Edward Gorey: Misunderstood Genius

Edward Gorey: Misunderstood Genius

I’ve long been fascinated by illustrator Edward Gorey. The moment I saw a photo of him in his big, fur coat I thought, he looks fun. Then I saw a picture of Gorey in his living room, draped all over with cats. I read his Wikipedia page and realised his birth and death years matched exactly with my grandmother’s. Then someone asked me which famous person I’d most like to have dinner with. I thought first of Edward Gorey.

But would I really like to have dinner with Edward Gorey? Was the guy as cool as his legacy? I decided to read the autobiography by Mark Dery (2018).

I was pretty sure before cracking the spine that Gorey was a neuroqueer aspec autistic enby (in which aspec refers to the asexual spectrum and enby is short for non-binary gender).

Now I’ve read his biography, I’m sure these labels are apt. Unfortunately, none of this nuance is in Mark Dery’s biography, called Born To Be Posthumous (2018). Dery’s biography gives us a lot, but has unfortunately been written by someone who does not understand asexuality and how it occasionally intersects with other kinds of neurodivergence. To write a biography about a self-described asexual person, to ruminate extensively over whether Gorey was actually asexual or a repressed homosexual, and to not do due diligence on looking up what the actual queer community are saying about asexuality is… a terrible oversight. This book will be doing active damage to the queer community, because straight folk think they know what ‘asexual’ means. They usually don’t. And Dery’s biography leans hard on almost every hackneyed stereotype, thereby reinforcing them for a wider, non-queer audience.

He’s misunderstood his subject in the process.

From The Gashlycrumb Tinies to The Doubtful Guest, Edward Gorey’s wickedly funny and deliciously sinister little books have influenced our culture in innumerable ways, from the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman to Lemony Snicket. Some even call him the Grandfather of Goth.

But who was this man, who lived with over twenty thousand books and six cats, who roomed with Frank O’Hara at Harvard, and was known–in the late 1940s, no less–to traipse around in full-length fur coats, clanking bracelets, and an Edwardian beard? An eccentric, a gregarious recluse, an enigmatic auteur of whimsically morbid masterpieces, yes but who was the real Edward Gorey behind the Oscar Wildean pose?

He published over a hundred books and illustrated works by Samuel Beckett, T.S. Eliot, Edward Lear, John Updike, Charles Dickens, Hilaire Belloc, Muriel Spark, Bram Stoker, Gilbert & Sullivan, and others. At the same time, he was a deeply complicated and conflicted individual, a man whose art reflected his obsessions with the disquieting and the darkly hilarious.

Based on newly uncovered correspondence and interviews with personalities as diverse as John Ashbery, Donald Hall, Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Anna Sui, Born to be Posthumous draws back the curtain on the eccentric genius and mysterious life of Edward Gorey.

GOREY WAS NOT a “TRAUMATISED, REPRESSED” gay dude (THOUGH HE WAS PROBABLY HOMOROMANTIC)

…the press makes a point of the fact that you have never married. What are your sexual preferences?*

Well, I’m neither one thing nor the other particularly.

Why not?

I am fortunate in that I am apparently reasonably undersexed or something… I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t… What I’m trying to say is that I am a person before I am anything else… I realize that homosexuality is a serious problem for anyone who is – but then, of course, heterosexuality is a serious problem for anyone who is, too. And being a man is a serious problem and being a woman is, too. Lots of things are problems.

Is the sexlessness of your books a product of your asexuality?

I would say so. Although every now and then someone will say my books are seething with repressed sexuality.

You don’t believe that?

I don’t really know. I don’t know what I’m writing about. I never sat down and tried to figure it out. It’s not about sex, or at least not obviously, right?

Sometimes it is about sex. There are those who say that your book The Curious Sofa is a pornographic novel; in fact, it’s even subtitled “a pornographic work.” And it’s full of couples having odd sexual encounters.

But it’s not pornographic in the standard sense. It’s all in the style.

That book is minimalist and unexpected – a good example of your work. You leave a lot to the imagination.

Well, no one has any sex organs.

But you do mention several times that the characters are enormously “well-endowed.”

Oh, right. But the girls are all flat-chested and the men in the pictures have their backs to you. You don’t see anything. The whole point of The Curious Sofa is that it was totally not illustrated! I’d rather die than do pornographic drawings. Oh, God!

Why?

It’s so boring! I wrote The Curious Sofa after I finally managed to get a copy of The Story of O, which Edmund Wilson had recommended to me as a really great book. I read it with Edmund’s strictures in mind, and I thought, “Oh, Edmund, this is absurd. No one takes pornography seriously.”

1980 interview with Edward Gorey

*Note that the phrase ‘sexual preferences’ should be avoided as it suggests orientation is a choice, which suggests conversion therapy would work.

From another interview:

“[There have been] emotional entanglements [in my life], but I don’t wish to get into them. I’m always interested to hear about it when somebody I know gets in some totally bizarre relationship, but I know perfectly well I wouldn’t want to do it… Sometimes I ask myself why I never ended up with somebody for the rest of my life, and then I realize that I obviously didn’t want to, or I would have.”

He was asexual, and possibly homoromantic. I know how difficult it is for the normie boomers to understand how someone can be both homo and asexual at once, but you can.

When it comes to figuring Gorey out, remember, the easiest explanation is usually the right one. Below, you’ll see the man himself told interviewers he was asexual.

Note that Gorey did not, so far as we know, ever use the word ‘asexual’ to describe his orientation. He did not use any of the words the aspec community are using today, because those words simply did not exist in their current forms. He died just as the Internet (and the asexual visibility education network) was taking off. (David Jay founded AVEN the year after Gorey died.) ‘Asexual’ literally referred to snails and amoeba, not to human sexual attraction back then. Where it applied to humans, it described behaviour rather than orientation.

Moreover, outside niche psychological discussions which took place from the 1970s, people made no distinction between sexual behaviour and orientation. The concept just wasn’t there. The closest Gorey would’ve had access to in describing himself was Kinsey’s ‘category X’.

We cannot hope to understand Gorey unless we consider sexual attraction and romantic attraction as separate facets of a person.

GOREY WAS NOT MYSTERIOUS

He was a run-of-the-mill autistic. Just as he would never have called himself asexual, he never would have been diagnosed autistic, unless he were to seek diagnosis in the last six years of his life. By which time, what’s the point? He was doing great. It was only the 1994 version of the DSM which introduced the world to Aspergers as a diagnosis (later rolled into autism, and renamed Autism Level One).

