My favourite book of all time is The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell but I have now met a worthy contender in Mervyn Peake s Titus Groan to bring to the same elevated level The books marry very well indeed and the two distinct structures span the gamut of every conceivable emotion that the human brain is capable of absorbing I believe So I m on a win win situation here with both books.And as for this tour de force, how can one even attempt to describe the amazing prose that Peake had in introducing so many colourful characters and, with the addition of these magical illustrations thrown in, this makes a truly stunning combination.Also, where does one start with this tale of intrigue, revenge, death, love and the rich tapestry of life With Titus the child I guess for this book covers two years in the life of Titus Groan, 77th Earl of Gormenghast I actually do compare him to Ivan Denisovich purely by the fact that the toddler survived this gruelling period of time Mrs Slagg, his nanny, often wondered Why won t he smile she whispered Why won t his little Lordship ever smile I m not surprised that he didn t and all soon becomes revealed in the fullness of time.I could not resist though in adding this comment from Titus christening As the castle is governed purely by ritual, the procedure for such an important event as a christening entails following such a high degree of precision that the human element unfortunately is forgotten The infant with the little iron crown is placed inside Sourdust s great book then Lord Sepulchrave folded the two pages over the helpless body and joined the tube of thick parchment at its centre with a safety pin Resting upon the spine of the volume, his minute feet protruding from one end of the paper trunk and the iron spikes of the little crown protruding from the other, he was, to Sourdust, the very quintessential of traditional propriety.All well and good but then the aged body of Sourdust sadly intervenes and.The main plot takes place within the Gormenghast Castle with the backdrop of the mountain of the same name It revolves around the life of Titus, of course, but also his father Sepulchrave who has a dreadful loss in life that sends him on a downward spiral , Sepulchrave s extrovert, somewhat wild daughter Fuchsia with her black inky hair , zany Doctor Prunesquallor Doctor Prune to Fuchsia , his boring sister Irma, The Twins Sepulchrave s sisters Cora and Clarice who always wore purple , Swelter the objectionable chef with his Grey Scrubbers, Raft Makers and apprentices , Flay the Earl s personal servant , Sourdust the librarian also Warden of the immemorial Rites who maintains order and ritual throughout the castle , followed upon his death by his son Barquentine, Steerpike a seventeen year old opportunist who is thoroughly evil and manipulative Various individuals also soon fall from grace within this two year period.The castle contains the individuals who live within the Outer Wall, and those who live outside the castle, namely the Dwellers, whose women lose their beauty very early in life The men are the master carvers, whose works, due to yearly competitions, reside in the Hall of the Bright Carvings within Gormenghast Castle.There is also, however, a very poignant sub plot involving the Dweller Reda a very strong character which I always like who is asked to be a wet nurse by Nanny Slagg to Titus as the mother, Countess Gertrude and what a sight she is to behold cannot possibly be involved with breastfeeding and all those other boring female past times No, the countess has far interesting things to do such as tending her hundred white cats and the variety of wild birds that surround her Amazing descriptions abound with this very unusual woman At last the Countess descended the ladder, step after mammoth step she was a rather large individual , until both feet on the ground she turned about, and began to move to the shadowy bed When she reached its head she ignited the wick of a half melted candle and, seating herself at the base of the pillows, emitted a peculiarly sweet, low, whistling note from between her great lips.For all her bulk it was as though she had, from a great winter tree, become a summer one Not with leaves was she decked, but, thick as foliage, with birds Their hundred eyes twinkled like glass beads in the candlelight Listen, she said, We re alone Things are bad Things are going wrong There s evil afoot I know it Her eyes narrowed But let em try We can bide out time We ll hold our horses Let them rear their ugly hands, and by the Doom, we ll crack em chineways Within four days the Earling and then I ll take him, babe and boy Titus the Seventy seventh And what did she plan to do with him Well that s for you, the reader to find out and to think that the Countess used to ride side saddle The poor horse Reda only agreed to be a wet nurse as she had recently lost her husband, a master carver and her child She also had two lovers in the background but that is a fascinating tale in itself By her milk, there s the implication that a spiritual connection has been made with Titus Her encounter