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Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey Paperback – October 14, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Will Gorey's curious Victorian households scenes of disconcerting, dastardly deeds and "crypto-Edwardian" characters fade into obscurity with his death? Not a chance. Cultish popularity has yielded to international fascination with this fecund author-artist's carefully crosshatched drawings, quaint enchiridions and fey fiction. Curator/art critic Wilkin expands on The World of Edward Gorey (1996), which she coauthored, with this illustrated collection of 21 interviews that reveal Gorey's interests, foibles and habits. Gorey (1925-2001) studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, was drafted in 1943 (training in Utah, he began his writing career with "unpresentable... closet dramas") and majored in French at Harvard. He initially published his books through his own Fantod Press. More than 100 titles followed The Unstrung Harp (1953), and his readership expanded in 1972 with the first of the Amphigorey anthologies. Interviews culled from magazines (Cats, Dance, Vanity Fair), newspapers, NPR and TV (Dick Cavett) reveal Gorey's cultural influences and inspirations (cats, crime narratives, Louis Feuillade, Buster Keaton, the New York City Ballet, Ivy Compton-Burnett) along with minutiae and insights into his erudite, eccentric humor. Best of all, readers glimpse Gorey's creative processes: the texts almost always preceded the drawings, for instance. On his work he was characteristically irreverent: "I get a certain enjoyment out of doing it; but after it's done, I have no feeling for it at all." Stephen Schiff's 1992 "Edward Gorey and the Tao of Nonsense" (from the New Yorker) provides an outstanding overview. This is an exhilarating excursion into an extraordinary imagination (with numerous artistic tips and resources). 8 photos, 150 drawings. (Oct.)Forecast: National publicity and advertising, especially around the holidays, and counter displays will grab fans and gift givers.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Gorey in his own words, taken from the interviews he gave over time.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (October 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015601291X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156012911
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,366,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Edward Gorey (1925-2000) wrote and illustrated such popular books as The Doubtful Guest, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, and The Headless Bust. He was also a very successful set and costume designer, earning a Tony Award for his Broadway production of Edward Gorey's Dracula. Animated sequences of his work have introduced the PBS series Mystery! since 1980.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Amid the doorstop-sized biographies of anyone who has put two ideas together, it's great to have this bright little collection of interviews of a remarkably original thinker. The variety of the interviewers is effective - there are graphic design types asking about paper and nibs, and literary types working on themes and influences, as well as the official New Yorker canonization, and the sharp little session with Dick Cavett. Gorey comes across as both erudite and self-effacing - he's an intellectual with an asbsurdist's lack of vanity about his place in the world, and a humanist's warmth for the pleasantness of daily life.
What made this book better than a nice bio of an interesting person is that Gorey was, in his words, "a cultural magpie," and was very generous with his compliments to artists he found excellent. So if you like the play of aesthetic styles and ideas in Gorey's work, you'll probably love listening to him talk about the artists he admires. I've added a half-dozen of his recommendations to my to-read list.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a valuable book for Edward Gorey's ever-growing group of fans. If you are familiar with this artist's unique brand of sophisticatedly absurd stories, illustrated with a distinct, careful pen-and-ink style that is halfway between fine art and cartoon, then you will be intrigued to find out more about the eccentric man who made them. (If you are unfamiliar with his work, I strongly suggest you find a copy of a collection of his called "Amphigorey.") This book collects the best interviews and magazine pieces about Gorey that appeared from the sixties until his death in the late nineties. Taken together, they give a pretty good idea of what Gorey was like - erudite, obsessive, reclusive, and above all, a man who did his own thing regardless of whether it brought success or not. (In this he is a truly inspirational figure, however odd you may think him. It's not that he was a particularly happy person, but he always allowed himself to be himself.) Gorey speaks of his artistic influences and offers sporadic glimpses into his family life and work habits. Where else will you find this much information about him in one place? This may well be the truest glimpse of the man behind the art that we will ever see.
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Format: Hardcover
If there's one thing I really love about this book it's the lack of continuity. There's no need to sit down and read it straight through. Read an article a day. Go to it only when you want a sentence or thought to mull over. Pick out an image when you want to write or illustrate something yourself. There's plenty of quirky inspiration to be found in these articles.
This is an eccentric kind of biography, perfectly suited to the nature of the man. In it there is only so much revealed, enough to make you wonder what else was there, what was waiting to happen. And for those of us that wouldn't have access to the original articles, well, this is a wonderful solution.
Perhaps the only thing that kept this book from getting a full five stars is that there just aren't enough of his illustrations to satisfy.
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Format: Paperback
A long time fan of Edward Gorey, I was given this book as a birthday present by my sister. Having never read anything about his life, I found this book insightful but also a little redundant. This isn't necessarily a book to read straight through, but might work better read over time in order to dispel the similarities in questions/answers.
This is not a biography, but rather a collection of interviews the confirmed "recluse" gave over the span of his life. Gorey talks passionately about his loves (ballet, cats, reading) as well as his hates (Henry James - and who could argue?). Each interview paints a picture of the artist that lives up to the weird and wondrous works he creates. Gorey's works are bizarre and although not intentionally macabre, they are oddly disconcerting, if not downright unsetlling. Sometimes his knowledge and responses have the same effect.
For anyone who is a fan of this too little known author and artist, "Ascending Peculiarity" is a wonderful portrait of Edward Gorey. It leaves you wanting to know more, wishing you were there asking the questions, just as many of his works leave you wondering what they were all about.
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Format: Hardcover
This set of interviews selected and edited by Karen Wilkin are presented here for their importance as a literary autobiography offering many insights on Edward Gorey's personal and artistic life. Few had the opportunity to interview Gorey, making this especially important as a gathering of over twenty conversations with him which began in 1973 and concluded in 1999, shortly before his death. Add reproductions of his art and you have an exceptional guide.
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Format: Hardcover
What could be better than Gorey in his own words. Edward's own conversation is just as good as any of his books or artwork. His estate put this together with great care and it's worth every penny to those familiar with his work. For those who aren't- wait -and go buy Amphigorey...
then buy this.

One highlight- the Dick Cavett interview.... "Would you like to see how you look on television?" Edward, "No, I'd rather not.."
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