The LA Review of Books has published “Mail Bonding,” my lengthy essay on Floating Worlds, the impossibly erudite, puckishly witty, and nakedly revealing correspondence of Edward Gorey and Peter Neumeyer, the children’s book author (and professor) whose Donald books Gorey illustrated.
Theirs was a friendship of almost telepathic rapport and, atypically for men of that era, emotional candor, both about themselves and their friendship. Of the two men, Gorey emerges as the more avid correspondent, and the more confessional — a startlingly out-of-character turn, given the solitary artist’s notorious evasiveness in interviews and disinclination to answer mail or, for that matter, return calls. In Elephant House, a book of photographs of Gorey’s home, the photographer Kevin McDermott recalls “boxes of opened and unopened mail, much of it from fans,” surrounding Gorey’s sofa. Typically, Gorey replied to such letters, if he replied at all, with a postcard of his own design. Featuring a Gorey cat dozing on top of a mound of correspondence, it informed the recipient, “You’ve written me to no avail, because I never read my mail.” The novelist and critic Alexander Theroux notes, in his memoir of their friendship, The Strange Case of Edward Gorey, that the artist’s “doors lacked knobs, and I am convinced they were intentionally left that way.” When the telephone rang, Gorey was often heard to shout, “I am not here.”