A meaningful gap in my fantasy education was the books of Mervyn Peake, particularly Gormenghast. Gap closed!
Superficially, there could be a comparison between what Peake does and what Tolkien does in The Lord of the Rings. Most people will tell you that both books are masterpieces of world building.
Tolkien colored fantasy for around fifty years, as many authors tried to emulate his world building. Although I don’t want to digress into Tolkien’s work this entry, I’ve always thought that Tolkien’s story was primarily about character in a rich setting.
Gormenghast is the opposite of Tolkien. It appears to be about characters, but the story overall is the effect of the castle on its denizens. The characters are sketches against their lives of tradition, duty, and neglect, all centered on Gormenghast, which shapes them.
Should current authors of fantasy read Gormenghast? What would they gain by doing so?
Gormenghast is an exercise in gothic examination of place and its influence, freely exploring the macabre and the dark in its characters. These people are deeply flawed, and it is more the atmosphere and place that causes them to act than any other thing. Peake seems to be engaging not only in epic story telling, but also in a commentary on the nature of humanity.
Titus Groan is the first book in the series. It is dry, but necessary ground work. Gormenghast is Peake’s true endeavor. I recommend that folks who want to cheat could use Titus Groan for a reference, or maybe go back to the first book once questions have given them motivation to read it.
At some point in the future, I want to write more about Peake’s villain Steerpike, who dominates the first two novels as mad genius.
Spent writing time getting Blood around, and began to recapture what I lost from the other night. Some day I will have more that 13 percent, I tell you!
12013 / 90000 words. 13% done!