I’ve become quite the exhibit addict. None struck my attention this month as much as the exhibit put on by the librarians at the Osborne Collection of Rare Books library within the Lillian H. Smith TPL Branch. This fall the exhibit featured the illustrated works of Edward Gorey. Reading The Gashlycrumb Tinies (1963) is by far the most elegant way to learn the alphabet after all. Gorey is such an enigma. On one had, in groups of people drawn to the morbid and macabre he’s not only popular, but a downright classic; and yet, he’s rarely mentioned in mainstream literary discussions–even those entirely on children’s literature. Known to be the grand-daddy of Goth, Gorey remains strangely “unclassifiable.” He’s weird, macabre, and downright creepy, but he’s also secret, hidden, private. His illustrations are famous and widely-found, and he’s still surrounded by mystery.
What this exhibit brought to my attention was just how many illustrations he’s completed in his lifetime. Some don’t surprise me. I can certainly see Gorey being drawn to illustrate Dracula in his coffin, or The House with a Clock in Its Walls, but finding out that he was also illustrated Oscar Wilde, The Aeneid, Tom Jones, Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland, among several other fairy tales really took me by surprise and it was very interesting to see his take. I prefer it. His style is so unique for its time. Now we–in the macabre community– are spoiled with the visuals of Tim Burton and del Toro’s films and Chris Riddell’s and Tony DiTerlizzi’s illustrated works; but to imagine a time where not many illustrators were playing around with dark humour for children, or experimenting in the darker toned illustration, Edward Gorey stands apart. It was also very interesting to see a collaboration between Gorey and Charles Addams, famously known for his illustrations of what later became The Addams Family.
Overall, I really enjoyed this exhibit, and if you have the opportunity to go see it before it closes. I highly recommend it. It will be on until October 2nd, so try to go see it within the next week.