Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Connections: Edward Gorey and Paul Giambarba

As a child, I was captivated by the work of Edward Gorey as soon as I saw it. My parents were great readers and frequenters of book stores new and used and somewhere along the line I found his tiny, dark and mysterious paperbacks like The Hapless Child.
I also had a book called the Haunted Looking Glass which he illustrated.
I was sure Edward Gorey was a long dead Victorian era artist and writer like another of my favorite pen and ink artists, John Tenniel illustrator of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I was a kid. What did I know?  As I got older and continued to find new works by Mr. Gorey... a lightbulb went off. He's ALIVE! This was waaay before the internet when you had to realllly do research and scrounge around for information so, eventually, I found my way to the Gotham Book Mart in the city...

 and went to every signing they held for Mr. Gorey and I also managed to infect my dear friend Anthony with Goreymania and we two teens discovered he was in the phonebook! So was his address!  We would make the occasional pilgrimage to his NY apt. and sort of linger around. I guess this would be considered stalking, but we were young and cute back then and being young and cute you can get away with a lot!
(me and Anthony in our cute years)
A year or so later, I was selling clay sculptures and art in galleries around NY and LI and made a Christmas present I wanted to leave on Mr. Gorey's doorstep. My ex and my brother were obliging so we drove into the city and there was no place to park, so my brother circled the block and I went up and knocked on the door... not expecting any answer, but...the door opened and there was Edward Gorey, who said "Why, hello there"... or words to that effect. I was speechless... "Uh...I made this Christmas present for you...". ""Come on in!"
I glanced around for my brother who was still circling but we went inside. He was delightfully gracious and charming and offered us tea, which sadly, we had to decline because of my brother, but he did give me a copy of the Lavender Leotard, his latest book with a hand colored detail:
(the skirt of the leotard is hand colored)
He also told us some stories about his cats before we departed. I will always remember his apartment filled with books. Every space had stacks and stacks. His fireplace had stacks of books in it (I assumed NOT for burning) and we did see a couple of his cats lurking behind the books.

(his NY apartment looked pretty much like this)
This was an amazing day because Mr. Gorey was famous for not answering fan mail. He was always nice at the signings, too. This was all long before Dracula (which I saw with the dashing, young Frank Langella!) PBS and Mystery helped bring his work to national attention.
I also knew, from my extensive research, that Edward Gorey attended all of the NY City Ballet's performances and loved George Balanchine and stated if  Mr. Balanchine ever died he'd leave NY and move to Barnstable, MA.

Which brings me to why I am writing this now. It was a sad occasion when  Edward Gorey passed away. Later, I read about his house in Yarmouth   Port, MA, had been turned into a museum.

Paul Giambarba is an illustrator, cartoonist and designer of the iconic Polaroid box designs:
He is also a member of the NCS and the Wisenheimer online cartoon  board, which was started in the early days of the internet and is still run by the amazing Ted Goff. I have corresponded with Paul and been an admirer of his work for many years. He started an early blog about the history of illustration and knowing how much I liked Edward Gorey he sent me a link to a story he did that was an interview with  Gorey and included photos he took! What a connection! (Paul's interview with Edward Gorey).
(Edward Gorey photo by Paul Giambarba)
This year, we were looking for a getaway that wouldn't be too expensive and I said to John, there are two things I've always wanted to do, go to the Edward Gorey museum and meet Paul and his wife, Fran, in person and meet them for lunch! In looking at the Gorey House website it said plan your stay. It mentioned the Colonial Inn which was right next door! I booked a room and we ended up having one of the best times, ever!
We stayed at the Colonial Inn which turned out to be a charming old inn with a lot of personality and great food.  Dinner and breakfast are included in the price!
Colonial Inn
The Gorey House was fantastic!
  John and I ended up spending two hours  with the docent and would have spent another two except they closed and we were already there past closing. They had a lovely exhibit of  the originals of "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" :
and many other originals and items from his own collections of things and his coat, which was a bit sad to see behind glass
and there were dolls (the Black Doll!) and puppets and all sorts of posters and our guide was very knowledgeable so we enjoyed all his insight and stories I completely forgot to take pictures except for a couple outside and had to go back the next day for the gift shop. We both loved it and would definitely go back!!!

We met Paul and Fran for lunch at a local pub and had the best time talking cartooning (and politics!) and it seemed like we'd known them for ages, which, online, anyway, I have known and admired Paul for ages!
(Paul and I)
Paul and Fran
We ended up going back to their lovely home and talking and talking in between espresso and dessert and a tour of their beautiful garden. Paul's brilliant work was hung on the walls and it was such a treat to see his beautiful silk screens of the seasons and original drawings.
So, Yay! We had a most fabulous time and will look forward to making another trip to the Cape sometime in the near future!


  1. SO envious. You have no idea.

    : )

  2. Come visit sometime, Ann, and we can make the trip!

  3. Isabella sent me here, because she knows how much I love Edward Gorey. Back in the 1970s, I had a limited subscription to the ballet, and sometimes I would see him in the lobby. It was beyond exciting for me.

    I saw the Gorey Dracula twice, both times from the third row.

    I went to the Gorey Museum a couple of years ago, which is a magical, magical place:
    I'm still a member, even though I have no idea when I'll get back up there.

    I work at Columbia University, and our Rare Book and Manuscript Library recently got a massive gift of Goreyana, from a long-time collector named Andrew Alpern. We even have one of his furs! Some of it has been cataloged:[author_facet][]=Edward+Gorey+Collection+of+Andrew+Alpern

    Thanks for a great post!

  4. Hi Karen,

    Thank you for posting! How nice you got to see him in his milieu at the ballet! And Dracula, twice! I saw it when it opened and had really great seats, can't remember the row. Frank Langella was gorgeous!
    Isy mentioned the collection. I'd love to see it if and when it's ever open to the public!
    And the Gorey House was magical. I am going to join as well. Good to keep supporting it! I hope to get back there sometime soon or at least next spring.

  5. Karen,
    I just checked out your link and am so glad to see your photos of your visit! I was so absorbed I completely forgot to take a single photo in the museum!!! I had my camera and everything, too!

  6. Hi Stephanie!!
    Thanks for the great pics and also for your email! The picture of Gorey and his cats lounging was my favorite. I also loved Mr. Gorey's style of illustration since the early days of study at SVA. I particularly liked the photo of the Gotham Book Mart that brought back old memories, where'd you dig that up?