Ghastly Gormenghast

What other authors do Tolkien fans enjoy? Come on in and enter into a broadened conversation on the great literature of this and other times.

Postby meneltarma » Sun Sep 07, 2003 12:39 am

Attack Gormenghast and you die.<BR><BR><BR>
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Postby Beleg » Sun Sep 07, 2003 8:20 am

Roma, well, that's kind of why I'm borrowing the text from the library. Too many people have high regard for it for me simply to dismiss it based on what I believe to be a misbegotten adaptation.<BR><BR>It is quite possible that the text carries that faintly obscure sense of looking through clouds at a partly-discerned object and even the rather ponderous joke cited above (by somebody else) might well be amusing, once restored to its context. Some jokes do require so much in context that it is not really possible to quote them without giving quite the wrong impression. And Lewis would be one who would know about such things. One book of his I recently read is called 'The Discarded Image'. It deals with the medieval worldview and how that affected epic literature at the time and later. This kind of perspective might also help in analyzing Peake.<BR><BR>But, I still haven't yet read the books, so have no basis to say.<BR><BR>Denethor, I can't say I find it constructive to threaten critics with death for less than complete approval, however. I do find it in-character for 'Denethor', but I would have thought that to be a nom de plume, rather than an assertion of personality.
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Postby meneltarma » Sun Sep 07, 2003 9:21 am

LOL Beleg...look under the alliance, it's me,not Denethor...wow, does Denethor have a *girl* alliance?<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0><BR><BR><a target=new href="http://www.themodernword.com">http://www.themodernword.com</a> has some good Peake stuff..
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Postby Tomnoddy » Sun Sep 07, 2003 1:11 pm

"That endless tragi-farcical, unnecessary, ineluctable sorrow can't be abridged."<BR><BR>This is why Titus Groan and Gormenghast are so difficult and so worthwhile. A perfect quote.
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Postby Denethor » Sun Sep 07, 2003 2:04 pm

<i>Denethor, I can't say I find it constructive to threaten critics with death for less than complete approval, however. I do find it in-character for 'Denethor', but I would have thought that to be a nom de plume, rather than an assertion of personality.</i><BR><BR>Pardon? <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-shocked.gif"border=0> That was Meneltarma's post, not mine!
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Postby Beleg » Sun Sep 07, 2003 8:28 pm

My sincere apologies for the misidentification. Somehow making this kind of mistake rather swallows the reason the statement was made, which I hope still stands and will still be attended to.
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Postby meneltarma » Mon Sep 08, 2003 10:07 am

<BR>The statement DOES still stand<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0><BR><BR>I couldn't think of anything more to say in favour of Gormenghast, either you like it or you don't. I wouldn't have thought C.S Lewis would be able to enjoy a book like that, considering his philosophical beliefs, but that's me being narrow minded. To fans of Peake's style, Gormenghast is a brilliantly bizarre work, to everyone else, it's...ghastly<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-tongue.gif"border=0><BR><BR>And no, I'm not going to kill anyone<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0>
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Postby ArathornII » Tue Sep 09, 2003 3:56 pm

Until this thread, I don't think I'd heard anyone dislike these books. I had actually been thinking of reading them. Thanks for the warning.
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Postby seaserpent » Thu Sep 11, 2003 4:13 am

Maybe you can try and read it and when it gets too philosophical, skip till the interesting part?
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Postby Tomnoddy » Thu Sep 11, 2003 6:06 am

