Wednesday, 9 September 2009

288: Gorey Goes Gay 3

In its own weirdly catch-as catch-can way, the most sexually concerned of Edward Gorey’s books is “The Curious Sofa: A Pornographic Work by Ogdred Weary” (1961).

In a style alternately abashed then declamatory, it traces the adventures of a young girl as she is embroiled in the sexual escapades of an every widening group of libertines, which is standard for a certain brand of high-cultured pornography. On each page the girl is introduced to some new character, and in a slightly coy, euphemistic phrasing, it is suggested that she is either party or witness to some new if unclear sexual encounter. The wit of the book lies in the fact that nothing sexual is ever shown or described. Everything is left to the reader’s imagination. Characters are only ever shown standing around. As the cast increases there are a few homosexually suggestive encounters.

Herbert and Harold are a wealthy young man and his butler from earlier on. All their attentions to date have been heterosexual, but in the in the typical pornotopia, no one ever says no to anything. To me, this picture is reminiscent of those late 19th/early 20th century swimming hole paintings - Henry Scott Tuke and Thomas Eakins, a homoerotic athleticism. Not so much paederasty, as ephebophilia, which makes for an unexpected element in the high-toned short stories of Guy Davenport. See, the three men are merely disporting themselves. What could be more disavowable?

Chasing someone with a whip is merely a romp? It’s the sort of understatement which achieves its apotheosis in “The Curios Sofa’s” immortal line, “Still later, Gerald did a terrible thing to Elsie with a saucepan”.

Notice the chap on the left, is effete and lithe, his hands casting about his head, as he is clad in light blowsy attire. Every single man who appears in “The Curious Sofa” Edward Gorey describes as well-formed, well-made, well-developed, well-proportioned, etc.

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