Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Gorey, Edward

(1925-2000) US artist, illustrator and writer, most of whose over 70 chapbooks are collected in the omnibus volumes Amphigorey (graph coll 1972), Amphigorey Too (graph coll 1975) and Amphigorey Also (graph coll 1983). Typically EG produces engraving-like picture stories in black ink, often with baroque Victorian/ Edwardian backgrounds and costumes. Characteristics include effective composition, somewhat sketchy characters' faces, precise hand-lettered captions – frequently in doggerel – and a generally sombre yet surreal mood (as in the work of Charles Addams, though EG's style is rarely cartoon-like). EG often injects macabre elements into Children's Fantasy templates; a regular if unexplained prop is the ominous Black Doll. Joke pseudonyms recur, including Eduard Blutig and anagrams like Ogdred Weary.

Of special fantasy note are: The Doubtful Guest (graph 1957), where an inexplicable beast resembling a furry penguin joins a perturbed Victorian family, never to leave; The Object-Lesson (graph 1958), an exercise in darkly humorous Surrealism; The Insect God (graph 1963), whose narrative is light verse but which culminates with a kidnapped child's sacrifice to the eponymous deity; The Sinking Spell (graph 1964), where the creature that sinks slowly and alarmingly from roof to cellar is never depicted; The Evil Garden (graph 1966), subverting the children's-story format of a merry outing (caption: "A hissing swarm of hairy bugs/Has got the baby and its rugs"), an approach repeated in EG's popup book The Dwindling Party (graph 1982); The Inanimate Tragedy (graph 1966), a reductio ad absurdum of anthropomorphism with "characters" like the Two-Holed Button and Glass Marble plotting darkly; The Utter Zoo (graph 1967), one of several EG exercises in the Nonsense-alphabet vein of Edward Lear – here a bizarre Bestiary; the very odd The Epiplectic Bicycle (graph 1969), featuring Talking Animals, a talking bicycle and apparent Time Travel; The Disrespectful Summons (graph 1971), showing the Pact with the Devil and orthodox downfall of middle-class Witch Miss Squill; [The Untitled Book] (graph 1971), whose cheerful nonsense captions belie the disturbing uncuddliness of the creatures a child sees dancing in the garden; and The Raging Tide, or The Black Doll's Imbroglio (graph 1987) reducing the multiple-choice "gamebook" format (> Games) to absurdity – "If you loathe prunes more than you do turnips, turn to 22."

EG drew jacket and interior illustrations for many other works, notably Lear's "The Jumblies" and "The Dong with a Luminous Nose" as collected in Gorey x 3 (graph coll 1976), and T S Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1982 US). His sets and costumes for the 1977 Broadway production of Dracula won a Tony award and are mimicked in his Dracula: A Toy Theatre (graph 1979). He received the World Fantasy Award as Best Artist in 1985 and 1989. Though aficionados relish his characteristic mix of whimsy and deadpan menace, EG himself insists: "I write about everyday life." [DRL]

other works, excluding chapbooks in Amphigorey collections: The Other Statue (graph 1968); The Black Doll: A Silent Film (graph 1973); Category: Fifty Drawings (graph 1973); Gorey Posters (graph 1979); Dancing Cats and Neglected Murderesses (graph coll 1980); Le Mélange Funeste (graph 1981); The Water Flowers (graph 1982); E.D. Ward A Mercurial Bear (graph 1983); The Tunnel Calamity (graph 1984 accordion-fold novelty); The Prune People II (graph 1985); The Improvable Landscape (graph 1986); The Dripping Faucet: Fourteen Hundred and Fifty Eight Tiny, Tedious and Terrible Tales (graph 1989); The Helpless Doorknob: A Shuffled Story (graph 1989); Q.R.V. (graph 1989 vt The Universal Solvent 1990); The Fraught Settee (graph 1990); La Balade Troublante (1991); The Betrayed Confidence: Seven Series of Dogear Wryde Postcards (graph coll 1992); Figbash Acrobate (graph 1994); The Retrieved Locket (graph 1994); The Unknown Vegetable (graph 1995); various others.

as editor: The Haunted Looking Glass: Ghost Stories Chosen and Illustrated by EG (anth 1959; vt Edward Gorey's Haunted Looking Glass 1984).

further reading: "The Albums of Edward Gorey" (1959) in The Bit Between My Teeth (coll 1965) by Edmund Wilson (1895-1972); self-interview in Gorey Posters.

Edward St John Gorey

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.