<i>Rarely have I seen a worse miniseries than Gormenghast (thanks to Mithfanion for saving me having to make the obvious pun)<BR></i><BR><BR>I'm a fan of the books and I have to say I really like the TV adaption, watched it again last night. Narratively its very accurate and, believe it or not, actually manages to humanize most of the characters.<BR><BR><i>I've simply got to see if it's Peake's fault that his characters are nauseating and boring with nothing to do and nothing to live for or if that's just what some hack English screenwriters, cast and crew could dredge up to drive the punters back into the pubs for ales to drown their resulting miseries in.<BR></i><BR><BR>That's exactly the point, most of the characters are supposed to be nauseating and boring. They are trapped within the rituals and traditions of Gormenghast, no one is free. Steerpike rebels but because of his desire for the power that he has never had and that Gormenghast can give him, remains trapped. Only Titus' complete rejection of the castle free him, at least as far as we are aware from what Peake completed, he intended orignially to write 5/6 books plotting the course of Titus life from birth to death.<BR><BR><i>I fear that Mervyn Peake is going to join the ranks of those who don't understand the real world and so can't reliably invent an entertaining secondary world.</i><BR><BR>Peake was an Official War Artist during WW2 and was amongst the very first Allied forces to enter Belsen. I suspect he understood the world far better than many.
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Postby meneltarma » Thu Sep 11, 2003 9:28 am

Again, turning to The Modern Word...<BR><BR><i>Mervyn Peake was born in China in 1911 of British parents. His father was a missionary doctor, and it was this early exposure to extreme poverty and human decay that informed much of Mervyn Peake's work, both as writer and illustrator</i><BR><BR>so much for not understanding the real world...<BR><BR>and<BR><BR><i>Critics remain divided over Peake's reputation. This is mainly because unlike other major writers of the 20th century, Peake seems to tackle no important or topical themes such as war, sex, politics or marriage. Instead Peake appeared to use his titanic imagination to create a dense, eccentric world of nightmare and nursery rhyme.</i><BR><BR><BR>and finally, <BR><BR>"All bare and cold in that gutter of gold<BR>You had no cause to be,<BR>No more than it's right for the likes of you<BR>To be born in this century."<BR>
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Postby Beleg » Thu Sep 11, 2003 9:18 pm

Hmm...I am now reading the book. I am not enjoying it.<BR><BR>I understand, I think, what you are implying menel, but I don't know that I agree. Growing up in early 20th century China would impress anyone on the extreme danger of extenuated tradition. So, the book should be sold in China, where that's a problem. It isn't a problem here, nor in England. So, Peake is writing to...whom? Nobles long dead? Peasants in 14th century England not changing with the times?<BR><BR>I know that Anthony Burgess was well-impressed, which tends to make me look twice at Burgess rather than change my growing dislike for Peake. I respect someone with a large and vivid vocabulary. But to have a huge vocabulary and then use it to deaden the reader's sense? <BR><BR>Not very nice, not at all.<BR>
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Postby MerlintheMad » Fri Sep 12, 2003 1:41 pm

<i>"It isn't a problem here, nor in England. So, Peake is writing to...whom? Nobles long dead? Peasants in 14th century England not changing with the times?"</i><BR><BR>Oh contraire. I do not live IN England, but I am an Anglofile. "Nobles" are alive and well in England. So is class snobbery, which includes how an individual can afford to be educated: in Peake's day (are things much unchanged significantly today?: I confess, this social stratification and tradition seems to have undergone a serious bashing: could a Brit respond and tell us Yanks if England today - half a century later - is still the snob "factory" it was back then?), a student arriving at a boarding school for the <i>upper crust</i> could expect to be snubbed in subtle ways if his family was not part of the recognized so-called upper crust. This stuffy, entrenched educational system is very much a part of <u>Gormenghast</u>. The peasant craftsmen that live outside the Castle are typical of the plebian classes of England (what we call "blue collar" in the modern world) and have virtually no chance of entering the schools offered to the denizens of the Castle. You are confusing the pseudo-medieval tone of the story with the entrenched social systems of modern (mid-20th century) England/Britain.<BR><BR>Back in England's middle ages there were no schools per se (the first of the noble-sponsored schools arose out of the 15th century: I think: someone correct me if I am wrong: but certainly the bulk of the colleges and universities got their start then, when it became a social status symbol to be the "father" of a new school), and the nobility had peasants on their personal estates: in <u>Gormenghast</u> the earl is the head poohbah, but the whole <i>world</i> revolves around him as tho he were an emperor of the known world. It could be argued that all of the craftsmen/peasants existing outside the walls of the Castle belong to the earl; that is the pseudo-medieval element.<BR><BR>But the way the social classes interact strikes me as far more modern and far too old to be an evolving medieval society: i.e. <u>Gormenghast</u> is modern England held up to the cracked mirror of Peake's "ghastly" imagination. I think he saw obvious similarities between China and England in this area.<BR><BR>Everyone outside the snobbery of class-conscious England looks "down" on the snobs: but nearly all of us would never think of refusing a knighthood/dameship, if the Queen offered us one<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-tongue.gif"border=0> That is the closest to possessing a bonafide title of nobility/lordship that a scion of plebianism can hope for.<BR><BR>MtM
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Postby Terminus_Est » Fri Sep 12, 2003 5:54 pm

