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about Gormenghast: a Grey interpretation

about Gormenghast: a Grey interpretation

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Published by Gregory Crawford
my review of a literary castle
my review of a literary castle

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Categories:Types, Reviews, Book
Published by: Gregory Crawford on Mar 29, 2011
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07/21/2011

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Book Report!!!
11/24/2009 8:47:00 AM
 
***The Gormenghast TrilogyMervyn Peake***Gormenghast -like all great works- is at times epic, at times morbid . . .often spellbinding and shocking, at times horrific; it is steadily powerful,gripping, and commanding. A tremendous tragedy and an uproariouscomedy.Why?Most immediately: there was -arguably- no central character. To be sure,characters were in abundance; the Earl, the Countess, the Chef, Mr. Flay -the Earl¶s right-hand man, Fucshia -Daughter to the Earl and the Countess,Doctor Prunesquallor and his sister Irma, the twins, the host of professors,Titus Groan, Steerpike, the mud dwellers. And each a work of art. Yet, noneare centralized: none play hub for all are spokes.In my opinion, the Castle -that is Gormenghast itself- is the main character.The physical structure prompts and at times necessitates specific lyricalmovements. It¶s written all over the castle¶s face. A particular description of a particular room or hall doesn¶t just add to a particular scenario, it framesit, it creates it. The castle¶s plethora of components embellish, enhance, andexaggerate a given conversation or battle. It isn¶t the backdrop, it is thelens.The castle is huge; miles long, thirteen stories high -plus innumerable attics,basements and sub-basements, sub-sub-sub . . .But sheer size says nothing of the complexity, the elaborateness: ³Fromstorehouse, depository, vault, and warehouse, from magazine, dump, andcoffer, from granary and arsenal; from the splendid rooms of bygone dayswhere the great ³pieces¶ moldered; from the private rooms of countlessofficers; from the communal halls and the dormitories of the hierophants . ..´ Gormenghast is an edifice so vast, a framework so boggling, one can alltoo easily become lost amongst the antiquated tracts. In fact, such occurredto more than a couple characters.Yet, Gormenghast is more than size, anatomy, form, or design. It is apersonification at times blindingly immense, and at others painfully
 
straightforward. Sometimes the castle feels like a human being transformedinto a structure. Sometimes a story in itself.The castle is a whole world . . . and more.Moving on: the third of these books fell so short. It felt disjointed; rough; asif still in the edit.I found two obvious reasons for this:1.Titus Groan -heir to Gormenghast- forsakes his duty and leaves the castleto roam and wander the world. By doing this Titus effectively kills the maincharacter -the castle. Additionally, Titus is not a very interesting character.He is only interesting by birthright; because he is the Earl. This removed, heis nothing, which oddly, is what he wanted.2. Mervyn Peake died while writing it. I do know that a friend edited it. I donot know how much he edited, nor what. It may be that this friend evenwrote some of it. It¶s hard to say. I plan on reading the biography.As happens with artists, Mervyn Peake died with little recognition. I think itwas very difficult for him to accept this. And so it should have been: he wasan outrageously gifted author worthy of extreme praise. His name shouldrub shoulders with Tolkein. That is, of course, in my opinion.Additionally, Mervyn Peake was getting old and his ability to write began toslip. So I learned from Wikipedia, at least. It must have been frustrating ashell . . . To have written an epic masterpiece -one that still dodges easygenre-classing- and then die. He did, of course, write other books, poetry,and he was a pretty successful illustrator. I think he garnered more notorietyfrom his illustrations than his words.I wonder if maybe he was striving for more with the third book . . . if Gormenghast Castle could not achieve what he wished and so he had theyoung Earl turn his back on it; perhaps in the same way, Mervyn turned hisback on Gormenghast Castle.I think maybe he was challenging himself. That he was trying to go beyondthe epic he had already created.But all that is just speculation. But upon reading the trilogy and learning abit about the man, speculating is delightful.Attempting to write a book myself, I found great insight in these books.
 
 From his vocabulary and descriptions: ³Against the blind brilliance of their background, the birds, whatever theirnatural plumage, appeared as black as jet, and differed only in theirsilhouettes, whose meticulous contours might have been scored with aneedle, so exquisite was the drawing of their beaks, like thorns, the hairs of their feathers, their delicate claws and heads . . .He was no longer a man. He was that rarer thing, a man in motion . . .Irma had not spread herself over the furnishing of her home. A great deal of work, a great deal of thought - and, in her opinion a great deal of taste - hadbeen lavished upon it. The color scheme had been carefully considered.There was not a discordant note in the whole place. It was so tasteful, infact, that Bellgrove never felt at home. It gave him a sense of interiority,and he hated the powder-blue curtains and the dove-gray carpets, asthought it were their fault that Irma had chosen them. But this meant littleto her. She knew that he as a mere man would know nothing of ³artistic´ matters. She had expressed herself, as a woman will, in a smug broadside of pastel shades. Nothing clashed because nothing had the strength to clash;everything murmured of safety among the hues; all was refinement . . .And the days move on and the names of the months change and the fourseasons bury one another and it is spring again and yet again, and the smallstreams that run over the rough sides of Gormenghast Mountain are big withrain while the days lengthen and summer sprawls across the countryside,sprawls in all the swathes of its green, with its gold and sticky head, with itsslumber and the drone of doves and with its butterflies and its lizards and itssunflowers, over and over again, its doves, its butterflies, its lizards, itssunflowers, each one an echo-child, while the fruit ripens and the grotesqueboles of the ancient apple trees are dappled in the low rays of the sun andthe air smells of such rotten sweetness as brings a hunger to the breast, andmakes of the heart a sea-bed, and a tear, the fruit of salt and water, ripens,fed by a summer sorrow - ripens and falls . . . falls gradually along thecheekbones, wanders over the wastelands listlessly, the loveliest emblem of the heart¶s condition . . .

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