Sunday, October 24, 2010

All True Edward Gorey Fans

wanted Siobhan Magnus to win American Idol.

Presumably the competition is rigged, because she had the best pipes--her voice a cross between that of Sheena Easton and Linda Rondstadt--and Siobhan is as gifted as either of those pop divas.

Also she had to have had the best voice, because she had this Edward Gorey tattoo on her bicep.

That's Gorey logic.

Why is this guy shouting? Are we deaf?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Rorschach Fiction



FUSS


Everybody knew the conjoined twins round those parts. Elspeth and Mary-Josephine Totzenholt were good country women with good community spirit, and were particularly well-known for their cooking, which of course they did in tandem. They were always ready to provide sumptuous pies, pastries and candies for any local fundraiser or church cause.

Old Davey Elder remembers welding two school-desks together for them when they were little, so they could sit together comfortably in the one-room schoolhouse in which Elspeth excelled at the conjugation of Latin verbs, and Mary-Josephine was a whiz at the declension of Latin nouns.

They were, however, denied the Reverend Stoltzfus Latin Award, given annually by the small town of Verbenia, because it was a clear stipulation that the prize could only be awarded to one individual. And so that year the Latin award went to Clyde Spaeth, who could not really tell his "amat" from his "amant."

Clyde Spaeth was found five months later with not one, but two axes in his head. They found the young man lying in snow in Old Man Grigsby's fallow field.

Tracks had clearly been broomswept as the murderer or murderers walked backwards from the dread deed. When the sisters were questioned they categorically denied any involvement, and the matter was soon dropped (since they were well-liked and the metaphysical implications of a trial were just too mindboggling to Verbenia's moral custodians).

Besides, Clyde had a bad ticker. Everyone knew his father dropped dead at twenty-four and the boy was considered a short-hire proposition.

It did bother some of the more morally punctilious citizens of Verbenia that every winter the Totzenholt sisters thought it humorous to make a set of conjoined snowwomen on their front lawn, with broad smiles below carrot noses. It wasn't the grimly flippant humor apparent in the creation of this short-lived, odd form of self-portraiture, but the fact that one merry snowgal always proudly held an ax while the other snowgal cheerfully wielded a broom.

In later years, they gave Latin lessons to some of the more promising wee scholars of Verbenia until Elspeth died on her eighty-sixth birthday, as she was napping in a chair beside her sister who had been putting the finishing touches to the icing on the cake.

When Mary-Josephine tried to rouse her sister from her slumber, she felt the cold of her skin instantly, and knew then what a terrible incumbency had come upon her. The guests, the kith and kin who had gathered in the house for the celebration, made a great protestation and were preparing to rush Mary-Josephine to the hospital, but she just shushed them and smiled. The outcome was clear, she explained in a few words. And she smiled to let them know she was not bitter. And so rationality prevailed.

Mary-Josephine cheerfully lit and blew out the candles, made a wish, and said something in Latin which nobody gathered there that day understood. And she actually sat there beside her dead sister and finished her slice of birthday cake with great dignity. Occasionally she stroked her sister's hair, or propped her up when she would begin to slump. At one point, she even fixed her dead sister's lipstick. Everybody present was greatly impressed.

She died sitting perfectly still, after having placed her fork, licked clean of icing, back upon a little plate adorned with roses and cherubim. The last things she did was kiss her sister's cheek as she propped her up on the chair next to her, and arrange herself as though a photograph were about to be taken. She had already directed a trusted family member to the keys to the house, the keys to everything else, and a note which explained how everything was to be handled. And she apologized for not being able to do the dishes. Then she closed her eyes. And the cold of her sister came into her, and she willingly shared it. She shared it completely, as they had always done with everything.

What she had said in Latin was a matter of much speculation, but never resolved. It was generally believed to have been a sentiment extremely moral, witty, barbed or wise. Or possibly all of the above. They were missed, those gals. They had style. They did it their way. And that is how Verbenia remembered them: tidy, bright and only a tiny bit terrifying. In brief, they were everything one can hope for in interesting neighbors. And they died without asking any favors or making any fuss at all, which--as everyone in a small town knows--is the sign of true virtue.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Ill-Fated Expedition to the Refrigerator and the Unfortunate Fate of The Crew of the Nancy Manners

I like to imagine this work-in-progress as a book illustrated by Gorey.

But that seems quite unlikely at this point.

This is the log (including Last Will and Testament) of Captain Reginald Neversligh, who led the crew of the Nancy Manners God-only-knows-where.

Requiescant in pace.


Day 1

I fear the men are against me. Some of them are beginning to say we should have never entered this polar terrain after September. They say the natives had warned us that September's first wind holds in it the wail of all those who came before us, who entered here, and who never returned.

Day 2

Evers got this crazy notion in his head that we should have gone left at the Mayonnaise jar. It took two hours of expostulation and an appeal to the men's patriotic instincts to rid the majority of the crew of this preposterous notion. Evers went on alone and is surely already lost to the Mission--for now and forever. May God rest his Weary Misguided Soul.

A left at the Mayonnaise jar!

Indeed!

Do I truly need to remind anyone of what happened to the Twillingsworth Party!?

Day 3

It took all the strength of eight men and myself to ply the strange cover from a pink monolithic drum which was left here by another culture, as-yet alien to our race. They seem to write their language in circles. For example, we found these characters incised on the drum: ERWARETUPP.

None of our party has any idea what this means, but the men all agreed it looks exceedingly ominous.

I do not believe it is a civilized tribe which created this strange artifact.*


*We were much pleased to find great manna inside the pink vessel. It was stocked with vegetable matter rather resembling the vegetable we know as haricots verts, but insanely large!

After consuming our fill of this lucky find, it took all the strength of our party jumping up and down on the top of this drum to reseal the strange vessel!


Day 4

We ate Gibbons today.

I am not proud of the fact, and worse, I cannot justify it in any way whatsoever, as we are surrounded now by a bewildering array of foodstuffs.

It's just that everbody agreed he had always looked so damn...edible.

This isn't "a perverted, typically British navy thing."

As one of the party said.

I want to say that really hurt.

And that that notion is completely wrong.

If we get out of this alive, we shall remember his widow and seven children and console them heartily, and take up the usual Christian subscriptions for their maintenance and well-being.

I'd like to point out I partook very little.

I was quite occupied with my spyglass.

For there were an extended few moments of Sun, and I felt the need to take advantage of this opportunity.

I believe I may be falling prey to The Vapours of Hallucination my predecessors to this forsaken zone have described in their writings, as I could have sworn I heard a voice across the sea say, "Could you shut that damn thing, please?"

And then the Sun was eclipsed so fast it shocked all greatly, and a collective gasp of dejection from the men rose up to Heaven!

I nearly dropped my spyglass into the frozen sea below my boots...that strange northern sea where glaciers calve in nearly perfect cubes on a fairly regular basis.

Unearthly!

What is this frozen Hell?




Day 5

Nobody understands this strange clime, not even the most scientific-minded of our party!

Sometimes it is suddenly bright and the Sun shines in the sky.

Often we notice a distinct warming during this period, and it suddenly feels as though spring were ready to burst upon us! It gets our hopes up so!

Then it vanishes and we are plunged back into the frigid darkness of the Wasteland of Food.

Most of the time we must carry lanterns through that constant inky blackness.

I had expected to find The Land of the Midnight Sun...and its opposite...

But this is madness.

It's as though we have stepped right off the planet!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hello Gorey Friends!

I've been terribly neglectful and this blog appears quite moribund.

I promise to do something to rectify that in the near future.

I enjoyed your comments and look forward to posting more Goreyana, including something that one of you linked me to--your creation!

Yours in Goreyness,

Bill

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Demonic Bedbug (for Edward Gorey)

The Demonic Bedbug spent most of his time hanging around inside a mattress.

And sometimes worshipping Satan.

TURN THE PAGE

Sometimes the Demonic Bedbug thought about how he was a member of the biological family Cimicidae, and then laughed at the human trait of assigning other life forms to categories.

This reminded the Demonic Bedbug of People magazine.

People was a journal which the Demonic Bedbug sometimes read when he was not engaged in hematophagy.

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Hematophagy is "the feeding on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded hosts."

It isn't personal unless the bedbug is Satanic, and this Bedbug was.

So he actually rather enjoyed the personal aspect of drinking the blood of his hosts, and the irritation these bites would later cause his hosts.

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The Demonic Bedbug hoped that Satan was aware of the daily rituals of sacrifice the Demonic Bedbug made in His Honor.

Sometimes he would spill a little libation of blood after engaging in hematophagy, and then declaim "Hail Satan--King of Earth and Master of all Cimicadae!"

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The Demonic Bedbug waited to see signs that Satan heard his call, but things looked bleak.

Sometimes the people whose mattress he resided in would go on long vacations and kennel their dogs.

These vagaries led to hard times for the Demonic Bedbug.