The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey (London 1958)
The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey (London 1958)
GOREY WAS GENDERQUEER

As for Gorey’s gender identity, that gets passed over in the biography because, for Dery, femme expression signals homosexuality. To Dery, Gorey’s gender transgression even proves homosexuality. That’s because the biographer fails to disentangle gender expression, gender performance and sexual orientation as separate parts of self.

Gorey was absolutely genderqueer. He transgressed gender conventions to the point where, had he been born 80 years later, he may have requested non-binary pronouns. That said, given everything else Dery uncovered about Gorey, I suspect he’d favour the concept ‘agender’ and would hate modern hand-wringing over pronouns, (as many of us non-binary people do, for all the chatter about it). He cared about little aside from his art, which is why he wouldn’t have cared about a boring grammatical matter, either. On the other hand, he did care about spelling when he decided to use the decorative ‘u’ of British English spelling. Who knows what he would’ve done regarding pronouns? Maybe he’d have gone the gender anarchy route and requested ‘it’, preferring the comfortable distance of referring to himself as an (art) object.

DISCLAIMER

None of us will ever know the inner world of Gorey. But Gorey has already been mislabelled by his main biographer. My instinct is to avoid labelling Gorey at all, except for the fact that readers seem to need labels before understanding a person.

What follows is also a request to biographers: Learn about neurodiversity. Also, get queer literate, especially if you’re a cishet person writing a biography about a queer person.

Another disclaimer: Most autistic people are not asexual and vice versa. I argue that Gorey happens to be both. The disclaimer is necessary because people with disabilities are regularly desexualised. The abled community remains uncomfortable with disabled people having sex. Desexualisation is an ableist phenomenon, whereas asexuality is a sexual orientation. Two completely different things, though of course some people are both asexual and disabled.

If autistic people are slightly more likely to be aspec, that’s because the autistic community are more diverse as a whole, across all the different ways of being human.

