Edward Gorey & the Edwardian Ball


If Edward Gorey could see the diverse and unpredictable directions his legacy has taken, he might be most amazed by the annual Edwardian Ball.

photo by Marco Sanchez

Every January, about a month before his birthday, Gorey fans in San Francisco and Los Angeles gather to celebrate this New England artist’s tongue-in-cheek depiction of the dark side of Agatha Christie’s Britain. Ironic? Edward Gorey visited California just once, on leave from his U.S. Army posting in Utah, to meet up with his Chicago friend Consuelo Joerns, then a student at Mills College. He never set foot in Britain except for a single foray to the Hebrides. Once he moved into his sprawling antique home on Cape Cod, it was a challenge to lure him even to Providence or Boston.

Yet Californians have not just embraced Gorey’s England but colonized it. This just in, via Facebook:

**UPDATE** We were just informed Dark Garden Unique Corsetry has 30 tickets for Saturday night available in-store. First come, first served. Online tickets are sold out. Be sure to RSVP for their Styling Party on January 9th.

EdBall2016_poster_300wAfter Friday night’s global adventure, we return to The Grand Ballroom for the most decadent night of our season! This is the night that started it all, The Edwardian Ball, presented by co-hosts Rosin Coven and Vau de Vire Society.

Ballroom dancing leads way to stunning performances both on and offstage in a collage of fashion, theatre, music, circus performance, and dance. Each year, The Edwardian Ball presents a featured Edward Gorey tale in an original stage performance. This year’s event takes a unique turn, with Edwardian founders Rosin Coven teaming up with longtime collaborators Dark Garden Corsetry in a presentation of Gorey’s ridiculous tale, “The Stupid Joke.” Expect anything but stupidity as these masters of their craft collaborate in an unforgettable tale of a poorly planned joke gone incredibly wrong…

And in the spirit of celebrating all things Edward Gorey, Ball co-hosts The Vau de Vire Society present a series of vignettes throughout the evening paying homage to the most controversial works of the (in)famous illustrator…guaranteed to pop corsets and ruffle coat-tails!

If you prefer (as Edward Gorey did) to enjoy your frissons from the comfort of your own sofa,

  • check out his drawings and books for sale at Pomegranate;
  • read about his theatrical adventures, illustrated with little-known drawings, photos, film clips, and music, in CJ Verburg’s multimedia memoir Edward Gorey On Stage;
  • solve a murder with anagrammatic sleuth Edgar Rowdey in CJ Verburg’s Cape Cod mystery Croaked.EGDetectiveEnters



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$2 Off All Boom-Books Paperbacks – December Sale


xcolored_tree menorah crescentHappy Holidays from Boom-Books!

What better way to bring cheer to friends and family, celebrate the winter solstice, and say good-by to 2015 than with a 5-star mystery or biography at a special holiday discount?

From now until New Year’s Eve, take $2 off the $14.99 list price of any Boom-Books paperback. Just buy your copy at Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia St., in San Francisco’s Mission District, or order it online from the book’s e-store with code #GV5LGDMP.


a Cory Goodwin Mystery
A publisher’s Christmas party. A blizzard. Rival scientists. Secret romances. Murder. Only the daughter of New York detective Archie Goodwin can solve this one.
Buy at Borderlands or order on E-STORE with code #GV5LGDMP.


an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery
Is the charming seaside town of Quansett a sanctuary or a death trap? It takes a village to find out — led by urban refugee Lydia Vivaldi and reclusive artist Edgar Rowdey.
Buy at Borderlands or order on E-STORE with code #GV5LGDMP.


Playwright, Director, Designer, Performer: a Multimedia Memoir
From his boyhood in Chicago, he was fascinated by theater. Once he got out of the Army, Edward Gorey launched half a century of artistic escapades onstage and backstage.
Buy at Borderlands or order on E-STORE with code #GV5LGDMP.



