Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer

Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer


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"You know far more about me than anyone else in the world."
—Edward Gorey to Peter Neumeyer, 1968

Edward Gorey and Peter Neumeyer met in the summer of 1968. Gorey had been contracted by Addison-Wesley to illustrate Donald and the…, a children's story written by Neumeyer. On their first encounter, Neumeyer managed to dislocate Gorey's shoulder when he grabbed his arm to keep him from falling into the ocean. In a hospital waiting room, they pored over Gorey's drawings for the first time together, and Gorey infused the situation with much hilarity. This was the beginning of an invigorating friendship, fueled by a wealth of letters and postcards that sped between the two men through the fall of 1969.

Those letters, published here for the first time, are remarkable for their quantity and their content. While the creative collaborations of Gorey and Neumeyer centered on children's books, they held wide-ranging interests; both were erudite, voracious readers, and they sent each other many volumes. Through their discussions of these books, one marvels at the beauty of thoughtful (and merry) discourse driven by intellectual curiosity.

The letters also paint an intimate portrait of Edward Gorey, a man often mischaracterized as macabre or even ghoulish. His gentleness, humility, and brilliance—interwoven with his distinctive humor—shine in each letter; his deft artistic hand is evident on the decorated envelopes addressed to Neumeyer, thirty-eight of which are reproduced here.

During the time of their correspondence, Peter Neumeyer was an assistant professor at Harvard University and then a professor at Stony Brook University in New York. His acumen and compassion, expressed in his discerning, often provocative missives, reveal him to be an ideal creative and intellectual ally for Gorey.

More than anything else, Floating Worlds is the moving memoir of an extraordinary friendship. Gorey wrote that he felt that they were "part of the same family, and I don't mean just metaphorically. I guess that even more than I think of you as a friend, I think of you as my brother." Neumeyer stated, "Your letters…your existence has made something of this world that [it] hadn't the possibility of before."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780764959479
Publisher: Pomegranate Art Books, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/15/2011
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 327,766
Product dimensions: 7.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

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Floating Worlds 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Kellswitch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was a little leery at first about just reading letters between two people, I wasn't sure how interesting it would be as I've never read a book like this before but I really found myself engaged and enchanted by the collection here.The topics varied from work and day to day life, books, movies and philosophy but I found that even simplest letter could give a fascinating insights into these author¿s lives and their shared world. For me these letters and little drawings and doodles give much more insight into who the authors are than any deliberately written biography and I found myself going back and skimming and rereading some of them randomly when I have a few extra moments and want something to read but not get fully engaged in.The physical quality of this book is amazing, the paper is thick and glossy, the cover and binding are top notch as well and I loved the layout between the letters, envelopes and drawings, it has an organic and whimsical feel to it. This is my first Pomegranate book and I doubt it will be my last if this is the level of overall quality I can expect from them.
DoskoiPanda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer edited by Peter F. Neumeyer is a collection of the correspondence of the two men during 1968-1969, when Gorey was illustrating three children's books that Neumeyer had written. These are not, however, dry correspondence between writer and illustrator, though that is frequently discussed. Instead, the letters are often brilliant discussions or illuminations on art, literature, philosophy, history, etc., between two highly intelligent men. I knew, of course, from his books that Edward Gorey was an intellectual and a lover of the arts. But until I read these letters, I had no idea of the depths of his intellect or the range of his interests. Neumeyer, I must confess, I expected to be extremely well read due to his being an academic, but again, their commentary on various subjects really left me astounded and delighted, and a little breathless from all the books I now would like to read because they mention them. Also included are Gorey's incredible illustrated envelopes and post cards; various drawings and handwritten comments from both men; and photographs from the times they visited each other.The book itself is both wonderful and slightly frustrating; great care was taken in its creation - it's a very solid book, sewn binding, jacket cover art duplicated on the boards, heavy paper that allows for the depths of shadow and detail in the photographs and illustrations - this is clearly a book meant to last. However, the paper, though wonderful for illustrations/images, is not so wonderful for the reader where text is involved. The pages are very thick for a reading experience - I was constantly checking to see if I'd skipped a page (they feel like the thickness of two pages together.) That is, however, a minor quibble, especially when faced with the overall excellence of the edition (both content and construction.)I highly recommend this to anyone with a love of Edward Gorey's work, discussions of literature and the arts, or an interest in the working relationship between a writer and an illustrator - the book covers these gloriously.Overall rating: 4.5 or 5 stars
GirlMisanthrope on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A nod to Pomegranate for doing a beautiful job producing this book. The cover is heavy, the pages thick, and glossy. A must-have for any Goreyphile. Gorey and Neumeyer (who collaborated on several books) have a charming, fun correspondence. What a gift to receive illustrated envelopes from EG in the mail. Samples of the illustrated envelopes as well as of hand-written letters dot the book. I sank into my couch with a cup of cocoa and polished this book off in hours. Such a treat!