merlin eloquently describes the relevance of peake, but even if he weren't relevant since when is contemporary relevance the sole criteria of literary excellence?<BR><BR>Peake is one of my favorites, Gormenghast is a work of profound genius in my opinion. Beleg, you mention Burgess's enthusiasm for Peake calls him into question in your judgement; by the same token, and i don't wish to offend you or anyone by this statement as it is merely my own opinion, i distrust the taste of anyone who rejects Peake in much the same way i would someone who dislikes Shakespeare. <BR><BR>when i read that some folks describe these books as boring i simply lament at the decreasing attention span of the average westerner. mithfanion's quote at the start of this thread seems just another example (though by no means the best!) of Peake's poetic and meaty prose, sentences and paragraphs that i wanted to read two or three times over just to savor: its astonishing to me that someone who enjoys literature could find these dull. <BR><BR>this just calls to mind an image of folks running hurriedly through an art gallery, desperate to see everything but unwilling to take the time to enjoy any of it. doesn't anyone appreciate the journey any more, or is it just the destination that interests the modern reader?
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Postby Romariel » Fri Sep 12, 2003 7:17 pm

Beleg I think Lewis answered you perfectly in his letter when he said that Peake added to instead of commented on experience. Peake is not making a relevant social commentary, and I would disagree with those who argue that he is, instead the book is adding to the experience of the reader.<BR><BR>I do believe that the book is both brilliant and flawed, but I do not think that one of it's flaws is that it is irrelevant. I can't criticize Peake for failing in an attempt that he never made. It is kind of like (I know I am really setting myself up here) accusing me of having a humorless post when I was never trying to make it funny in the first place.<BR><BR>Anyways, I hope you keep reading. I found that the more I read the more I appreciated it. <BR>
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Postby Beleg » Tue Sep 16, 2003 5:31 pm

That would be Clive's opinion, of course, and yes, his opinion is rather well-informed in general.<BR><BR>Of course, what I'm objecting to is not the form nor even the content, but the effect of Peake's work. It may well be well-written, though I would have to subject myself to it to have the data to draw that conclusion. It may well add to information, which is actually even easier to check as it is rather an objective assessment.<BR><BR>I object to the purpose and to the climate in my mind that the book generates. I find them both to be obnoxious and trivial. If the book instructs others here, then they can take this objection as an observation. I do not find it instructs me and do find that the attitude it strikes deadens me, even robs me of my will to live.<BR><BR>I have better things to do with my time than waste them with someone who writes like he's already six years dead himself.
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Postby MerlintheMad » Tue Sep 16, 2003 10:10 pm

<i>"I do not find it instructs me and do find that the attitude it strikes deadens me, even robs me of my will to live.<BR><BR>"I have better things to do with my time than waste them with someone who writes like he's already six years dead himself."</i><BR><BR>Oh! But that is GOOD, Beleg. I feel exactly what you express here: but, I have steeled myself to the enjoyable/perilous "task" of imbibing Gormenghast in very small quantities at a time. I started it well over a year ago and am only part-way through the second volume. I remember the gist of the tale very well, even tho long periods of time elapse between readings. You seem appalled by Peake's writing style. So am I. But the fact that he can induce such a feeling fascinates me. And the dark universe where Gormenghast lives challenges me to still go forth and have a good day, whenever I have journeyed there briefly again.<BR><BR>MtM
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Postby Beleg » Tue Sep 16, 2003 11:00 pm

