Sunday, February 22, 2015

Edward Gorey - I Love The Beastly Baby

The Beastly Baby - Edward Gorey

The first time I saw one of Edward Gorey's books I was a teenager and I immediately became a fan . I was crazy for his art, and the dark humour reflected in both his drawings, and his writing with his delightful sense of word play.

I believe it is a certain type of person that is drawn to Edward Gorey's work. One who possesses a sense of black humour, has experienced ennui, and understands the humour to be found in the tragic. I don't think I can do justice in describing Edward Gorey's work, I just know that he has been my one of my favourite artists ever. There is no one quite like him.

"Ideally, if anything were any good, it would be indescribable."
         - Edward Gorey

One of my favourite Edward Gorey illustrated stories of his is, The Beastly Baby. The story of a rather ghastly and ugly very bloated baby, who's arms and legs are too short, and has two left hands. The child can only roll around on the floor. No one picks the baby up or shows it any kind of affection or love. The baby stays under tables and furniture, cutting up the carpet with sharp objects. The adults are wanting to rid themselves of the child, and commence to bring about it's demise. They first place the beastly baby into the sea, but the baby comes floating back to the shoreline, only to be covered in green slimy seaweed, no matter how many times they try, it continues to return to the shore, alive.

The last attempt finds the adults placing the child onto a high ledge a top a mountain, where they once again abandon him and they walk away. Shortly after, they hear a explosion of sorts in the far distance. The Beastly Baby finally met it's inevitable end, when it is carried off by a large bird of prey. The bird's talons caused the baby to explode.

I know it's a very dark story, and I can't help but feel sorry for the horrid beastly baby, and though the adults where really worse than horrid for doing such a cruel thing, to a defenseless baby, but nonetheless it is funny story, just the same to me, and I do think there may be a moral to be found in this tale.

Many of Gorey's stories do present some kind of enigma, dilemma, or tragic event that has happened or is about to take place, leaving the viewer wondering how this has happened and why. I would call them odd and mysterious enigmas, not to be understood but within our imaginations, and that we can relate to on some level perhaps, whether it be conscious or unconscious.

I think about another favourite entitled The Doubtful Guest. This undetermined peculiar creature arrives at a Victorian home wearing a scarf, in what looks like Converse tennis shoes. It stays for dinner but never leaves. I often refer to this story as being the thing that came for dinner, and wouldn't leave, because I think we can all relate to this thing. We've all had people arrive in our life or come into our spaces, and we just can't seem to get clear of them.

Pins and Needles stayed with me always and I especially fond of it. The following is the text that goes along with it. Gorey's wit, love of words and anthropomorphizing objects is very obvious in this drawing, and I love it so much.

Pins and Needles-Edward Gorey

'Death and Distraction!' said the Pins and Needles. 'Destruction and Debauchery!'
Almost at once the Mo.37 Penpoint returned to the Featureless Expanse It encountered the Glass Marble, but neither recognized the other.
The Two-Holed Button concealed its apprehension
The Half-Inch Thumbtack told the Four-Holed Button what had happened
'Duplicity and Desolation!' said the Needles and Pins. 'Dissolution and Despair!'
Quickly the Knotted String decided to wait on events.
The Four-Holed Button came to it with a sinister proposal.
The Two-Holed Button overheard them unnoticed.
No sooner had it withdrawn than it ran into the Glass Marble.
The Knotted String appeared and the Two-Holed Button fell sensless
'Discomfort and Damage!' said the pins and Needles. 'Doom and Discrepancy!'
Incontinently the Four-Holed Button approached the Mo.37 Penpoint with another sinister proposal.
The Half-Inch Thumbtack informed them what had taken place.
The Glass Marble regretted its actions.
The Mo.37 Penpoint and the Knotted String confronted one another.
'Dishonour and Depredation!' said the Needles and Pins. 'Degradation and Dismay!'
Immediately the No.37 Penpoint, now ruined, and the Two-Holed Button fled.
The Half-Inch Thumbtack acquainted them with what had transpired.
The Two-Holed Button found itself alone.
The Glass Marble, mistaking the No.37 Penpoint for the Four-Holed Button, pushed it into the Yawning Chasm.
When it saw what it had done, it went mad and rolled off the edge.
'Danger and Deceit!' said the Pins and Needles. 'Defeat and Disaster!'
Promptly the Knotted String surprised the Four-Holed Button.
In the struggle they went over the edge together.
The Half-Inch Thumbtack made known to the Two-Holed Button what had occurred.
The Two-Holed Button threw itself over at the same spot.
The Half-Inch Thumbtack looked around and fell down lifeless.
'Depravity and Disappointment!' said the Needles and Pins. 'Disappearance and Damnation!'
Forthwith they too flung themselves into the Yawning Chasm.

Today is Edward Gorey's Birthday, and would be 90 years of age.

Happy Birthday Edward.

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