“I wanted to allow Gorey not only a degree of mystery . . . but also to convey his belief in the value of lacunae, of gaps.”
For his first biography, Mark Dery picked a doozy of a subject: the great, creepy, droll, mysterious artist and writer Edward Gorey. We talk about Mark’s brand-new book, Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey (Little, Brown), his one in-person encounter with Gorey, how Gorey’s sexuality did and didn’t inform his work, and the challenge of writing the biography of an artist whose work always invited the reader to fill in the gaps. We get into how Gotham Book Mart made a cottage industry out of Gorey, the long-range impact of Gorey on America’s pop culture, the queerness of children’s literature beginning in the ’50s, the influence of Asian art and philosophy on Gorey’s work, his devotion to ballet and Balanchine, why the epic catalog makes for a great biographical tool, and a lot more, like Mark’s lifelong one-sided relationship with Patti Smith! Give it a listen! And go buy Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey!
“One of the fascinating things about Gorey is how he problematizes and challenges some of the underlying assumptions about our age of identity politics.”
“Somehow I thought performance poetry was a growth industry.”
About our Guest
Mark Dery is a cultural critic. He coined the term “Afrofuturism,” popularized the concept of “culture jamming,” taught at Yale and NYU, and has published widely on pop culture, the media, and on the mythologies (and pathologies) of American life. His books include Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture, a seminal anthology of writings on digital culture; Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century, The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink, and the essay collection, I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-by Essays on American Dread, American Dreams. Like Gorey, his mission in life “is to make everybody as uneasy as possible.” His new book is Born to Be Posthumous.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mark’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Mark Dery by me and C. Taylor Crothers. The bookshelf one is on my instagram.