Well...your time is your own to spend as you will, Merlin, and I do wish you well in whatever way you choose to spend it, but...to each his own, I suppose.<BR><BR>I think that it isn't just the deadness. I was taken aback by being questioned about Peake's relevance. I gave it a lot of thought, but that slipped away in writing the last post. I contribute it now:<BR><BR>Peake writes about a society totally immured in a particular and now unintelligible tradition. Each is born to his class and stays there. There are jobs handed down through generations, apparently without any question either by the handers or the handees. The place is ruled by one family, named and known as rulers but not in fact ever really lived with by anyone.<BR><BR>This is what is called 'ultramontane' in such matters, the total dedication to the past. It is quite common in China, where Peake would have imbibed it as a child. It is quite deadening, as China's long history shows, to any kind of real individual progress because it tends eventually to reduce citizens to ciphers who occupy utile positions, not actual roles. Nor do people actually grow: they are just trained and then they act.<BR><BR>Now, this resonates in the modern Academy, with its notions of soullessness. It has been bruited since Mill that humans simply react to stimuli and this kind of universe, the Gormenghastly kind, is what would result.<BR><BR>Thing is, this is the last way one would have characterized the 20th century and it is highly unlikely to rank anywhere above the bottom 10th percentile in the ensuing one either. The key problem is quite the opposite: rather than everyone instinctively being Groans, looking down their noses, everyone is eager to be Steerpike, if only they could find marks as reliably stupid as the Groans to feast upon. Life is never that easy, nor ever that extreme.<BR><BR>This is to say that the problem of modernity is a tendency to lapse into rank antinomianism, the social disease where the word 'tradition' kicks off a ritual reaction against any moral or ethical restraint. That circumstance is quite the precise opposite of the world of Gormenghast and is why I strongly queried his worth: if nobility and tradition are completely out of fashion, what good is it to write an extensive, difficult and frankly annoying book making this very obvious and already accepted point? Would it not have been more to the point to write a story showing how a little nobility and noblesse oblige might well improve what turned out to be a distressingly democrazy century, where the 'people's voice' managed to murder millions bureaucratically in the pursuit of perfecting humanity? That would have been something apposite and a good deal of text could have been devoted to the exercise, if only to stretch minds used to assuming that the people speak with one voice and anyone dissenting didn't really speak at all.<BR><BR>No, IMHO, Peake has subserved the lie that is the modern conceit: the people are some kind of oracle to be consulted and relied upon. That the rebel is ever the renewer, regardless of the source of his rebellion and even whether he has a cause he is rebelling against or for. This is the mindless horror of the Reign of Terror (and Steerpike's campaign reminds me of nothing so much as Marat's cool pursuit of noble heads). <BR><BR>You know, if Peake's point were that tradition should be meaningful, then he was duty-bound to build a tradition that actually meant something. So far as I can tell, he purposely avoided doing so, inventing a meaningless and deadening tradition that sapped the life of those who supported it. The end is the creation of a vampire state, existing more because to end life would be to take action than because life is worth living for its own sake. This is false to truth and false to life. Traditions emerge not because somebody ordered them to be followed but because people followed them. The orders came later. It is truly a dead society which does not instruct its young in the value of its traditions and in only this sense can I sympathize with those who advance Gormenghast as something worthwhile: it is quite true that many in the West failed to believe in their own traditions, denigrated and ignored them and then bewailed the loss when their children turned unseeing eyes and unhearing ears to pleas to follow 'the tried and true ways'. We humans don't do things on good advice, we do them because they work. And if traditions are meaningful, then that meaning has to be taught. When it is not only not taught but actually cursed, then children are turned perverse and the Steerpike way is possibly the only way. <BR><BR>That would be what I see as value in Gormenghast. It is a ghastly lesson, viewing nihilism that lapses and reacting with nihilism that kills. This is descent into Hell and I just reject that way.<BR><BR>Far better that one walk through the Doorway with Aslan or ride the Straight Way with Frodo. These are walks from life to life. The heart is lifted, the eye brightened, the mind stimulated, the body refined. I reject the other way.
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Postby Beleg » Wed Sep 17, 2003 5:53 pm

