Critics never quite knew what to make of Edward Gorey (1925-2000), author, artist—and, from 1934-’37, a resident of Wilmette, where his eighth-grade classmate was Charlton Heston.
Gorey’s darkly droll tales of murder, mayhem, and discreet depravity, illustrated with densely crosshatched pen-and-ink drawings that evoke Victorian engravings and Surrealist collages, have influenced Tim Burton, Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Guillermo Del Toro, among others. Crossing camp-macabre wit with unsettling subject matter, Gorey’s little books are arsenic-laced bonbons: The Loathsome Couple was inspired by the true-crime exploits of a pair of child-killers; The Gashlycrumb Tinies is an ABC book that reels off the deaths of 26 little dears in rhyming couplets.
In this illustrated lecture, Mark Dery, author of Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey reveals the surprisingly serious themes woven through Gorey’s gothic nonsense: death, sexuality, the human condition, the meaning (or meaninglessness?) of life. As well, he explores the obscure influences—and Freudian shadows—haunting Gorey’s whimsically sinister body of work.