Thursday, 3 September 2009

287: Gorey Goes Gay 2

from “The Listing Attic”, 1954

I’ve no intention of writing a study of homosexuality in Edward Gorey’s works. The art and appeal of Gorey’s pieces derive from his abstruse suggestions of sexual and violent oddity. Sacher-Masoch and the great notorious murderers skirt in the immense penumbra of overpowering late-Victorian propriety. If you can put a finger on precisely what’s happening then the joke is usually the poorer for it in Gorey’s works. His strength lies in his rich and ever deepening ability to allude to unspeakable or incomprehensible behaviour amidst the Edwardian haut monde. However a few pieces do feature some actual gay content (I almost wrote explicit there, but that wouldn’t be quite right). This is from only the second of his little books, when his career was barely starting. A collection of deliberately grim limericks. This scene reminds me more than a little of the beginning of Waugh’s “Decline and Fall”. And why Harvard? Well, the already eccentric Gorey was a student there, so there may be just a little exorcision of bad memories in this exaggeration of the worst fits of group-sanctioned prejudices.

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