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A touching and poignant collection of letters from a season of friendship between two men. Anyone who loves literature, art, film or linguistics will have "Aha" moments while reading it. This correspondence has been thoughtfully and beautifully laid out, with good footnotes and lovely photographs of the envelopes which Edward Gorey illustrated before sending to Peter F. Neumeyer. The book is a piece of art in itself. Thick pages, which are sewn together, clear photographs and nicely spaced type make it a joy to hold and read.As for the contents of the letters, much of the philosophical pondering, film, art and literature discussion is beyond me. I am not wired that way. My eyes have been opened to a whole world of authors, directors and artists whom I knew nothing about, but will enjoy exploring. I love Gorey now if for nothing more than his opinion of Salinger's works. What I truly enjoyed, were the free ramblings each of the men felt comfortable sharing with one another, the joy they had in discussing books and authors. It left me a little sad at the end that such a friendship could drop by the wayside, but then that is the way of friendships. Some are intense for a lifetime, and some are a lifeline to get one through a season.
ljbwell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey & Peter F. Neumeyer is an epistolary account of the intense period of correspondence between the two authors in the late 1960s. Included are not only letters between the them as they collaborated on a series of books (such as Donald has a Difficulty), but also envelopes embellished with Gorey's distinctive drawings that were sent to Neumeyer. As Neumeyer himself points out, the letters represent a short but rich series of letters between them - Sept. 1968-Sept. 1971 (with a sharp drop already in 1969). The book itself is beautifully bound with thick, glossy pages and with the envelopes in color. For any Gorey admirer, this book provides insights into the author/illustrator's life. That he was an avid reader, an ardent patron of NY Ballet, and an animal lover are not revelations. But the ways in which these come through in his letters show just how deep, passionate, or prolific he was about these. He sometimes reveals his incredulity over his fans, and even writes hoping Neumeyer will soon have similar experiences so they can compare. His moments of stress and feeling overwhelmed are no surprise when one thinks about the sheer volume of activity going on: 4-8 ballets a week during the season, several films, reading and discussing multiple books at once, writing & illustrating his own books, illustrating books for others (such as Neumeyer), visits to or from friends and family, dealing with publishers and agents, etc. Both men are erudite, and along with the letters they send each other books, articles, snippets from newspapers, which are then discussed in the correspondence. One sees why the two men became such fast friends, if even for a relatively short time - and all thanks to Neumeyer's essentially managing to dislocate Gorey's shoulder in the course of their 1st meeting.One could easily sit with this book and a notepad, just to be able to research (and later hunt down) many of their references, especially as these references clearly influence both men's/each man's works. The occasional reprints of the actual letters themselves - as typewritten or handwritten - are particularly enjoyable. And this is my one quibble with the book - I would have liked more of these, as they show more style and bring their exchanges more to life. It also helped break up what was sometimes very dense writing of letters that went on for pages at a time. In short, this is a fantastic book not only for any Gorey fan, but also for anyone interested in the writing process, or for anyone who just misses actual letters chock full of reflection, sharing, references, insights, quirky bits, and personality.
llusby23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As excited as I (always) am to receive free books through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, I am ecstatic when I am lucky enough to snag whatever is newest from Pomegranate Books (especially when those books are Edward Gorey written/illustrated). I was particularly happy to have won a copy of Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey & Peter F. Neumeyer.This book offers a privileged glimpse into both the writing and illustrating process, and the personal relationship between two extremely witty men who hold each other in the highest esteem. I enjoyed reading about their collaborative work in creating the Donald books and learning how much each influenced the other's parts in the projects. The juxtaposition of their whimsical ideas, words, and drawings with the humdrum realities of their everyday lives is captivating and comforting. I was glad to have the inclusion of facsimiles of a few of the wonderfully rambling letters and postcards, especially the fabulous envelopes that Gorey illustrated before mailing off to his friend. And the stoej-gnpf, that hybrid creature on the front cover that Gorey decided was part himself and part his friend, and became a secret symbol between them of their like-mindedness and collaborative magic. But how does one review the personal correspondence between two friends, who just happen to be writers and artists? One doesn't. I have been merely eavesdropping, but the things I overheard were fascinating. I only wonder why they ever stopped. Thank you so much, Mr. Neumeyer, for sharing these letters with the rest of us.