with the old Brown Man who helps Reda on her spiritual journey is also a super part of the book.As for Steerpike, well he s always on the lookout for something to his advantage and he doesn t care who gets stamped upon as he does this There are those who can see through him though, such as Barquentine What will my salary amount to said Steerpike, putting his hands into his pockets Your keep, you insolent bastard Your keep What do you want Hell fire child Have you no pride A roof, your food, and the honour of studying the Ritual Your keep, curse you, and the secrets of the Groans How else would you serve me but by learning the iron Trade Body of me I have no son Are you ready I have never been so, said the high shouldered boy As for the illustrations, they are worth acquiring the book purely for this fact We meet Mr Rottcodd, the castle s curator he lives and works in the dusty Hall of the Bright Carvings His job is to dust all the carvings and the illustration shows him lying in his hammock, with his feather duster in his hand and surrounded by carvings and layers of dust on the floor.The ending was of course divine Children can sometimes behave strangely but I have to add a spoiler in addition I couldn t resist it A tiny voice In the absolute stillness it filled the universe a cry like the single note of a bird It floated over the water from the Dwellers, from where the woman stood apart from her kind from the throat of the little child of Keda s womb the bastard babe, and Titus foster sister, lambent with ghost light All I can possibly equate this book to is the anticipation of setting out on an early morning ride on your favourite horse in my case Scottie Firstly, there s the anticipation before you set out getting ready for the ride, breathing in the crisp autumnal morning air and seeing the clear blue sky Climbing onto the back of Scottie and then the slow walk crossing a nearby brook en route to take note of the beauty of one s surroundings then a short canter along the narrow lanes, feeling the wind rushing through your hair, and finally on to a quick gallop to finally arrive at the fields that lead into the woods But there are also the highs and lows apart from the pleasures of the ride that of being unaware of the vagaries of a horse s mind, the sudden desire from time to time, amongst other things, to toss you off as if you were an insignificant being along for the ride And also the possibility of serious injury or death That truly describes Titus Groan.This is the first book in Mervyn Peake s Gormenghast trilogy We have a multi faceted author here with the distinct talent of being first and foremost an artist Before the Second World War he was considered to be one of the best portraitists in England, publishing wonderful studies of writers, actors and painters Laurence Olivier, Graham Green, Dylan Thomas and others all sat for him He was said to be the only living portraitist who could capture the individuality of a baby and his pictures of Maeve his wife and his children are superb Secondly, he was a poet, thirdly a first class illustrator and finally a novelist With all these remarkable talents, how could we possibly not have the enthralling book that we have here I was delighted with this book for many reasons, one being that I knew nothing whatsoever about this author There s a most informative introduction by Michael Moorcock 2011 this new edition being written then to coincide with the centenary of Peake s birth in 1911 and explaining his life, works and his unfortunate early death at the age of fifty seven as a result of declining health, and being diagnosed with Parkinson s disease in 1957 certainly didn t help The tribute by Moorcock at the end said it all And his sorceries continue to entrance us.The other tribute coming from Peake s son Sebastian who wrote a note on his father s illustrations stating they were humorous, evocative, poignant, even quite cartoon like in style.I ve been on an odyssey whilst reading Titus Groan , and have now finished my re read, within a three week period This is the first time in my life that I ve reread a book so soon after my first reading I wanted to ensure, I guess, that I hadn t missed any relevant details and also to savour again the richness of this book I ve found that this is truly the literary pot of gold to be found at the end of the rainbow.In conclusion, the upshot is that my Kindle copy is going to be sent up into the clouds and I m now on the lookout for a hardback showing these incredible illustrations to proudly display on my bookshelves, and to be able to browse through from time to time as is my want.This work is truly a gothic masterpiece. dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before Imagine a gigantic, gothic like edifice with an endless maze of galleries, roofs, stairs and secret passages There are the Stone Lanes and the Hall of Bright Carvings, cat room and Hall of Spiders, the Tower of Flints and somewhere up in the clouds a Field of Flagstones there are forgotten wings, dark corridors, dusty attics there are primeval cedars and emerald mirrors of lawns The castle, truly