Oh, you gentlest readers—oh, you fragile, quivering doves: this is something I have long intended to do
to you I mean for you. And finally, FINALLY, due to some fools having generously donated $9,000, ALMOST A FULL DARCY-ANNUM UNIT, I can bring you a review of every adaptation of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books, not ranked because that’s a rubbish critical apparatus and this isn’t fucking Buzzfeed.
Why is it timely, you ask? It is not timely. No, it is not. However I managed to convince the chief reviews editor, the long-suffering Maureen, that it could be, because Neil Gaiman’s Gormenghast adaptation is noised to come out soon. And he is Important. Don’t you think he’s Important? He sells very well, and he did Sandman half a million years ago, so I suppose he must be: important. While the production may get stuck in development hell due to my wishing very hard, just as I have cursed the last six attempts to remake Blakes 7 (or for other, unrelated reasons), it may indeed come to pass. And it would be just another adaptation, I suppose. It wouldn’t be an active unmaking of everything good in an evolving multi-authorial text like, say, Moffat-era Doctor Who. We would probably survive.
But! Wouldn’t you like to consider half a century and change’s worth of Gormenghast adaptations in order to provide context for this one? Of course you would!!
Read the full article here.
For Hypocrite Reader’s Horror and Comedy issue, I talk about last year’s re-vamp of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Woman in White” musical, the sensation novel, ‘updating’ Victorian texts, the gothic and crap feminism.
You can read the piece here
Here’s a bit that didn’t fit into the review, but which I found interesting:
The original West End production took some flack for its projection-sets, which some critics thought looked like a cheap special effect, and a wonky turntable effect. A contemporary American theatre could have pulled the revolve off smoothly enough, American theatre always being blessed with more money than anything else worth having. Nunn himself had previously used a turntable to great effect in his production of Les Miz (https://www.indyweek.com/arts/archives/2012/02/19/when-the-spinning-stopped-les-miserables-25th-anniversary-at-progress-energy-center). But British theatres are often forced to rely more on motor and truck automation; winched systems [http://www.theatrecrafts.com/pages/home/topics/automation-scenic/glossary/]. Sophisticated turntables were largely out of the technical and financial reach of West End productions (indeed, touring Les Miz productions had to drop theirs, and the West End Les Miz itself gave it up in a ‘modernisation’/scaling back), which are of course working with generally older theatres (where the sheer weightof a really good turn table becomes an issue) until this year’s Hamilton production, which relies very heavily on that effect, necessitated a thorough, expensive and time-consuming revamp of Victoria Palace. And god knows when Hamilton will vacate and let someone else have a crack at it. This smaller production chose to address the difficulty of dramatically re-staging the piece by pretty much abandoning ‘design’ as a concept, going incognito as a cheaper, Fringier production than this actually was (the original was staged in 2004–these rights aren’t cheap). Everything looked a bit am-dram naturalism.
The BSFA journal Vector’s special issue, Future Economics, is out, and with it my article on economics and colonialism in Diana Wynne Jones’ “Tale of Time City”.
Find out more about the issue or read the piece here.
BOOK THREE: TITUS ALONE
- So we’ve started Titus Alone which is how I wish he would leave me
- Peake has decided to switch time periods, genres, modes, registers of fictionality?? We’re in a weird pomo Little Prince riff and nothing means anything, way way more so than nothing was Real for the last 2 books.
- Titus meets *essentially his mother in like 5 respects* his dick *twangs like a guitar string* & I think I said ‘what?’ audibly, so they bang, of course they bang, and also there are cars idk we’re kind of in Les Cites Obscures now
- Titus remains obsessed with Gormenghast even though it’s not in this book. He spits at the moon. A camel and a mule fight. Juno is way more interesting than any man she has ever condescended to date.
- Honestly still creeped out by the two Knight things perpetually following Titus tho? #stilldoesmynutintothisday
- I worry sometimes that I read literature entirely through a materialist lens that in considering capitalism takes on its prerogatives, its narrow and temporally specific ways of thinking about character. But also Titus needs to get a fucking job.
