Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Completed: Ascending Peculiarity

Dear Jenny,

After last month's book, I was nervous about reading about someone who I had previously admired... what if Edward Gorey turned out to be an unlikable jerk?

My worries were completely unfounded. I love Edward Gorey more now than I ever did before. Previously, my love was based only on his art. Now, my love extends to the quirkiness that was Edward Gorey himself. What a magnificent weirdo!

This book is a collection of interviews with Gorey between 1973-1999. It was interesting to read about him through different lenses and with different "angles," but the man shone through as his very Self throughout every single interview.

Some amazing and delicious facts about Edward Gorey:
  • His uniform: Ankle length fur coat + white sneakers + rings on every finger. Pretty much every day. YES.
    (That little drawing above is a common one of Gorey's -- turns out, it is Gorey himself. Meanwhile... notice all of the post-it flags on this book. These were put in every time I found something awesome.)
  • He was born in... Chicago!
  • His college roommate was Frank O'Hara. (Oh, the talent in that flat!)
  • He attended the New York City Ballet every single night for 23 seasons. Basically, he feared missing a performer's "best" performance, so, you know, why not just go see them all so that you can be assured you don't miss it? I cannot tell you how much I love this.
  • In his home, he had a row of stuffed birds that he had hand sewn himself. "'I was trying to make penguins, and this is what came out,' he explains regretfully. 'They look depressed, don't they? There's no way of making them look comfortable.' It's no wonder. All of them have broken necks." [110] Ha!
  • He collected books, art, spherical objects, and postcards of dead babies. Who knew there were enough postcards of dead babies that one could collect them?!
  • He watched The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. YES!
This is not a great book review. It's just me gushing about how amazing Edward Gorey was. I will now continue with this interview excerpt that made me laugh out loud:
You are a noted macabre, of sorts.
Which I don't really believe in either so much. It sort of annoys me to be stuck with that. I don't think that's what I do exactly. I know I do it, but what I'm really doing is something else entirely. It just looks like I'm doing that.

What are you doing?
I don't know what it is I'm doing; but it's not that, despite all evidence to the contrary. [35]
Edward Gorey, regarding having six cats:
Between three and four, before I took in the fifth, didn't seem much difference. Between four and five didn't seem much difference. Strangely enough, between five and six I suddenly felt it's not just six cats, it's six cats making up a kind of phalanx. Not that the six banded together. To the contrary, there were all sorts of internecine relationships. But somehow six cats seem a lot more, disproportionately more, than five. I lost one this spring, so now I'm down to five, which once more is five individuals. [68]
And on his own eccentricity:
What's the dividing line? [Between being eccentric and not.]
Well, frankly, living by yourself with six cats in eccentric.

What about your reputation for wearing fur coats and sneakers?
That part is genuinely eccentric. I wouldn't do it if it wasn't the way I wanted to dress. But I'm very much aware that I could be a little more or a little less eccentric. [96]
Many interviewers asked him if he had a strange or unusual childhood and he says that he did not. As evidence of the "normalcy" of his childhood, he says, "I was out playing Kick-the-Can with everyone else." [77] I loved this reference -- at many times, he seems like a mythological creature, but this statement just brings him right back down to earth.

And, finally... get what he said when referring to the Gashlycrumb Tinies: "I must say I did think at the time that 'N is for Neville who died of ennui' was rather fetching." [174] This is exactly the one that I referred to when I introduced this book!

And that, my friend, just cemented my fangirl crush.

In a nutshell: I love Edward Gorey and I loved this book.

Interestingly, I began reading The Strange Case of Edward Gorey (a biography of him written by a close friend) immediately after finishing this and I did not get very far. Apparently, I do not enjoy someone else talking about Edward Gorey as much as I enjoy him talking about himself. I may go back to that one at another point, but right now, I'm going to hold onto the glow of the magic of this one.


1 comment:

  1. K,

    Sounds like the perfect antidote to your "Book of Vice" hangover. I love it when a person is just as awesome in real life as you'd hope. And it sounds like the book is full of amazing details and stories. The thing about having 6 cats is classic. I'm trying to imagine what I love so much I'd be willing to do it every night for 20 years. I can't think of anything besides reading, and that doesn't really seem the same at all, now does it?

    I love, most of all, his refusal to be pigeonholed as a single kind of person. What an amazing guy. I'm so glad you are ending the year with books you like. I love it when an artist's life is just as impassioned and amazing as you'd hope.