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Born to Be Posthumous
The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey
Mark Dery
Read by Adam Sims

Hachette Audio
November 2018/ ASIN: B07KPJQ1H6
Nonfiction Genre / Biography / Audiobook - Unabridged /14 hours and 48 minutes

Reviewed by Leslie C. Halpern


This exhaustively researched biography of artist, author, and designer Edward Gorey reveals the colorful personal life, adopted persona, and frenetic professional world of the late Grandfather of Goth. With an oddly British Victorian (though he was American) sensibility, Gorey wrote and illustrated more than 100 little books with ghoulish themes and artwork often of a sexual nature and depicting violence toward children. Although some critics despised his books and some stores refused to sell them, a devoted subculture adored his irreverent and absurdist works.

The author delves into previously published interviews, excerpts from Gorey books, letters, and notes, and includes new material generated for this publication. Family problems, including a relative in and out of mental hospitals, an absentee father, and an over-protective mother may have contributed to his eccentric behavior. This behavior includes collecting photographs of dead children and saving grotesque artifacts such as a mummified head that he kept in his closet. The painstaking research covers Gorey’s clothing style, eating habits, personal relationships, and hoarding tendencies, in addition to details of the books he wrote, illustrated, and designed, and in his later life, the stage plays for which he designed costumes and sets.

Frequent repetition, including speculations about Gorey’s homosexuality, and comments about his fur coats and affected way of speaking, could have been limited to merely one or two references. Overall, the writing is clear and eloquent, and it’s obvious the author enjoyed researching the subject matter. Likewise, narrator Adam Sims delivers an enthusiastic performance, using his pleasant voice to bring the writing to life and let foreign words roll effortlessly off his tongue. For readers unfamiliar with Gorey’s work, this book may intrigue them enough to discover what all the controversy was about surrounding his little picture books.

Reviewed 2019