I spent last Christmas in Newport, Rhode Island visiting
with cousins and an aunt who live there.
(Some of our ancestors were original settlers of Aquidneck Island and
we’ve had a presence in Newport ever since, but that’s a future topic.) This Christmas in Newport, I gave the same
gift to a number of my family members, purchasing one for myself as well: the
new biography of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery.
This book, Born to be
Posthumous, was perfect for the family, as we all admire and appreciate
Edward Gorey’s macabre and unusual art and writing styles. Ask anyone in our family who is their
favorite Gashlycrumb Tiny and we will, to a person, answer Neville. (He died of ennui.) My cousin Sophy, always on the same
wavelength with me, gave me a copy for Christmas too. Luckily, I divide time between Atlanta and
DC, so we now have a copy in each residence.
Along with the book, I was able to share with them more
information which came as a surprise to them: we have a family connection to
Edward Gorey! My mother’s second cousin,
John Black (whose name and photograph you have seen in other of my blog
postings), was a Harvard classmate of “Ted” Gorey, as they knew him then. Before he died, John asked me to scan and
print some select photos from an album he had collected in the 1950s and
1960s. Two of those photos were of his
friend Ted Gorey reclined on a couch (or a sofa, as I think Gorey would have
called it) in John’s apartment on the Upper East Side in New York City. There is no date on the two photos, but other
photos on the page are dated 1953 and 1963, so the Gorey photos could date from
anytime in the 1950s or early 1960s.
When I saw the Gorey photos, I quizzed John about the connection, which
is when I found that they were Harvard classmates. He also told me an amusing story about Gorey
that I’ll get into later in this post.
A few weeks later I was getting caught up on unread
periodicals and found the latest alumni magazine from my alma mater, Occidental
College (“Oxy”), in Los Angeles. To my
surprise, I saw an article feature concerning Mark Dery and this new book of
his. Turns out he is also an Occidental
College graduate, 3 years ahead of me (as is his wife), yet another small world
coincidence! I immediately wrote an email
to the editor of the magazine to exclaim on the fact that this had been my
primary Christmas gift to my family this year and to share the family
connection. I also sent a scan of one of
the photos from John’s album (right) and invited the editor to share my email
and the photo with Dery if the school were so inclined. Within 30 minutes of pressing “send” on that
email I received an email from Mark Dery, the author, himself!