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Sisters in Crime + Mystery Writers of America 12/12 Holiday Party


to share some holiday cheer this Saturday afternoon —

DISCOVER a new favorite author / book / series

MEET your favorite (or soon-to-be-favorite) mystery writer

ENJOY good company, food & drink, and a whole store full of mystery, crime, sci-fi & fantasy books (plus a cool cafe)


2-5 PM Sunday, Dec. 12
Borderlands Books and Cafe
866 Valencia St.
San Francisco CA  94110 USA
415 824-8203
888 893-4008

BART and Muni accessible
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Forgotten Inventor of Nature: the Amazing Alexander von Humboldt


southern-hemi-mapIn a new mini-review in Public Books, author and scholar Bettyann Holtzmann Kevles alerts us to a scientific genius, overlooked in 21st-century America, who 200 years ago was exploring the world and 150 years ago was honored all around it. Alexander von Humboldt influenced Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John Muir, among others. A new biography by Andrea Wulf recommends we un-forget him.


In 1869 the centennial of Alexander von Humboldt’s birth was celebrated around the world, including in New York City, where bands and speakers gathered in Central Park to honor his legacy. He was hailed as the most brilliant explorer since Alexander the Great, a scientist equal in stature to Charles Darwin, and a genius who alerted the world to how humanity was destroying the environment. In the century and a half since, Humboldt’s star has dimmed, especially in the English-speaking world. In our era of climate change, when international science and the institutions of global governance present the only hope for addressing the crisis, Humboldt’s scientific and prophetic legacy deserves revival and reevaluation.

Wulf-HumboldtAndrea Wulf’s masterful The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World represents the best of the handful of English language books that have appeared in the last decade focused on Humboldt and his science. Gerard Helferich’s Humboldt’s Cosmos and Aaron Sachs’s The Humboldt Current brought the explorer back into the light, but Wulf’s superb biography reaches beyond Humboldt’s remarkable life to encompass his adventures as the first ecological internationalist.

Read more at http://www.publicbooks.org/briefs/the-inventor-of-nature


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Coming in January: Fiction & Nonfiction from Turkey, Nigeria, South Africa, & Iraq


How does globalization look from the other side of the globe? Find out from some of the most exciting literary voices you may never have heard before.

Starting in January, Boom-Books author Carol Verburg will lead a monthly tour of four nonWestern countries whose writers are weaving their own distinctive cultural heritages together with worldwide artistic techniques and political viewpoints.

What better way to brighten these long winter nights than with a tasting menu like this?


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Theater artists! Apply by 11/30 for Italy residency Summer 2016


Ellen Stewart International Award now Open!

The Ellen Stewart International Award is now open to individual theatre artist or theatre company whose work promotes social change and community participation with a particular focus on the engagement of young people.
With the support of the ITI (International Theatre Institute), La MaMa New York and Italy and  the Spoleto Festival of 2 Worlds, the recipient of The Ellen Stewart International will receive an artistic residency at La MaMa Umbria to create a new work, and the financial and production support to present the new work at the Spoleto Festival of 2 Worlds, and subsequently at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York. 
Candidates can come from any country/community in the world. Candidates must exhibit excellence and major achievements in the areas or socially-engaged theatre with youth involvement. We are looking for as diverse an array of candidates as possible. Candidates should be available to spend a residency during the summer of 2016 at La MaMa Umbria in Spoleto, Italy.
Deadline is 30 November 2015
More information:  www.ellenstewartaward.net       estewartaward@gmail.com 
Promoted and Support by:
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From Palmyra to Paris: a Collision of Narratives


by CJ Verburg

palmyra-isis-sqWhen the self-styled Islamic State (also known as Daesh) captured the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra earlier this year, destroyed its magnificent monuments, and beheaded their curator, we in the West were outraged and horrified. That must have pleased Daesh’s jihadis. but it didn’t satisfy them. To scare Westerners past horror into terror, yesterday they struck on our turf: Paris.

Our reflex is to strike back. Revenge! But isn’t that the impulse that motivates Daesh? From their point of view, they are not aggressors but defenders. Anyhow, what good is “bomb them back to the Stone Age” when that’s precisely their goal?–to wipe out what we in the West call civilization, and re-establish not just a pre-technological or pre-industrial but a pre-global, pre-rational state of purity?

