One interesting benefit of having a roommate who’s a Harvard graduate is the periodic appearance of Harvard Magazine, a journal of alumni's unsurprisingly rather stellar achievements. In the current issue a fascinating piece by Susan Lumenello explores Edward Gorey’s years on campus in the lates 40s and early 50s. Gorey arrived at university “sporting a full-length sheepskin lined coat, sneakers and thick rings on his fingers. His hair was combed forward, Roman style”, leading one to conclude that the raccoon coat wearing man who appeared in many of Gorey’s morbidly chic books was something of an avatar. Gorey and the poet Frank O’Hara were best chums at college, throwing salon-like parties where they listened to Marlene Dietrich and “lounged on rented garden furniture", entertaining classmates like Allison Lurie and John Ashberry. “All of us were obsessed,” Gorey later recalled. “Obsessed by what? Ourselves, I expect.” Gorgeous.
Lumenello also reveals that Gorey had 75 manuscripts written and ready to illustrate when he passed away—if someone doesn’t manage to publish these it would be a real shame. Gorey’s witty drawings of ghastly and glamorous characters are so familiar that one’s imagination could fill in the blanks there.
Googling for images of Gorey’s work to show my Harvard grad roomie, who was unfamiliar with his work (Harvard’s clearly gone downhill in recent years), I came across the ingenious website for Mystery!, using Gorey’s illustrations for their credit sequence for some incredibly cool Shockwave games.