Thursday, June 28, 2007

Feeding The Addiction

My tastes have always leaned toward a fondness for things which are a bit dark, humorous, and abstract or absurd. I recently purchased a used copy of Amphigorey Again by the late, great author Edward Gorey. This is the most recent (ostensibly last?) compilation of his short stories and drawings including projects completed shortly before his death. I was first introduced to his work just over half a decade ago when my good friend Pasha allowed me to peruse his copy of Amphigorey, the first major anthology of Mr. Gorey's best work. I was later furnished with a copy of my own when Pasha saw how much I loved it.

Over the next few years I obtained
Amphigorey Too and Amphigorey Also as well as a few pamphlet-size stories that friends had found for me at flea markets. With all of these in my collection, I have almost all of his works, save for a few rare stories which were not widely circulated and are most likely sitting in the possession of ultra hardcore collectors. This is significant because of all authors, musicians and artists out there, very few human beings actually fascinate me enough to have me authoritatively delving into their works. For those who are not familiar with the stories of Edward Gorey, this comic that I found via google: [ (first page) and (second page) ] accurately mirrors my fascination while neatly summing up many common Goreyan themes. He could aptly be described as a fusion of Dr. Seuss, William Shakespeare, Monty Python, Jane Austen, and The Addams Family.

I think I enjoy his style because he never ceases to play mind games... inserting obsessive and seemingly pertinent details into his stories; the details will appear to be driving you in a specific direction, toward some sort of conclusion or a connection with part of the story... in fact your brain is working overtime to make that connection, then nothing happens. The details open the door of the car you are in, kick you out into an empty space, then drive away madly laughing and shouting "You'll never catch meeeee....!!!" It is as if the author is thumbing his nose at you and laughing like a good-natured trickster. He is also fond of deep, flowery literary prose, yet he injects it with random nonsense words which sound like they should be real, or he uses really fancy words and foreign languages to describe something completely ridiculous or mundane. His illustrations are often dark, yet finely detailed, heavily laden with a bleak Dickensian/Edwardian style and they share many seemingly related objects, in what is yet another example of the author's abstract sense of humor... tricking you yet again into assigning significance where there is none. Despite all this, his work does occasionally carry a very well-articulated point, but he really makes you work for it.

He also seems to delight in making fun of lofty, pretentious literary themes, brutally flouting conventional story structure and ruffling the feathers of anyone who takes themselves or the world of literature too seriously. There is also the appearance of occasional, thinly veiled crass undertones, phallic references, and perverse subject matter passed off as being innocently unintended.

If you are some sort of neo-dadaist, a fan of madcap British comedy, or just plain have an appreciation for excessive nonsense then I would heavily encourage you to read any or all of the works of Edward Gorey.

Edward Gorey

...and speaking of Edward Gorey, Nicholas Gurewitch, creator of one of my favorite web comics: Perry Bible Fellowship (don't let the name fool you, it is not a religious comic), penned a strip that could be an Edward Gorey tribute. He hit the drawing style spot-on... when I first saw it, I thought that it was something he had scanned out of one Gorey's published books.

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