Eiffel-Tower-Paris-sqThe crowd that filled Paris’s Bataclan concert hall last night, many of whom were taken hostage and/or ruthlessly slaughtered there, had come to hear an American band called Eagles of Death Metal. Afterwards, Parisians showed their defiant solidarity by singing the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise.” Some loosely translated excerpts: “Against us flies the bloody flag of tyranny. Hear the ferocious soldiers roar! They’re coming at us, to slaughter our sons and companions. To arms, citizens! Their filthy blood shall water our fields!”

Striking back is a default response for any creature threatened by attack. What option is there but “fight or flee”? To flee is cowardly; therefore we must fight.

On the other hand: the core tenet of Christianity is nonviolence. In the Bible, Jesus is quoted on this point in the Gospels of both Matthew and Luke:

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. — Luke 6:27-29 (King James Version)

This tenet, morphed into Mohandas Ghandi’s technique of nonviolence, enabled India to win its independence from British colonial rule. Martin Luther King and others made it central to the American civil rights movement. Ghandi noted that nonviolence is very different from fleeing; it is a strategy of strength, not weakness, meant to “liquidate antagonisms but not the antagonists.”

Implied by nonviolence is a need to respect one’s opponents–that is, to understand that one’s enemies are not evil demons but fellow human beings, who (like us) make choices which, whether right or wrong from our standpoint, seem wise and desirable to them.

DestinyDisruptedOne approach to this need for understanding is outlined by Afghan-born author Tamim Ansary. In his view, any cohesive group of people (for instance, Muslims, Christians, or Jews) sees itself as part of a historical narrative. “You understand history best if you follow the arc of the narrative.” To make sense of the group’s actions, “you need to [understand] the place that the present has in the narrative that people think they’re living in.” Ansary sees the 21st-century Middle East less as a clash of civilizations than as a crossroads where coherent but distinctive narratives have intersected.

Pankaj Mishra, in his Introduction to Turkish novelist Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar’s The Time Regulation Institute, treats Tanpinar’s story as a response to another such intersection a hundred years earlier. “In the 1920s the Muslim-majority Ottoman Empire was radically and forcibly reorganized into a secular republic by Mustafa Kemal (better known as Ataturk), and everything in its culture, from the alphabet to headwear and religion, hastily abandoned in an attempt to emulate European-style modernity.” The Western narrative seized upon by Ataturk included “the basic assumption…that societies must modernize and become more secular and rational, relegating their premodern past to museums or, in the case of religion, to private life.” Although Ataturk’s revolution was an outward success, it entailed hammering a round peg into a square hole. When Tanpinar’s central character agrees to wear a bureaucrat’s suit, he remarks,

I began to use terms like “modification,” “coordination,” “work structure,” “mind-set shift,” “metathought,” and “scientific mentality”; I took to associating such terms as “ineluctability” or “impossibility” with my lack of will. . . . I began to look at people with eyes that wondered, “Now what use could he be to us?” and to see life as dough that could be kneaded by my own two hands.

To Tanpinar’s characters, this Western attitude seems as alien and bizarre as the Ottoman attitude–“in which idleness, or wasting time, is a source of happiness”–seemed to Europeans. In the 21st century, Turkey’s old narrative has been reasserting itself.

Mishra quotes Dostoyevsky: “No nation on earth, no society with a certain measure of stability, has been developed to order, on the lines of a program imported from abroad.”

As we struggle for answers–How can any human beings do these things? How can we stop them?–we can start by learning more about the histories and self-concepts of groups that don’t share our assumptions about the past, the present, ethics, values, or even the nature of existence. Where to begin? I recommend Tamim Ansary’s book Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes.

CJ Verburg’s books include the international anthologies Ourselves Among Others and Making Contact. Starting in January 2016, she will teach a four-session class at San Francisco’s Mechanics’ Institute, “Windows on the World: Writing Beyond the West,” on contemporary writing from Turkey, Nigeria, South Africa, and Nigeria.


