Saturday, April 7, 2018


So, this week I saw the announcement that Neil Gaiman is involved in a new version of Mervyn Peake's TITUS GROAN/GORMENGHAST being adaptated for the BBC. Given Gaiman's sheer raw talent (he's probably the most talented author working in the field today) this is highly promising, so long as we don't hold his involvement in the disastrous BEOWULF movie against him. Here's the link.

I'll certainly try to watch this once it's available over here, but have to confess that while impressed by Christopher Lee's performance in the previous Peake adaptation a good while back now (2000)* I've never been a big fan of Mervyn Peake. I've tried to like his work for over thirty years now, and by and large failed. Despite having read virtually everything he'd ever written** I've never been able to make it all the way through the middle book of the trilogy -- the story just bogged down in too much Dickensian melodramatics for me so I skipped to the end, read that, decided I didn't care how it had all turned out that way, and put it aside to move on to the third book (the science fiction entry in the series, which I at least found readable***).

Peake has always been an odd-man-out in modern fantasy: one of the first two authors seriously marketed as 'fantasy, like Tolkien' (the other being the far more apt E. R. Eddison); a mainstay of the early entries among Ballantine's ADULT FANTASY SERIES -- despite the fact it's only
fantasy only if you include things like THE PRISONER OF ZENDA or WUTHERING HEIGHTS under that descriptor.

So I'm glad for Peake fans and hope the new show will add to their numbers, but I think it's time to stop thinking of Peake as a fantasy writer. Unless we're talking about things like his nonsense verse**** or his modern-day fantasy novel MR. PYE.***** Fantasy fans and Peake fans alike wd be better off.

--current reading: THE PILTDOWN FORGERY by J. S. Weiner (1956). second reading (orig. c. 1993)

*in fact, what little I watched of it marked the first time I thought I'd seen Christopher Lee put in a top-notch performance -- in retrospect a good indication of how well he'd do in his role-of-a-lifetime performance in the LotR movies which were shortly to follow.

**I did read the other two books in the Titus Groan series, plus the short story 'Boy in Darkness', plus his fantasy novel MR. PYE, plus all the contents of the giant omnibus PEAKE'S PROGRESS, as well as his wife's memoir. The one thing I think I never tracked down was THE RYME OF THE FLYING BOMB.

***its conclusion is by far the best thing about it, but it'd be spoiler to say any more

****which is okay, but he's no Lewis Carroll. He's not even a Lear.

*****which reads rather like a Thorne Smith story gone off-track, and still more like Henry Kuttner's tribute to Smith, "The Misguided Halo".

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