Born to be Posthumous: The Eccentric Genius and Mysterious Life of Edward Gorey

Mark Dery. Little, Brown, $35 (512p) ISBN 978-0-316-18854-8
Avant-garde writer and artist Edward Gorey comes across as almost odder, if less adventurous, than his characters in this atmospheric biography. Gorey, a native Chicagoan and an Anglophile, innovated by looking back to vintage British illustrations, stocking his drawings with bearded gentlemen, bustled ladies, flappers, and crepuscular mansions; his groundbreaking short picture books featured droll send-ups of Victorian melodrama, replete with dying children, bizarre creatures invading parlors, and dark figures haunting lonely landscapes. Culture critic Dery (Flame Wars) shrewdly plumbs Gorey’s work, which inspired goth fashions, Tim Burton movies, and Lemony Snicket’s children’s books. In his telling, Gorey’s personality is also a showy exterior with an enigmatic interior: Gorey sported a bristling beard, long fur coats, jewelry, and Wildean mannerisms; though he was prone to at times having “all-consuming crush[es]” on men, he proclaimed himself asexual. Gorey’s uneventful, solitary life can be less than exciting, and the narrative sometimes bogs down in his collections and love of George Balanchine’s ballets. Fans will like the immersion in Gorey-ana, but others may feel that this colorful protagonist lacks a compelling plot. Photos. Andrew Stuart, Stuart Agency. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/2018
Release date: 11/13/2018
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