/Superb Oddities: Robert Gottlieb Reviews a Biography of Edward Gorey

Superb Oddities: Robert Gottlieb Reviews a Biography of Edward Gorey


Brown’s merchandising of Gorey merchandise presses on efficiently immediately, with calendars, bookmarks, T-shirts, postcards, mugs — you identify it! — broadly accessible. Dery, nonetheless, takes potshots at Brown and his co-trustee of the now very wealthy Edward Gorey Charitable Trust, particularly for his or her dealing with of the immense Gorey archive. Not coincidentally, maybe, Brown wouldn’t sit for an official interview for “Born to Be Posthumous.” Nor did the 2 pals to whom Gorey left $100,000 every in his will: Connie Joerns and the dance critic Robert Greskovic, whom Dery barely mentions. And but he boasts in his “note on sources” of the “more than 78 in-depth interviews with people who’d known Gorey, each of which was recorded and transcribed to ensure accuracy.” What does he suppose biographers do? He’s additionally proud of having “tracked down the addresses Gorey called home during his Chicago boyhood.” If solely he hadn’t! At occasions his ardour for element is simply bewildering. Did we have to know that Bobbs-Merrill, the publishing home the place Gorey spent a “dreary” 12 months, was situated at three West 57th Street?

Dery isn’t an skilled biographer, so it’s comprehensible that he stumbles. But he’s an skilled author, and though elements of his Gorey guide are persuasively written — as are the majority of the essays in his assortment, “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts”the brand new guide is so swamped in clichés that I stored being reminded of the well-known items Frank Sullivan wrote for The New Yorker about a fictional Mr. Arbuthnot, “the cliché expert.” People within the Dery universe pound the pavement and preserve an eye fixed peeled, books each fly off the racks and roll off the presses, letters fly thick and quick, issues converse volumes, are grist for the Freudian mills and do a land-office enterprise (very quickly flat). And, talking of The New Yorker, Dery appears fixated on it — why else, when referring to a profile of Gorey by Stephen Schiff, does he determine him 9 occasions as writing within the journal? And talking but once more of The New Yorker, why doesn’t Dery capitalize its “The”? Where, certainly, are the copy editors at his usually glorious writer, Little, Brown?

By the mid-80s, as soon as Gorey was completely put in in his home in Yarmouth Port, his books had change into considerably predictable and skinny — extra method than content material. “Gone,” Dery precisely stories, “was the spiderweb delicacy of his classic style, replaced by a thicker, bolder line. Gone, too, were the eye-buzzing pattern-on-pattern compositions and dizzily detailed wallpaper of his heyday, exchanged for monochrome backdrops.” One will get the sensation that he was going by way of the motions. Alexander Theroux, writer of the attention-grabbing if factually precarious “The Strange Case of Edward Gorey,” informed an interviewer that, in round 1990, Gorey had informed him that “he’d lost his talent.” But he was having fun with his life. His enduring fascination with theater had gripped him once more, and he was the driving power behind numerous newbie performs, puppet exhibits and revues that absorbed most of his time and power and gave him countless pleasure — generally extra pleasure than they gave his native audiences.

His tastes in his later years have been if something wider and seemingly greater than ever incompatible with each other. Genji and Mozart and Balanchine, sure, but in addition “Buffy” and “Golden Girls” and “All My Children.” As for films, he commemorated the fantastic silent serials of Feuillade and the masterpieces of Ozu and Naruse however he additionally indulged fortunately in probably the most graphic splatter movies. When requested whether or not these common tastes mirrored “a scholarly interest in American pop culture,” he answered, “No, I just like trash.” Similarly, his extremely private collections, largely culled from yard gross sales, prolonged to worn stuffed animals, phone pole insulators, rocks and previous equipment (“I just like rusted iron”). As for fulfillment, after “Dracula” he stated, “I began to realize what it would be like to be rich and famous, but I’ve decided unh-unh.” In this, he uncannily resembles Paul Taylor.

In different phrases, he un-self-consciously and firmly lived by his personal lights — a excellent instance of the “inner-directed man” of David Riesman’s “The Lonely Crowd.” An admiring Dick Cavett put it this fashion: “You have done exactly, as I see it, what you want to do.” To which Gorey, true to type, replied: “Well, I guess I have. But only because I didn’t really see any way of doing anything else.” He even died his personal manner, stubbornly refusing to take customary precautionary measures that might virtually definitely have postponed the guts assault that killed him in 2000.

His manner baffled a lot of individuals, as a result of there weren’t a lot of individuals like him. Chris Seufert, who filmed him for a documentary, stated: “My background in anthropology actually was acceptable. My sense, taking pictures him, was that he was certainly the final of a disappearing race. … But the factor with Edward was, there was no race. He was probably the most one-of-a-kind particular person you’d ever meet.”

His mom, candid as at all times, summed issues up this fashion: “But then, Ted always did puzzle me.”



Source link Nytimes.com

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