Rachael on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love getting a letter in the mail. A real letter, I mean, not an electronic one, but a real one inside a real envelope with a real stamp. And then writing a letter in return, putting it inside an envelope and posting it, and anticipating that day when I open my mailbox to see the next little envelope inside with my name on it.I also love reading other people¿s letters, whether they¿re fictional or real. I knew I was in for a treat with Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey & Peter F. Neumeyer. While I had not heard of Peter F. Neumeyer, I already was a fan of Edward Gorey¿s art & many of his books. A book of letters that also has to do with Edward Gorey? Yes, please!Floating Worlds begins in 1968, when the two men met and began corresponding. (On a personal note, I myself began that year too, and the age that Gorey was then is the age I am now. Probably oddly, this made the book for me more¿I don¿t know¿ Interesting? Relevant?)Gorey had been contracted to illustrate a book Neumeyer had written, Donald and the¿ At their first meeting, Neumeyer accidentally dislocated Gorey¿s shoulder, and they bonded over Gorey¿s illustrations in a hospital waiting room. Their friendship was fueled by the letters and postcards that flew back and forth between them until the fall of 1969. The majority of their correspondence is represented in the book; sometimes the actual letter or artwork itself is reproduced. Also included are several photographs of the two writers, and samples of Gorey¿s art from the finished collaborations or other works.One of the most wonderful things about their correspondence was that Gorey illustrated the envelopes in which his letters were mailed; 38 of them are reproduced in Floating Worlds. They¿re little treasures, tiny jewels of art, populated by classic Gorey creatures and people. Among my favorites are two toward the end of the book: on one, a lavender blue baby is being carried off by a winged lizardy-dragony creature, and on the next, in response to Neumeyer¿s wife¿s comment that the baby was sad, is the baby, now sporting wings of its own, triumphing over the lizardy-dragony creature.Neumeyer saved Gorey¿s letters; and as he found out only a few years ago, Gorey saved Neumeyer¿s, and so, the lucky reader gets both sides of the correspondence. Often, it seems, when you read an epistolary book, it¿s one-sided. You get to read the one person¿s letters, but not the other¿s. Having both gives the reader the full conversation and a greater sense of intimacy. It certainly felt intimate to read this, from a letter Neumeyer wrote Gorey (referred to as Ted), from page 151:¿Dear Ted, Your card, your yellow business letter and your good letter of the 17th just arrived. But I was thinking last night just before going to sleep that I would write you today anyway¿and I would write you, I knew, something very simple and without the convention of the sputter. I wanted only to say this: it was more than good to hear your voice on the phone, and to hear you happy. Secondly¿you said some months ago something about a change, turnover, flip in your life. I listened. But I did not say ¿me too,¿ because it would not have been the truth. But now I want to say, ¿me too.¿ So¿me too. So, for nothing describable simply or short of a poem, thank you, Ted. You are a blessing. And in the knowledge of that, you should¿I don¿t know what. But your letters, the potential of our reunions, your existence has made something of this world that (it) hadn¿t the possibility of before. Let it go at that!¿While they also enjoyed telephone conversations and in-person visits, letters became an important component of the two men¿s friendship. These two erudite and intellectually curious people talked not only of their collaborations, but also about many other things, including the books they both loved reading and sending to each other. The letters describe minutiae of their lives, movies they¿ve seen, thoughts about their friendship. As o
guyalice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It¿s a blessing that Pomegranate has begun to publish Edward Gorey books and related curios, as they¿ve produced such handsome editions of works by one of my favorite illustrators. Now they¿ve published Floating Words, the correspondences between Gorey and author Peter F. Neumeyer (who also edited this collection) as they collaborated on three books, Donald and the¿, Donald has a Difficulty, and Why We Have Day and Night. This work is not only a great find for Gorey fans, but also for those interested in how the creative process works. The letters capture Neumeyer and Gorey¿s personalities and friendship as they collaborated and commiserated. Sadly their correspondence ended after about 13 months, as the two men became engrossed in other projects, but during this short time they wrote often and they wrote lengthily. This collection is also an elegy for the lost art and necessity of letter-writing.A great bonus of this book is that they are constantly talking about and recommending books to each other, so any bibliophile will be sure to find some crackling rarities from these two eclectic men. Keep a notepad and pen handy as you read! The book also features some of Gorey¿s fantastic and unique drawings, including layouts and sketches for the Donald books. There is also the delightful ¿STOEJGNPF,¿ a delightful amphibian-tapir-dog amalgam that Gorey drew on his envelopes.This is a charming find, especially for those who wanted to know more about the inner workings of the enigmatic Edward Gory, or simply for people interested in an account of inspiration and collaboration.
