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Mervyn Peake

Mervyn Peake(1911-1968)
Learn more about Mervyn Peake at the official website.

Titus Groan: A host of eerie eccentrics

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

I completed the first installment of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast series with a sense of exhaustion. It is a colossal book, written with such dense language that reading through it is like gorging on words. It was the book equivalent of eating a very rich, very large chocolate cake. Behind all the intricacies and techniques of the language is an equally strange story, one that does not easily fit into any particular genre. In my local bookstore at least, it is shelved in the "fantasy" section, seemingly because no one knows where else to put it.

These days (after the publication of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings) the word "fantasy" is used to classify books that are concern... Read More

Gormenghast: Excruciating, nail-biting tension

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake

Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books are a difficult series to categorize in terms of genre, as they really are in a league of their own. Whenever the subject of Peake has arisen in conversation and I've been called upon to describe them to the uninitiated, my efforts are always rewarded with baffled looks. The books defy most attempts at classification; and although they're usually put in the "fantasy" section of libraries and bookstores, the trilogy is bereft of the usual Tolkienesque fantasy trappings (mystical creatures, heroic journeys, magical quests). There are however, a few throwbacks to fairytales: a youthful hero who grows into manhood, a distressed — and sexually frustrated — damsel, a series of helpful or hindering secondary characters, and an insidious v... Read More

Titus Alone: For completists and fans

Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake

Mervyn Peake's magnum opus began in Titus Groan, and continued in Gormenghast, two brilliant (though door-stopping) books that explored the lives of those that exist in a self-contained, self-sufficient edifice known as Gormenghast: a labyrinthine world of towers, mansions, slums, and the corridors that connect them all. It is ruled by ancient and meaningless ritual, something that the titular character of Titus, Seventy-Seventh Earl of Gormenghast, has rejected. In the final passages of Gormenghast," Titus chooses to abandon his home and seek out the world that lies beyond his its borders.

Gormenghast was an exciting, rewarding finish to the colossal two-part novel, and its sequel, Titus Alone, opens with our protagonist alone for first time in his life, wan... Read More

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

I haven’t actually read every page of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, yet I’m giving it my highest recommendation. Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Master and Mistress of Weird, The Weird is 1126 pages long and should really be considered a textbook of weird fiction. It contains 110 carefully chosen stories spanning more than 100 years of weird fiction. Here’s what you can expect to find in this massive volume:

A “Forweird” by Michael Moorcock gives us a brief history of the weird tale, discusses how it has defied publishers’ attempts to categorize it into neatly-bordered genres, and gives examples of writers who are revered by modern readers but whose weird fiction caused them to be ma... Read More