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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Is the Gormenghast series of books worth the time?

Eruonen
Tol Eressea


Jun 5 2014, 7:54pm

Post #1 of 14 (271 views)
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Is the Gormenghast series of books worth the time? Can't Post

I know they are considered classics and JRRT was influenced but not having read them I just wonder if they hold up well or if they are a slog.

http://www.mervynpeake.org/gormenghast/


(This post was edited by Eruonen on Jun 5 2014, 7:55pm)


Eruonen
Tol Eressea


Jun 5 2014, 7:59pm

Post #2 of 14 (152 views)
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Interesting comment [In reply to] Can't Post

http://sacnoths.blogspot.com/...eake-on-tolkien.html

"The three men [Peake, Jn Wood, and Aaron Judah] discussed ULYSSES and then Mervyn had a rather trenchant comment to make about Tolkien's THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, which had just been published. He described it as 'rather twee' and mildly mocked the character of Goldberry, Tom Bombadil's lady-friend, as 'precious' -- which proves that Peake was well aware of his better-selling rival. He always resented the critics' habit of linking them, thinking that Tolkien wrote primarily for children whilst he [Peake] wrote for adults. Tolkien's creation relied on magic and supernatural props, while Peake's fantasy world never did." (page 221)


(This post was edited by Eruonen on Jun 5 2014, 7:59pm)


Eruonen
Tol Eressea


Jun 5 2014, 8:04pm

Post #3 of 14 (144 views)
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Comparison info - though a bit apples and oranges [In reply to] Can't Post

"While Tolkien waxes nostalgic for a fictional golden age of Behaving Ourselves, Peake appeals to that part of everyone's childhood that squirmed under the burden of unimaginative "goodness" and secretly wanted to see Hansel baked into gingerbreadboydom because he was, after all, an insipid little bugger. Tolkien's characters are aggressively simple, Peake's aggressively ambiguous. While Tolkien's hero fights for Right, Peake's tries to re-imagine it and defends order only to exile himself from it, ultimately. Tolkien's world is black and white; Peake views his kingdom with the ambivalence of one entranced and repulsed by it simultaneously. The strange lure of Peake's epic, The Gormenghast Trilogy, is its love of ritual which goes hand in hand with its loathing of regimentation."

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1294509-gormenghast-mervyn-peake-related-articles


Darkstone
Immortal


Jun 5 2014, 8:08pm

Post #4 of 14 (153 views)
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A slog [In reply to] Can't Post

Beautiful and depressing, the setting is more central a character than any of the people.

Bizarre, slow moving, grotesque, more Goth than Fantasy.

Definitely not Tolkien.

I liked it, though.

Warning: it is unfinished.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.


(This post was edited by Darkstone on Jun 5 2014, 8:09pm)


Eruonen
Tol Eressea


Jun 5 2014, 8:11pm

Post #5 of 14 (144 views)
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When I read book reviews on Amazon or similar sites [In reply to] Can't Post

I aim for the middle to low scores to get a feel for what people did not like. Too many 5 star reviews are uncritical. Most on Amazon are 5 star but the 1 star are
informative - let the buyer be aware.

http://www.amazon.com/...amp;showViewpoints=0


Darkstone
Immortal


Jun 5 2014, 8:28pm

Post #6 of 14 (137 views)
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Can't argue with the reviews. [In reply to] Can't Post

Those are common complaints.

Kinda reminded me of the more depressing Dickens.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.


(This post was edited by Darkstone on Jun 5 2014, 8:28pm)


CuriousG
Valinor


Jun 6 2014, 4:18am

Post #7 of 14 (124 views)
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A slog for me--could never finish it. [In reply to] Can't Post

I felt like I had wandered into someone's twisted, bad dream. Not a nightmare, just grotesque, exaggerated, and not worth my energy to explore.

I like Edgar Allen Poe's dark stories because I feel like they're headed somewhere. I never felt like Gormenghast was headed anywhere I wanted to be. But it was very stylish, and I can understand that if you like that style, it was very well done for its genre.


demnation
Rohan

Jun 6 2014, 8:28pm

Post #8 of 14 (98 views)
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Apples to oranges indeed [In reply to] Can't Post

Setting aside the fact that tearing down one artist to hold up another is a rather low form of criticism, I can say that I know enough about Peake to say that his work and Tolkien's have almost nothing in common. Though admittedly I have not read them all the way through! More Lovecraft and Gothic horror than straight fantasy, really. BTW, you said Tolkien was influenced, but I can't recall any occasion where he said that he had read them. And considering Gormenghast came out around the same time as LOTR (more or less) I'd say any influence is slight.

"It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule." Gandalf, "The Last Debate."


Eruonen
Tol Eressea


Jun 6 2014, 8:37pm

Post #9 of 14 (92 views)
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My error, I was must have confused JRRT for Lewis (who did read it). [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Darkstone
Immortal


Jun 6 2014, 8:39pm

Post #10 of 14 (94 views)
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Actually.. [In reply to] Can't Post

... not an unfair assumption, since they often shared books and authors between them and the other Inklings.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.


demnation
Rohan

Jun 6 2014, 8:42pm

Post #11 of 14 (91 views)
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Right [In reply to] Can't Post

It does appear that Lewis even sent Peake a letter, praising his work. I feel a bit sorry for Peake, really. Tolkien seems the most popular point of comparison for him, which is a shame since I can't really think of two authors who have less in common.

"It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule." Gandalf, "The Last Debate."


elostirion74
Rohan

Jun 6 2014, 11:51pm

Post #12 of 14 (118 views)
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No simple answer to offer, I'm afraid [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it really depends on whether you're fascinated by Peake's style or not. While Tolkien writes in a style which is evocative and often quite generalized, I'd say that Peake's style is very detailed, rejoicing in extensive description, where one small incident or ritual can be described over several pages. While Tolkien describes a world which is mostly quite expansive and gives you a feeling of a great span of time and place, Gormenghast describes mostly characters and scenes which are very introvert, confined and tied to rituals. You could hardly find two authors more different than Tolkien and Peake, except that they both clearly love words, but even here they differ quite substantially in their approach and which branches of the English language they prefer to use.

It's been many years since I read Gormenghast, but I remember that the books were at times both exciting and riveting and had some nice contrasts in terms of characters which helped to move the story along. But the books did require some patience and persistence and a fascination with attention to detail.


Alveric
The Shire


Nov 13 2014, 6:15pm

Post #13 of 14 (34 views)
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the first-rate television adapatation [In reply to] Can't Post

I absolutely adore the first two books (Titus Groan and Gormenghast). The third book takes Titus out of Gormenghast, and in my opinion drifts around aimlessly--I think books 1 and 2 form a single, coherent story. You could read those two and then stop. These two were adapted for television in 2000, with a stellar cast: Christopher Lee, Ian Richardson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Stephen Fry, and a series of cameos sure to delight any Brit over the age of 40: Eric Sykes, Windsor Davis, Spike Milligan.
If you're not up to the admittedly slow work of reading the novels, this adaptation is very close to the original in spirit.

Alveric


Eruonen
Tol Eressea


Nov 13 2014, 8:00pm

Post #14 of 14 (48 views)
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For me, probably the better option...thanks. [In reply to] Can't Post

 

 
 

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