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

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

by Mark Dery

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The definitive biography of Edward Gorey, the eccentric master of macabre nonsense.
From The Gashlycrumb Tinies to The Doubtful Guest, Edward Gorey's wickedly funny and deliciously sinister little books have influenced our culture in innumerable ways, from the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman to Lemony Snicket. Some even call him the Grandfather of Goth.
But who was this man, who lived with over twenty thousand books and six cats, who roomed with Frank O'Hara at Harvard, and was known--in the late 1940s, no less--to traipse around in full-length fur coats, clanking bracelets, and an Edwardian beard? An eccentric, a gregarious recluse, an enigmatic auteur of whimsically morbid masterpieces, yes--but who was the real Edward Gorey behind the Oscar Wildean pose?
He published over a hundred books and illustrated works by Samuel Beckett, T.S. Eliot, Edward Lear, John Updike, Charles Dickens, Hilaire Belloc, Muriel Spark, Bram Stoker, Gilbert & Sullivan, and others. At the same time, he was a deeply complicated and conflicted individual, a man whose art reflected his obsessions with the disquieting and the darkly hilarious.
Based on newly uncovered correspondence and interviews with personalities as diverse as John Ashbery, Donald Hall, Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Anna Sui, BORN TO BE POSTHUMOUS draws back the curtain on the eccentric genius and mysterious life of Edward Gorey.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316451079
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 11/06/2018
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 573,224
File size: 46 MB
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About the Author

Mark Dery is a cultural critic. He coined the term "Afrofuturism," popularized the concept of "culture jamming," taught at Yale and NYU, and has published widely on pop culture, the media, and on the mythologies (and pathologies) of American life. His books include Flame Wars, a seminal anthology of writings on digital culture; Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the end of the century, The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink, and the essay collection, I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-by Essays on American Dread, American Dreams. Like Gorey, his mission in life "is to make everybody as uneasy as possible."

Table of Contents

Introduction A Good Mystery 3

Chapter 1 A Suspiciously Normal Childhood: Chicago, 1925-44 20

Chapter 2 Mauve Sunsets: Dugway, 1944-46 58

Chapter 3 "Terribly Intellectual and Avant-Garde and All That Jazz": Harvard, 1946-50 69

Chapter 4 Sacred Monsters: Cambridge, 1950-53 104

Chapter 5 "Like a Captive Balloon, Motionless Between Sky and Earth": New York, 1953 124

Chapter 6 Hobbies Odd-Ballet, the Gotham Book Mart, Silent Film, Feuillade: 1953 147

Chapter 7 Épater le Bourgeois: 1954-58 172

Chapter 8 "Working Perversely to Please Himself": 1959-63 193

Chapter 9 Nursery Crimes-The Gashlycrumb Tinies and Other Outrages: 1963 219

Chapter 10 Worshipping in Balanchine's Temple: 1964-67 237

Chapter 11 Mail Bonding-Collaborations: 1967-72 263

Chapter 12 Dracula: 1973-78 301

Chapter 13 Mystery!: 1979-85 324

Chapter 14 Strawberry Lane Forever: Cape Cod, 1985-2000 336

Chapter 15 Flapping Ankles, Crazed Teacups, and Other Entertainments 369

Chapter 16 "Awake in the Dark of Night Thinking Gorey Thoughts" 381

Chapter 17 The Curtain Falls 399

Acknowledgments 417

A Note on Sources 421

A Gorey Bibliography 423

Notes 427

Index 485

What People are Saying About This

Jonathan Lethem

“Edward Gorey has been granted the most remarkable biography, one I believe he could have lived with. What was the likelihood that this singular genius could be restored, with such compassion and grace, within his whole context: Balanchine, Surrealism, Frank O’Hara, Lady Murasaki, et al? This is a Dery Gorey book.”

Author of A Series of Unfortunate Events - Daniel Handler

“Edward Gorey’s ardent admirers have long known there is something about his work one can’t quite pin down. Past all reason, Mark Dery has pinned it down. A genius book about a bookish genius.”

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Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Laeljeanne More than 1 year ago
The heartbreak of a good biography is finding out that the artist whose work sings to you is not the person of your imagination. It’s almost like a friendship breaking up over irreconcilable differences. The joy of a great biography is reveling in all the nooks and crannies of the artist whose work speaks to you. Mark Dery’s representation of Edward Gorey’s life is well-researched—including interviews with friends, family, and colleagues—and often feels too intimate, probing as deeply as possible into an ultra private man whose public persona was a purposeful put-on. The brilliant title and chapter headings are Gorey-esque: A Suspiciously Normal Childhood, Sacred Monsters, Epater le Bourgeois, Nursery Crimes, etc. Dery has sectioned Gorey’s life into childhood, education, career moves, and his various obsessions, the main ones being literature high and low, silent movies, and the ballet choreography of George Balanchine, with their corresponding closely-knit fan groups. Any Gorey fan can learn something new in this biography, for the man was quite complex, and he apparently needed little sleep, working on something every moment possible, from his little books sold successfully at Gotham Book Mart, through his book cover art and collaborations, to his work in theater and television. Though far from an open book, Gorey’s career flowed easily through profound and lasting friendships, Dery presenting the development and arc of such friendships with a light touch. Themes running throughout the biography are Gorey’s complex parental relationships, his tendency to keep himself to himself while handing out sardonic opinions like candy, and speculation upon his sexual orientation. Though he’d answered the question of his sexual orientation, speculation continued, with “evidence” pointed out in his work and life. Though Dery may reference the evidence and speculation a bit much, he offers a comprehensive gathering of Gorey’s work and a well-thought-out timeline of his life, with a wonderful takeaway that Gorey made his art to please himself. It’s a must-read biography of a man as interesting and mysterious as his little books of Victorian / Edwardian children suffering unusual demises. Little, Brown & Company graciously sent me an ARC of this fantabulous biography for an honest review.
MontzieW More than 1 year ago
Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Deryis a book I requested and the review is voluntary. I didn't even know who Edward Gorey was when I started this book, is that bad? Well I sure do now! I love how this book is written. It is full of character and is very colorful just like the subject! Each chapter heading is unique, and the interviews, the subjects, the content, and the personal details are totally remarkably! I started out knowing nothing about this man and ended up knowing more than I ever expected to! Brilliantly written about quite an interesting person. I thank Little, Brown and Company for letting me learn so much from this talented author!