22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2002
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.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2001
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.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2002
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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2002
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.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2002
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.."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a sort of mini-autobiography of artist/writer Edward Gorey (1925-2000), presented through the medium of interviews that took place over the years from 1973 to 1999. Edward Gorey has- and has had, for many years- a cult following for his slightly skewed, morbid but funny books. Working almost exclusively in pen and ink, his drawings most often present a late Victorian or Edwardian setting, frequently drawn with lush detail- particularly the backgrounds- where something is just off. Gardens contain plants that eat people; strange looking guests appear uninvited, people die off constantly. But Gorey was not just interesting for his work; he was a bona fide eccentric, dressing in sneakers, ankle length fur coats, and lots of chunky jewelry. And, of course, his cats. He loved his cats above all things, allowing them to do their will unimpeded, and left his estate to animal charities.
Telling a person's life through interviews results in being able to see what Gorey thought about from various times in his life. A lot of things didn't change; his voracious appetite for reading, his lack of need for human contact, his artistic style. Some things did; he moved away from New York City permanently because the one thing that held him there, the ballet, evolved into something he no longer cared for.
Because interviewers tend to ask the same questions as each other, there is a lot of repetition in the book. Throughout the years, he tends to answer them the same way every time. It would have been hard to edit all the repetitions out, and it's easy enough to skim past those sections. But even with the repetitions, each interview reveals something just a little different about Gorey. The book has illustrations from his various works scattered throughout. It's a fun, interesting book that's fast to read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2006
This book is a must for Edward Gorey fans. It gives insight into a private, ingenuous, wonderfully talented man. After completing the book, I was sorry I would never know him personally. It is hard, however, to equate his somewhat dark gothic art and books with the kind, simple persona that shows through in these interviews.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2007
The best book by far on Edward Gorey... in his own words. It gets a little repetative, but is also veyr broad. Phrasing tells you more about Edward Gorey than the actual responses to the questions. A treat.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2005
This book is not a biography (or autobiography) per se; rather, the character of the subject, author/artist Edward Gorey, unfolds through a series of interviews from such diverse sources as The New Yorker and the Christian Science Monitor.
The reader needs to be sufficiently familiar with Gorey's oeuvre to get the most out of this book. Some of the pieces that get the most examination in this series of articles are among the less-widely-celebrated of Gorey's works.
My complaint about this book stems from the somewhat repetitive nature of the articles. There are only so many times that one can read about Gorey's adoration of the NYC Ballet and his precocious "sausage train" drawings at age 1 & 1/2 and The Tale of Genji without getting a little bored. The limited scope may be due to the nature of the questions asked by the various interviewers (that is, some of the same questions get asked again and again), but still, it's there, and it can grow a bit dull.
Gorey cuts an undeniably curious character; his appearance, complete with Santa-esque beard and apparently omnipresent fur coat, coupled with his unusual artwork makes it easy to cast him as an enigmatic, eccentric artist (though he states that he considered himself more of a writer). Though these interviews do make him more real, more than one interviewer falls into the trap of labeling him as "Victorian" or "Edwardian" in sensibility and thus forcing him into some sort of neat, simply defined mold.
Despite this, the book overall reveals a charming and droll, if somewhat oddball, man and helps his admirers better understand through his own words his rather weird works and the inspiration behind them.
The choicest articles in my view are "The Tao of Nonsense" and "The Cat Quotes of Edward Gorey". Also, in "Balletgorey", the description of his house (which always helps one to understand a person) is wonderful and telling.