bump...system didn't pick up update I guess.
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Postby MerlintheMad » Thu Sep 18, 2003 3:51 pm

<i>"Far better that one walk through the Doorway with Aslan or ride the Straight Way with Frodo. These are walks from life to life. The heart is lifted, the eye brightened, the mind stimulated, the body refined. I reject the other way."</i><BR><BR>Nicely spoken. I enjoyed that. And I am with you: I choose the way that leads to life. But, the alien quality of Gormenghast is real too: Peake's genius for descriptions makes it so. And therefore, I enjoy going back to it when I am already feeling rather dark myself: reading Gormenghast shows me just how nicely rounded and free from restraint my society is, and I come back to reality feeling renewed and relieved that it is all just a bad dream of the author's and not part of my world.<BR><BR>MtM
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Postby Romariel » Fri Sep 19, 2003 12:50 pm

Beleg, I know you were responding to Merlin, and I may have misunderstood your last post so please correct me if I have.<BR><BR>The feeling of soulless, endless, meaningless tradition is indeed a huge part of Gormenghast, but I do not think that the Peake is advocating this sort of life style in his book as a good or moral way of life.<BR><BR>You comment that people in this century are more likely a "Speerpike" than a Groan, which is probably true. It is interesting though that you think the Groans are easy prey, anyways though Steerpike may be the protagonist he is by no means the "hero" of the story. So if you choose to look at the book this way -a way I don't think Peake intended- you could see it as a warning to the Steerpikes in our world, those with unbound ambition, instead of a warning to those who are immured in meaningless tradition. <BR><BR>If the book is a warning to the Groans it may well speak to us in a more subtle way. How many meaningless rituals do you and I go through everyday without realizing it and without ever questioning them? If this includes social norms etc I would argue that there are countless useless and even harmful things we do everyday. For example in our culture it is perhaps the most unpardonable sin to make someone uncomfortable and what usually ensues is that we enable bad behavior without even thinking about it.<BR><BR>Have you finished the 2nd book yet? The contrast between Speerpike and teenage Titus would be a very interesting one to discuss, but I don't want to give anything away. They represent two extremes and I think Peake may have been advocating something more in the middle, something, which if Peake had lived to finish what he intended to be a 6 part seris, Titus may have come to represent.<BR><BR>It would have been interesting, as you suggest, if Peake had written a book advocating rather then dismissing tradition, if indeed he is dismissing tradition. Anyways, that is not what he did. And I might point out that "nobility" and noblesse oblige has managed to kill millions of people also. The point is, this world is not perfect, and we cannot make it so, we need something above ourselves to save us.<BR><BR>You are right, he did invent a meaningless tradition that dehumanized the people who followed it, but does that necessarily mean that he advocated it, and thought it was a good thing? I am probably misunderstanding you, but before it seems that you were faulting Peake for his criticism of tradition and now you are criticizing him for advocating it.<BR><BR>Peake raises a lot of questions in his book, but not all of them are answered. If only he would have been able to finish the series as he intended! But the truth is that Speerpike, in all of his ambition, does not overcome tradition. Who knows what would have happened had Titus returned as Peake intended.<BR><BR>The Lord of the Rings may have left a similar impression if the book had ended with Frodo?s despair in Mordor had Tolkien died before he could have completed the books. Anyways, I cannot completely reject a book that so perfectly creates that "tragic-farcical" mood, even if I do not agree with its morality.<BR>
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Postby Beleg » Fri Sep 19, 2003 6:08 pm

