The somewhat murky portrait of a man

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

I have been a casual fan of Edward Gorey for quite some time and hoped to learn more about him by reading Born to be Posthumous The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery. While much is known about his work there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the man himself. He didn’t keep a diary and there’s not much in the way of correspondence. Was he a confirmed bachelor because of choice as an asexual man or was he a closeted man who never found time for love? Were his affectations symptomatic of a fake persona or was it the real him? Gorey was tested and judged to have a high IQ but his turbulent home life saw him uprooted often and he ended up delaying entry to Harvard to join the Army. Sporting long fur coats, white sneakers, lots of rings on both hands, and a big bushy beard insured that he stood out wherever he went. He compartmentalized his friendships, had no known romantic relationships, and spent inordinate amounts of time going to the ballet, watching silent movies, and reading copious amounts of books (specifically mysteries). [A/N: He once stated that he read 21,000 books and watched 1,000 movies a year.] At the end of his life he had moved into a dilapidated house on Cape Cod where he lived among lots of cats and a variety of knickknacks and curios. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and diabetes before finally suffering a heart attack. Not quite the ignominious fate that his characters tended to suffer; it was nevertheless the end of an iconic literary figure.


Dery spent a large chunk of the book talking about the 'hidden meaning' in Gorey's work but honestly I don't see it. I think on the fact of it they were fun little illustrated stories that captured (and continue to ensnare) the imagination of anyone who reads them. You can look forward to a masterpost of some of that work coming up in the (hopefully) not too distant future. Overall, this wasn't quite the eyeopening biography that I had hoped it would be and the reach that the author tried to make kind of put me off so that it took me way longer to finish than it should have done. 5/10


What's Up Next: Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins with pictures by Paul O. Zelinsky


What I'm Currently Reading: Stranger in the House: Women's Stories of Men Returning from the Second World War by Julie Summers