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News: Charisse Howard & NaNoWriMo; CJ Verburg & Edward Gorey & World Lit.


Our Boom-Books authors are busy!

From romance writer Charisse Howard: “After way too much foot-dragging, I’ve jumped on the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) bandwagon. Goal: finish a draft of my new Regency Rakes & Rebels romance, Lady Daphne’s Deception, by Nov. 30. Can I write 50,000 words (or even 30,000) in 30 days? Stay tuned!”


EGOS_wpFrom mystery writer Carol (CJ) Verburg: “For the Halloween issue of Provincetown Magazine, I gave a long interview to reporter Steve Desroches about artist/author Edward Gorey’s involvement with the Provincetown Theatre Company and its Playwrights’ Workshop (now Lab). Back in 1990 I had the good luck to be the president of PTC’s board and a founding member of the Workshop, and grabbed the chance to invite my brilliant Yarmouth Port neighbor to stage an original play in Ptown. Edward enjoyed himself so much that he went on to join the Workshop and to write, design, and direct three summer “entertainments” in PTC’s waterfront HQ at the Provincetown Inn. The full story of that adventure is in my multimedia memoir Edward Gorey On Stage.


“I’ve had to put off working on my next book — the sequel to Silent Night Violent Night: a Cory Goodwin Mystery — until three current projects are in hand. First, the novel I just finished writing, Zapped: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery — the way-overdue sequel to Croaked — is finally on its way to publication. Second, so is the script for Edward Gorey’s third Provincetown entertainment, Crazed Teacups. More news on that front as it happens.

MakingContact“In the meantime, I’m returning to my longtime involvement with international literature. Through all those years of late nights in Cape Cod theaters with Edward Gorey and our floating band of thespians, my day job was editing collections of cross-cultural readings for college writing courses. The urgency of listening to voices from unfamiliar parts of the world came back to me this year, with the news endlessly full of bombings, protests, battles, and refugees. Starting on January 21, 2016, I’ll be teaching a monthly four-session class at San Francisco’s Mechanics’ Institute called Writing the World: Literature from Turkey, Nigeria, South Africa, and Iraq. While the class is rooted in my book Making Contact, it’s hugely enriched by the increased availability in English of stories, essays, and speeches by non-Western writers. And I as a Western writer am enriched by the dazzling diversity of storytelling traditions that’s produced the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, Es’kia Mphahlele, and Yashar Kemal.

“When I do get back to my own book, it will be with gratitude for these gifted artists who’ve persisted through unimaginable social, political, and economic challenges to send their messages out to the world.”

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Provincetown Celebrates Playwright Edward Gorey’s Halloween


CTauditionsby CJ Verburg

Witches’ hats off to Provincetown Magazine writer Steve Desroches for adding Edward Gorey to the familiar Ptown playwrights’ pantheon. If they celebrate Halloween in Heaven, no doubt Eugene O’Neill, Susan Glaspell, Tennessee Williams, et al. have already given him a warm welcome. (I hope they’re enjoying a fabulous ghost meal at the late Gallerani’s, once our favorite post-play dining spot — the Sardi’s of Ptown?) Here below, grab a copy of today’s issue — on paper if you’re on the Outer Cape, otherwise right here on your screen — for The ABCs of Edward Gorey in Provincetown.

But wait, there’s more! The Provincetown Theatre Company’s online archive has some wonderful souvenirs of Edward Gorey’s productions there, as does the New York Public Library. And if you’re really curious about the theatrical side of that most theatrical of artists, you’ll find full details in my book Edward Gorey On Stage: Playwright, Director, Designer, Performer: a Multimedia Memoir.

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What’s Going On Over There? Catching Up with Writers in Turkey


by CJ Verburg

hammam-croptI fell in love with Turkey–especially Istanbul–more than twenty years ago. A friend discovered a travel agency that would book our trip and then get out of our way. We stayed at a tiny, recently refurbished hotel between Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque; we walked everywhere. Each day started in the top-floor dining room overlooking the sea, and ended in a basement hammam with tiled walls, brass spigots, and a heated marble table to sluice off the day’s grime. I spent my birthday sailing up the Bosphorus to step for the first time into Asia.