GOREY’S CHILDHOOD READS LIKE A DESCRIPTION OF AUTISM

  • Gorey’s mother boasted about her son’s high IQ. IQ varies more widely in the autistic population, meaning extremes in intelligence are overrepresented. Approximately 15.8% of the autistic population scores in the gifted range of IQ whereas only 2.3% of the non-autistic population scores in the gifted range.
  • I also wonder what it was that prompted young Gorey to get an IQ test. These are not conducted as a matter of course. Although Gorey insisted his childhood was entirely normal, at one point he must have been trotted off to a diagnosing psychologist. Why? Was it because his mother knew he was gifted but his giftedness wasn’t being recognised in school? If he wasn’t adequately challenged by teachers, was that because Gorey’s giftedness was buried deep, overshadowed by more difficult aspects of his autism? Possibilities abound, all leading back to probable autism.
  • Importantly, skills tend to look splintered in autistic people, meaning autistic people tend to be very good in one area and worse than average in others. One of Edward Gorey’s teachers noted that although he was a very fast reader, he didn’t necessarily take everything in. It’s possible the teacher was noticing what we would today call hyperlexia (the inverse of dyslexia) and was also picking up on Gorey’s inability to interpret subtext and make connections, without those connections being spelt out. Even within the ‘single’ skill of ‘reading’, autistic children frequently exhibit exactly this sort of splintering.
  • We know for sure Gorey was hyperlexic because he was a self-taught reader. He learned to read at the age of three and a half. Of all hyperlexic children, 84% meet the criteria for autism.
  • Gorey loved his routine.
  • Gorey had a love of patterns. Pattern recognition is why so many gifted autistic people are excellent at languages, mathematics and music. On page 157 of Born To Be Posthumous, Dery is on the money when he observes that Gorey’s love of ballet was probably because of his love of patterns.
  • He was queer. More on that below, but queer identities proliferate in the autistic community to the point where the word ‘neuroqueer‘ is used by some queer autistic people to acknowledge the inseverable link between neurodivergence and queer identity. It makes perfect sense that queerness is more common in the autistic community, because autistic people typically have little respect for arbitrary rules. To an autistic queer person, there’s nothing more arbitrary than rules around gender. To the non-autistic community there is a clear reason for gender rules: To uphold the gender hierarchy. Autistic people typically have little respect for hierarchies, too, unless those hierarchies are earned.
  • Gorey loved movies and watched many of them. It is a common autistic experience to watch movies and read fiction as a way to learn the social rules which do not come as a native language. It is also more relaxing to watch social interactions in fiction than to have them in real life. Socialising in real life can be exhausting, but fiction offers a social fix as well as a guide book.
  • If Gorey was making a study of human interaction by watching those old silent movies, little wonder his hand gestures were flamboyant.
  • Gorey spoke with a non-masculine voice. His own father compared him to a comedic figure who was a middle aged woman. Autistic people often (but certainly not always) exhibit quirks of speech which do not align with their assumed identity. Autistic boys quite frequently sound like women if they spend a lot of time around women (mothers and teachers). Another example: Contemporary autistic children who grow up watching television adopt the accents of their favourite characters e.g. an autistic Australian child may speak with a British accent because of a deep love for Peppa Pig.
  • Gorey loved his cats. It is a common autistic experience to have a strong affinity with animals. The Edward Gorey charitable trust continues to give money to animal welfare organisations. (There must have been some cognitive dissonance going on, because Gorey’s fur coats were not synthetic.)
  • Gorey’s rings may have been stimming tools as much as fashion statements. His fur coat may have appealed to his strong, sensory reaction to the world. Sensory processing disorder is part of autism, meaning that autistic people are no longer diagnosed with both ASD and SPD because it’s assumed that every autistic person also has sensory processing issues. It seems to me that Gorey surrounded himself in sensory pleasures. Also, from high school age he was drawing men in fur coats, presumably before he owned one of his own. Gorey’s fur coat was partly him becoming one of his characters, like an advertising billboard. It suited his profession very well to be seen as eccentric. I put it to you that had he not dressed in this way, he may have gone wholly unnoticed. Australian comedian Tim Minchin used to look like a very ordinary guy but realised if he wanted to make a name for himself on stage, he had to look different, somehow, so he grew his hair long, dreadlocked it, and wore dark eye-makeup. Now he looked the part. His career took off.
  • Equally, many of his so-called ‘eccentric’ choices may have been a reaction to sensory overwhelm. Did he wear those very short shorts because he was making a sexualised fashion statement, or because he couldn’t stand the sensation of fabric on his legs?
  • Autistic people can be black and white about things, with deep passions and deep loathings. Edward Gorey had both. He couldn’t stand Henry James, “I loathe and detest all of it. I think he’s one of the worst writers that ever lived.”
This is the first time Gorey appeared on TV, which may partly explain why he looks so very uncomfortable with the whole thing. Note, too, that he would be reigning in any natural instinct to stim. Yet there he is, using his fingers and rings to stim. Now, stimming isn’t specifically an autistic thing. Everyone does it. It’s all part of the wider picture.
  • In the Dick Cavett interview, Cavett tells Gorey he’s seen him around town. Gorey admits he has ‘high visibility’. Cavett replies that for someone who doesn’t want to be seen, he is very visible, to which Gorey replies, “It’s a defence, really.” When you look so very different, people are less likely to strike up a conversation with you, which saves you having to figure out small talk, risking offence or misunderstanding, and for what?
  • Regarding his monosyllabic replies. e.g. “What were you like as a child?” “Small.” Gorey replies that he’s inclined to start babbling, so it’s better to stick with short responses. This evinces a self-consciousness around conversation which must have developed over many years of miscommunication.
  • Also in the Cavett interview, Dick Cavett has a little trouble figuring out Gorey’s conversational style. He can’t tell when Gorey has finished talking, or if there’s more to come. At one point he jokes, “Pull your ear [when you finish talking].” This isn’t a typical thing to say in a televised interview, unless your subject is autistic.
  • When he was diagnosed with two serious illnesses towards the end of his life, one of them being diabetes, he didn’t do anything to modify his behaviour. He didn’t seem concerned about impending death. (What killed him was actually a sudden heart attack.) All his life, his own work had been preparing him to accept death, and when asked about the macabre nature of his art, he replied that he creates art about death because death is a part of life. The idea that anyone gets out alive was ridiculous to him. I have heard autistic people say, similarly, that their approach to death seems more pragmatic than the approach of neurotypicals. People live; people die, we must accept that truth, because truth is king. I associate this level of pragmatism with autistic thinking.
  • On the other hand, Gorey may have been inwardly very concerned about death, but never communicated this to his closest friends. This, too, would be a very autistic sort of thing to do.
In this interview, conducted in his Cape Cod home a few decades after the Cavett interview, Gorey’s flamboyant gestures are apparent. He asks, “Why do I hate Meryl Streep so much? She’s no worse than a lot of people,” once again conveying his black and white feelings about things he likes and things he does not, even baffled at his own reaction.
In this tour of Edward Gorey’s Cape Cod house, which he owned from 1977 until his death, the guide tells us Gorey wore about 15 pounds of jewellery and you’d hear it coming as it made a lot of noise. This strikes me as either very annoying or very sensual (in the non-sexual sense). “He wasn’t quite a hoarder. There was a method to his hoarding… He had a strong feeling for the wabi sabi of things.”
The owner of Gorey’s favourite restaurant tells us Gorey bought his Cape Cod house without even going inside. It was a mess, so Gorey fixed up the interior. But he should’ve done the roof first, because when it rained all the work was ruined.
This hints at some executive function issues (paying attention to things that don’t matter; failing to pay attention to things that do).
He always sat in the one booth for breakfast (and ate the exact same breakfast of Wheaties and fruit), at another booth for lunch and at another booth for interviews. When he first started going to this restaurant he was aloof. After a few years he started talking to other customers. By the time he died he had turned into a ‘tyrant’, inviting himself into other people’s conversations and bombarding them with facts whenever he felt them to be wrong.
Jack explains that Gorey was a workaholic but also ‘lazy’. He drove to the café to eat even though it was just down the road. He stopped wearing his fur coats when the animal welfare people started to intimidate him. Gorey was never happier than when sitting in the local theatre, watching a live performance of his own play, killing himself with laughter at his own lines. “He wasn’t pretentious.” “What he likes is just plain folks.” He never wanted to hang around with rich folks, because they were rich.
He was a collector. If he had a CD of Bach already, he’d still go into a store and buy a complete collection of Bach, take it home and place it next to the other Bach he already had.
He hated hospitals, so when Jack was sick Jack excused him from visits. He got a thank you note for excusing him.
Gorey never swore. He had other words at his disposal which he could wield with force.
Gorey had a cat that no one ever saw except for Gorey. It was a very smart cat who could open doors and would go hunting and bring back dead animals of all kinds.
He wasn’t much of a one for parties but enjoyed gatherings of about six people.
He would collect rocks which looked to him like something, e.g. a frog, but you had to hold it in a certain way.
When he didn’t get what he wanted for breakfast he’d go off. As well as the Wheaties, with copious amounts of fruit, he had a muffin with NO BUTTER, and coffee. For lunch he had roast beef, salad and iced tea.
He didn’t care about whether he was famous, whether people were using his work, whether people came to the Cape Cod performances. He wasn’t in it for the financial remuneration or the fame. He was in art for the joy of doing it. (I can’t think of anything more autistic to say about a person, honestly.)
This interview was conducted in the restaurant owned by Jack Braginton, interviewed above, four years before Gorey’s death. His finger stimming is very obvious in this one. He seems to ‘think by fiddling’. Many people would look at Gorey’s mannerisms and say, “How can he not be gay?” But these mannerisms are also the mannerisms of a woman. They are also the mannerisms of any number of Non-Cishet-male people, which includes asexual people.

A FIELD GUIDE TO ‘GETTING ASEXUALITY WRONG’ WHEN WRITING BIOGRAPHY

There’s no dirt on the guy. It’s like no, he never married. He never had a lover. He had very close friends. But he went through life pretty solitary emotionally.

Tour guide at Edward Gorey’s house
ASEXUALITY IS AN ORIENTATION, LIKE HOMOSEXUALITY OR BISEXUALITY

Let’s start with the basics of How Not To Write About Asexuality.

Across his biography, Mark Dery refuses time and again to believe asexuality is a real thing that a person can be without secretly being something more legitimate. Worse, I eventually understood he fails to recognise asexuality even refers to an orientation. This was confirmed when I listened to the writer in interview at the Chimera Obscura podcast, in which he says this:

What does it mean to be ‘reasonably’ undersexed? It’s a very odd modifier. And what is being ‘undersexed’? He makes it seem like it really is low testosterone levels or something, that it’s an accident of birth, that it’s not a lifestyle choice, right?

Mark Dery (In which, by the by, Dery is also asked if he felt qualified to write Gorey’s biography as a straight man, to which he quipped, it is his greatest regret in life to be straight.)

So much to unpack here. (By the way, Gorey says in the Cavett interview that ‘lifestyle’ is a terrible word. How might he feel about his own biographer using it in regards to himself? And shouldn’t Dery, of all living people, know this about Gorey, and respect it?)

