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

Had the gloom-haunt­ed Edward Gorey found a way to have a love child with Dorothy Park­er, their issue might well have been Lemo­ny Snick­et, the pseu­do­ny­mous author of a mul­ti­vol­ume fam­i­ly chron­i­cle brought out under the gen­teel appel­la­tion A Series of Unfor­tu­nate Events

- Gre­go­ry Maguire, The New York Times

Author Daniel Han­dleraka Lemo­ny Snicket—was but a child when he for­tu­itous­ly stum­bled onto the curi­ous oeu­vre of Edward Gorey.

The lit­tle books were illus­trat­ed, hand-let­tered, and mys­te­ri­ous. They allud­ed to ter­ri­ble things befalling inno­cents in a way that made young Han­dler laugh and want more, though he shied from mak­ing such a request of his par­ents, lest the books con­sti­tute pornog­ra­phy.

(His fear strikes this writer as whol­ly reasonable—my father kept a copy of The Curi­ous Sofa: A Porno­graph­ic Work by Ogdred Wearyaka Edward Gorey—stashed in the bath­room of my child­hood home. Its per­ver­sions were many, though far from explic­it and utter­ly befud­dling to a third grade book­worm. The exceed­ing­ly eco­nom­i­cal text hint­ed at a mul­ti­tude of unfa­mil­iar taboos, and Gorey the illus­tra­tor under­stood the val­ue of a well-placed orna­men­tal urn.)

Inter­viewed above for Christo­pher Seufert’s upcom­ing fea­ture-length Gorey doc­u­men­tary, Han­dler is effu­sive about the depth of this ear­ly influ­ence:

The goth­ic set­ting. (Han­dler always fan­cied that an in-per­son meet­ing with Gorey would resem­ble the first 20 min­utes of a Ham­mer hor­ror movie.)

The dark, unwink­ing humor aris­ing from a plot as grim as that of The Hap­less Childor The Blue Aspicthe first title young Han­dler pur­chased with his own mon­ey.

An inten­tion­al­ly murky pseu­do­nym geared to ignite all man­ner of wild­ly read­er­ly spec­u­la­tion as to the author’s lifestyle and/or true iden­ti­ty. (Gorey attrib­uted var­i­ous of his works to Dogear Wryde, Ms. Regera Dowdy, Eduard Blutig, O. Müde and the afore­men­tioned Ogdred Weary, among oth­ers.)

Even Lemo­ny Snickett’s web­site car­ries a strong whiff of Gorey.

In acknowl­edg­ment of this debt, Han­dler sent copies of the first two Snick­ett books to the reclu­sive author, along with a fan let­ter that apol­o­gized for rip­ping him off. Gorey died in April 2000, a cou­ple of weeks after the pack­age was post­ed, leav­ing Han­dler doubt­ful that it was even opened.

Han­dler namechecks oth­er artists who oper­ate in Gorey’s thrall: film­mak­ers Tim Bur­ton and Michel Gondry, musi­cians Aman­da Palmer and Trent Reznor, and nov­el­ist Neil Gaiman.

Per­haps owing to the spec­tac­u­lar pop­u­lar­i­ty of Snickett’s Series of Unfor­tu­nate Events, Gorey has late­ly become a bit more of an above-ground dis­cov­ery for young read­ers. Scholas­tic has a free Edward Gorey les­son plan, geared to grades 6–12.

More infor­ma­tion about Christo­pher Seufert’s Gorey doc­u­men­tary, with ani­ma­tions by Ben Wick­ey and the active par­tic­i­pa­tion of its sub­ject dur­ing his final four years of life, can be found here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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

The First Amer­i­can Pic­ture Book, Wan­da Gág’s Mil­lions of Cats (1928)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Sep­tem­ber 9 for anoth­er sea­son of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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