Although widely known as an influential writer/book artist/illustrator who lived and worked on Cape Cod, Edward Gorey’s stature as one of the foremost creators of Nonsense literature is not generally recognized.
Working off the traditions established by Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll, Gorey appropriated the structures and cadences of a 19th century literary genre (yes, Nonsense is a genre,) and created a body of work that is uniquely Gorey.
Incorporating fantastical creatures, secret languages, some questionable rites of passage, and falling objects, Hippity Wippity strives to explain the unexplainable and discovers that Nonsense takes its silliness very very seriously.
The Edward Gorey House’s 2019 exhibit features selections from Gorey’s The Wuggly Ump, The Nursery Frieze, The Untitled Book, The Sinking Spell, The Object Lesson, and The Raging Tide, among others, to showcase a collection of Nonsense (both utter and partial) that is both classic in structure and shockingly contemporary.
Edward Gorey is recognized as among the most influential practitioners of Nonsense literature. As a life-long Anglophile, Gorey was profoundly influenced by the 19th Century British Nonsensistas Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. With his Harvard degree in French Literature, Gorey’s works also reflect the influence of French Symbolist and later Surrealist writers.
Now add an infatuation with silent film (represented in Gorey’s static medium-shot black and white compositions), then add to that an interest in Taoism—the randomness and acceptance of existence—a concept just below the surface of much of his work. To all of this we include his love of dance, Agatha Christie, and a wry humor. What you end up with is Nonsense pulled through the twentieth century, a journey of imagery and language that is whimsical, mysterious, and beautiful.
In Nonsense literature, as in so many other things, it is not the destination so much as the journey, it’s not the absence of sense so much as another way of arriving at a truth. As a genre of literature, Nonsense is very challenging because it breaks down the expected narratives and structures, it capitalizes on the fluidity of language, it confuses you with inexplicable character actions and thrusts you, the reader, into active participation—a description in fact that could aptly be used to describe Gorey’s entire oeuvre of work.
As Mark Dery remarks in his recent biography: “Gorey’s art is all about what isn’t said and isn’t shown.”
Hippity Wippity examines the fluid nature of text and story and what Gorey passes along for the reader to consider. It suggests that everything is open to innumerable interpretations, and Gorey, in his Nonsense work, asks you to do just that. Unsettling like a funhouse mirror, his Nonsense upends the normal working of things for
a chance to see, if even for just a moment, the chaos that runs beneath everything.
Not English and not 19th century, as is frequently assumed, Edward St. John Gorey
was born in Chicago in 1925. Shortly after he could walk he drew, and shortly after he drew he taught himself to read—an activity that consumed him for the rest of his life, with over 25,000 volumes in his Yarmouth Port home at the time of his death in 2000. Working as a staff illustrator for a series of publishers before going freelance, Edward’s The Unstrung Harp or, Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel was published in 1953 and was followed by another hundred titles spanning more than four decades.
His unique cross-hatched ink style, a suffocating Edwardian millieu, and the rich saturation of humor all define Gorey’s work. In the vanguard of the graphic novel, experimental theater and an early auteur of found art—long before all those terms were coined, Edward’s influence continues to run deep in American literature, design, bookarts, collecting, film, and theater today.
2019 hours for the Edward Gorey House are as follows: April 11 to June 30:
Thu/Fri/Sat: 11am-4pm; Sun: 12-4pm. July 3 to Oct 13: Wed/Thu/Fri/Sat: 11am-4pm;
Sun: 12-4pm. Oct 18 to Dec 29: Fri/Sat: 11am-4pm; Sun: 12-4pm.
Edward Gorey House Admission: Adults: $8.00; Students & Seniors (65+): $5.00,
Children 6-12 years old: $2.00; Children under 6 are free.
Goreyosity Shop is an exhibit of works by 25 Cape artists created from repurposed materials from Edward Gorey’s collections. Salvaged from objects that previously sat inert in Gorey’s barn, look for inspired new works of fabric arts, furniture, collage, jewelry, and sculpture. Goreyosity Shop opens at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod on May 22nd, Gala Auction on Saturday, June 1st. Tickets will be available through the Cultural Center of Cape Cod. Additional PR for Goreyosity Shop arriving next month.