Review: “Ascending Peculiarity” by Karen Wilkin, ed.

Thumbs up for Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey, edited by Karen Wilkin. Biography.

Sort of marginally biography; nothing much ever happened in Edward Gorey’s life. This book is a compilation of interviews with Gorey from many sources, so some of the information is duplicated, but as a whole it paints a picture of a fascinating, eccentric, and lovable man. I highly recommend this for Gorey buffs; it’s a hoot.

The house is somewhat redolent of Gorey’s companions [cats], but that’s the least of its peculiarities. He walks me through it in a rather gingerly fashion, wary of a newcomer’s reaction. The place is big – with cavernous rooms – and sits prominently on a typical New England village green. All around it are bright-white houses with acres of buzz-cut lawn. But Gorey’s house looks like something out of Grey Gardens – the paint reduced to a kind of dandruff, the grounds fully capable of harboring anacondas and rare medicines. Out front sits his morose-looking Volkswagen Rabbit, with the license plate that reads “Ogdred”: it’s one of his pseudonyms, almost all of which are anagrams of his name: Ogdred Weary, Dogear Wryde, D. Awdrey-Gore, G. E. Deadworry, Drew Dogyear, and so forth. On the crumbling porch is a bench, but no one can sit on the bench, because it’s lined with rocks. There are also rocks, arranged in various Zen ways, in the living room and the front room. Next to the kitchen sink and two bowls full, and these rocks are covered with water, and the water is covered with algae. “Don’t worry,” he says. “I’m not making them into fettuccine or anything. But I do like rocks. I had a terrible trauma this week: I didn’t know what had become of my favorite rock. And I thought, Oh my God, I can’t live. Fortunately, it was found.”

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