Monday, October 27, 2008

The Object Lesson

The Object Lesson, Edward Gorey’s fourth published work, puts a formula in place that will reoccur in his books for years to come. Seemingly disjointed events and pictures tell an obtuse story that in the end is satisfying and unnerving, though unresolved. This kind of storytelling will become Mr. Gorey’s stock in trade, and reveals his active interest in nonsense and avante garde poetry and prose.

In the perfect Gorey world, words and pictures work together to form a cohesive, if sometimes incomprehensible whole. His use of white space on the page speaks as loudly as his obsessive line work, and his words (all hand lettered) serve to compliment and complicate the meaning of the pictures. Mr. Gorey's use of humor is also front and center in this title. The Object Lesson has it all for the Gorey fan!

The first printing of The Object Lesson was published in 1958 by Doubleday and Company, Inc, and has illustrated boards which match the dust jacket (see the above photos of the front and back). The secondary binding has black boards, but no change to the dust jacket or interior of the book (the copyright page still says "first edition"). See the photo to the right of a first printing and a second printing without dust jackets. Both of these copies are signed and the 1st/1st is inscribed to me by Mr. Gorey.

The English first edition was published by Anthony Blond in 1958 and the color of the binding has changed to "oatmeal". In the photo to the left, the English first is on the right so you can see the color change.

The Object Lesson is included in Amphigorey and a reprint is currently available as a single book. While it is wonderful to have works by Edward Gorey available as individual books, the current batch of reprinted Gorey titles are generally printed smaller than the originals (when originally published, he was adamant that books be printed life size to the drawings). Often the printing quality on these reprints is not as crisp as the first edition printings.

1 comment:

David Oberman said...

The Object-Lesson fascinates me. The text may be a random series of sentences, clauses, or even phrases, one per frame. But I think Gorey is applying some sort of weird formula whereby he lifts a piece of text from another work of literature (some of the lifts appear to come from mystery stories but others may originate in mediaeval or renaissance allegories), placing it in like fashion, and then illustrating it in his inimitable way. Perhaps he was experimenting with the nouveau roman, which came to prominence at just about this time (1957), by seeking an overarching coalescence despite the internal stringing together of non sequiturs. In a way, The Object-Lesson reminds me of the questions elicited by a reading of the Robbe-Grillet and Resnais work Last Year at Marienbad, which was published a few years after it.