- Me earlier: why only adapt the first 2 books?
Me now: oooooooh
- what did Peake read before writing this? *suspiciously* was it Joyce?
- An unnamed friend actually cried reading Titus Alone. ‘This is just so fucking miserable.’ My reaction wasn’t that strong but my lads; my lasses, my enbies, my friendbies: skip this one.
- Noted birds rights activist Titus Groan is always uncomfortable when we are not about him. In the chapters ‘War Crimes Victims: A Huge Downer’ and ‘EUGH she’s STILL SAD’, we see—
- In Titus Alone, Gormenghaston succeeds in being so annoying I’m like ‘rewind can we go back to the ivy and try the other one I feel even full crazy he still had some potential left in him—‘
- Times Titus refers to his own boner in narratively obtrusive fashion: 5ish
Times ol’ Skewbald hate-ace did that to me: *a most blessed 0*
- Titus sends pics honestly believing you want to receive them. On all occasions, he lays a special emphasis on ‘YOU’RE welcome’. He says he doesn’t necessarily believe in the arguments he’s making over dinner, ‘he’s just presenting alternative perspectives!’ YOU’RE welcome!
- the other day I was bitching to an anarchist friend on here about how annoying Titus is as a character&he was just like ‘I work on historical anarchists, so.’
- I was slain bc it is exactly hot topic ‘A in a circle’ hoodie 15 yo boy stuff. Friend nailed the text, me, himself, he was like a nail gun
- Titus Alone is the most confused I’ve been about the sexuality of a Cheeta since “Survival”. (This is a joke for 6 people ever I’m sorry)
- HOW DOES CHEETA KNOW THE ‘GET IN THE SEA’ MEME?!
- In which Titus is invited to the cook out
- Omfg well I’m done with Titus Alone wooooow
- my advisor yesterday: I love Titus Alone!
me: *a face journey*
- I think Gormenghast is neither over- nor underrated, but reasonably esteemed, enjoying a sound but not inflated reputation in fantasy.
- People like to say that in the 50s there was something of a contest as to whether Lord of the Rings or this would ‘win out’ as the dominant text in fantasy, and that this lost (often followed by ‘would that it hadn’t!’).
- Personally, I think the sub-Gormenghast imitators would be if anything even more embarrassing and off-base than the sub-Lord of the Rings school.
- This dichotomy seems, and I may be ignorant here, to be chiefly in the minds of Peake fans, bc Gormenghast just can’t be approached and used in the way Lord of the Rings can.
- There was never *as ready* an opportunity to make ‘sub-Gormenghast’ the commercial, mass audience and politically appropriable thing Lord of the Rings and its imitators became. (Gormenghast was never going to resonate with American counter-culture environmental movements.)
- Peake’s short story “Danse Macabre” isn’t bad, but it’s a bit like those children’s ghost stories you read, red ribbon around her neck and all that.
- Btw if you don’t know Sting is a vast Gormenghast Stan in a manner so shameful I cringe to think upon it, it is time for you to learn a fell truth:
- Molly: Sting named his dog Steerpike.
Me: Weird, because like Killmonger, it seems like a natural cat name to me.
Ana: You know when cats walk horribly on their hind legs, hunched and wobbling?
I AM SCREAMING
- I don’t even know that I could say I ‘liked’ these books, I just know that they happened to me, and that I have to live with that forever now.
- idk maybe I DO like this canon, I’m so grumpy and confused. it’s a lot. I would fight anyone who talked shit about it, like HOW DARE YOU, MY HIDEOUS SON!!
- Like why not
- And so the skewbald, throbbing, grey heartburn pranked up the vast stone—
- If you did a Steerpike vs Uriah Heep rap battle, the tagline would have to be ‘let’s get ready to humble’. Send tweet.
- ‘Throb’ in Titus Groan, Boy in Darkness, Gormenghast and Titus Alone
Considering the relative lengths of the books involved Peake undeniably throbs at an exponentially increasing rate as he ages. Thank you for my genius grant.
