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Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey
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Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  481 ratings  ·  147 reviews
From The Gashlycrumb Tinies to The Doubtful Guest, Edward Gorey's wickedly funny and deliciously sinister little books have influenced our culture in innumerable ways, from the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman to Lemony Snicket. Some even call him the Grandfather of Goth.

But who was this man, who lived with over twenty thousand books and six cats, who roomed with Frank
Hardcover, 504 pages
Published November 6th 2018 by Little, Brown and Company
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3.77  · 
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 ·  481 ratings  ·  147 reviews

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Miranda Reads
3.5 stars

But did anyone really know him? Did he even want to be known.
Edward Gorey is famously infamous.
Being nil, Gorey decided, was the safest policy.
His work provided the scaffolding and inspiration for Neil Gaiman's Coraline, for Tim Burton's creeptacular movies, for Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and so much more.

And yet, surprisingly little is known about him.

He wrote many delightfully macabre books, which alternately impressed and horrified publishers.
"There's so li
Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
”Only now are art critics, scholars of children’s literature, historians of book-cover design and commercial illustration, and chroniclers of the gay experience in postwar America waking up to the fact that Gorey is a critically neglected genius. His consummately original vision--expressed in virtuosic illustrations and poetic texts but articulated with equal verve in book-jacket design, verse plays, puppet shows, and costumes and sets for ballets and Broadway productions--has earned him a place ...more
Montzalee Wittmann
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Deryis a book I requested and the review is voluntary.
I didn't even know who Edward Gorey was when I started this book, is that bad? Well I sure do now!
I love how this book is written. It is full of character and is very colorful just like the subject! Each chapter heading is unique, and the interviews, the subjects, the content, and the personal details are totally remarkably!
I started out knowing nothing
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
So, are we just all gonna ignore the fact that Dery posthumously outed Gorey?

Page 136: "If such articles are to be believed, then 'Gorey wasn't necessarily gay, even though he was a lifelong bachelor who dressed in necklaces and furs....he was just asexual, a kind of lovable eunich.'"

Page 138: "Gorey kept perfectly mum about his true nature to the press; he only spoke about it in his art. And in a way, to be honest, the glass closet was appropriate to his artistic persona, which was neither her
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm less than thrilled with the idea of readers receiving a book from a publisher in exchange for a review. I'm unsure why that is permitted at all, but at least it is noted when it occurs.

I found this book neither good nor bad. Does it capture Gorey's unique genius? No. Does it focus too much on his sexuality? Yes.

Meh. Stick to Gorey himself.
Jim Coughenour
I first stumbled on Amphigorey in the summer of 1980 in a bookstore off Harvard Square – the moment of that discovery is cross-hatched in memory. (Up to that collection, according to Mark Dery, Gorey had been known only to the lucky few, particularly patrons of the Gotham Book Mart.) Later in the 1980s, at Booksellers Row in Chicago, I found 20 or more of the actual oblong books, seemingly moments after some ex-collector had dropped them off – and on Goreyesque winter evenings I lost myself amon ...more
Thomas Pluck
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It illuminates without washing out the wonder of the works or the man himself. A worthwhile read, like discovering Gorey's unique world again.
Jason Das
Jan 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Sigh ... what a squandered opportunity. Well-researched, dully conceived, poorly written.

I learned a lot about Edward Gorey (for which I am quite grateful) and I experienced a lot of how limited and tiresome Mark Dery is (for which I am quite annoyed).

An abridged version of this book (just the history and contemporaneous criticism, please!) would be a joy. Instead it’s a slog, mired in Dery’s overbearing neediness to act as the readers’ guide, interpreter, and self-conciously witty friend. On t
Betsy Decillis
Jan 12, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a book that reveals more about the author than it does the subject matter.

Based on the cover and the description, I expected to be swept up into an incredible journey about an incredible man. That did not happen.

Whenever I did lock into the book and writing, that would be about when the author's extreme interest in whether Gorey was homosexual or asexual would rear its ugly head. It became uncomfortable and downright disrespectful to the man he was writing about.

In the end, the author
Michael Martin
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Mark Dery’s 500-page biography of Edward Gorey takes on an influential and immensely talented illustrator and concentrates the bulk of its pages on endless and needless speculation about the artist’s sexuality.

