The First Blank Page

Drawing by Edward Gorey

For reasons which I’m not sure I could articulate, I love this drawing without reservation. (Click the image for a larger version.) It’s from a page in 2007’s Edward Gorey “Page-a-Day” calendar and I’ve kept it around on various computers, trying without success to make it work as a desktop wallpaper. (Icons are inconsistently legible when layered over it.) Perhaps I must get used to just knowing about it, without ever using it in some way.

(If there’s anything guaranteed to p!ss a writer off, it’s knowing about something which can’t be used.)

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  1. I love Edward Gorey! A friend of mine has a copy of his illustrated alphabet poem, and I always covet it when I see it at her place. Even this calendar entry has a has a nice creepiness to it, even though it’s pretty innocuous on its own. Lovely.

  2. @Katherine – The alphabet book, The Gashlycrumb Tinies (“A is for Amy… who fell down the stairs,” etc.), is a true classic. My ever-lovin’ younger brother, many moons ago, got me a large signed print of the “P” page: P is for Prue… trampled flat in a brawl. It hung over our fireplace, and now that we’re in a house with no fireplace it’s over the TV. Goes with absolutely nothing, decor-wise, but I love it.

    You should be able to find a cheap copy of one of his anthologies (Amphigorey et al.) someplace. They make for discombobulating bathroom reading, especially when left in a bathroom used by guests during a party. The unknowing — those who never use the bathroom — may believe that the expressions on everyone’s faces say something about the food you’re serving. But you, of course, will know better.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. This is quite simply…wonderful! Makes me want to get out my best paper and nibbed pen with feather, sit down and write or draw. Gorey spends his words economically and is such a good reminder that …less is always more. I really appreciate your affection for this illustration. Thanks for sharing it. Betty

  4. Betty: So glad you liked it!

    For someone known principally as a visual artist, Gorey always showed huge sensitivity to the English language (and by extension, to writing and writers). His odd little books are usually written at least as much as drawn.

    In The Unstrung Harp, Gorey tells the tale of a Mr. Earbrass, who is trying to focus on writing a new novel. The captions to two back-to-back illustrations say:

    Mr. Earbrass stands on the terrace at twilight. It is bleak; it is cold; and the virtue has gone out of everything. Words drift through his mind: anguish turnips conjunctions illness defeat string parties no parties urns desuetude disaffection claws loss Trebizond napkins shame stones distance fever Antipodes mush glaciers incoherence labels miasma amputation tides deceit mourning elsewards

    Before he knew what he was doing, Mr. Earbrass found he had every intention of spending a few weeks on the Continent. In a trance of efficiency, which could have surprised no one more than himself, he made the complicated and madding preparations for his departure [etc….].

    I’d happily have composed any of those sentences myself!

  5. Well, as usual, as soon as I say something outloud, I contradict myself. I see that Gorey was both economical with his words as well as hypnotising with their reach and depth; sometimes ecomomical with his drawings and sometimes richly detailed. Gosh, he did it all. I love words and I love drawing. I think the Unsung Harp will be my first purchase of Gorey’s work. I too have one favorite short, really rich, written discription of a human. It isn’t relative to this post but I bet you’d enjoy it as much as I did. The Unstrung Harp quotes above, are just wonderful. Thank you John. Betty


  1. […] and by 7:30 — after incidental stuff like selecting the day’s background music — begun to write. Took a break of about ten minutes at around 9:00 or so (cup of tea #2), and another (#3) around […]

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