When Edward Gorey described himself as ‘reasonably undersexed’ he really did mean that his lack of attraction was ‘an accident of birth’ (born this way, in modern speak).

Like homosexuality or bisexuality, asexuality is an orientation and, like any other orientation, tends to track across a lifetime (#notalways). As we all intuit, orientation is not something people choose. Ergo, it is not a lifestyle choice.

Dery is conflating asexuality with celibacy, a common mistake among the queer illiterate. Asexuality is not a lifestyle choice; celibacy is.

Moreover, asexuality has nothing at all to do with hormones. Nor does asexuality describe libido. You can have a high libido and also be asexual. ‘High libido asexual’ does, in fact, describe many aspec people. There are people out there, with a higher libido than you, still not having sex. In line with Dery’s commentary about testosterone, asexual orientation continues to be unnecessarily medicalised and this remains a problem for the aspec community.

December 2nd Advent Calendar – The Christmas Bower by Polly Redford and Edward Gorey 1967
IF SOMEONE TELLS YOU THEY’RE ASEXUAL, THAT DOESN’T MEAN THEY ARE SECRETLY GAY

Dery spends the rest of the book trying to persuade readers Gorey was in fact gay. Reasons given:

  • Gorey was a flamboyant dresser, wearing floor length fur coats, fingers dripping with rings, earrings.
  • He liked ballet
  • He had a flamboyant mien
  • He liked the Golden Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other stories which put women front and centre.

I mean, what do people think asexuality looks like? It can look like anything, and that’s the beauty of it. When people aren’t straight, they are more free to play with gender, which means there’s also a huge overlap between asexuality and gender queerness. Gorey was playing with gender whenever he wore jewellery and that fur coat. Sure. That doesn’t mean he was gay; it only means he was queer. Queerness is a broader spectrum than Dery seems to realise.

FLAMBOYANT DOESN’T MEAN GAY ANYWAY

Gorey struck an effete pose. He affected a world-weariness and tossed off deadpan pronouncements with a knowing tone, an irony he underscored with broad, be-still-my-heart gestures—“all the flapping around he did,” a fellow dorm resident called it. Even so, he wasn’t some shrieking caricature of pre-Stonewall queerness. “He was flamboyant in a much more witty and bizarre way that normal queens weren’t,” says Osgood. “Giving big parties and carrying on, listening to records of musicals and singing along to them” wasn’t Gorey’s style.

Dery for LitHub (excerpted from his book)

(You know what autistic people are often known for? ‘Flapping’ a.k.a. stimming ie. ‘self-stimulating behaviours’.)

Consider another possibility as an explanation for Gorey’s so-called flamboyance:

Gay men — actual gay men — are less constricted by the rules of masculinity than straight men are because… they are indeed gay. After throwing off the shackles of gender and sexuality rules, gay men can start to enjoy whatever they want, dressing however they want, regardless of society’s symbolic gendering of it. If homophobia and misogyny weren’t a thing, more straight men would be wearing earrings and fur coats and using their arms to communicate, because earrings are sparkly, fur coats are cosy, and using your body to express emotion is a type of freedom. Enjoying stories about women is also a kind of freedom which boys are, sadly, enculturated out of. Straight boys can’t enjoy Golden Girls (and talk about it) without people labelling them gay.

“If you require any evidence that femininity can be more fierce and dangerous than masculinity, all you need to do is ask the average man to hold your handbag or a bouquet of flowers for a minute, and watch how far away he holds it from his body. Or tell him that you would like to put your lipstick on him and watch how fast he runs off in the other direction. In a world where masculinity is respected and femininity is regularly dismissed, it takes an enormous amount of strength and confidence for any person, whether female- or male-bodied, to embrace their feminine self.”

Julia Serano, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity

Dery comes so, so close to understanding this when he writes at LitHub about Gorey’s ‘blithe disregard for conventional notions of masculinity’.

Not everything we code as gay is limited to gay culture, anyhow. In the Cavett interview, Gorey even explains that one of the things that draws him to ballet is the ‘maximum expressiveness’ of the poses, the turned out feet and so on. In ballet, as in animation, characters are easier to read. Possible autism aside, ballet is an excellent study for any illustrator, which is also all about the expression and poses.

Asexual men are, like gay men, also Not Straight. Therefore, asexual men are equally free to indulge in what they love rather than what the Straight Man Rules say they have to love (and avoid).

So how might an asexual man find other Not Straight men like him? Why, in the gay community, of course. The gay community is far more visible than the asexual community (who, remember at this point in history didn’t even have a name let alone a shared symbolism). From high school, Gorey was hanging out with the other queer kids. This is what happens. Like attracts like, as in queers attract queerness. That Gorey surrounded himself by gay people makes perfect, perfect sense. Also, what happens when an asexual man (or probably anyone) starts hanging out with gay men all the time? Wouldn’t he adopt the speech patterns and body language of his friends, especially if he were also autistic? We all talk like our in-group. That’s how linguistics works. Gorey was a highly talented linguist. He taught himself to read at three and a half. He briefly learned Japanese; he read fluent French. Someone with this kind of brain will also subconsciously adopt the speech and communication patterns of their own community, without even trying.

Complicating matters, Gorey did go on record as gay after telling a persistent interviewer that he is “probably homosexual, but I don’t identify with it much”.

If there’s no cultural concept of asexuality, if most of your friends are gay, if you like the things gay people like and everyone reads you as gay, treating you as such, I’m 100% confident you’d identify far more with gay men than with the straights. It is also possible that Gorey was homoromantic, meaning he occasionally fell in love with men but never wanted to have sex with them. This would still place Gorey on the asexual spectrum. Dery sets up a completely false dichotomy by hand-wringing about whether his subject was gay or not. HE COULD HAVE BEEN BOTH.

Dery started writing this biography many years before it was published. As he was writing, asexual culture evolved. This may explain some of Dery’s knowledge gaps.

But have times really changed that much, when it comes to people misunderstanding asexuality? And can he really be excused? Contemporary biographers have full access to the Internet. Yet they continue to look for a subject’s sexual history. Failing to find any, biographers routinely conclude the subject must have been a ‘repressed homosexual’ without turning scrutiny back upon their original hypothesis. This is wilful ignorance for someone clearly so interested in the nature of their subject’s queerness.

Mark Dery’s biography evinces aphobia (homophobia but for aces) all the way through:

So, are we just all gonna ignore the fact that Dery is being acephobic? He clearly has an agenda. […] Dery spends nearly the entire book pushing an agenda that purports Gorey is an underappreciated gay icon, which he might be…if he ever self-identified as gay. WHICH HE NEVER DID. First of all, asexual is a valid identity, and to steamroll over Gorey’s declaration as such does a disservice and is incredibly disrespectful to those who also identify as asexual–an identity wholly misunderstood and underrepresented.