Thank you for your very insightful and well-written posts. I did somewhat despair and you rightly diagnose what was causing me anomie. I don't quite feel like it now, but I shall reserve judgment until I can bring myself to actually read the thing. I'm just not into that kind of delving now.<BR><BR>You're quite right that many people now are so leery of being thought judgmental that truly destructive lifestyles are permitted and even encouraged. There is great debate about what constitutes such a lifestyle and were I to get specific right now, I am pretty sure a good number of people would descend on this thread simply to argue that I'm wrong. Which to me is a consequence of everyone preferring to be thought of as Steerpike than as a Groan. <BR><BR>Now, Titus likely would have developed into a better character. I did not know that Peake had such plans. The ending I saw, if it is the same as the third book, is horribly disappointing, but makes complete sense if it were the interim ending: Titus then goes out into the world, becomes a fully-grown man and returns to liberate Gormenghast from its newly minted tradition of thinking Steerpike is a great man and should naturally now and have ever been the ruler of the castle.<BR><BR>I think we're agreeing about the issue of Peake's traditions. I don't think that, if we all followed the prior traditions to what is currently both popular and becoming calcified into required behavior, that what I think to be destructive lifestyles would ever have developed such a firm hold on approval or at least forbearance. So it isn't that tradition can't deal with such things, it's that the West really did fail to transmit its traditions. The young then made up their own or came under the sway of demogogues proposing new traditions, often under the best of intentions.<BR><BR>Sadly, the road to Hell is paved with them.
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Postby NervousPete » Mon Dec 01, 2003 4:56 pm