- Remember when I told you each Doctor’s fav Dickens book? Of course you do. I’m here to officially announce that the Master, whose canon hobbies include listening to King Crimson, quoting Tennyson&otherwise making an ass of himself, likes Peake *too much*. Ainley is the worst about it.
- Three DID like Peake, until he found the Master in a shit Professor disguise organising a Peake conference ostensibly for his cover, actually for the lols. Three then hard reversed. Eight reread and loves this series, also Too Much. This is word of god level truth.
- I’m so annoyed this tank top I’m eBay listing is literally ‘fuchsia’ I’m so tired of spelling this stupid word.
- Ultimately I don’t blame Kate Bush for ending up a little Tory bc it took so much for that poor girl to escape Gormenghast and manifest in the real world&change her name&she’s still on a journey of personal growth, that’s a v conservative upbringing to overcome you know?
Breakup song, stuck in the only dress she came over with, smh.
- oh god we have over 30,000 words worth of notes on the Gormenghast books and miniseries oh /god/ why
- I’ll just–condense this, shall i??????
- NO ONE NEEDS TO HAVE THOUGHT THIS MUCH ABOUT BLOODY GORMENGHAST I AM FAIRLY SURE PEAKE DIDN’T
TW: THE SORT OF NSFW BULLSHIT THAT HAPPENS IN THESE THIRST-TRAP BOOKS, INCLUDING ONE MENTION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT
BOOK ONE AND A HALF: THE BOY IN DARKNESS
Here we are in Boy in Darkness, Peake’s odd off-shoot novella that’s arguably book 1.5. Today Titus (but unnamed) is being sexually menaced by a goat.
BOOK TWO: GORMENGHAST
- Me, sobbing: you can’t say a tree throbs!!
Peake, points at a tree: throbbing.
Me: oh wow another sensual pages-long description of trees huh
Peake: Main horniness is not a crime! / Open your heart and your mind!!
- a LOT has happened since we left off guys. Flay has gone spelunking. Steerpike fucked up hilariously trying to kill his boss&now looks like a boiled lobster. Fuchsia wrote mediocre poetry. Titus, nominal protagonist and general timewaster, continued to pine for the fjords.
- Steerpike was almost successfully heterosexual, but then a miscalculation involved his monkey being spurned&he was forced to contemplate rape. Luckily before that could happen he was discovered in a Taunting Dance over the bodies of ppl he’d gotten killed.
- Now he’s off slingshotting people to death with tiny stones, hiding in the woodwork or the sewer system or some shit. Keda’s kid’s living as an ewok, and because numerous chapters just give us inane snapshots of this I guess we have to respect that. Yub nub.
- Titus’ tenth birthday party, with Keda’s kid in the trees (this adaptation rocks):
- Eugh do you know how easy it’d be to write abo Gormenghast fic it’d be like making a cup of coffee such sin should be more difficult to stumble into [A/N: Gertrude is an Alpha]
- traveled back in time to 2004 to find an lj com with fic for this series:
‘This is obviously not the work of Mervyn Peake. He wasn’t a dirty minded fangirl.’
I beg your fucking pardon?? Pal. Hombre. Amiga. You have misread.
- ‘I am aware that this Steerpike may seem terribly out of cannon but it comes after many many months of RPing Steerpike’
come, gentle death
- Meanwhile in canon, male sexuality is inherently rapacious&i can feel Dworkin nodding somewhere.
- Titus’ Ewok foster-sister just burnt to a crisp in a lightning strike and I’m so fucking done log me out
- I know he’s just there to symbolise the death of Steerpike’s justifiable self-protective reasons for rebellion&his descent into an arbitrary cruelty that recalls how Swelter once treated him, but dammit, Satan the monkey was real to me!
- What happened to him after the loss of his tail?! Where are you little monkey buddy??
