Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gormenghast...with Pictures

I got home Friday to find the months-delayed Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy from Overlook Press waiting at my front door.  For you Mervyn Peake fans out there (and I know there are some of you!): It was worth the wait.  It's a handsome hardcover volume with an introduction by Michael Moorcock and illustrations by the author himself.  Like Swelter here:

One might wish for more professional illustrations, I suppose (Charles Vess, or the like, maybe) but seeing Peake's concepts of his own characters is great. 

For those unfamiliar with Peake or Gormenghast, here's bit of tease from the publisher:
"Enter the world of Gormenghast. The vast crumbling castle to which the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, is Lord and heir. Titus is expected to rule this Gothic labyrinth of turrets and dungeons, cloisters and corridors as well as the eccentric and wayward subjects. Over the course of these three novels--Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone --Titus must contend with a kingdom about to implode beneath the weight of centuries of intrigue, treachery, manipulation and murder."
There's also an official Mervyn Peake website here with more insights into the author and his works, including Gormenghast.


Chris said...

>> One might wish for more professional illustrations, I suppose

Blasphemy! Burn the heretic! (Also steal his lovely new book.)

IIRC Peake was an illustrator for a while, so the sketchiness of the Gormenghast illos was likely a deliberate stylistic choice.

Welcome to Dungeon! said...

IIRC Peake was an illustrator for a while, so the sketchiness of the Gormenghast illos was likely a deliberate stylistic choice.

That's right. For an example, if you haven't seen his Alice In Wonderland illustrations, they're great.

Trey said...

I didn't mean to take anything away from Peake as an illustrator. :) Let me be clearer: I think the sketchiness of some the illustrations may be due to them being incomplete.

A lot of the illustrations are quite good (like the Swelter above). Some are reproductions of pencil sketches that the notes suggest were done in the manuscript as an aide to memory for the author. They were probably never meant to be reproduced.

Chris Creel said...

Just last weekend I purchased a copy of Gromenghast from a used book store. I did not realize that this was actually the second book of the trilogy but I began to the the book without having read the first. Yeah...? Peake's writing reminds me of Poe and traditional Gothic Romance. I can't say that I have "gotten my head around" his writing style yet. The copy of the book I purchased is quite old and also has illustrations by Peake.

migellito said...

I had no clue there was an edition with illos by Peake himself! Sooo many thanks Trey!!

Bring to mind alllll those famous famous illustrators of Tolkien's work. You know who I mean. I like JRRT's own illos better. His are the only ones that really have the Ring of Truth.

Timothy Paul Schaefer said...

Now I don't feel so ignorant.
I didn't know Gromenghast was part of a trilogy *or* there are illustrated versions.
My wife and I go to used book stores and thrift stores and buy a lot of books.
I picked up a copy of Gromenghast and started reading it. It is very good, but I can't seem to find the time to devote to finishing it.
Like so many other books, I put it on the shelf to be finished another day.

Anonymous said...

Good timing Trey, there's an exhibition of Peake's art in my city at the moment:

I'll check it out :)

Sub Radar (Mike) said...

Nice, I really like that art style.

ClawCarver said...

Ah, Abiatha Swelter. One of the top ten fat men in literature:

Peake doesn't get enough credit in fantasy/RPG circles. Gormenghast is about as far from Howard's Hyboria as it's possible to get, I suppose, but don't tell me the duel between Swelter and Flay isn't as thrilling as any pulp swordfest. And there's more than a touch of Titus/Steerpike in Elric/Yyrkoon too, as I'm sure Moorcock acknowledges.

Nice post, thanks!

Pierce said...

I've only ever seen the movie or like, tv series or whatever it was, but that was quite a while ago now. I remember that I liked thinking that Gormenghast was the before version of Jim Henson's Labyrinth, like 200 years earlier from before it fell into ruin.

Trey said...

@Migellito - Your quite welcome. :)

@Sean Wills - Huh, that's cool!

@ClawCarver - I agree, Peake's a bit neglected. In my mind, he ranks up there with James Branch Cabell in the pantheon of criminally underrated fantasists. I think the tent of fantasy ought to be big enough to have room for both these guys and the adventure fantasy of Howard and others.

@Pierce - Yeah, that was the BBC mini-series. That was pretty good.