sthitha_pragjna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Floating Worlds The Letters of Edward Gorey & Peter F.Neumeyer" is the eponymous collection edited by Neumeyer and sumptuously produced by Pomegranate. It is a valuable addition to the library of any Goreyophile.Peter Neumeyer and Edward Gorey collaborated between 1968 and 1970 on such works (in reverse chronological order) as "Why we have day and night" (illustrated on pitch black pages with lines and letters of white, and bug-eaten fruit in orange), "Donald has a Difficulty", "Donald and the ..." (the latter two productions being in the more accustomed Gorey style, upholstery and rugs and print dresses and window drapes). They also became friends and maintained a long, strange and wonderful correspondence. Gorey would send postcards and multi-page typewritten letters, the cards and envelopes bearing the most Goreyesque paintings. These hand-addressed covers and cards are reproduced in this book of their correspondence. Says Peter Neumeyer, "I would always wait expectantly for these letters because most were enclosed in beautiful, Goreyesquely painted envelopes, some of these being preliminary drafts for a book we were working on. On one, there is a lovely painting of Donald hanging on to an umbrella, windblown into future adventures. Occasionally there would be a postcard-merely a piece of dental floss scotch-taped to the card, or an anchovy label or theater stub. Heaven only knows what the mailman thought." The high-quality hardcover production by Pomegranate runs to 256 pages, illustrated in color. The correspondence covered all of Gorey's pursuits. Peter Neumeyer who was at the time teaching at Harvard and at SUNY Stony Brook, sent him books (German literature, Victorian poets, Noam Chomsky, turgid tomes on social science of school administration), all of which Gorey "remarkably did read, and responded with the wit and insight and every appearance of interest."Gorey saw a legendary number of films, had an obsession with attending the ballet ("Apart from the usual eight ballet performances, nothing seems to have happened or been accomplished [this week]".) "And then the reading," says Neumeyer, "Ted once expressed surprise at what all he imagined I had read, but it was obviously no contest- none at all. In French or in English, Ted had become an enthusiast of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Isadora duncan, Isabelle Eberhardt, Ono no Komachi, Mrs. Inchbald, Yasumari Kawabata, Jacob Abbott, Dorothy Wordsworth, Lady Murasaki, Daisy Ashford, Amanda Ross and "Violent Pageant" (i.e., Violet Lee Paget).The true Gorey fan will be interested, in passing, that he thought of his own "The Unstrung Harp" as "juvenilia" ("I was twenty-eight at the time... mostly because I dislike the overly eccentric style of the drawing, which I did for years and years and thought I would never get out of, and then I think despite the fact that it was in a sense written to order, though no one told me what to write about, it is somewhat maudlin, by which I suppose I mean personal, even if it only about being an artist.") Wow.In another telling insight, Gorey writes "Wallpaper is my bete noir. I put aside The Hapless Child after about three drawings for several years because I couldn't face the notion of drawing any more wallpaper." He concludes with this paragraph. "If you don't understand most of this letter, you may ask questions."Accompanying this letter is a picture of the envelope where Mr. Neumeyer's name and address are penned in a red balloon coming mysteriously out of a spout-like speaker-phone on a coffin-like box floating on some rough seas with a single fish leaping out of the water.Throughout the letters, we get not only a sense of what interests held these two men in common, but also a sense of the slow, shy manner in which Gorey increasingly shared his artistic output and creation for feedback and comment. In terms of impish humor, we have numerous samples, including an imagined advertisement against smoking, a Gorey limerick.Finally, t
