him to explore a variety of covers for the Poppy and Tomato record labels, including the career of Townes Van Zandt.”

Glaser illustrated rock, folk, blues, jazz…. “Classical album covers never get much attention in graphic design history,” Ray points out. But “his colorful paintings were interesting and unique in an otherwise stuffy genre.” He even illustrated an album by Al Caiola’s Magic Guitars called Music for Space Squirrels, whatever that is. Did he listen to all of these albums? Who knows? Glaser left us in June, but not before dispensing “Ten Rules for Work and Life” that set the bar high for aspiring artists.

One of his rules: “Style is not to be trusted. Style change is usually linked to economic factors, as all of you know who have read Marx. Also fatigue occurs when people see too much of the same thing too often.” If anyone would know, it was Glaser. “His work is everywhere,” writes Ray, “and his legacy is vast.” He also had a very recognizable style. See a much larger selection of Glaser’s album covers, curated by Ray from over 200 albums, here. And visit an online collection of Glaser’s other graphic design work at the School of Visual Arts.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Ballerina Misty Copeland Recreates the Poses of Edgar Degas’ Ballet Dancers

“I am a man of motion,” tragic modernist ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky wrote in his famous Diary, “I am feeling through flesh…. I am God in a body.” Nijinsky suffered the unfortunate onset of schizophrenia after his career ended, but in his lucid moments, he writes of the greatest pain of his illness—to never dance again. A degree of his obsessive devotion seems intrinsic to ballet.

Misty Copeland, who titled her autobiography Life in Motion, thinks so. “All dancers are control freaks a bit,” she says. “We just want to be in control of ourselves and our bodies. That’s just what the ballet structure, I think, kind of puts inside of you. If I’m put in a situation where I am not really sure what’s going to happen, it can be overwhelming. I get a bit anxious.” As Nijinsky did, Copeland is also “forcing people to look at ballet through a more contemporary lens,” writes Stephen Mooallem in Harper’s Bazaar.

Copeland has been candid about her struggles on the way to becoming the first African American woman named a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, including coping with depression, a leg-injury, body-image issues, and childhood poverty. She is also “in the midst of the most illuminating pas de deux with pop culture for a classical dancer since Mikhail Baryshnikov went toe-to-toe with Gregory Hines in White Nights” (a reference that may be lost on younger readers, but trust me, this was huge).

Like another modernist artist, Edgar Degas, Copeland has revolutionized the image of the ballet dancer. Degas’ ballet paintings, “which the artist began creating in the late 1860s and continued making until the years before his death, in 1917, were infused with a very modern sensibility. Instead of idealized visions of delicate creatures pirouetting onstage, he offered images of young girls congregating, practicing, laboring, dancing, training….” He showed the unglamorous life and work behind the costumed pageantry, that is.

Photographers Ken Browar and Deborah Ory envisioned Copeland as several of Degas’ dancers, posing her in couture dresses in recreations of some of his famous paintings and sculptures. The photographs are part of their NYC Dance Project, in partnership with Harper’s Bazaar. As Kottke points out, conflating the histories of Copeland and Degas’ dancers raises some questions. Degas’ had contempt for women, especially his Parisian subjects, who danced in a sordid world in which “sex work" between teenage dancers and older men "was a part of a ballerina’s reality,” writes author Julia Fiore (as it was too in Nijinsky’s day).

This context may unsettle our viewing, but the images also show Copeland in full control of Degas’ scenes, though that's not the way it felt, she says. “It was interesting to be on shoot and to not have the freedom to just create like in normally do with my body. Trying to re-create what Degas did was really difficult.” Instead, she embodied his figures as herself. “I see a great affinity between Degas’s dancers and Misty,” says Thelma Golden, director of the Studio Museum in Harlem. “She has knocked aside a long-standing music-box stereotype of the ballerina and replaced it with a thoroughly modern, multicultural image of presence and power.”

See more of Copeland’s Degas recreations at Harper’s Bazaar.

via Kottke

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

When Edward Gorey Designed Book Covers for Classic Novels: See His Ironic-Gothic Take on Dickens, Conrad, Poe & More

Twenty years after his death, it's cooler than ever to like Edward Gorey. This is evidenced not just by the frequent posting of his intensively crosshatched, Victorian- and Edwardian-period-inflected, grimly comic art on social media, but by the number of artists who now claim him as an influence. Where, one wonders, did they come across Gorey in the first place? Having published more than a hundred books in his lifetime (if often in small runs from obscure presses), he certainly put the work out there to be found.

But it was the much more well-known books of other writers like Charles Dickens, Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, and Herman Melville that first propagated Gorey's sensibility of, as The New York Times' Steven Kurutz puts it, "camp-macabre, ironic-gothic or dark-whimsy."

Gorey designed the covers for these books and others between 1953 to 1960, when he worked at the art department of publishers Doubleday Anchor. He had been tasked specifically with their new series of paperbacks meant to be "serious," as opposed to the abundance of cheap, lowbrow, and often salaciously packaged novels that had inspired the term "pulp fiction."

Of the first 200 titles in this series, says Goreyography, "about a fourth of these have line drawn covers by Gorey." Even when other artists (the lineup of whom included Leonard Baskin, Milton Glaser, Philippe Julian, and Andy Warhol) drew the illustration, "Gorey then designed the finished product lending a uniform appearance to the whole line." You can see a variety of Gorey's Doubleday Anchor paperback covers at Lithub, the most Goreyesque of which (such as Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent at the top of the post) not only bear his illustrations but contain nothing not drawn by Gorey, text and colophon included.

"When these covers first appeared against the backdrop of mass-market covers in general," according to Goreyography, "they were hailed as 'modern' and 'arty.' Print magazine praised 'a feeling of unity... a quality of their own.'" The end of Gorey's time at Doubleday didn't mean the end of his work on others' books: in the 1970s, for example, he contributed suitably eerie cover and interior art to John Bellairs' young-adult novel The House with a Clock in Its Walls and five of the sequels that would follow it. It was in Bellairs' books that I first encountered the visions of Edward Gorey. More than a few readers of my generation and the generations since could say the same — and also that we've been pleasurably haunted by them ever since.

See more covers over at Lithub.

Related Content:

Edward Gorey Illustrates H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds in His Inimitable Gothic Style (1960)

Lemony Snicket Reveals His Edward Gorey Obsession in an Upcoming Animated Documentary

Edward Gorey Talks About His Love Cats & More in the Animated Series, “Goreytelling”

The Best of the Edward Gorey Envelope Art Contest

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

What Is a “Blerd?” Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #56 Discusses Nerd Culture and Race with The Second City’s Anthony LeBlanc

The Interim Executive Producer of The Second City joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to discuss the scope of black nerd-dom: what nerdy properties provide to those who feel "othered," using sci-fi to talk about race, Black Panther and other heroes, afrofuturism, black anime fans, Star Trek, Key & Peele, Get Out vs. Us, and more.

A few articles you might enjoy:

Some relevant videos and podcasts:

Learn more at This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

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