Consumer review of Born To Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey

We don’t know for sure anyone’s orientation unless they tell us. This is especially true because behaviour does not map neatly onto a person’s inner experience. People are especially interested in the inner experience of others, especially of admired artists. Also, curiosity is piqued whenever we feel there’s an informational gap. For all these reasons, Gorey attracts incessant speculation about his sex life. There’s another huge reason why people continue to speculate about Gorey’s sex life: Widespread ignorance about the asexual experience. Once understood, any mystique around Gorey evaporates.

But if there’s one thing worse than being pigeonholed when you don’t want to be, it’s to be pigeonholed as something you’re not. Ironically, Mark Dery has said in interview that he wanted to leave the mystery around Gorey’s sex life open, but that’s not what he actually did. He guides readers heavily towards the conclusion that Gorey was a repressed homosexual. Another consumer reviewer on Goodreads describes Dery’s obsession with ‘finding out’:

[O]ne thing the author never tired of discussing was Gorey’s sexuality. The author states several times that:

Gorey’s own preference, of course, was that he be seen not as a type – a gay artist or even an artist – but as an individual.

And yet, every few chapters, we would spend pages analyzing minute crumbs of Gorey’s sex life (or lack thereof):

Everyone who encountered him assumed he was gay, yet he maintained, to his dying day, that he was a neutral.

It just became a bit wearisome the fourth time we went around the whole was-Gorey-gay-or-asexual shtick…

Consumer review of Born To Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey
ROMANTIC DESIRE DOES NOT EQUAL SEXUAL ATTRACTION

I am fortunate in that I am apparently reasonably undersexed or something. I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t. A lot of people would say that I wasn’t because I never do anything about it.

Edward Gorey

Below, Mark Dery offers his queer-naïve interpretation of Gorey’s own, clear, unambiguous description of his asexuality:

Would they [really say that]? Is having desires yet not acting on them really the same as not having any desires to act on?

Mark Dery

Dery simply cannot get his head around asexuality as an attraction rather than a lifestyle choice, which stymies his frustrated attempts to understand Gorey. Further down page 96 he accuses Gorey of being ‘paradoxical’, and accuses his subject of ‘saying two contradictory things simultaneously.

Natalie Wynne (Contrapoints) cracked a joke on Twitter last year which she later deleted because although she was trying to make the point that queer literate young people are baffling to boomers, there was an unintended consequence: The joke itself suggested that asexuality and sexual acts are incompatible, and it was lost on many that she was trying to channel the queer-naïve olds (of which Mark Dery would be prime example). Here’s the tweet, anyway:

Gen Z queer people are hard to figure out, they’re like, “I’m an asexual slut who loves sex! You don’t have to be trans to be trans. Casual reminder that heterosexuality doesn’t make your gayness any less valid!”

@ContraPoints

Dery the Boomer, the intended butt of Natalie’s joke, continues to be baffled further down the page:

[H]e’s asexual (“undersexed”) and … he might be gay but since he never does anything about it, he’s as good as “neutral” as Compton-Burnett would say. He’s “fortunate” to be “undersexed” he says, implying that Fate decreed it. But doesn’t his admission “I am probably terribly repressed” direct our attention to what, exactly, he’s repressing?” “Every now and then someone will say my books are seething with repressed sexuality,” he conceded.

Mark Dery

More to the point, when there’s a conceptual hole in the culture to describe you, you would spend your life flummoxed, because no amount of introspection is going to give you your words.

Okay, first to the ‘repression’ part. If people keep telling you you’re repressed, you might believe them. Dery fails to get past the idea that Gorey worked to hide his true, gay sexuality. Take note of the verb:

He was either so discreet that he eluded detection or, as he later maintained, so yawningly uninterested in sex that there was nothing to detect.

Dery at LitHub

When straight people tell you they are straight, they have nothing to ‘maintain’. Maintenance suggests ‘maintenance of a lie’. After all, the truth needs no propping up; the truth makes itself evident eventually.

ASSOCIATION WITH GAY MEN DOESN’T MAKE YOU GAY

What it means is that, for some reason, you share a worldview in common, perhaps ostracization from the dominant culture. Ostracization happens for more reasons than ‘he’s gay’.

Gorey did, in fact, find his own ace community. Let’s talk about Compton-Burnett, who Dery mentions by name but puts in the footnotes, oblivious to how important this friend was in affirming Gorey’s asexuality:

Compton-Burnett lived for many years with Margaret Jourdain, a noted writer on interior decor and furniture, in what the Victorians would have called a Boston marriage — two women living together in a mutually supportive, though not necessarily romantic, arrangement. Whether their relationship was sapphic or merely sororal isn’t known; Compton-Burnett referred to herself and Margaret as “neutrals”.

Mark Dery, footnote p 96

Again, Dery fails to get his brain out of the binary. Ironic, seeing as how he, himself wrote this: ‘As always, Gorey defied binaries’. And this: ‘Expressing his frustration with the ways in which language maps in either/or binarism onto our thinking, Gorey reached, reflexively, for ballet as an example of something that’s irreducibly itself, untranslatable into language’.

Though Dery clearly gave binary thinking deep consideration while researching his non-binary subject, he cannot break free of those chains himself. Here, Dery thinks in terms of EITHER ‘sapphic’ (Iesbian) OR ‘sororal’ (sisterly). The idea that two people can love each other in a deep, queerplatonic way eludes him entirely. But honestly, I can’t think of a more apt 20th century, pre-AVEN, pre-Tumblr word for ‘asexual’ than ‘neutral’. These women were ahead of their time. They were asexual. That’s how they’d identify today, for sure and certain. And Gorey found them. How about that, now. Like attracts like; birds of a feather; queers for queers, aces for aces. It continues to astound me how adept queer people have always been at finding queer family, even without the internet, even with the hermeneutical injustice of existing in a culture with glaring conceptual holes that would otherwise describe yourself perfectly.

JUST BECAUSE YOUR WORK APPEALS TO THE GAY COMMUNITY THAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU GAY

If it did, Judy Garland would be a gay man.

Yet Dery takes his cues from a gay friend, who sees lovingly rendered bums across Gorey’s work. All art is a collaboration between creator and viewer. We see what we see — we’re not wrong — but once we start assuming personal things about a content creator based on our own reaction, we’re now in fantasy land.

