It's hard to write a compelling biography when the subject spent decades obscuring the facts of his life, but cultural critic Mark Dery (Flame Wars) has prevailed. Born to Be Posthumous is a fascinating biography and appreciation of Edward Gorey. According to Dery, Gorey was "a walking paradox" whose life was "as full of unsolved riddles and buried secrets as any good mystery." The author/illustrator, who wrote more than 100 books, was a reclusive, cryptic and contradictory eccentric. Although born in Chicago, Gorey hid behind the persona of a mid-century Victorian, wearing flamboyant full-length fur coats and a long Edwardian beard. He lived in a home with a half dozen cats and 20,000 books. "He was adroit at throwing sleuths off the scent," writes Dery.
Even Gorey's closest friends felt that they never knew him intimately. But, Dery uncovers the elusive Gorey by delving into the staggering number of books he wrote and illustrated. His friend Maurice Sendak said, "He buried a lot of information about himself in the art." By examining Gorey's stylized gothic drawings, perverse subject matter and pitch-black humor, Dery reveals the man who spent a lifetime hiding. (He published numerous books under a dozen pseudonyms/anagrams, including "Waredo Dyrge" and "Dogear Wryde.")
While Gorey led a quiet and solitary life, his work was wildly outlandish and successful. The fire and passion in Gorey's life was his art and his books. Dery is a perfect, erudite guide to appreciating Gorey's talent and legacy, including influencing the works of Lemony Snicket, Gary Larson and Tim Burton. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant