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, 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.
Yarborough--fairly sure I once knew this one but pulled a blank.
Antigropelos--this is so Gorey. I could see him drawing these so easily.
piacle--one of the coolest.
maremma--this I have surely seen before. I like this one too.
accismus--very funny. Think Aesop's "The Fox and the Grapes."
idioticon--could almost figure this one out from the roots.
gibus--I definitely knew this at one time. But it slipped out!
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, 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.
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."
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.

1 comment:

  1. I saw this for the first time at the Bradywine Museum exhibit and it was wonderful, but I'm having problems finding the actual image. Do you know what book it's in? thanks!