O Gorey Night

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In classic picture books like The Gashlycrumb Tinies and The Hapless Child, beloved author-illustrator Edward Gorey evoked offbeat fantasies in surrealist miniature for audiences tuned in to the scarification of youth. His vision, in which unsuspecting innocents fall prey to the vagaries of grinning Death, was deadpan and often black as pitch. And yet there’s twisted humor in, for instance, the unusual demise of poor Ernest, “who choked on a peach,” and wee Fanny, “sucked dry by a leech.” Gorey’s gift for marrying the dark and the light within nonsensical contexts, designed both to provoke and entertain, made him a cult hero, and his reputation has only grown since his rather common death by heart attack at the turn of the century. This weekend, San Francisco’s alternative scenesters pay homage to the whimsical master of the macabre with The Edwardian Ball, a two-night literary-audiovisual blowout that brings together a wide range of freak art-makers, including steampunk engineers (Kinetic Steam Works), corset-bound fashionistas (Dark Garden), postmodern cabaret musicians (Rosin Coven), cross-genre dancer-acrobats (Vau de Vire Society), and many more. This year’s theme aims to channel one of Gorey’s most sinister tales, The Evil Garden. All manner of mutilated, dismembered, and diabolical dress-up is encouraged among partygoers.
Jan. 22-23, 8 p.m., 2010

 
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