Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Birthday: “Interviewer: What is your greatest regret? Gorey: That I don't have one.”


“Interviewer: What is your greatest regret?
Gorey: That I don't have one”

Edward St. John Gorey was born this day in 1925.

Even as you read, he fades further into obscurity. The PBS series, Masterpiece Mystery, has reduced his iconic illustrations (“pen-and-ink drawings often depict vaguely unsettling narrative scenes in Victorian and Edwardian settings,” Wikipedia calls them) to footnote in the opening credits. Such are the demands of commerce and Mrs Darlene Shiley.

He claimed his talents were the inheritance of his great-grandmother, Helen St. John Garvey, a popular 19th-century greeting card illustrator; aside from that mysterious transference he only had a semester at the Art Institute of Chicago under his belt from 1943.

His family were all oddballs. His parents divorced when Gorey was eleven and remarried when he was 27. In between, he had a variety of step-parents, including the actress Corinna Mura, whose impassioned performance of La Marseillaise so irked the Nazis in the movie Casablanca.

Gorey served in the Army during World War II, then attended Harvard. He graduated in 1950; the poet Frank O’Hara was his roommate.
He took a job in the art department of the publisher Doubleday, working on his own, more eccentric, projects on the side. His first book came out in 1953; his fame followed as the Gotham Book Mart took a shine to his work and started holding events and shows to promote it. He attended the New York City Ballet religiously, usually in one of his raccoon coats and a pair of Converse sneakers; he won a Tony for costume design in the 1977 revival of Dracula.

Many imagined him British, but he only visited Scotland once. Mostly he lived on Cape Cod, a social but asexual man who seemed to view life as a performance to which he only had an incomplete script. After he died in 2000, his estate went to animal welfare groups; the auction of his raccoon coats was covered by The Paris Review.


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