Edward Gorey illustration for Lear’s The Jumblies (1969)
THE GLASS CLOSET DOES NOT ACCOUNT FOR THE EXISTENCE OF ASEXUALS

Okay, I absolutely hate the entire concept of ‘glass closet’. This phrase provides legitimacy and justification to a horrible act of disrespect: Assuming someone’s orientation by looking straight through them (apparently) rather than, ya know, listening to what they say, or even by observing what they (don’t) do.

Prime example: Rather than learn more about asexuality as a queer identity, Dery leans on the explanation of the ‘glass closet’ for Gorey. Sadly, it’s easier for sexual people to fabulate a ‘glass closet’ than to conceptualise a lived experience of asexuality. I mean, the guy who made up the term even uses the word ‘strange’. If that’s not othering, I don’t know what is. Remember, nothing is ‘strange’ once you understand it. You’re not going to ever understand someone if you fabulate glass closets and various other metaphors, while ignoring the person in front of you:

”Thomas Garvey coins the useful term glass closet to describe ’that strange cultural zone’ inhabited by people in the public eye who ‘simultaneously operate as both gay and straight. Gorey kept perfectly mum about his true nature to the press; he only spoke about it in his art.’”

Mark Dery

In an excruciating example of circularity, once he latches onto the glass closet idea, Dery uses Gorey’s art to back his own theory. For crying out loud:

Gorey kept perfectly mum about his true nature to the press; he only spoke about it in his art. And in a way, to be honest, the glass closet was appropriate to his artistic persona, which was neither here nor there, but locked in a kind of alienated stasis.

Mark Dery

A ridiculous stretch. Also, why does the work of queer artists garner such treatment? I don’t see cishet illustrators psychologically scrutinised in the same way. Imagine: “Oh, yes, I can see his heterosexuality coming through in his art, the way he’s rendered this nude woman’s nipple in such loving detail, locked in a kind of alienated stasis.”

Cishet people are normative; to be anything else requires reasons, and those reasons, in turn, influence a person’s art, apparently. Dery sees homosexual symbolism running all through Gorey’s art. He sees sex running through Gorey’s art, e.g. a little girl with a grape, which he sees as a sexual symbol. When Gorey himself was asked, he said the story is about a girl who really likes grapes.

This is all the evidence you need that Dery’s method of artistic analysis is utter circular bullshit. Again, viewers are welcome to see what they see in the work, but to make assumptions about the creator’s inner world is… an invasion.

That Gorey’s use of negative space suggests the artist was lonely, and lonely because he was gay and that his characters suggest Gorey himself was hiding something is another egregious stretch:

Still, his solitary nature, his habit of viewing the human comedy with a Beckettian black humor, and his childhood memories of family strife and whispered tales of his grandmother Garvey locked away in a sanitarium make us think there’s more here than meets the eye. Moody figures cluster in small groups. Often one person stands apart, regarded with a gold eye by the others. Furtive, sidelong glances are exchanged or gazes are averted altogether. Faces are expressionless masks, revealing nothing.

Mark Dery, Born To Be Posthumous

Equally likely: Gorey wasn’t interested in facial expressions because he didn’t read them well. Because today, a young Gorey would undoubtedly be screened for autism.

Also, show me a good artist who doesn’t feel distanced from the world. To stand apart from the crowd and view humanity as an outsider is requisite. It’s impossible to create great art from the inside out.

ASEXUALS ARE NOT EUNUCHS

Asexuality: Little to no sexual attraction.
Eunuch: a man who has been castrated, especially (in the past) one employed to guard the women’s living areas at an oriental court.

If such articles are to be believed, then ‘Gorey wasn’t necessarily gay, even though he was a lifelong bachelor who dressed in necklaces and furs….he was just asexual, a kind of lovable eunuch.

Mark Dery

Dery (quoting the Glass Closet guy) is using the word eunuch metaphorically. However, some metaphors are problematic and should be avoided. This is one of them.

Why? Because so little is understood about asexuality that metaphor functions as misinformation. Asexual people are commonly told to get their hormones checked, even though orientation is not linked to hormones. Not even a little bit. However, when a person has testicles or ovaries removed, their hormones do change, a lot. Men become eunuchs (sometimes chemically, in the case of cancer treatment), women go through menopause. In this case, hormones can affect libido, which is, again, for those at the back, completely different from orientation. Note that menopausal women do not routinely change orientation at menopause. That’s all the evidence you should need that hormone levels and orientation are DIFFERENT THINGS. (Also, straight, post-menopausal women are all the evidence you need that orientation is not a choice. Ha.)

GENDER QUEERNESS AND ASEXUALITY HAVE HUGE OVERLAP

There are literally more non-binary afabs in the asexual community than there are men.

Dery suggests Gorey’s interest in gossip about a trans woman points to homosexual interest (page 164 of Born To Be Posthumous).

You know what else it also points to? Interest in gender queerness. Which leads to my next point:

SEXUAL ORIENTATION DOES NOT EQUAL GENDER IDENTITY

This is a huge problem for the trans community, and also for the ace community, and actually, for the entire queer community. When Dery suggests Gorey’s interest in a trans woman is sexual, without considering it might be Gorey looking hard for his own people, as a genderqueer person himself, this contributes to damaging discourse among the queer-illiterate.

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats illustrated by Edward Gorey
FANTASY LIFE DOES NOT MATCH ORIENTATION

In New York, Gorey came closer to self-identifying as gay–if only in his mind and to a few close friends–than any other time in his life.

Mark Dery

Cishets know this but forget: Humans fantasise about all sorts of things, and the contents of fantasies do not align with real life sexual attraction and behaviour. If they did align, many straight men would be lesbians and many straight women would be gay men. Asexuality describes attraction (or lack thereof) to real world people, not lack of interest in sexual fantasy. Asexuality does not describe a lack of fantasy life; in fact, asexual fantasy life is frequently rich and expansive. Gorey’s may have been as well.

He should be allowed to take this with him to his grave without people searching for evidence of sex fantasies in his art. Asexual people are asked all the damn time whether they have sex fantasies. The question is intrusive. Moreover, it neither proves not disproves a person’s orientation. A description of someone’s sexual fantasy life would only ever describe… their sexual fantasy life.

Edward Gorey (American,1925-2000) – A Dull Afternoon
ASEXUALITY IS NEITHER IMMATURITY NOR NARCISSISM

[Gorey’s] romantic imbroglios weren’t true love, he implied, but mere “infatuations”. Infatuations are a distinguishing characteristic of sexual immaturity–the stuff of adolescent crushes and teen-idol worship. Narcissistic at heart, they offer romance without the grunt work of relationship building, love without the hairy horrors of sex.

