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

My child­hood dis­cov­ery of Edward Gorey proved rev­e­la­to­ry. I rec­og­nized my own bewil­der­ment in the blank expres­sions of his obses­sive­ly-ren­dered Edwar­dian chil­dren. His char­ac­ters, impris­oned in starched col­lars and stays, stared at the world through hol­low eyes, struck dumb by alter­nat­ing cur­rents of absur­di­ty and hor­ror. Every young­ster with bud­ding goth and New Roman­tic sen­si­bil­i­ties found them­selves drawn into Gorey’s weird worlds. Con­fessed Goreyphiles like Tim Bur­ton and Neil Gaiman took much from a style Steven Kurutz describes as “camp-macabre, iron­ic-goth­ic or dark whim­sy.”

He gave his read­ers per­mis­sion to be odd and haunt­ed, and to laugh about it, but he nev­er seemed to have need­ed such per­mis­sion him­self. He was as sui gener­is as he was mys­te­ri­ous, the scowl­ing old­er gen­tle­man with the long white beard assumed the role of an anti-San­ta, bestow­ing gifts of guilt-free, soli­tary indul­gence in dark fan­ta­sy.

But the man him­self remained shroud­ed, and that was just as well. Learn­ing more about him as an adult, I have been struck by just how close­ly he resem­bles some of his char­ac­ters, or rather, by how much he was, in work and life, entire­ly him­self.

A fash­ion­ably book­ish her­mit and Wildean aes­thete, a man to whom, “by his own admis­sion… noth­ing hap­pened,” Gorey orga­nized his life in New York around read­ing, see­ing films, and attend­ing George Balanchine’s bal­lets. (He rarely missed a per­for­mance over the course of three decades, then moved to his famed Cape Cod house when Bal­an­chine died in the mid-80s.) “Despite being a life­long Anglophile, he made just one brief vis­it to Scot­land and Eng­land,” writes Kurutz, “his only trip abroad.”

In a Proust Ques­tion­naire he answered for Van­i­ty Fair, Gorey wrote that his favorite jour­ney was “look­ing out the win­dow.” The supreme love of his life, he wrote: his cats. Those beloved crea­tures are the sub­ject of the third episode of Goreytelling, at the top, an ani­mat­ed web series con­sist­ing of short excerpts from an upcom­ing doc­u­men­tary sim­ply titled Gorey, direct­ed by Christo­pher Seufert, who spent sev­er­al years record­ing his con­ver­sa­tions with Gorey. The very Gorey-like ani­ma­tions are by Ben­jamin and Jim Wick­ey.

If you’ve ever won­dered what Edward Gorey sound­ed like, won­der no more. Hear his solid­ly Mid­west­ern accent (Gorey grew up in Chica­go) as he describes the tra­vails of liv­ing with adorable, frus­trat­ed preda­tors who destroy the fur­ni­ture and throw them­selves on his draw­ing table, ruin­ing his work. Fur­ther up, he tells the sto­ry of a mummy’s head he kept wrapped up in his clos­et, and just above he tells a sto­ry about The Loathe­some Cou­ple a 1977 book he wrote based a series of real-life mur­ders of British chil­dren by a mar­ried cou­ple. “A lot peo­ple,” he says, would tell him “this one book of yours, I real­ly find a lit­tle… much.”

Goreyphiles out there, and they num­ber in the mil­lions, will thor­ough­ly enjoy these ani­ma­tions (see episode 2, “Fan Mail,” here and 4, “Drac­u­la,” here). Gorey the doc­u­men­tary promis­es to bring us even clos­er to the cur­mud­geon­ly author and artist. His life makes for a quirky series of vignettes, but ulti­mate­ly Gorey was a “Mag­el­lan of the imag­i­na­tion,” says cul­tur­al crit­ic and biog­ra­ph­er Mark Dery. “He jour­neyed vast­ly between his ears…. So that’s where you have to look for the life. On the psy­chic geog­ra­phy of his uncon­scious,” and in the pages of his over 100 sat­is­fy­ing­ly unset­tling books.

via Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

Alfred Hitch­cock Med­i­tates on Sus­pense & Dark Humor in a New Ani­mat­ed Video

The Out­siders: Lou Reed, Hunter S. Thomp­son, and Frank Zap­pa Reveal Them­selves in Cap­ti­vat­ing­ly Ani­mat­ed Inter­views

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

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