pvincent on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've been fortunate enough to assemble a reasonable collection of Edward Gorey books, including the "Donald..." books he created with Peter F. Neumeyer, so I was overjoyed when I was sent a preview copy of this book, via LibraryThing.On the plus side, this is a gorgeously produced book; as a physical object it is a thing of beauty, and the paper is of such heavy stock that it errs just this side of being described as "card". For a Gorey addict, the real treasure here is the reproduction of the hand-decorated envelopes in which Gorey sent all his letters to Neumeyer. These are beautiful examples of Gorey in "cartoon" mode, and are endlessly inventive and witty.The correspondence between the two is also full of fascinating insights into the joint creative process, and oblique insights into Gorey's home life.However, much of the content of the letters consists of the kind of humdrum minutiae one might reasonably expect to find in correspondence between two friends who are also colleagues. After all, such letters are never intended for publication and are therefore not "crafted" in the way that material for publication would be.Therefore I found a sense of anticlimax creeping in as the correspondence progressed. Enjoyable, treasurable for the insights it grants, but unlikely to be a book I'd ever read cover-to-cover again.But those envelopes ARE fantastic!
Fox_Lane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I hadn¿t progressed too far into `Floating Worlds¿ before the thought struck me that it will represent something of a disappointment for some Gorey fans. Not least because it presents the artist and author behind some of the most sinister tales of the 20th century as, by turns, whimsical, warm hearted and generous. In recent years his desolate Gothic vision has seeped into the fringes of popular culture just as, to use a suitably Gorey-esque metaphor, a long undiscovered body might seep into a mattress. I seem to find myself spotting his influence at every turn these days. It runs rich in the artwork of children¿s illustrator David Roberts (particularly in his `Tales of Terror¿ series), through the more adult oriented comics of Tom Gauld and across the entire cannon of Tim Burton¿s work, nowhere more so than in his collection of brief, dark tales, `The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy¿. What¿s more, if you wish to see Gorey¿s singular vision made flesh you could do worse than seek out the video for Nine Inch Nails¿ `The Perfect Drug¿, for which director Mark Romanek admittedly pillaged the Gorey archive. But whilst they may see echoes of his work everywhere, fans of Gorey¿s dark, singular creations found themselves struck by a lack of source material about the man himself. Gorey was far from a gregarious self-publicist and interviews, though they were granted, were few and far between.Up until now the most complete source available to the Gorey faithful was, neighbour of Gorey, Alexander Theroux¿s slim ¿The Strange Case of Edward Gorey¿ volume, offering a biographical account of his varied career as an artist and writer as well as his time in the theatre (where he won a Tony award for his costume design in Frank Langella¿s 1977 Broadway production of `Dracula¿) but little in the way of what makes the man tick. Neumeyer¿s book, a collection of correspondence between himself and Gorey over their 13 month period of collaboration (leading to the production of 3 books) between 1968 & 1969 not only provides many insights but also images of the illustrated letters and envelopes he received, many of which Gorey fans would (surely in an appropriately ghastly way) kill for. Gorey and Neumeyer¿s friendship is a delight to observe and serves as an excellent way to get under Gorey¿s skin. His letters are gleefully eccentric creations and read like head scratching daydreams splashed directly from brain to page, revealing his varying appetites for literature, art, Zen gardening and pancakes. Most of these letters display a humble, apologetic and almost deferential tone, never wishing to offend and nearly always doubling back on themselves as if to see off any potential cause of upset. Neumeyer ends up being very much the straight man for Gorey¿s meandering, conversational efforts, which flit from subject to subject with a spritely energy. For a Gorey obsessive like myself they are like so much cake thrust toward a greedy, capacious boy. Sadly the correspondence eventually ebbs away to a few succinct efforts with Gorey struggling under a sea of other work and a lurking disappointment at unpublished Gorey/Neumeyer volumes before dropping off entirely. Whilst this must have been a tough thing to cope with at the time it appears that Neumeyer regards their brief period of contact and collaboration to have been a great joy and a privilege. Having reached the end of this collection I can only add that reading about it was too.