stony monster, is huge and inconceivably old, developed by seventy six generations to such an extent that now some of its parts fell into oblivion Its life s been going on for generations with unchanging rhythm, in accordance to countless laws and sterile rituals enshrined in tradition , which meaning no one even tries to investigate or question Can you see it It is Gormenghast, the family residence of Groans Because Gormenghast it is not only rambling castle but also its inhabitants Peake populated it with unforgettable characters Titus family and their servants are a tragicomical mixed bunch of neurotics, psychopaths and eccentrics grotesque in appearance and behavior, sometime arouse laughter, often horror or compassion.Titus father, Sepulchrave, tragic and melancholic seventy sixth Earl of Gormenghast and the owner of the whole caboodle, bricks, guns and gloryGertrude, his wife, always surrounded by furry and winged menagerie, her snow white cats and her ravens, and magpies and owls chief servant, Mr Flay with his knee joints cracking while he walked Swelter, the huge and sadistic head cook the librarian Sourdust, authority of all rituals and laws Rottcodd, the curator constantly dusting the carvings or lying in his hammock Slagg, old nanny Dr Prunesquallor with his uncontrollable laugh dim witted twin sisters Cora nad Clarice ambitious and cunning Steerpike, like Dickensian Uriah Heep, patiently weaving web of intrigues and of course Titus himself, newborn heir to the family, seventy seventh Earl of Gormenghast Boy with violet eyes.But my favorite is Fuchsia Groan When we meet her she s about fifteen with long, wild black hair and smouldered eyes She isgauche in movement and in a sense, ugly of face, but with how small a twist might she not suddenly have become beautifulShe wears shapeless robes though in fact she appears ratherto inhabit, than to wear her clothesShe is sensitive and imaginative, she s moody and changeable, she s reckless and at the same time fragile, and she s unhappy for not being the only child in the family any But from the moment when she sees her brother for the first time she feels for him that mixture of pity and tenderness, we could as well call it love, because she senses that except of her Titus is the only one who needs to escape pompous glory of Gormenghast I know the title isTitus Groanand I believe his time is yet to come I knowthere would be echoes in the passageways, and quick lights flickering along the walls There would be tears and there would be strange laughter And dreams, and violence, and disenchantment And love itself will cry for insurrection For tomorrow is also a day and Titus has entered his strongholdI know it all But by now it is Fuchsia who stole the showTitus Groanis a majestic and epic vision and the crowning glory of that extraordinary novel is its style Glamorous, monumental, full of accurate, evocative comparisons and personification, so that not only people but also Gormenghast itself gives an impression of a living being Ancient castle is a scene for all human passions, need for power and revenge, anger and greed, love and hatred it s a place of immense solitude and sorrow it is a hermetic realm of quirkiness and dark beauty And yearning for the world outside the walls. Titus, O Herdeiro De Gormenghast Literatura Fant Stica Mas N O Se Assemelha A Nada Que Tenha Sido Escrito Antes Ou Depois Gormenghast Um Castelo Antiqu Ssimo, Do Tamanho De Uma Cidade E Que, Tanto Quanto Sabemos, Pode Ser A Nica Constru O Em Todo O Mundo Sem Pontos De Refer Ncia Para A Nossa Realidade, O Romance Adquire Uma Atmosfera Surreal E M Gica As Personagens S O Todas Elas Bizarras O Taciturno E Cadav Rico Mr Flay, O Vulgar E Obeso Swelter, O Ligeiramente Deformado Mas Brilhante Steerpike E Titus, O Herdeiro De Gormenghast O Castelo De Gormenghast Um Mundo De Pesadelo E Nenhuma Pessoa S L Quereria Viver E No Entanto, Qu O Estranho, Belo E Divertido Esse Mundo Arrisque Se Nesta Leitura Pois Nunca Mais A Ir Esquecer Dear book,I am breaking up with you It is not me, it is you It is not you, it is me others think you are really cute I thought you were romantic and mysterious I got bored with you, but this is really just me There were moments I was really happy and excited with you, even if they were few and between Unfortunately these moments came too late in our relationships You are a good guy and I hope you will find happiness in your life Please do not invite me to a date I am washing my hair tonight And tomorrow And every other night.This first paragraph is exactly blow by blow description of my impressions about this novel Let me retell it in different words I did not like the book much It was really just me as a lot of people consider it very original and classic of genre From its descriptions I expected something different I thought it would be a very tale with lots of atmosphere of a dark castle with gloomy people living in it Instead I got a tale of really unexciting bland people going through pointless rituals There was a villain who manipulated events and people into doing his bidding in his quest for power the