I know that this discussion is perhaps a little old, but I love and adore Gormenghast. I actually, sort of, prefer it to Lord of the Rings. (Ducks comically from cheese crackers, cabbages, slippers thrown at the head) <BR><BR>Beleg, I have to congratulate you. You've probably articulated better than anybody I have ever read as to why you dislike something I love. You have applied your own strong feelings mixed with a balanced critical eye in a calm, detached and nicely written manner. A highly intelligent and interesting arguement. I am telling you this because I have just had the misfortune of attempting intelligent discourse for the first time on the 'Ain't It Cool News' talkback forums. Ignorance, insults, disrespect, slack grammer, an odd Matrix obsession and bizarre homophobia greeted me. Apart from one chap who was quite friendly and lucid. Other than that, they were almost all cretins. Unlike 95% of you folk, who I doff my hat to and give warm, firm, manly handshakes. Sorry, where was I? Yes, Beleg, you are a gentleman. <BR><BR>A gentleman who is, tragically, wrong. <BR><BR><BR>To understand the Gormenghast Trilogy, you are quite correct in trying to work out what message Peake was trying to give in writing. C. S Lewis claims that it should not be read as an alegory. I partly agree with this, but just as I always believed that the Dead Marshes in Tolkien chilling evocated, if subconciously for his part, the corpse ridden and water-filled shell-holes of the trenches, so does The Gormenghast Trilogy have a faint subtext of Belsen, the British Empire and English tradition. At the end of Titus Alone, the last book, nuclear war also is referred to in a frightening rendition of an atomic blast.<BR><BR>The main themes of the Gormenghast books are madness, rebellion, decay and SURVIVAL. This is obvious. Peake treats his mad characters with a cruel, fearful pity, laughing at the grotesques but sympathising also - and sometimes fearing them. I don't want to offer spoilers, but there are a couple of characters whose deaths in the trilogy are immensely affecting. There are also a couple of characters who garner a qualified admiration. Dr. Prunesquallor is the most admirable character in the books, tellingly a fan favourite, he rumbles to Steerpike's schemes at a quicker pace than nearly everybody else. Still, quite a slow pace, but his wit and resolution in dealing with the crisis is quite fascinating and admirable. How did Peake describe him? To paraphrase: '... absurd affectations and a maddening hyena laugh. His cardinal virtue? An undamaged brain.'<BR>Gertrude is isolated but intelligent, Titus is keen but firery. Fuschia is pitiable but strangely beautiful. Steerpike, for all his devilry, is as charismatic as Iago and as cruelly funny as Blackadder.<BR><BR>The pity and hilarity come from the madness of the cast of Groan. It is an uncomfortable humour, but fascinating. Lord Sepulchrave's descent King Lear-like into madness and his failure to recognise his daughter is heartbreaking and amongst the most affecting writing of the 20th century. Look to the chapter where he is planting fir cones with his daughter. Incredible stuff. On the other hand, Cora and Clarice's inspired, psychotic stupidity is the stuff of hilarity. 'We want thrones. And power,' they say in unison, in that plain, flat voice. They have no idea what power means, or what it really is. They just have a vague concept that it means thrones and servants. Their ultimate fate, however, engenders pity as well.<BR><BR>Rebellion. Steerpike is a new-thinker of the most dangerous breed. Smashing apart the old with no clear idea of the new. He just likes to destroy, manipulate and obsess. However he also has a fine mind, falls in love, and has a keen sense of humour, however warped. Peake uses him to describe those types of people who have gone beyond humanity into a frightening place where they believe they play outside the game and that the world is to be remade according to their whim. People like Hitler, Stalin, Barbara Streisend. Steerpike's ascent to power through murder and deceit, his pursuit of power almost for powers sake paralells Hitler and Stalin. And as with those two maniacs, the world is ill-equipped to cope with them. You may laugh at how long it takes the Groan's to catch up to the perfidy of Steerpike. But look how long it took the rest of Europe to clue to Hitler. Britain thought it could avoid war by giving away Czechlosvakia (a terrible piece of real-politik forced on by our refusal to improve our military in time to stop the threat early) and even while Hitler was bombing the south of England and slaughtering the French, American Senator Joseph Kennedy was demanding that America persuade Britain and France to surrender and to form a peace-pact with Hitler, offer him what he wants and keep quiet to avoid war. So as you can see, we as a species have never been quick on the uptake. This is what Steerpike is all about. Like the most destructive of men, charasmatic, insane and deadly.<BR><BR>Decay. Not only mental decay but the decay of states and beliefs. Gormenghast is part British empire, the lethagy and exhaustion - the wonderment as to why we still bother. Few people are genuinely nostalgic for the empire here. We have a moral guilt that paralises in Britain, quite rightly. At the end of Empire creaking administrations were collapsing under their own weight, exhausted by war. The imperialist rituals of old made sense no longer in the brave new world of post WWI. Even less so after WWII. Gormenghast is that state of affairs personified, which is why it is so threatened by Steerpike. <BR><BR>Finally, survival. All the characters in Gormenghast are primarily obsessed with survival on some level or other. Whether it be a desire for emotional attachment to stave off frustration, loneliness and madness. Whether it is a desire to escape the confines of Gormenghast or swaddle oneself in the dusty parchment and tattered banners of tradition and ritual to keep at bay the real world. Whether it be the simple law of the jungle. Kill or be killed. Gormenghast's characters are obsessed with survival. And this is what makes them so glorious.<BR><BR>Because when they extend that hand in love or friendship. When they offer those small kindnesses. Or find a little beauty in something. It is everything. It seems all-important, made majestic in context. It happens more often than one would think in the books, and whether this is Peake's intention or not, this is what strikes me. <BR><BR><BR>Gormenghast is in many ways the mirror fantasy to Lord of the Rings. No heroic quests, no real great sacrifices or futile battles. It is humanity stripped to the bone, people rendered to the most primary colours. It is a fever dream. The world has no internal logic like Tolkien's has. But it is just as solid and memorable. <BR><BR>It may be difficult reading the books, but after you've punched through that 80-120 page barrier, you find yourself immersed, drowning in it. You find that you really do care about those characters. <BR><BR>And I do actually like Titus Alone (the last book) a lot. It notably inspired New Wave SF and Michael Moorcock certainly. I think that J. G. Ballard picked up some tips from it too. It is less coherent than the previous ones, revisits only one of the beloved characters, is deeply strange and perhaps borderline SF, but...<BR><BR>I keep on having dreams about it. All the time. From the blank, emaciated faces peering out of the windows of the great factory, chimney's spewing black smoke (Belsen influence I fear) to the feverish Titus. From the chilly moorland and the strange contraptions, the floating surveilance globes, the fiesty and poisonous Cheeta to the atomic blast, the glorious Muzzlehatch, the passionate Anchor and Juno... I love it all, I love them all. They are in my mind. Trust me, read the trilogy - and even if you dislike the last book, even if you dislike all of them - those strange, sad, beautiful, mad, funny, heroic, tragic characters will keep coming back. <BR><BR>Beleg, Merlin, thank you for indulging me and writing convincing arguements. I implore everyone to read this. Number 79/89 or something in the Big Read Top 100. Christopher Lee's second fave book!<BR><BR>Go on! TITUS! TITUS! TITUS!<BR><BR>Cheers,<BR><BR>Nervous Pete<BR><BR><BR><BR>
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Postby MerlintheMad » Mon Dec 01, 2003 6:23 pm