Mark Dery

We live in a messed up culture where adulthood is contingent upon having sex. This is acephobic, but is also highly problematic for everyone. No one should have to prove their adulthood, maturity, thoughtfulness, empathy — or personhood — by having partnered sex.

ASEXUALITY IS NOT A RESULT OF TRAUMA

It is especially tempting to mistakenly default to the ‘repression’ and trauma interpretation when writing about queers who lived in dangerously homophobic times. Dery falls into this trap. He can’t seem to understand how one could possibly be asexual and also quite happy with the situation:

Gorey’s own sexuality was famously inscrutable. He showed little interest in the question, claiming when interviewers pressed the question, to be asexual, by which he meant “reasonably undersexed or something,” a state of affairs he deemed “fortunate,” though why he should be fortunate only he knew.

Mark Dery

Dery saves his trauma theory for later paragraphs, speculating that Gorey was ‘traumatised’ by an early relationship:

Was it his traumatic two years of worshipping Tony Smith that made Ted say to hell with love, and even sex, forever? Larry Oswood thinks Gorey swore off sex long before he got to Harvard. “He did tell me–because we were close friends, and we would talk about these things–that he once had a sexual experience in his late teens, I think. And he hadn’t liked it. And that was that. He wasn’t going to do that again.” Gorey didn’t offer any details about the incident, but Osgood is convinced, from his intimate knowledge of Ted’s emotional life, that it must have been a same-sex experience.

Mark Dery

Asexual people are damned if they do, damned if they don’t: “You can’t know you’re asexual if you’ve never tried sex.” But if you have tried sex and still don’t like it, you must have been traumatised by it (or doing it wrong, or why don’t you have sex with me, I’ll show you how it’s done… etc.) Dery’s implication: There is no such thing as asexual orientation, only repression, trauma, smoke and mirrors, and glass closets.

Aside from that, the relationship Dery cites as source of trauma sounds like no such thing, the way he tells it. From the book’s description, Gorey fell in love with a guy, but the guy turned out to be gay, so he wasn’t interested in Gorey. According to Dery, it was Gorey who introduced this other fellow to gayness.

Okay… Anyway, Dery isn’t describinng trauma. He is describing rejection. I don’t like to see the word ‘trauma’ devalued. Admittedly, there is an extra level of heartbreak embedded in rejection whenever mixed orientation is involved. There can be deep sadness in realising that you are different from everyone else, and that your boyfriend will never be with you, possibly because he wants sex and you don’t. However, this isn’t posited as a source of trauma by Dery, who does not understand how asexuality informs relationship difficulties.

There is genuine trauma around living as any sort of queer in a society which rejects you. But if Dery concludes Gorey was was so repressed that he was traumatised into celibacy by one instance of sex, this doesn’t explain why vast numbers of historically gay men had plenty of gay sex all throughout those very same, dangerously homophobic times, finding each other with surprising ease. Many people of all orientations have a terrible first sexual encounter but continue to have sex anyway.

Also, Dery’s ‘repressed homosexual’ interpretation doesn’t jibe with literally everything else we know about Gorey, specifically. If he had been interested in having sex with men, he surely would have. This was a guy with a deep passion for ballet when men were not supposed to love the ballet. This is a man who wore jewellery and fur coats, which diminished his status in a misogynistic world. Most of all, this is a man who wrote absolutely off-the-wall bizarre books, some of them for children, who went ahead and published them himself when he couldn’t find anyone else to. What is it about Gorey that would lead anyone, let alone his biographer, to conclude that the one boundary Gorey would not transgress is the sexual one? Nothing else about him suggests he was an aesthete who denied himself pleasure. He liked to eat copious amounts of fruit. He liked to sunbathe. He indulged all day in hedonistic passions: Art, reading, movies, TV. If the guy weren’t asexual, why on earth would he have denied himself the pleasure of sex? After all, he was surrounded by opportunity. Ergo, Gorey was not ‘traumatised’ by sex. He tried it when everyone else was trying it, realised it wasn’t for him, then lived the rest of his life happily without it.

Something Gorey said suggests he didn’t have a handle on the trauma of gay men:

I realize that homosexuality is a serious problem for anyone who is—but then, of course, heterosexuality is a serious problem for anyone who is, too. And being a man is a serious problem and being a woman is, too. Lots of things are problems.

Edward Gorey

Clearly, as Dery himself notes, being a mid-20th century gay man has vastly more problems than being a heterosexual man. (I would add that being a mid-century woman has vastly more problems than being a mid-century woman.) Aside from Gorey’s reluctance to acknowledge hierarchies of trauma, this comment underscores my reading of Gorey as both asexual and non-binary.

He may have even escaped the trauma experienced by the genuinely gay men all around him, for the reason that he knew himself to not be having sex, and the sexual part of gay sex is the most forbidden part of being gay in queer-suppressive societies. Unlike his gay peers, Gorey would not have been scared of contracting AIDs. Likewise, he would never have lived with the fear of being caught in flagrante delicto then thrown in jail. We cannot take the trauma experienced by gay men of the 20th century and paste it onto an asexual man, because the nature of the trauma is so different, which is not to say Gorey would have escaped all of it. He was read as a gay man, after all. The streets were not safe for him. Asexual trauma and gay trauma overlap, but are different beasts.

Though Gorey was visibly queer, there are advantages to have the invisible orientation. By the way, the invisibility of asexuality even extends to the index of Mark Dery’s biography. The indexer left out ‘asexuality’ but included eighteen entries under ‘gay culture’. This, despite the author writing at length about what today is called asexuality (without anyone at the publication end realising it, apparently). Likewise, there’s an index entry for ‘homophobia’ but not ‘aphobia’. Honestly, sometimes it’s better to be left right out. Under ‘gay culture’ there is an entry for ‘pedophiles and’.

OTHER HISTORICAL EXAMPLES OF MISUNDERSTOOD ASEXUALITY

Another historical figure who gets this treatment in biography is Leonardo Da Vinci.

Leonardo was thought by many researchers, including Sigmund Freud, to have been homosexual, although perhaps latent. He also appeared to have undergone an extreme transition, from a strong sexual ardor as an infant to a cool asexuality as an adult.

Why?: What Makes Us Curious by Mario Livio (2017)

(I cannot fathom what ‘strong sexual ardor as an infant’ even means.)

J.M. Barrie is another historical figure where the orientation aspect of aseuxality is rarely discussed by biographers.

