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Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey Hardcover – 1 Jul 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 124 pages
  • Publisher: Pomegranate Communications Inc,US; First Edition edition (1 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764948040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764948046
  • Product Dimensions: 27.2 x 22.6 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 497,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gemma Gamarra on 8 April 2010
Format: Hardcover
Gorey is a must for those who like stories wrapped in mystery and the obscure but at the same time are simple and in some cases tender. Definetely a great discovery.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 16 reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
There's Art in Them Hills!! 8 Mar. 2009
By Glen Emil - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Karen Wilkin, the Brandywine River Museum and Pomegranate team up to bring us 'Elegant Enigmas: the Art of Edward Gorey'. It's a good-size hardcover book, doubling as catalog and checklist for the exhibition by the same name being held at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania this year. The museum is famous for its art collection and association with several Wyeth families: notably N.C., Andrew, Jamie and Carolyn. With Andrew Wyeth's recent passing last January, there seems to be a stronger interest in American art, and the Wyeth's work may be a good contrast to the draftsmanly pen & inks of Goreys. Like the book, this review precedes the exhibition, which runs from March 21 thru May 17 2009.

In 'Elegant Enigmas', Wilkin presents an essay in the beginning of the book entitled 'Mildly Unsettled' -- Gorey is quoted as using the term to describe his own persona and his work. 'Mildly Unsettled' has a some biographical information, but focuses largely on Gorey's output in relation to possible influences. Nearly everything is covered - art, literature, movies - silent and non-s, and cats. This essay isn't as in depth as Wilkin's previous work in The World of Edward Gorey (Abrams, 1996), but it does have a broader perspective. And maybe less implied cause and effect. It was good to go back and forth between the two books, as years and later works brought new subject matter to assimilate.

The collection of plates representing the artwork shown in the exhibit is very nicely done. Extra attention to the finest details in Gorey's artwork is evident; gradations are preserved, and not a line is lost. I'd seen a few of these original works in the 'From Prodigy to Polymath' exhibition in San Diego five years ago, and those reproduced here are indeed very close. The inclusion of concept sketches, character studies and pages of typed text finalized before illustration work was started provides a glimpse at the skillful side of Gorey's creative process. It endows each project with a sense of time and flow, and face it, the toil involved. Further along the pages, there's a neat little surprise that really brought a smile, as if a new discovery had been made. Of minor import at first glance, this artwork pulls a part of Gorey's life to the fore, showing how his developing talent also lived in a more private realm. This artwork also shows how joyful and fresh and spontaneous Gorey's work can be. I won't spoil it by just saying what it is, but it's nearly worth the price of the book alone. `Wow!' was all I remember saying at the time.

-- GE
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Museum Quality Reproductions of Rare and Common Gorey 13 Jun. 2013
By Sid Wagner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Elegant Enigmas" catalogs the contents of a traveling Gorey exhibit from a few years ago. The book is heavy on original art reproduction and slim on any new biographical content (slim, that is, if you have read "Ascending Peculiarity").

With the name Pomegranate affixed as publisher, you know you will be presented with high quality printing, and an overall well-made book. Image selections from Gorey's well-known works (such as Doubtful Guest, Hapless Child, Willowdale Handcar, Gilded Bat, Deranged Cousins, etc.) look BETTER in this book (with thick semi-gloss paper) than in the Amphigorey collections (standard thinner paper). There's also a number of color images, including rare designs for a 1983 Mikado production. Reproductions of envelopes Gorey sent to his mother, drawn while he was attending Harvard. And the most interesting inclusion of all: drafts for book ideas. Draft of a Blue Aspic image. Alternate covers for Fatal Lozenge and Object-Lesson.

Buy it for the art and the behind-the-scenes drafts.