Gorey is such a talented, colorful personality with nearly five decades of work that he deserved a far better author and presentation than this.

We learn precious little about how Gorey worked (other than quick references to Dover costume books and pen nibs) but we sit through chapter after
Robert Boyd
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
It gets four stars mainly because Edward Gorey's life story was so interesting and odd. But Mark Dery is not a great writer--his interest in his subject seems to lag in the second half of the book. His like as an eccentric school boy (in a high school that regularly churned out geniuses who made huge impact on American culture), and oddball Harvard man (who was close to Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery), to the strange balletomane and George Balanchine super-fan who churned out tiny, enigmatic book ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
via my blog:
'Things impermanent, incomplete: these were the sorts of things Gorey loved best.'

I was excited to learn months ago that there would be a book coming out about Edward Gorey, the man whose genius inspired the likes of Tim Burton and Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), among others including Anna Sui. Ahead of his time, the ‘too strange and eccentric nature’ of his creations later found a wider audience, certainly with my generation and those born af
Mark Wheaton
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
That incredibly rare artist’s bio that makes you think you would’ve liked to know the subject IRL
Having gathered slightly less than a handful of Gorey's books, and having been delighted and frustrated by them in equal measure, the publication of Dery's biography was a timely one for me. Perhaps now I would be provided with a key to understanding what on earth Gorey was on about!

Well, mission accomplished! Somewhat...

Dery explains for the uninitiated that the point of most of Gorey's work is that there is no specific point. Gorey's interest is in atmosphere, feeling, the unsaid, and in leavi
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
As a fan of Edward Gorey's work since I discovered a copy of The Curious Sofa on my parents shelves at about age ten, I have often wanted to know more about the enigmatic flamboyant artist behind the work. Mark Dery brilliantly examines the complexities of both the man and his work -- the philosophical underpinnings that make the art and the man so enticing and so difficult to pin down in some concise essential way. Given Gorey's elusiveness as a subject, it's no wonder it's taken nearly two dec ...more
V. Briceland
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mark Dery pulls off some kind of sleight of hand by claiming, in his introduction to Born to Be Posthumous, that there's not much to say about illustrator, author, and notoriously private Edward Gorey . . . and then proceeding to write one of the year's most engaging (and hefty) biographies.

Dery charts Gorey's life through an improbable stint in the military, followed by years designing book covers for classics, before stumbling into unexpected fame as his pen-and-ink illustrations gained apprec
In brief: The life of Edward Gorey, drawn largely from interviews, letters, and literary analysis, and occasionally illustrated.

Thoughts: I wanted so badly to like this a lot more than I did. I like Gorey’s work and I was curious to learn more about him, especially since I’ve seen stuff floating around that he was ace. And then, while reading, there was so much else about him that resonated: his determined individuality, his gothic leanings, a fair bit of his attitudes in general. He really felt
Jim Dooley
May 06, 2019 rated it liked it
There just isn’t any way to sugar-coat this. For the first two-thirds of the book, there were several times when I wanted to throw the book through the window. (All right, I’d actually donate it to the public library.) The final third interested me much more and I looked forward to my reading sessions ... and I can even say that I was sorry to have the book end. (It will still be donated to the public library, though.)

My consternation wasn’t with the style of writing, or the fact that there were
Lael Braday
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The heartbreak of a good biography is finding out that the artist whose work sings to you is not the person of your imagination. It’s almost like a friendship breaking up over irreconcilable differences. The joy of a great biography is reveling in all the nooks and crannies of the artist whose work speaks to you. Mark Dery’s representation of Edward Gorey’s life is well-researched—including interviews with friends, family, and colleagues—and often feels too intimate, probing as deeply as possibl ...more
Feb 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: mem, adult
I love everything every done by Edward Gorey so I just had to read this book. And I enjoyed the biographical bits of it, the parts about his life, how at one stage he went to NYCB every single night of ballet season for about 20 years and wore rings and a long fur coat and sneakers and a big Santa beard, but then moved to Cape Cod where he collected cats and crystal doorknobs and potato mashers and other peculiar objects (I once visited the house, which is now a museum, and greatly admired the d ...more
Kaethe Douglas
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Proceeding slowly as well, but that's because I keep following tangents down rabbit holes. I can't hardly go a page without wanting to Google something or add another book to the eternal list.