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The Demonic Bedbug would take vacations himself, sometimes visiting nearby chairs, sofas and other furnishings.

Sometimes he would encounter other bedbugs who were either agnostic or atheistic.

He hated the condescension he experienced from these cohabitants, who were often quite snide, because they felt their views were more progressive.

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The Demonic Bedbug, like most of his kind, was chiefly nocturnal.

But he suffered from insomnia, so he would sometimes have to listen to daytime television whilst feeding on the blood of a late-rising human.

He particularly abhorred the roundtable talk shows featuring women in pantsuits.

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One day, one of his human hosts mentioned that he thought "there might be a bedbug or two around" and Wikipediaed some information on bedbugs.

The Demonic Bedbug prayed fervently to Satan that the human would not decide to proceed with extermination.

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Satan must have heard his prayer, because the human ultimately decided it was flea bites he was experiencing and dusted the several dogs owned by the family.

The Demonic Bedbug actually enjoyed the scent of flea powder and was immune to its chemical properties.

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One day, as the Demonic Bedbug was feeding on Cheever, one of the host family's Labrador retrievers, he saw the horrible remains of a flea massacre.

Thousands of mothers, fathers and babies lay dead or dying on the field of skin which had been their home.

"Praise Satan!" said the Demonic Bedbug, with no empathy whatsoever.

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The Demonic Bedbug was rather literate and liked reading about his kindred around the world.

For instance, he found this interesting:

"The common bedbug (Cimex lectularius) is the species best adapted to human environments. It is found in temperate climates throughout the world and feeds on blood. Other species include Cimex hemipterus, found in tropical regions, which also infests poultry and bats, and Leptocimex boueti, found in the tropics of West Africa and South America, which infests bats and humans. Cimex pilosellus and Cimex pipistrella primarily infest bats, while Haematosiphon inodora, a species of North America, primarily infests poultry."

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The Demonic Bedbug was reddish-brown, although he liked to refer to himself as "russet."

He was flattened, oval and wingless, with wee little hairs which rather gave him a banded appearance.

He hated that he was visible to the naked eye, but his human hosts were a family of terrible myopics who refused to wear their glasses out of vanity, so this went in his favor.

The bruises the myopics suffered from regularly walking into furniture also concealed many of the Demonic Bedbug's bitemarks.

So the myopia was a Double Blessing.

From Satan.

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The Demonic Bedbug was rather solitary and tried to avoid his kind as much as possible.

Other bedbugs interpreted this avoidance behavior as (variously) hostility, insecurity, neuroticism and/or excessive amour-propre.

The Satan worshipping thing was seen as juvenile by most.

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The Demonic Bedbug would reach his host in the usual manner: he would simply crawl towards it, or sometimes he would climb a wall up to the ceiling and wait for a heat wave from a body.

Then he would leap and feed on the blood of his victim, after saying Grace to Satan for this bounty.

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The Demonic Bedbug pierced the skin of his host with two hollow tubes.

One tube injected the saliva of the bedbug, whilst the other was withdrawing the blood of the host.

It was a pretty nifty operation, and rather resembled certain procedures one encounters in your modern hospital.

It looked very high-tech and modern when done correctly.

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The Demonic Bedbug would then retreat.

There was a "safety window" of minutes or hours in which the host would not yet feel the dermatological reaction to these bites.

The Demonic Bedbug saw the workings of Satan in this natural arrangement and praised Him highly for this.

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The Demonic Bedbug (like all his kind) had an aversion to sunlight.

He didn't even like the dim mood lights the humans who inhabited his mattress preferred in their bedroom.

Often, the Demonic Bedbug would wear large dark glasses that he felt made him look rather glamorous.

Sometimes, he would admire his reflection in a sequin on a tacky pillow his hosts kept in their bed.

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The Demonic Bedbug knew that most humans would be horrified to learn that he could live for a year or eighteen months without feeding (though he usually fed every week or so).

The Demonic Bedbug felt that Satan had smiled upon his species.

What host animal upon which he fed could brag of such a sturdy constitution?

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The Demonic Bedbug knew his natural life expectancy was most likely going to be six to nine months (unless he went dormant for a year or so) but he hoped that by praying regularly to Satan his life expectancy might be extended to three or possibly four years.

Everyone knew the story of "Ole Blood Sal," who was a bedbug who made it to five years.

Some said he had made a compact with Satan.

Those with a more scientific mindset said it was just "good genes."

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The Demonic Bedbug was undecided about having children.

All bedbugs mate by a process known as "tramautic insertion."