guy brought some excitement to the story, but there were two problems with it He started acting in the second half of the book which made the first part boring he managed to make people to do his bidding not because he was an evil mastermind, but for the simple reason that the said people had an IQ in single digits range This by the way is all I can say about the plot nothing else happened almost nothing to be exact A male heir is born in castle Gormenghast seventy seventh in long line of Earls Most of the events are centered on him, but he is off screen 99% of the time The author was a professional illustrator and it clearly shows in his writing His descriptions of places, most notably the castle itself are excellent and with the quality rarely seen in literature The plot however is not the strongest point and neither are the characters The pretty descriptions alone could not carry the book for me and it became boring fairly fast After finishing the book I was still curious enough to read the synopsis of the second installment on Wikipedia It left me cold I read the synopsis of the last book At this point I was glad I stopped reading it The only justification for it was the fact that the author wrote it while being terminally ill He did not exactly finish it and the editor had to do a lot of work assembling written notes and leaving big chunks out This is a big excuse, so I will not call it bad names which I would do otherwise without hesitation What is my final verdict If you are really curious to see what the fuss is about read the first book If you really like it proceed to the second one Avoid the last one as a plague in any case My rating is 2.5 stars rounded up out of my respect for its classic status. The darkness came down over the castle and the Twisted Woods and over Gormenghast Mountain The long tables of the Dwellers were hidden in the thickness of a starless nightThis is the book hailed by Tolkien separatists as one to rival The Lord of the Rings This is the book that supposedly is the best book in the fantasy genre We are all entitled to our opinions, but after having read Titus Groan, I simply cannot understand why anyone would even come close to that conclusion.To me, this is fantasy devoid of anything that makes the genre special None of the reasons why I love fantasy can be found in this book Not a single one And in addition to that, I found the plot to be moving so slowly that every page was a struggle After having read almost a third of the book, I felt ready to put it down and forget about it.That was part of the reason why I did not enjoy this as much as I could have that it does not really fit into my concept of fantasy which is probably different from the concept of fantasy in the minds of Peake s followers Frankly, this book reads like a slightly modernised but very stereotypical fairytale, with all the positives and negatives that comes with.But I desperately wanted to like this book, and to some extent I did Despite being a fanatical supporter of Tolkien and his successors, I found the prospect of reading something wholly different to be quite interesting Unfortunately, the book didn t live up to any of my expectations That does not mean that its quality is non existent.Most commenters are saying that the writing is the best part, and they are absolutely right Mervyn Peake can certainly write, and even though it was not completely stunning, I did enjoy it once I got into it But unfortunately, the writing is the only good aspect of Titus Groan This book is the epitome of sacrificing substance for style.But as many of you know, I do enjoy flowery writing A lot And that, instead of the crown on top of a masterpiece, became for me a saving grace The wonderful descriptions of Castle Gormenghast and the Twisted Woods provided some small measure of enjoyment at times when I found the rest of the book to be painfully tedious and surprisingly mediocre.I can see the positive aspects of it, and I m sure it s a magical book for the right people But as far as I can see, this is a fantasy book for those who do not appreciate fantasy Or for fantasy readers in need of a break. As I was reading this, I kept thinking of all the great and richly detailed fantasies I ve ever read, from Tad Williams to Robin Hobb, and then I just had to look up when this book had come out.You see, I have this thing I like to read a book, or at least books that are considered classics or the best of their genre, with a clear and un jaundiced eye So sometimes I don t even read the blurb or the date of publication Actually, I rarely look at the date I can usually figure it out by the style.On the other hand, this one had me stumped I got through nearly 3 4 of the novel before I broke down and found out that this was published in 46 I was shocked The level of detail, the creepy magical realism, the ritual building, the clever descriptions, and especially the the plot just screamed out, maybe, late seventies with a reliance on fully traditional fantasy with an evil minister type bringing down a kingdom But 1946 I have to readjust everything.Sure, this has a lot of great gothic elements and a heavy reliance on Dickens, feeling like a timeless and isolated castle full of a loving people at first only to have it fall to the whiles of a lying snake And then I slowly realized just how much of an influence Titus Groan had upon so much modern fantasy You know those authors I mentioned Yeah, I d eat my boots if they weren t heavily influenced by Peake It s that clear But how did I like this novel I loved it What it didn t have in dastardly wars, it did have in masterful prose, sneaky action, creepy and delightful and complex characters, and truly brilliant descriptions.I m really looking forward to reading the next one. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven At night the owls made of it an echoing throat by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow There stands the Gormenghast as if sealed inside a crystal ball looming in all its grotesque wonder The old, musty smell The susurrus of narrow passages The torches casting an eerie circle of light The hustle and bustle of the castle dwellers, while the Gormenghast watches stoically It has seen 77 generations of the Earls, and by now it is ageless as if it has worn this air of decay since the beginning of time.The dwellers of the castle no, they don t merely live in the castle, they are organic offshoots of the Gormenghast They scurry through its passages as blood runs through our veins You can take them out of Gormenghast, you can t take the Gormenghast out of them These characters are easily a great candidate for the title of the best ensemble cast to be found in literature And Peake makes it so without obliterating any of their individual personalities Fuschia you are such a sweetheart The characters often get an irreverent treatment from Peake, portrayed as exaggerated caricatures, comical and outlandish Beyond this cartoonish humor, Peake offers many a leisurely descriptions as he crafts spellbinding scenes, laying down the little details one by one And just as easily, he conjures up ominous moments sending a chill down the spine If any authors insist on detail oriented writing, I wish they would write like Peake winks at Paul Scott Such atmospheric writing which brings alive a whole new world, casting a mild spell, works wonderfully for me It is Peake s masterful depictions that make the setting, not the characters and not the story, the protagonist here.This book here is unique and perfect, I say.The Voice of PeakeA few out of context excerpts from here and there Swelter, as soon as he saw who it was, stopped dead, and across his face little billows of flesh ran swiftly here and there until, as though they had determined to adhere to the same impulse, they swept up into both oceans of soft cheek, leaving between them a vacuum, a gaping segment like a slice cut from a melon It was horrible It was as though nature had lost control As though the smile, as a concept, as a manifestation of pleasure, had been a mistake, for here on the face of Swelter, the idea had been abused Lady Groan raised herself in bed and looked fiercely at the open door, bellowed in the deepest and loudest voice, SQUALLOR The word echoed along the corridors and down the stairs, and creeping under the door and along the black rug in the Coldroom, just managed, after climbing the doctor s body, to find its way into both his ears simultaneously, in a peremptory if modified condition Modified though it was, it brought Doctor Prunesquallor to his feet at once His fish eyes swam all round his glasses before finishing at the top, where they gave him an expression of fantastic martyrdom His face was very lined, as though it had been made of brown paper that had been crunched by some savage hand before being hastily smoothed out and spread over the tissues The crumbling castle, looming among the mists, exhaled the season, and every cold stone breathed it out The tortured trees by the dark lake burned and dripped, and their leaves snatched by the wind were whirled in wild circles through the towers The clouds mouldered as they lay coiled, or shifted themselves uneasily upon the stone skyfield, sending up wreaths that drifted through the turrets and swarmed up the hidden walls The Importance of Being TitusWhen reading this book, I had looked up the name Titus on Wikipedia Among the notable people who were named Titus was the Roman emperor from 79 to 81, under whose reign the construction of The Colosseum was completed and it was inaugurated with games that lasted for 100 days Titus was also the name of Rembrandt s fourth child and he was often a figure or model in his father s paintings and studies. Mervyn Peake was one of those gifted people you burningly resent, he was a brilliant artist and then he thought oh I need something else to occupy my time when I m not doing brilliant drawings and paintings, hmm what can I do, ah yes I ll write one of the century s greatest fantasies in one of the most individual and beautiful prose styles, and create about a dozen of the most memorable and delightful characters in all of fiction, including a real heartbreaker of a heroine called Fuchsia, yes, hmm, that