I did rather take my time, which only seems fair since Dery apparently spent something like 7 years writing it. He managed to amass not only facts and details, but also a meaningful context.

Biographies aren't usually my thing. There's the ever-present danger of learning something about the subject that w
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This has turned out to be one of the most dog-eared books I've read since "Jerusalem," by Alan Moore. In the early 1980's I worked as the psychedelic buyer of used vinyl at a record store in Santa Cruz and one of my regular customers was a young man named Russell. Russell quickly discovered my dark sense of humour and one night we met to walk through a graveyard and then through the redwood forest at Henry Cowell State Park, which was entirely pitch black, we didn't make it very far, since we di ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This should be the last place you start your experience of Edward Gorey. Not because this book is bad, in fact it is quite good, but in order to appreciate this biography you really must be familiar with Gorey's work. And when I say familiar, I mean more than just having read the Gashlycrumb Tinies. Gorey was a many out of time and place but also of a conglomeration of particulars, and Mark Dery does an admirable job illustrating the man who really was, and wanted to be, an enigma. There is some ...more
Cindy Richard
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this biography about Edward Gorey. It was so well written that it was just as entertaining as a novel, but it also contained deep insights about Gorey and his work. I marked several passages that I plan to return to and think more deeply about. Last year, I identified about 20 artists that I would count as informal mentors, and Gorey was on list. I’ve always been intrigued by his individuality and the originality of his work - naturally, I was thrilled to hear that this biog ...more
Contrary Reader
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m a little bit in love with this quirky, creative and fiercely intelligent man, now, after reading this biography- which is surely testament to the skills of the biographer. Somehow he has bought to life a mysterious and secretive figure and helped us understand him a little. A man with many masks and constantly blossoming alongside his ever evolving interests. My only complain is that the biographer repeatedly points out that no one really knew Gorey, because that’s the way he liked it. This ...more
Apr 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
At times this is an engaging look at a brilliant author/artist. However, whenever things really start to become interesting, the author meanders back into the subject of Gorey’s sexuality. It seems to me a chapter devoted to this topic would be fitting, but he discusses almost no aspect of Gorey’s childhood, adult life, friendships, or work of any kind without bringing it up again and again. Considering it was a subject Gorey himself chose not to discuss and considered relatively boring/unimport ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, biography
Few illustrators had as much impact on me as a kid as Edward Gorey--from the covers of the John Bellairs books to the Shrinking of Treehorn--the Gashlycrumb Tinies--with words as fascinating as the pictures--and like most people I thought he must be a long-dead Victorian artist. However, he was born in the Midwest and educated at Harvard; he served in the Army and lived for many years in Manhattan, before moving to Cape Cod in the 70s. He was eccentric and brilliant, maybe gay (but he perpetuall ...more
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
A real eye-opener! I'd built my own mystique around this author based on his Gashlycrumb Tinies tales (I have a mini lunchbox with his alphabet of doom); thus, even though Dery understandably did not fully get inside his subject, he has crafted an admirable and engrossing portrait of an elusive and enigmatic artist.
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Gorey details of dear Edward. He was ahead of his time and was unafraid to live as he wanted. I loved learning more about his life, his work, and his unapologetic way of doing things.
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I had a rough winter, a mix of existential dread and gloom about my ongoing financial ruin, but for some reason I ended up waking up at 4am every day to go to the gym, which is incredibly unlike me. As a result, all of my alone time—usually dedicated to reading—was instead spent trying to lift weights. Most days I would read five or six pages and then immediately fall asleep. As a result, it took me over two months to get through this biography of one of my favorite humans; my jerky, sluggish re ...more
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Mark Dery is a cultural critic, essayist, and book author who has taught at NYU and Yale. He coined the term “Afrofuturism,” popularized the concept of “culture jamming,” and has published widely, in the academic as well as the popular press, on American mythologies and pathologies. His books include Flame Wars (1994), a seminal anthology of writings on digital
“I tend to think life is pastiche: I'm not sure what it's a pastiche of - we haven't found out yet.” 0 likes
“His day-to-day life was fairly frivolous and lazy and laid-back. It was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a bunch of cats hanging on his shoulders and maybe reading a book at the same time or doing a crossword puzzle.”33” 0 likes
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