MixedThe Wall Street JournalBecause [Dery] assumes that the books are peculiar and sinister, Mr. Dery concludes that their author must have been, too. His book is intended to explain why. Mr. Dery’s attempt is problematic enough, given the resistance of richly associative art to explanation and the astonishing wealth of sources, from a dizzying range of disciplines, that the brilliant, omnivorous, polymath Gorey drew upon, both directly and indirectly. What’s much more problematic is Mr. Dery’s determination to find a psychological cause for every image and text ... what Mr. Dery obsesses about is not Gorey’s well-furnished mind, but his sexuality ... But [Gorey] described himself as \'neither one thing nor the other,\' refusing to define himself by his sexual preferences ... Mr. Dery, however, writes as if this aspect of Gorey’s life were the key to everything ... There’s interesting information in Born to Be Posthumous ... When Mr. Dery sticks to verifiable facts or quotes Gorey himself, the book is informative. But red flags go up when he attempts psychological interpretation or discusses things that Gorey cared passionately about and that resonated in his work. And Mr. Dery really gets into trouble when he seeks the origins of complex images and elusive narratives in the events of Gorey’s life ... Gorey would have hated Mr. Dery’s book. We’d hear the humming sound of his spinning in his grave, had he not been cremated and his ashes scattered, according to his wishes.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalFor a capsule history of the movement in its prime, there’s now an engaging, informative, occasionally inaccurate, not overly demanding Lives of the Surrealists ... It’s a conspicuously Eurocentric, even Anglocentric list ... Since Mr. Morris knew many of his subjects, there’s a wealth of gossipy anecdote leavening the facts, although he remains admirably evenhanded ... Mr. Morris’s 32 artists include only five women, an accurate reflection of the movement’s misogyny.