If you are looking for a lot of biography material, you're probably better off with "Ascending Pecularity". (NOTE: Pomegranate's "Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer" is also an excellent, excellent work. If you read the Letters book, you'll feel like you had a chance to visit with the man himself.)
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
If you love Edward Gorey, you'll love this book 28 Nov. 2012
By Kathleen Sicard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I've been a Gorey fan since I first sat transfixed as a child by the opening credits of "Mystery" on PBS, and while I've poured over many of his little books, and his Amphigoreys, I've never had a good context in which to view his work. Karen Wilkin's insightful essay peels back the curtain and lets us see into Gorey's world. He was complex, and certainly did not want to be labeled or fit into any neat categorization people would like to put him, or his work, into. This book has really fleshed out my understanding of the man and his art. I never knew what a breadth of references he drew from, or how much I was missing. I love the background given to some of his more popular work, along with the chance to glimpse more private pieces that you normally would never get a chance to see. The hand-drawn envelopes he sent his mother when he was in school were simply marvelous. This book is terrific for anyone who wants to delve a little deeper into the mind of the man who has inspired so many. While I've been perfectly content to view his work at face value for all these years, I will certainly have a deeper appreciation for them now.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Gorey is the penultimate enigma. 8 April 2014
By Lucas Goldstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Labels are given to people all the time. Accolades like “genius,”"master,” and “virtuoso” are thrown around at times like rice at a wedding, but there are occasions when the literary title rings true. It speaks out loud not only as one word, but the subtext and meaning speaks volumes about the recipient. That perfectly describes Edward Gorey and the oft attributed claim, “enigma.”

'Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey' is not only a wonderful volume for the Gorey fan to add to their collection, but it is also a companion catalog for the first major traveling museum exhibition of Gorey’s work. Inside is a number of reproductions covering the span and breadth of Edward Gorey’s career. Prefacing the artwork is an essay by Karen Wilkin, who is an art historian, author and Edward Gorey scholar.

The book itself should first be given credit for being a work of art in itself. Pomegranate, the publisher, pulled out the stops in creating this beautiful volume. On the front, underneath the dust jacket, you find branded into the lower right corner the image of one of Gorey’s sullen and lonely child characters, walking away and looking back over his shoulder. It immediately captures the odd mixture of cute and bleak that hovers inside much of his work.

I also feel the need to mention the binding because the first moment I held it in my hands it reminded me of those Time/Life editions that used to be sold on TV and door to door (we had the Fantasy series and Ghosts/Aliens series when I was growing up). Even the quality and weight of the paper chosen is cognizant and respectful to the cherished art being displayed inside.

The more casual fan of Edward Gorey will be thrilled to learn so many new and wonderful parts of his career. Gorey did parodies or responses of classical works, like Charles Dickens’ 'A Christmas Carol', which through his own maudlin-tinted glasses became 'The Haunted Tea-Cosy' (1997). Scrooge’s infamous berating phrase, “Bah Humbug!.” is playfully transformed into a real insect named “The Bahhum Bug.” Readers will also see a number of his lesser known works, of which my favorite title is 'The Deranged Cousins; or, Whatever' (1971).

There are samples of the rhymes from each of the noted works and they often display the true peculiarity of Edward Gorey. He seamlessly wove the heart wrenching with the humorous. An example of the former is 'The Hapless Child' (1961) where a father actually runs over his own daughter while out searching for her. She was gone for so long he didn’t even recognize her in the end. The latter is evidenced by 'The Listing Attic' (1954) in which one panel shows two odd figures in dresses, wearing bowler hats and mustaches. The accompanying rhyme plays out nicely: (ed. note: “moustaches” is spelled that way in the original rhyme)

"There’s a rather odd couple in Herts
Who are cousins (or so each asserts);
Their sex is in doubt
For they’re never without
Their moustahces and long, trailing skirts."

Also on display is Gorey’s fascination and dedication to letters and written correspondence. Today’s generation is growing up with everything living in the cloud with thoughts being sent digitally in tenths of a second, which does have a number of benefits, but there is a charm lost from the evaporation of the art of letter writing. Gorey, of course, added his own spin to that art by decorating the envelopes he sent. A handful of those sent from him to his mother while he was at school are pictured within and they are inspiring to say the least.

So 'Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey' is a stunning and informative addition to anyone’s library. If you’re interested in seeing the exhibition itself, it is currently at Loyola University Chicago and it runs from 2/15/14 to 6/15/14.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful overview of the artist's career 18 May 2012
By M. Jackson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is full of wonderful pictures from Gorey's career, including concept sketches as well as finished drawings from every area of his career. A nice substantial introduction covers his life and career and paints a nice portrait of the artist's character. I enjoy going back to the book often just to lose myself in Gorey's unique world of characters and ideas. If you are a fan you have to have this book, although if you're a fan you probably have all the original books and have already have all the art work included. It may be better as an introduction to Gorey, which is was for me. Includes some stage design work from productions THE MIKADO and DRACULA, but not nearly enough--there could be an entire chapter devoted to DRACULA and I wish there was. Still, it's a fantastic book.
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