I was struck by this sudden avalanche of tweets, tributes, blog posts and general brouhaha about Edward Gorey, the prolific artist and illustrator, yesterday when I belatedly realized it was the 16th anniversary of his passing. People were just honoring the man by mentioning him and showing samples of his best work.
Gorey had a profound and massive influence on me, and colored a great deal of who I am and what I like to write about. Because as a kid I’d stumbled upon a big old book in the UP Elementary School Library composed of spooky, eerie children’s stories that he had illustrated. I was in 5th Grade back then, and was in a very malleable formative state. Finding this book at that age was fortuitous.
Each story was fronted by a full-page plate of a pen-and-ink sketch, and the illustrations captured my imagination more than the actual stories, which, in retrospect, were simple and childish tales that paled in comparison to the pictures that accompanied them. There were at least two dozen of them in that book. Man.
Aside from thoroughly creeping out this lonely young boy who sought solace from grade-school madness in the school library during breaks, his wordless and weird, black and white style would stay with me for the rest of my years, informing my likes and dislikes, and forming my baseline grid of what was visually scary.
The staid, angular, sinister yet somehow… regal looks of his characters and creatures spoke volumes to me. The cross-hatching and black shadings of his pen, the weird, wordless silence of his work, the inscrutable monsters and quiet and creepy people in his illustrations in that book simultaneously chilled and delighted me, and Gorey’s work to this day evokes the same emotions, whenever I come across it.
I can’t remember exactly the name of the book and its author(s) in that library, much less the exact stories and illustrations, but it will always stay with me as a seminal influence, as will Edward Gorey’s body of work.
God bless you, Mr. Gorey, wherever you are.