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Edward Gorey: writer, artist, and a most puzzling man (+video)

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(Read caption) Edward Gorey on PBS
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E is for Edward whose heart gave away­. That’s Edward Gorey we’re talking about. The American writer and illustrator would have turned 88 today. Google is honoring Mr. Gorey with a doodle featuring the writer and some of his famed artworks.

Gorey’s first book, The Unstrung Harp, was published in 1953. The novel, like the near 70 books that followed, is dark and funny, with a side of morbid whimsy.

For an artist, he claimed to have very little training. Gorey studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1943 but left after one semester. Nevertheless, he proved to be a talented artist in his own right. Gorey’s ink drawings and all their intricacies would go on to influence artists, musicians, and even subcultures.

One subculture that particularly admires Gorey’s work is the gothic community. Goths have a distaste for society's mainstream culture, often opting for what others view as peculiar and underground. Gorey’s surrealist art and ghoulish stories sparked the interests of goths.

Ironically enough, Gorey, who is still greatly revered by goths, reveled in the mainstream. He taped and studied commercials. He watched soap operas and sitcoms. He was anything but goth.

“He was fascinated with the stories of soap operas. I could never understand it,” said Alexander Theroux, Gorey’s long-time friend and author of The Strange Case of Edward Gorey, during a 2011 interview with

In fact, Gorey responded to the notion that he was gothic on more than one occasion.

In a 1992 interview with The New Yorker, Gorey said, “If you're doing nonsense it has to be rather awful, because there'd be no point.”

What Gorey meant by "nonsense" was his style of writing. Literary nonsense is literature that utilizes different elements in order to break conventional language or logical reasoning.


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