Gormen–What or: How Dwight Learned to Love Mervyn Peake

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’d never heard of Gormenghast.

My wife Rebecca and I had an extensive conversation about great fantasy series one evening when she mentioned this classic–though widely overlooked–trilogy.

“What is Gormenghast?” I asked. She responded, “It’s a big book of words.”

Needless to say, I was intrigued. After all, aren’t all books tapestries of written words?

After delving into the first book in the series, Titus Groan, I could see what she meant. Author Mervyn Peake is a master of description, carefully choosing every adjective and adverb with great precision and loving care. His descriptive language alone makes this trilogy well worth reading.

After my disgust with Patrick Rothfuss’ trainwreck of a follow-up to The Name of the Wind, this is a welcome change of pace. This is a timeless classic I can pass along to my children–or even recommend to my parents and friends.


The Last Word

If you have not read the Gormenghast series yet, it is a three book (Titus Groan, Gormenghast and Titus Alone) series devoted to the strange world of the Groans, staid monarchs in a fictional castle-kingdom (literally). The everyday duties and chores of the servants–and of almost every other person in Gormenghast, for that matter–is described in painstaking detail throughout the series.

I’ve always felt the subjects of the books were metaphors for life and how we perceive it, and how we live it.

BBC produced a splendid Gormenghast miniseries and really got the books. The sets and costumes were exactly as I had imagined, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers was a superb choice for Steerpike.

Gormenghast by Alan Lee

There are many artists who have attempted to illustrate Gormenghast, but my favorite by far is Alan Lee. I love his revelation of the vastness of the castle and the endless hallways and corridors of this cyclopean castle.

Back when I was working press with Bruce Hopkins (Gamling) and Craig Parker (Haldir) of The Lord of the Rings films, I was actually able to meet Alan and tell him how much I admired his work. Good times.

So there you have it.



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