<i>"Christopher Lee's second fave book"</i><BR><BR>Really ! How cool. I very much enjoyed your description of your "love affair" with Gormenghast, NervousPete. I feel a return to the mad world of Peake coming on.....<BR><BR>MtM<BR><BR>(PS: How in heck can you compare Barbara Streisand with Hitler and Stalin ??? Am I missing something about the dame ?)
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Postby NervousPete » Tue Dec 02, 2003 4:41 am

Ah, that comparison was more in the nature of a hearty joke to stop myself being too pompous. My refusal to use smilies, ever, probably compounded it. T'was all in fun.<BR><BR>OR WAS IT?<BR><BR>(Etc.)<BR><BR>And thanks, Merlin!
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Postby *Vana*Ever-young* » Sun Mar 28, 2004 8:59 am

aww... i want to read the book! it seems the majority find it dull, but after watching the last two episodes of the show, i thought it was interesting. i'm looking for the books now (i live in the middle of no where, so don't scold me for having to watch the show to then be interested in the actual books)
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Postby Beleg » Sun Mar 28, 2004 10:02 am

Thank you for your very kind compliments, NP. And I return the compliment with embellishments. You also are a gentleman. I only think that your suggestion that I'm 'wrong' is overwrought: I do not say that these books cannot be liked nor treasured, but that they have no such charms for me. <BR><BR>They labor to make points I take for commonplaces and for which I need no such extensive and drudgery-filled explanation. And this from someone who lives a long-lived tradition willingly which many people do find incomprehensible and unrealistic (I find it both quite intelligible and realistic, but then I have closely inquired with an open mind). It is that total lack of curiosity among the Groans to which I object. That many Groans would not inquire is natural. One does not generally inquire into what provides apparently endless benefits with little apparent cost. It is not usually a problem to have to conduct rituals which seem at best antiquated and may even be composed of nonsensical elements, if they pay off in quarters and roast beef. Thing is, if one is attempting to relate Peake's version of nonsensical tradition to the traditions handed down in England's nobility, then the lesson should have to do with the increasing irrelevance of being landed gentry to actual utility and productivity. That transition was long since complete by the time Peake was born.<BR><BR>If I might offer what is part of where I would go with these themes, please consider reading GK Chesterton's 'The Return of Don Quixote'. This is where my mind goes in terms of responding to the nihilism of the 20th Century and even shows the prescription for escaping it.<BR><BR>-==more later, GOTTA RUN <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-sad.gif"border=0>==-
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Postby meneltarma » Tue Mar 30, 2004 9:01 am

Hello Pete, I've never seen you post before <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0><BR><BR>And you're not alone, I prefer the madness of Gormenghast to Tolkien too...
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