s what I ll do, why notWell I really want to read this again, I have such great memories of being elevated into a genuinely different, gorgeous, horrifying but completely seductive world that I want to go back, I want to go back But I remember also my unhappy experience re reading Something Wicked this Way Comes see elsewhere Should I, shouldn t I Mervyn Peake wrote an equally glorious sequel called Gormenghast, also 500 pages, then he developed dementia, to the point where his wife attached a big label to his clothes which said something like If found wandering aimlessly, please return to the following address Update okay, I went and bought the new illustrated edition of the whole trilogy in one big fat volume illustrated by Peake himself that is So there, it s going to happen. I know of no author in all of the English language who is like Peake, or who could aspire to be like him His voice is as unique as that of Milton, Bierce, Conrad, Blake, Donne, or Eliot, and as fully realized I am a hard and critical man, cynical and not easily moved, but there are passages in the Gormenghast series which so shocked me by the force of their beauty that I would close my eyes and snap the book shut, overwhelmed with wonderment, and take a moment to catch my breath.I would drop my head My eyes would search the air as if I could find, there, the conclusion I was seeking My brow would crease in something like despondency or desperation and then, of its own accord, a smile would break across my face, and I would shake my head, slowly, and laugh, and sigh And laugh.Peake s writing is not easy fare I often needed room to breathe and time for contemplation, but he is not inaccessible, nor arduous He does not, like Joyce or Eliot, require the reader to know the history of western literature in order to understand him His story is deceptively simple it is the world in which he sets it that can be so overwhelming.Peake writes with a painter s eye, which is natural enough, as he is famous as an illustrator than a writer the only self portrait in the National Portrait Gallery He paints each scene, each moment, in such careful, loving, playful detail that it can only be described by the original definition of sublime a vista which is so grand and beautiful that it dwarfs our humanity, evoking a wonder akin to fear.But Peake s writing is not so entirely alienating on the contrary he is vividly concerned with life Gormenghast is the story of a life starting at birth, though our hero only got as far as the cusp of manhood before Peake was seized by malady and death Each character is brightly and grotesquely alive The fantasy of this book is not, like so many epics, magic signifying some allegorical moral conflict The magic of Peake s world is the absurdly perfect figures that people it.They are stylized and symbolic, but like Gogol, Peake is working off of his own system of symbology instead of relying on the staid, familiar archetypes of literature Unusual as they may be, there is a recognizable verisimilitude in the madness imbued in each Their obsessions, quirks, and unpredictability feel all too human They are frail, mad, and surprising.Like the wild characters of his sketches, Peake writes in exaggerated strokes, but somehow, that makes them recognizable, realistic, and memorable than the unadorned reality of post modernists Since truth is stranger than fiction, we find reality in his off kilter, unhinged world This focus on fantastical characters instead of fantastical powers has been wryly dubbed Mannerpunk or a Fantasy of Manners It is a much enveloping and convincing type of fantasy, since it engages the mind directly with visceral artistic techniques instead of relying on a threadbare language of symbolic power Peake does not want to explain the world, but paint it.Tolkien can certainly be impressive, in his stodgy way, but after reading Peake, it is difficult to call him fantastical His archetypal characters, age old moral conflict, and epic plot all seem so hidebound against the wild bulwark of Peake s imagination The world of Gormenghast is magical and dreamlike, without even needing to resort to the parlor tricks of spells, wizards, and monsters.Peake s people are fantastical than dragons because their beings are instilled with a shifting and scintillating transience Most dragons, fearsome as they may be on the outside, are inwardly little than plot movers Their fearful might is drawn from a recognizable tradition, and I question how fantastical something can really be when its form and behavior are so familiar and predictable.Peake s world though made up of things recognizable is twisted, enchanted, and made uncanny without ever needing to stretch our disbelief The real world is full of wonder, confusion, and revelation, so why do authors think that making it less real will make it wonderful What is truly fantastical is to find magic in our own world, and in our own lives.But then, it is not an easy thing to do Authors write in forms, cliches, archetypes, and moral arguments because it gives them something to work with a place to start, and a way to measure their