Bram Stoker (who wrote Dracula) gets this treatment, too, with the possibility of asexuality not considered at all:

Stoker was a deeply private man, but his almost sexless marriage, his admiration of Walt Whitman, Henry Irving, Hall Caine, and Oscar Wilde, as well as the perceived homoerotic aspects of Dracula, have led to scholarly speculation that he was a repressed homosexual who used his fiction as an outlet for his sexual frustrations. In 1912, he demanded imprisonment of all homosexual authors in Britain: it has been suggested that this was to disguise his own vulnerability.

Bram Stoker entry on Wikipedia

Sticking with writers, Hans Christian Andersen is thought to be a repressed homosexual, or a ‘gay virgin‘. Why did he not have sex with men? Some have suggested he was too ugly to attract any lovers. This flies in the face of the reality: that ‘ugly’ people have plenty of sex all over the place, all the time, and that looks are not the most important thing in a lover, despite what modern media tries to tell us. Other more modern theories include the possibility that Hans Christian Andersen was a trans woman. Since we must speculate, I’m all for expanding the possibilities rather than unimaginatively settling upon ‘gay’, just because this is where most straight understandings of queerness begin and end, and because white gay men are the most lauded and privileged variety of queer.

Evidence:
1. A very large proportion of Andersen’s fairy tales are featured by love stories from a (straight) woman’s point of view. These stories are so vivid that it is very tempting to think that Andersen imagined himself (or probably herself) as the protagonists when writing.
2. The most famous work by Anderson, The Little Mermaid, is a metaphor for a trans woman who undergoes gender transitioning and finds true love. The transformation that the mermaid undergoes resembles the gender transitioning process to a surprisingly great extent.
3. Also let’s not forget Andersen was actually androphilic. There is evidence that shows that Andersen was “gay”.

Conclusion:
It is reasonable to believe that H.C. Andersen was not a gay man but actually a repressed straight trans woman who never underwent transitioning due to the limited technology and ideologies of that time.

Susan’s Place: Transgender Resources

Timothy Mowl, biographer of Horace Walpole, seems as queer illiterate as Mark Dery. Both refer to their supposedly homosexual subjects as ‘screaming’. I refuse to read Mowl’s biography myself. Turns out I don’t have to, because the Queer as Fact podcast did an episode on Horace Walpole and the treatment of him by biographers.

Today’s episode is on Horace Walpole, 18th century man of letters and writer of the world’s first gothic novel. This episode features a number of firsts for Queer As Fact, including our first possible asexual person, and the first Queer As Fact Historical Goth-Off!

Queer As Fact

See also: “Queering Horace Walpole” a paper by George E. Haggerty, From: Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 (Vol. 46, Issue 3)

Back to scientists: Isaac Newton is another historical figure whose sexuality is the subject of much baffled speculation. In 1968, Frank E. Manuel published a biography which promoted the idea that Newton was a repressed homosexual who never had sex. No surprise, given the date of publication, the author leaned heavily on Freudian psychoanlaysis.

In 1980, another biography did the same, though less directly. See: Richard S. Westfall.

In 2005, Scott Mandelbrote of Cambridge University, was one of the first authoritative voices to stand against the gay interpretation of friendship between Newton and another guy called Fatio.

But people still won’t consider the possibility that Newton’s orientation was asexual. IF he wasn’t gay, that does not automatically mean he was straight:

Robert Iliffe, a professor of the history of science (previously at the University of Sussex, now at Oxford) and the director of the Newton Papers Project (which was been cataloguing, transcribing, and editing the huge trove of personal papers that Newton left behind when he died), has recently argued that Newton was rigorously celibate and that his inclinations were heterosexual. Prof. Iliffe bases this interpretation on, among other evidences, the contents of Newton’s private writings, such as “’Proœmium’ and first chapter of a treatise on Church history”, in which he recorded his objections to the practices of Catholic monasticism and defended his own ideal of a freely chosen, celibate vocation as a working scholar.

Quora answer by Alejandro Jenkins, answering the question: Was Isaac Newton possibly gay?
NOTE TO BIOGRAPHERS

If someone tells you they’re asexual, believe them. If someone tells you they’re bisexual, believe them. If someone tells you they’re trans… whatever, believe them.

If you’ve researched your subject deeply and are baffled by lack of lovers, rather than assume they are gay (or straight), consider the possibility: genuinely asexual. Not celibate by choice, not ‘too busy being a genius’, not ‘aloof’, not ‘traumatised’, just plain old asexual.

If your research subject has said they are ‘reasonably undersexed or something’, if they have told interviewers they don’t have sex with men, for crying out loud, believe them. True, not every subject introspects, which means their biographers must. In fact, Leonardo Da Vinci is a prime example of that sort of person. But biographers cannot ignore recorded and remembered evidence, then weave it into a fictional narrative to mesh neatly with their own incomplete knowledge of human diversity.

SEE ALSO

I feel like Chuck Tingle is the absurdist sexual grandchild of Edward Gorey. While Edward Gorey wrote books called things such as The Haunted Tea-cosy, Chuck Tingle writes satirical erotica with titles such as Domald Tromp’s Ass is Haunted by the Handsome Ghost of His Incriminating Tax Returns and Billionaire Elons Mugg Takes the Handsome Planet Mars in his Butt.

We know little about the person or people behind the pseudonym Chuck Tingle, though it has been revealed that he is autistic.

Of course, if you don’t have the faintest idea of what asexual orientation actually is, it’s inconceivable and baffling that Tingle, the absurdist writer who published Pounded In The Butt By My Own Butt

also wrote

Absolutely No Thoughts Of Pounding During My Fun Day With This Kind T-Rex Because I’m Aromantic and Asexual And That’s A Wonderfully Valid Way To Prove Love Is Real.

Find a review of this work (and other asexual books) at Feral Feminisms.

If you like the artwork of Edward Gorey, check out Fritz Schwimbeck (1889-1972), who was about the vintage of Gorey’s father.

Fritz Schwimbeck (1889-1972)

Gorey has also been compared to Charles Addams, though Dery points out in his book (very accurately, I think), that despite his quirk, Addams was actually writing about traditional values. If there were an award for eccentricity, Gorey leaves Addams in the dust.

Charles Addams
The Apparition, 1973 by another similar artist called Charles. Charles W. Stewart (1915-2001)
Portrait of Baron Angelo Milfastos as a Child, c 1952. By Remedios Varo. In the Book Unexpected Journeys

Yorkshire cartoonist Glen “Colonel” Baxter also seems to be a descendent of Edward Gorey, especially with the handwritten text.

Those who tell the stories rule the world.

Native American Proverb