May 2012

Floating Worlds

edited by Peter Neumeyer

Central Question: What is the mystery of Edward Gorey?
Number of books published by Edward Gorey and Peter Neumeyer: three; Partial list of topics discussed by Gorey and Neumeyer in Floating Worlds: Anna Karenina, Diane Arbus, Look magazine, ballet, Marlene Dietrich, Barbarella, Barrabas, the Beatles, Paul Cézanne, Brer Rabbit, kite-flying, Martin Luther King Jr., Buster Keaton, Harvard University, houseflies, Greta Garbo, Don Quixote, Max Ernst, astrology, Richard Nixon, Carl Jung, Jesus, Jane Austen, Isadora Duncan, Olga Chekhov; Number of hand-decorated envelopes reproduced in Floating Worlds: thirty-eight; Number of Gorey creatures on said envelopes: fifty-five; Number of Gorey ladders on said envelopes: three; Number of adults on said envelopes: one; Number of Gorey children on said envelopes: nine; Overarching sentiment of Gorey toward children: antipathy

We are perhaps as well situated as we’ve ever been to solve the curiously tempting and elusive riddle of Edward Gorey. His illustrative style and design sensibility—a precious iteration of befuddlement and Gothicism—presage twenty-first-century trends in the comic arts, East and West. Of course, the very framing of such riddles—this artist over that artist, this presumed history over that untold history—is a suspect business, and Gorey disdained explanatory self-aggrandizements.

Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer is a trove of correspondence between Gorey and Neumeyer, a Harvard professor of children’s literature with whom Gorey collaborated on a few curio books that were brought out by a textbook publisher. In a gloriously realized edition, the correspondence—postcards, letters, even envelopes—is rich with insight into the aesthetic underpinnings of Gorey, an artist notoriously close-lipped as to his creative ideology. Indeed, the “aesthetic maunderings” of Floating Worlds not only render the most complete portrait of Gorey available but also give readers something very much like an algebraic formula of his sensibility. We are presented with a Gorey who is compelled to justify, however indirectly, his creative rationale.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—John Reed

John Reed is author of five books, most recently Tales of Woe. His work has appeared in Paper magazine, PopMatters, the New York Press, Time Out New York, Artforum, BOMB, Playboy, Art in America, the Los Angeles Times, the Rumpus, and the Wall Street Journal.

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