- If I didn’t have a goal I’d have crawled through Gormenghast, or taken breaks for days at minimum and thus lost the flow&stopped. I’m not disliking it, it’s just like trying to eat a fatty pork roast or claggy desert, like a giant boiled pudding, by myself in one go.
- Titus apparently feels no guilt over the burning of the Thing, though she’d still be alive if he hadn’t chased her, because she’s more personal symbol than person to him. This is the most boy bullshit ever, but what did I expect from an analogue of a British aristocrat?
- I don’t know if I’m angry about Fuchsia’s role in the ending exactly, but I’m not—comfortable with it?
- Hey kids do u like DEATH SCENES what about 30 pages of DEATH SCENE what about a 3 stage multi-part DEATH SCEEEENEEEE
- Whelp so that was Gormenghast
- Man I’m AMAZED I can’t find a Gormenghast map attempt, you’d think the challenge would be nigh irresistible.
- However when I tried to image search google straight up outed @ActuallyAisha
This spring, I read the Gormenghast series. Did I love it? Did I hate it? I don’t know. I only know it’s lodged in me forever now, like an inoperable tumour that will certainly kill me. Since my read-along was scattered over a lot of twitter threads and since I have now locked my twitter, I thought it best to gather the whole journey for you here. (‘Best for who?’, you may ask.) The following are my tweets, unless otherwise noted. Think of it as something like an epistolary novel. Only shite. Relive the process of discovery with me!!
BOOK ONE: TITUS GROAN
- @MollyRKatz: this is my conclusive proof Prunesquallor has a fake woke twitter account
Me: damning, irrefutable.
[We would like to retroactively apologize to Dr Prune, a soft man who did not deserve this.]
- Kickstarter to give Gormenghast to the National Trust who’ll fucking clean it.
- This book is so frustrating I’ve spent 100 pages like ‘what if soap?’
- No one warned me reading Gormenghast was gonna throw up this Dido/Aeneas cave thirst trap scene jiggly jesus
[Jurassic Park gif of man slowly putting on his glasses]
- I hope this fuckferret trips.
- Peake is just fucking with me now
- The Earl of Gormenghast: I’m the night owl!!
me: *extremely cheating to the 4th wall even though I am reading a book*
- I’m sorry he’s the death owl sorry everybody
- Making Molly choose her Dream Date: Willie Collins vs Mervyn Peake.
And that’s what patriarchy feels like.
- Mescaline is a hell of a drug
- Nah babe, this sentence sucks, wyd?
- You know, Petherbridge would have done well for Prunesquallor.
- Right so we’ve now had a solid 2 pages on how Peake does not personally like summer, it is not his favourite season, no. Things I could have guessed for £200, Alex.
- Peake is a basic goth news at never in this timeless netherworld which mirrors society and also his dark soul
- ‘The fat man moved like an obese woman’ Melvyn stop
- Oh that fuckin death owl is back. Ca-caw motherfuckers.
- Get a job, Sepulchrave. is not a real job it’s like Innovation Disruptor.
- Listen buddy I have depression too&once I lost all the data on my laptop it was real sad but I didn’t become a about it or any weak shit like that.
- Whelp idk how that ho died. Did he jump? Did birds eat him alive? Did he just decide to do it&clock out, no cause necessary? Bye, somehow. I guess.
- What colour is any given object in Titus Groan?
0% Still grey
25% somehow rancid jewel tone
67% Shouldn’t be grey: is
- I have £1 on baby Titus growing up to schtupp Keda’s conveniently-aged daughter. [A/N I am NEVER wrong.]
- You may not like my grotesquely distended jiggling pale body, but this is what Peake Performance looks like.
I have a story (queer, set in the 19th c Inns of Court) coming out the 15th as part of this 18 story Vampire erotica collection. You can pre-order, &please LET ME KNOW if you’d like a review copy (for a blog OR a promise to leave reviews on Amazon, etc.).
PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU’D LIKE REVIEW COPIES OF ANYTHING ELSE I’VE WRITTEN FOR ON THE SAME PRINCIPLE.