Edward Gorey: Master of the Macabre

Sam Leith at The Spectator:

Gorey has here and there been described as ‘Dr Seuss for Tim Burton fans’ and ‘the Charles Schulz of the macabre’, but he was in every way more wayward and interesting than that. He wrote almost impossible to classify little books — crunched-down Victorian novels — that seemed to belong in the children’s sections of bookshops but were quite unsuited to children, in whom he took little or no interest. He found a public only very slowly, and over many years — thanks, in large part, to till-point placement and Hello-Kitty-scale merchandising efforts by the Gotham Book Mart in New York.

As a rough contemporary, Maurice Sendak, described it, Dr Seuss knew ‘how to satisfy the customer’, and Sendak had no inkling of how to satisfy the customer but managed anyway; but ‘Ted had no intention of satisfying the customer’. He got there in the end though — working brilliantly and with great success as a commercial illustrator of book jackets, and getting famous in his own right with the anthology Amphigorey and its successors, and then his showstopping designs for a Broadway production of Dracula. But he ploughed his own death-haunted furrow. As he said at one point: ‘There is so little heartless work around. So I feel I am filling a small but necessary gap.’

more here.