IstanbulThis was long before the U.S. had heard of Recep Tayip Erdogan or Osama bin Laden. As we roamed fearlessly from mosques to restaurants to the Grand Bazaar, we were often asked (in halting English) where we came from and what we did in America. My friend was a nurse; everyone understood that. I was a writer; no one understood that, until I added, “Like Yashar Kemal.” Ah! Yashar Kemal! Yes! Wonderful!

What author’s name would be so widely recognized and hailed back home?

Memet-cover“Some books are so famous they need no introduction,” observed The Guardian. “But have you ever read Yashar Kemal? His first novel, Memed, My Hawk (NYRB Classics), set in the south-east of Turkey and about a young man at war with feudal authority, was published in the 1950s and brought him international fame. It is still greatly loved in Turkey, and with good reason.”

Yashar Kemal is the pen name chosen by Kemal Sadık Gökçeli after a series of clashes with (and imprisonments by) the Turkish authorities. I discovered his shorter pieces first, and was staggered by the brutal “A Dirty Story,” which I included in Ourselves Among Others, my international anthology for U.S. college students. Not until much later did I read (and love) Memed, My Hawk, which tempers the harshness of peasant life in Anatolia with rebellious cheer and compassion. Yashar Kemal lived into his 90s; I hope that when he died earlier this year, the appreciation he had won at home and worldwide outweighed his concerns about his government’s political backsliding.

Pamuk-MyNameIsRedForeign literature–even Turkish literature–is no longer so hard to find in English. Many American readers are familiar with Orhan Pamuk, who in 2006 received the Nobel Prize which many (including Pamuk) believed Kemal should have won decades ago. The Culture Trip’s list of Ten Best Contemporary Turkish Writers notes: “Turkey has produced some of the most esteemed writers of the twentieth century, with literature varying from politically entrenched revolutionizing poetry, to fictional novels highlighting the exotic mysteries of Turkish country and culture.” Their list even includes a woman: Elif Shafak, born in 1971, is the author not only of several successful books but a TED talk, The Politics of Fiction.

From Yashar Kemal’s “A Dirty Story” (1967):

The three of them were sitting on the damp earth, their backs against the dung-daubed brush wall and their knees drawn up to their chests, when another man walked up and crouched beside them.
    “Have you heard?” said one of them excitedly. “Broken-Nose Jabbar’s done it again! You know Jabbar, the fellow who brings all those women from the mountain villages and sells them in the plains? . . . The lads of Misdik have got together and bought one of them on the spot, and now they’re having fun and making her dance and all that . . .”
    “He’s still got the other one,” said the newcomer, “and he’s ready to give her away for a hundred liras.”
    “He’ll find a customer soon enough,” put in another man whose head was hunched between his shoulders. “A good woman’s worth more than a team of oxen, at least in the Chukurova plain she is. You can always put her to the plow and, come summer, she’ll bind and carry the sheaves, hoe, do anything. What’s a hundred liras? Why, a woman brings in that much in one single summer. In the fields, at home, in bed. There’s nothing like a woman. What’s a hundred liras?”

From Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul (2008):

As Zeliha rushed by, the street vendors selling umbrellas and raincoats and plastic scarves in glowing colors eyed her in amusement. She managed to ignore their gaze, just as she managed to ignore the gaze of all the men who stared at her body with hunger. The vendors looked disapprovingly at her shiny nose ring too, as if therein lay a clue as to her deviance from modesty, and therefore the sign of her lustfulness. . . . Be it the harassment of men or the reproach of other women . . . there was no power on earth that could prevent Zeliha, who was taller than most women in this city, from donning miniskirts of glaring colors, tight-fitting blouses that displayed her ample breasts, satiny nylon stockings, and yes, those towering high heels.



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