Whilst this might sound terribly exciting to the uninitiated, the simple facts are that instead of inserting genitalia into the female's love tunnel, the male bedbug pierces his beloved with "hypodermic genitalia" and pops his Cimicidaean top.

Anywhere.

There were bedbug pop songs with titles like "Stabbing Love" and "You Hot Sticker."

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Female bedbugs can turn out a bumper crop of babies, up to 500.

The Demonic Bedbug was not sure he could find a mate who would be willing to raise these theoretical progeny in The First Church of Satan, Bedbug.

And that's the only way he would want to parent.

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Because the Demonic Bedbug had a malignant spirit, he felt great joy (but also pessimism) when he read this passage one day:

"Bedbugs seem to possess all of the necessary prerequisites for being capable of passing diseases from one host to another, but there have been no known cases of bed bugs passing disease from host to host. There are at least twenty-seven known pathogens (some estimates are as high as forty-one) that are capable of living inside a bed bug or on its mouthparts. Extensive testing has been done in laboratory settings that also conclude that bed bugs are unlikely to pass disease from one person to another. Therefore bedbugs are less dangerous than some more common insects such as the flea. However, transmission of Chagas disease or hepatitis B might be possible in appropriate settings."


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And the Demonic Bedbug was horrified to learn how close his species had recently come to extinction:

"Bedbugs were originally brought to the United States by early colonists from Europe. Bedbugs thrive in places with high occupancy, such as hotels. Bedbugs were believed to be altogether eradicated 50 years ago in the United States and elsewhere with the widespread use of DDT. One recent theory about bedbug reappearance involves potential geographic epicentres. Investigators have found three apparent United States epicentres at poultry facilities in Arkansas, Texas and Delaware. It was determined that workers in these facilities were the main spreaders of these bedbugs, unknowingly carrying them to their places of residence and elsewhere after leaving work. Bedbug populations in the United States have increased by 500 percent in the past few years..."

"Praise Satan!" said the Demonic Bedbug when he read that last sentence at Wikipedia.

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Sometimes, the Demonic Bedbug fantasized about moving to New York City, where it was rumored bedbugs had it great, occupying many hotels, schools and hospitals.

Bedbugs would often sing a song about New York City like that one hoboes sing about the Old Rock Candy Mountain.

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The Demonic Bedbug was beginning to age.

He began to think about the future of his species.

He had great pride one day when he read this:

"Bedbugs had nearly been eradicated by the widespread use of potent insecticides such as DDT.However, many of these strong insecticides have been banned from the United States and replaced with weaker insecticides such as pyrethroids. Many bedbugs have grown resistant to the weaker insecticides.In a study at the University of Kentucky bedbugs were randomly collected from across the United States. These “wild” bedbugs were up to several thousands of times more resistant to pyrethroids than were laboratory bedbugs.New York City bed bugs have been found to be 264 times more resistant to deltamethrin than Florida bedbugs due to nerve cell mutations. Another problem with current insecticide use is that the broad-spectrum insecticide sprays for cockroaches and ants that are no longer used had a collateral impact on bedbug infestations. Recently, a switch has been made to bait insecticides that have proven effective against cockroaches but have allowed bedbugs to escape the indirect treatment.

"Praise Satan!" said the Demonic Bedbug.

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Sometimes, the Demonic Bedbug fantasized about flying away on an animal vector, such as a wild bird.

But although birds looked in the windows of the bedroom where the Demonic Bedbug resided, they never actually entered the bedroom.

So this remained a pipe dream.

He knew it was likely he would live and die on that mattress.

Unless Satan heard his prayers.

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Sometimes the Demonic Bedbug had nightmares in which his hosts realized that steaming is a good way to sterlize their bedding and he imagined himself steamed to death inside the mattress like a lobster at Red Lobster.

He would wake up screaming and calling Satan's name.

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The Demonic Bedbug also sometimes had nightmares featuring the Thanatus flavidus spider which is known for hunting bedbugs.

He realized this was a neurotic fear since no Thanatus flavidus had ever been glimpsed by even the grandparents of the bedbugs of his generation.

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The end of the Demonic Bedbug came suddenly and unexpectedly one morning.

Death was additionally cruel in that it seasoned the death of the Demonic Bedbug with its favorite spice--the Salt of Irony.

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Oh, Fate rubbed the Salt of Irony into the soul of the Demonic Bedbug like nobody's business!

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The Demonic Bedbug had just feasted upon the wife of the host couple, Marianne, when she suddenly felt a sense of compunction for something cruel she had said to Consuela, her passive aggressive nanny, on the previous afternoon.

