Monday, November 30, 2009


Recently, I read the first two books in Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy, Titus Groan and Gormenghast.  I really have no idea why these books are classified as fantasy.  I shy away from the category, lest anyone think that I spend my time in dark basements playing Dungeons and Dragons.  I have never played Dungeons and Dragons and don't want to start.  Let me also say that I have never read Lord of the Rings, so I can't really make any statements about it, beyond what I know about the films.  As you might recall, I had a hard time staying awake during the first two films and didn't bother with the third.  Even typing that statement about LoR made me very tired.  This is just to say that I am not very knowledgeable about fantasy.

I came to Gormenghast accidentally, having seen part of the TV series years ago, but then forgetting about it and not remembering what it was that I saw.  Such is my sieve-like brain.  Anyway, I read the first book on the strength of some really fabulous recommendations from many respected people, including Robertson Davies and Anthony Burgess, whom I greatly admired.  To my amazement, there is very little that is fantastical about these books (or, perhaps I really do not understand fantasy).  Having just read some Dickens, I would suggest that they fit more easily into that genre.  They are gothic and grand and thoroughly Dickensian, but maybe better written.  It's clear that Peake is a poet for his prose is indeed poetry.

Naturally, I had to watch the British mini-series after reading the books.  I am somewhat disappointed.   Except in the case of Wonder Boys, I always find that the book is better than the film or mini-series.  The Gormenghast books are vastly superior to the mini-series and I was left feeling a bit betrayed.

About the series, I will say this: I liked the casting, generally, but hated the music completely.  I found the numerous plot changes to be irritating.  I realize that certain things need to be edited out to fit running times and commercial breaks, but leaving out characters and changing fundamental plot elements baffles me.  I found myself becoming irritated by these many changes and hoping that perhaps someone with a greater sense of loyalty to the books will one day make a faithful adaptation.

1 comment:

tshsmom said...

This trilogy sounds like something I'd like. Thanks for the heads up. :p