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Edward Gorey's stories and illustrations are quite unlike anything else ever written or drawn, and he's got the personality to match. An intensely private person, Gorey almost never makes forays into the public domain, and when he does, as you'll see if you keep reading, he does little to lessen the shroud of mystery that surrounds him.
barnesandnoble.com: Your artistic style brings to mind 19th-century book illustrations (which might contribute to the false rumors that you are dead!). What do you think draws you to this era and sensibility? Why Edwardian England as the setting?
Edward Gorey: I suppose so, to all of the above, more or less, he murmured reluctantly, but these are the sort of questions I think are worse than a waste of time to try to answer for reasons I have no intention of wasting more time in even adumbrating.
Edward Gorey: I was inveigled in several sneaky steps by The New York Times into doing it. Apart from a character named Bahhumbug and the appearance of three spectres, it has nothing much to do with Dickens's Christmas Carol, which I am not sure I have ever read.
barnesandnoble.com: Any other Dickens books you would like to illustrate?
Edward Gorey: Some years ago I came across an anecdote about Dickens I refuse to pass on to anyone, and I haven't read anything by him since.
barnesandnoble.com: What other classics would you like to work on that you haven't?
Edward Gorey: There are all sorts of classics I could possibly illustrate if asked, but as I have over the years accumulated too many of my own texts to have any chance of doing drawings for but a few of them, I would only do something by someone else if I was offered an outrageous sum of money, and maybe not then.
barnesandnoble.com: Any classics you would refuse to do?
Edward Gorey: For example, Jane Austen and the Marquis de Sade, although for different reasons.
barnesandnoble.com: The themes of your books often explore the darker side of life or impending fate. Most of your characters contemplate things dreadful, or often dead. Are you preoccupied yourself with the notion of fate? What inspires these notions in your work?
Edward Gorey: I think my books are about nothing, and I don't see why Flaubert felt it would be so difficult. Otherwise, refer to my answer to the first questions above.
barnesandnoble.com: Your drawings are instantly recognizable as "a Gorey." How would you describe your own style?
Edward Gorey: True, even by me; however, I hope I don't have one. Quentin Crisp said style was a terrible thing to happen to anyone, and I couldn't agree with him more (Nancy Spain).
barnesandnoble.com: I love your use of obscure literary references and multilingual word games as adjuncts to your drawings. Do the drawings precede the prose or vice versa?
Edward Gorey: Thank you. One's first duty is to entertain oneself. The complete text, prose or verse, comes first, or there would never be anything but a couple of stray uncaptioned drawings.
barnesandnoble.com: The Haunted Tea-Cosy is your first commercially published book in a decade, but you have been very prolific in the meantime, especially in theater. Tell us a little bit about some of your most recent theatrical projects.
Edward Gorey: I won't even begin to try. Besides, they are confined to somewhere or other on Cape Cod on a couple of weekends every now and again during the year.
barnesandnoble.com: Who do you think your books appeal to? And do you have an audience in mind when you write your books?
Edward Gorey: I am aware of individuals who like my books ranging from quite small children to persons older than myself, but I have no picture of an audience as a whole, or for that matter parts, and I certainly have no one in mind, not even me, when I write.
barnesandnoble.com: Are there any particular artists or authors who most influenced your inimitable style?
Edward Gorey: There must be hundreds; I would not know where to begin. Besides, I suspect the greatest are from people I have never thought of in that way.
barnesandnoble.com: Do you have some favorites among your hundreds of drawings and books?
Edward Gorey: I loathe them all equally, or would if I ever looked at them -- which I never do unless I have to for some extraneous reasons.
barnesandnoble.com: Are you a fan of any televised cartoons or animated films today?
Edward Gorey: I adore Ned's Newt, one of the truly great loopy series, really not for the tinies at all but for people of more than a certain age who spent almost all of it watching B movies. At the moment Fox runs it Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30am. Yes, A.M. --not perhaps the best time of day for taking in no-stop split-second morphing accompanied by brilliantly silly and recherché one-liners.
barnesandnoble.com: You work brings to mind the dark genius of Alfred Hitchcock. What are some of your favorite Hitchcock movies -- or other movies?
Edward Gorey: Now here is a question I could go on and on and on about for hours on end, but I suppose I had better not. As it happens, re Hitchcock, possibly my favorite movie is "The Lady Vanishes.". Otherwise, let me mention some names: Feuillade (rush out and get "Les Vampire"), Naruse, Clouzot, Franju, Lang (the German films), Keaton, Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, Louise Brooks, Lillian Gish, George O'Brien, and so forth and so on. To show I still go to the movies, if only infrequently, "Babe: Pig in the City."
barnesandnoble.com: What inspired you to illustrate T. S. Eliot's beloved Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats?
Edward Gorey: There is that word again. The publishers asked me. It was amusing but not easy to do because Mr. Eliot did not have to bother with any consistent view of his protagonists.
barnesandnoble.com: Have you seen the musical "Cats"? If so, what did you think?
Edward Gorey: No. If I had, I don't know that I would have been able to do the drawings.
barnesandnoble.com: You are said to have perfect attendance at the New York City Ballet from 1957 to 1982. Would you say that attending performances is one of the greatest things you miss about New York now that you have moved to Cape Cod?
Edward Gorey: You joke, yes? The only thing. I disliked New York the first time I set foot in it, and for the 30-odd years I was there, at least part of the time, I told myself I was only passing through.
barnesandnoble.com: Do you listen to any particular music when you draw and write?
Edward Gorey: I usually listen to music while I work, but I have wildly eclectic tastes (with gaps), and it is probably chosen from whatever CDs I have not got around to yet, which I fear now number in the hundreds.
barnesandnoble.com: Do you see your work taking any new directions in the future?
Edward Gorey: I only see what I happen to be working on at the time, and other things I have jotted down bits and pieces of to pick up at a later date, if there is one.
barnesandnoble.com: What are you most interested in pursuing now?
Edward Gorey: Theater in general, and puppets in particular. But who knows if and when something entirely unthought of will get my attention. I don't.
(And a question of my own.)
Edward Gorey: Why did you answer these questions?
Edward Gorey: It is, as a dear friend once wrote years ago in a context I no longer remember, "a question perhaps only Philadelphia can answer."