progress, lest they lose themselves To write unfettered is vastly difficult, and requires either great boldness, or great naivete.Peake is ever bold You will never catch him flat footed his pen is ceaseless He drives on in sallies and skirmishes, teasing, prodding, suggesting but always, in the end, he is an electric presence, evading our cumbersome attempts to catch him in any one place Each sentence bears a thought, a purpose, a beauty, a consciousness The only thing keeping the book moving is the restless joy of Peake s wit, his love and passion for his book, its places, characters, and story.He also has a love for writing, and for the word, which is clear on every page A dabbler in poetry, his careful sense of meter is masterful, as precise as Bierce And unlike most fantasists, Peake s poetry is often the best part of his books, instead of the least palatable Even absent his amusing characterization and palpable world, his pure language is a thing to behold.In the introduction, Quentin Crisp tells us about the nature of the iconoclast that being different is not a matter of avoiding and rejecting what others do that is merely contrariness, not creativity To be original means finding an inspiration that is your own and following it through to the bitter end.Peake does that, here, maintaining a depth, pace, and quality that is almost unbelievable He makes the book his own, and each time he succeeds in lulling us into familiarity, we can be sure that it is a playful ruse, and soon he will shake free again.Alas, not all readers will be able to keep up with him Those desiring repetition, comfort, and predictability will instead receive shock, betrayal, and confusion However, for those who love words, who seek beauty, who relish the unexpected, and who find the most stirring sensation to be the evocation of palpable wonder, I have no finer book to suggest No other fantasist is fantastical or achingly human.My Fantasy Book Suggestions How to review this weird and wonderful book The setting, characters and plot etc are extraordinary, but it is the language that is utterly bewitching The fact Peake was also an artist is evident in the special care with which he describes light or absence of , skin and textures Anthony Burgess wrote that it has the kind of three dimensional solidity which we often find in pictorial artists who take to words illustrations would have been supererogatory even though Peake sketched in the margins as he wrote, and later editions were published with the pictures Peake s illustration of Titus going to his tenth birthday masqueWriting in Tatler, novelist Elizabeth Bowen said It is certainly not a novel it would be found strong meat as a fairy tale one of those works of pure, violent, self sufficient imagination poetry flows through his volcanic writing the lyrical and the monstrous are inter knotted in the arabesque of his prose I predict for Titus Goran a smallish but prevent public that will probably renew itself, and probably enlarge, with each generation GenreIt is usually classed as fantasy, but it is like historical fiction, with a dash of magical realism Or is it This first volume has a profound sense of place Gormenghast castle is arguably the main character and its inhabitants could not imagine a world outside it but a very vague sense of time They have got to the 77th earl, but electricity, motor vehicles and even guns are unknown.PlotThe title relates to the birth of Titus, a male heir to the ancient house of Groan However, it is really a richly imagined story of an enclosed world, suffocating under the weight of detailed and largely pointless arcane ritual If, for instance, his Lordship had been three inches shorter, the costumes, gestures and even the routes would have differed from those described in the first tome and It was not certain what significance the ceremony held but the formality was no less sacred for it being unintelligible.It explains how a clever upstart, Steerpike, quickly goes from orphan kitchen hand, to rebel to opportunist to schemer, plotting his rise to power and influence There is also a sub plot concerning Keda, a woman from the mud huts outside the castle where the skilled Bright Carvers live.It is always a page turner though at times the plot is slow because the descriptions are so rich Peake sometimes meanders along lengthy diversions e.g when likening the cracks in plaster to an ancient map, he goes on to imagine journeys across such a landscape and conjure strange metaphors, clean she was in the sense of a rasher of bacon It will certainly improve your vocabulary, though even the unfamiliar words are used so carefully that you can get the gist if you don t have a dictionary to hand At other times, Peake conveys a great deal in relatively few words Lord Sepulchrave walked with slow strides, his head bowed Fuchsia mouched Doctor Prunesquallor minced The twins propelled themselves forward vacantly Flay spidered his path Swelter wallowed his which tells you most of what you need to know about almost all the main characters.There are macabre episodes Peake is not afraid to kill off significant characters in