On my journey to Vancouver, B.C. last year I discovered the author and artist; Edward Gorey. I had not known about his works before the trip, but it has haunted and inspired me since. During a trip to a local market in Vancouver my friends and I happened upon a small paper shop. In it one could buy calendars, postcards, regular cards, books, and more. I was not planning on buying anything, but a small booklet of postcards caught my eye. It was a collection of several “monsters” that Gorey had drawn in his books. Some were wonderfully dark or mischievously cute, but each was weirdly thought-provoking.
Generally, he writes books that seem perfect for a child; however, they have some adult undertones. A Smithsonian article speaks to the surrealism of Gorey’s art. Even though I have only had the pleasure of seeing and reading some of his work I have noticed that many of his characters speak to the suffering and hard ships of life. One character in particular is an almost adorable penguin-like creature that shows up in Gorey’s book The Doubtful Guest. I have yet to find anything that suggests the meaning of this “monster” because Gorey was careful not to explain his works. I believe that the penguin creature personifies depression. You can read the book for yourself here. The story may be about the father figure’s sudden depression and how the family deals with it. The last page of the story depicts the creature sitting near the family closest to the father, who is the only one who has a cloud of shadow around his head.
Another “monster” from the postcards is a raven that warns, “Beware of this and that” in The Epileptic Bicycle. Now, I have yet to read the book, so perhaps my interpretation is off. However, from seeing that image on one of my postcards, it reminds me of the small and large hazards of daily life. If we’re going to use riding a bicycle as an example then let’s look at the dangers. You have to be weary of falling off the bike or running into something. You have to watch for bumps, people, cars, holes, trees, and many other objects in your way. You also have to be ready if your bike breaks while you’re riding it. The bike could be a symbol for your life and all of the things that could go wrong with it are the obstacles in it. You can maintain your bike and be careful and the bike will ride smoothly, or you could be risky and maybe open up new avenues to travel down. Anyway, there are so many metaphors for that image.
Then again, maybe Gorey wanted everyone to see something different within his works. Either way, his art and words have struck a chord in me, and I don’t believe I’ll be forgetting his “monsters” anytime soon. Edward Gorey is unfortunately no longer creating these pieces of art after his passing in 2000, but you can (and I definitely will) buy his books in the form of Amphigorey, Amphigorey Too, and Amphigorey Again.
I’d love to hear what you think of Edward Gorey. Leave me a comment below!
-Sabrina Arnold (iwouldliketonerd)