The Written Image: Floating Worlds

From the September/October 2011 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

In the late sixties, artist and writer Edward Gorey, known for his sophisticated, macabre illustrations and slyly dark narratives (the introductory sequence still in use for Masterpiece Mystery! and books such as The Gashleycrumb Tinies andThe Doubtful Guest exemplify his style and humor), collaborated for a short but productive time with author and translator Peter F. Neumeyer. Released this month by Pomegranate, the book Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer, edited by Neumeyer, showcases the copious correspondence between the two artist-writers, with

Gorey’s elegantly wrought letters on display—even his envelopes were illustrated and addressed with calligraphic flair. The image above features a note from Gorey to Neumeyer written in 1969, less than a year after they’d met to collaborate on a children’s story—Donald and the…—for publisher Addison-Wesley. “I’m all right (this is only sepia ink, not blood),” Gorey writes, revealing an intimacy in his nascent friendship with Neumeyer. “But I’m so distracted from?/by? drawing that I just can’t cope with anything else for the present, however long that is. O the horror of it all.… (I think this is a shade more poetic than ‘Oh, the…etc.’) The Penguin Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the great Dismal Works. Excuse handwriting.” On the accompanying envelope, a rotund headless creature utters, “Mumble….” Gorey and Neumeyer, both voracious readers, also exchanged book recommendations, quotes, and insights on art and existence, in addition to storyboards and pieces of text and art for what grew into three book collaborations.