In a fit of contrition, she reached for her very dusty Bible, and as she was drawing it towards her--and The Demonic Bedbug was making his escape (slowed down by his engorgement)--the phone rang.

She saw by the caller i.d. it was someone with whom she decidedly did not wish to speak, but knew it was inevitable...

So WHAM!

She slammed down the Bible on the fully-engorged Demonic Bedbug and he exploded like a tiny grenade of blood.

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His last words were "Satan, please?..."

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But Satan did not appear, as he was otherwise engaged.

TURN

Satan's dance card is always full.

(In case you were wondering or thinking about initiating contact.)

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Several of the Demonic Bedbug's comrades cleaned up the mess (whilst recycling Marianne's blood, of course) and they entombed him within a dust bunny, after their funereal customs.

A few words were spoken over the shards of his wee corpse and all the bedbugs wondered whither he was bound now, if anywhere.

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There was a rather indignant knocking at the bedroom door.

Consuela opened the bedroom door (after hearing "Enter!") to tell Marianna that her rather reprobate son Charles had just sullied a rather geriatric neighbor with yet another rather horrible epithet, and this caused a slight breeze which carried away the dust bunny which held the Demonic Bedbug entombed within it.

Even dead, his face seemed to hold an expression of utter disbelief.

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Requiescat in pace, Cimex!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Edward Gorey's Fabulous Lexicon: The Nursery Frieze

First off, here's Gorey in Chinese...aren't these books beautiful?

Gorey in Chinese...and many other languages.

I was looking up the words I didn't know which feature in his The Nursery Frieze.

I'm at that age where I rarely have to look up words anymore, but he threw some good ones my way and I was looking up quite a few!

It seems to be a list of words which would largely fit beautifully into a Gorey tale, probably personal favorites, since quite a few of the words are common but still very Goreyesque.

Several were not coming up even on dictionary.com, but this site caught the ones which that site did not...such as ignavia, here...

The place for the odd bird word.

Here are the words I found myself looking up. Only a small handful of these I had seen before, and could not remember (for the life of me) the meaning.

That last sentence makes me want to write hapax legomenon, as surely that applies to many of these words for Gorey, althoug it's not present here.

Here are the words that had me Googling...


imbat--never did find the meaning of this one. Not yet, anyway. Turkish?
gavelkind--Gorey capitalizes it but the dictionary does not.
corposant--again, he capitalizes where the dictionary does not.
ophicleide--one of several odd instruments on the list.
jequirity
tombola
Aceldema
lunistice
Yarborough--fairly sure I once knew this one but pulled a blank.
opopanax
Antigropelos--this is so Gorey. I could see him drawing these so easily.
piacle--one of the coolest.
occamy
maremma--this I have surely seen before. I like this one too.
accismus--very funny. Think Aesop's "The Fox and the Grapes."
badigeon
idioticon--could almost figure this one out from the roots.
gibus--I definitely knew this at one time. But it slipped out!
botargo
Gegenschein--definitely knew this and could almost get it exactly. Almost. But not quite. Had to refresh. He didn't capitalize this one but I think it would be because of the language of origin?
Bellonion--at first, because it didn't come up at dictionary.com, I thought it meant a follower of Pierre Bellon (French naturalist murdered in the Bois de Boulogne in April, 1564--month of W.S.'s birth month if you like writing weird historical fiction). But then I found it (uncapitalized) at that dictionary of rare words above.
aphthong
pantechnicon--what a ridiculously elevated word for a common thing!
purlicue--had no idea there was such a perfect rhyme for curlicue out there.
sparadrap--so many words for this through the years. I like "cerecloth."
chandoo
wapentake
ganosis--a fascinating one. And sooo Gorey!


Design-wise, the book itself is presented as nursery wallpaper; the titular frieze consists of nearly-repeating cartoon strips of beasts (somebody described them as dogs but they resemble hippos more) walking through a landscape, mouthing these words, one per beast.

The beasts are ambulating through a largely empty landscape, with only some hills or mountains in the distance. We see the occasional natural feature or landmark as they journey on.

Occasionally, a letter of the alphabet appears alongside the road in this largely barren landscape, often askew or toppled over like one of Ozymandias's fragments.

It's a series of images which appears to be meditating on how humans imagine and create their place in the world through language.

There is a sense that Gorey is marveling and laughing at the strange scenario of beasts explaining the universe, and explaining it so meticulously, with such preposterous words.

It's very Beckettian.

He says what Beckett took entire books to say in a few pages here.

It's quintessential Gorey.