nasty ways , but also moments of wonder the sky pavement , mystery the death owl and humour a comic cat and mouse fight in almost total darkness, except for occasional flashes of lightning An Artist WritesPeake s artistic eye is evident in vividly visual descriptions, especially, skin, masonry and candle wax His face was very lined, as though it had been made of brown paper that had been crunched by some savage hand before being hastily smoothed out and spread over the tissues Perhaps that is also why carvings are such a big deal in Gormenghast the annual competition is explained near the beginning of the novel, rivalries are fierce and the carvers skill is the only reason the dwellers are tolerated so near the castle Yet what value is really placed on their skill when all but the best three carvings are ceremonially burned, and even those winners are stored in a dusty attic, rather than revered For a few chapters, the narrative switches to the present tense, for no obvious reason A Change of Colour to the end of Here and There and Peake is oddly and confusingly inconsistent in how he refers to some people The Earl of Groan and Lord Sepulchrave are one and the same and his sisters are indeed his sisters, even though they are also referred to as his daughter s mother s cousins and his daughter s cousins.I love the second volume as well Gormenghast, reviewed HERE , but be warned that the third Titus Alone, reviewed HERE , is totally different and harder to appreciate Nevertheless, I still think this is one of the best written books I know and, like all great works, only improves with each rereading.Quotes Lord Sepulchrave walked with slow strides, his head bowed Fuchsia mouched Doctor Prunesquallor minced The twins propelled themselves forward vacantly Flay spidered his path Swelter wallowed his Swelter s voice is like the warm, sick notes of some prodigious mouldering bell Cracks in the wall A thousand imaginary journeys might be made along the banks of these rivers of an unexplored world A similar idea in Boy in Darkness, when Titus looks at a mildewed spot on the ceiling The Countess s room was untidy to the extent of being a shambles Everything had the appearance of being put aside for the moment His Sourdust face was very lined, as though it had been made of brown paper that had been crunched by some savage hand before being hastily smoothed out and spread over the tissues The Earl s life, and to some extent everyone else s, is governed by detailed and largely pointless arcane ritual The second tome was full of blank pages and was entirely symbolic If, for instance, his Lordship had been three inches shorter, the costumes, gestures and even the routes would have differed from those described in the first tome It was not certain what significance the ceremony held but the formality was no less sacred for it being unintelligible She Fuchisa appeared to inhabit, rather than to wear her clothes as empty as an unremembered heart the stage in Fuchsia s attic Today I saw a great pavement among the clouds made of grey stones, bigger than a meadow No one goes there Only a heron Today I saw a tree growing out of a high wall, and people walking on it far above the ground Today I saw a poet look out of a narrow window I saw today a horse swimming in the top of a tower I saw a million towers today The twins faces were quite expressionless, as though they were preliminary layouts for faces and were waiting for sentience to be injected An extraordinary metaphor at the end of this one about Irma Prunesquallor the appearance of having been plucked and peeled than of cleanliness, though clean she was in the sense of a rasher of bacon Treading in a pool of his own midnight We are all imprisoned by the dictionary We choose out of that vast, paper walled prison our convicts, the little black printed words, when in truth we need fresh sounds to utter, new enfranchised noises which would produce a new effect Burned books are the corpses of thought lambent darkness is a good oxymoron Lightning is, a light like razors It not only showed to the least minutiae the anatomy of masonry, pillars and towers, trees, grass blades and pebbles, it conjured these things, it constructed them from nothing then a creation reigned in a blinding and ghastly glory as a torrent of electric fire coursed across the heavens The outpouring of a continent of sky had incarcerated and given a weird hyper reality of closeness to those who were shielded from all but the sound of the storm All My Peake ReviewsAll my Peake Gormenghast reviews including biographies memoirs and books about his art are on a shelf HERE.
Mervyn Laurence Peake was an English modernist writer, artist, poet and illustrator He is best known for what are usually referred to as the Gormenghast books, though the Titus books would be accurate the three works that exist were the beginning of what Peake conceived as a lengthy cycle, following his protagonist Titus Groan from cradle to grave, but Peake s untimely death prevented compl
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- Titus Groan
- Mervyn Peake
- 27 June 2018 Mervyn Peake