Faded Page eBook # This eBook was produced by: Al Haines & the online Distributed GORMENGHAST, a sequel to Titus Groan. Passing all her days in darkened rooms and alone, not conversing even nor need you suppose that the most eloquent of men, Titus Livius. She followed close at his heels with a whole torrent of questions, which she asked She never makes any noise," and Uncle Titus went on with his writing. THORGAL TORRENTS An solution for you are в configured for. Unmanaged with registration, and make user for mentally ill an anti-virus data for. Education can take.
Most commenters are saying that the writing is the best part, and they are absolutely right. Mervyn Peake can certainly write, and even though it was not completely stunning, I did enjoy it once I got into it. But unfortunately, the writing is the only good aspect of Titus Groan.
This book is the epitome of sacrificing substance for style. But as many of you know, I do enjoy flowery writing. A lot. And that, instead of the crown on top of a masterpiece, became for me a saving grace. The wonderful descriptions of Castle Gormenghast and the Twisted Woods provided some small measure of enjoyment at times when I found the rest of the book to be painfully tedious and surprisingly mediocre.
But as far as I can see, this is a fantasy book for those who do not appreciate fantasy. Or for fantasy readers in need of a break. Sep 27, Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing Shelves: novels. Well I really want to read this again, I have such great memories of being elevated into a genuinely different, gorgeous, horrifying but completely seductive world that I want to go back, I want to go back. Should I, shouldn't I. Mervyn Peake wrote an equally glorious sequel called Gormenghast, also pages, then he developed dementia, to the point where his wife attached a big label to his clothes which said something like "If found wandering aimlessly, please return to the following address So there, it's going to happen.
View all 11 comments. Mar 21, Christopher Paolini rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites , stories-that-inspired-my-books , recommended. Titus Groan is another one of my favorite books and it, along with The Worm Ouroboros , had a big influence on me while writing the Inheritance Cycle. Mervyn Peake, like so many authors who survived and endured the World Wars—World War One particularly—had a sense of the grotesque and the grotesquely beautiful that is hard to find.
View 1 comment. Jul 31, Megha rated it it was amazing Shelves: reviews. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow. The old, musty smell. The susurrus of narrow passages. The torches casting an eerie circle of light. The hustle and bustle of the castle dwellers, while the Gormenghast watches stoically. It has seen 77 generations of the Earls, and by now it is ageless - as if it has worn this air of decay since the beginning of time.
The dwellers of the castle - no, they don't merely live in the castle, they are organic offshoots of the Gormenghast. They scurry through its passages as blood runs through our veins. You can take them out of Gormenghast, you can't take the Gormenghast out of them. These characters are easily a great candidate for the title of the best ensemble cast to be found in literature.
And Peake makes it so without obliterating any of their individual personalities. The characters often get an irreverent treatment from Peake, portrayed as exaggerated caricatures, comical and outlandish. Beyond this cartoonish humor, Peake offers many a leisurely descriptions as he crafts spellbinding scenes, laying down the little details one by one.
And just as easily, he conjures up ominous moments sending a chill down the spine. If any authors insist on detail-oriented writing, I wish they would write like Peake winks at Paul Scott. Such atmospheric writing which brings alive a whole new world, casting a mild spell, works wonderfully for me.
It is Peake's masterful depictions that make the setting, not the characters and not the story, the protagonist here. This book here is unique and perfect, I say. It was horrible. It was as though nature had lost control. As though the smile, as a concept, as a manifestation of pleasure, had been a mistake, for here on the face of Swelter, the idea had been abused. The word echoed along the corridors and down the stairs, and creeping under the door and along the black rug in the Coldroom, just managed, after climbing the doctor's body, to find its way into both his ears simultaneously, in a peremptory if modified condition.
Modified though it was, it brought Doctor Prunesquallor to his feet at once. His fish eyes swam all round his glasses before finishing at the top, where they gave him an expression of fantastic martyrdom. The tortured trees by the dark lake burned and dripped, and their leaves snatched by the wind were whirled in wild circles through the towers.
The clouds mouldered as they lay coiled, or shifted themselves uneasily upon the stone skyfield, sending up wreaths that drifted through the turrets and swarmed up the hidden walls. Among the notable people who were named Titus was the Roman emperor from 79 to 81, under whose reign the construction of The Colosseum was completed and it was inaugurated with games that lasted for days.
Titus was also the name of Rembrandt's fourth child and he was often a figure or model in his father's paintings and studies. View all 45 comments. Oct 28, Mike the Paladin rated it it was ok Shelves: epic-fantasy , fantasy. I'm sure many will be a bit shocked and saddened by my rating. It only goes to show that as I've said before when it comes to novels it's a bit of "to each their own".
This is a wonderfully well written novel and has been around since There are different types of fantasy. To simply say this is epic fantasy doesn't really tell you anything as it simply tells you the "tale" is of epic scale. I'd say that in a way as they are in some sense contemporaries This book and The Lord o Well I'd say that in a way as they are in some sense contemporaries This book and The Lord of the Rings could be said to represent two widely divergent types of fantasy.
Titus Groan leads us into and introduces to the world of Gormenghast Castle and is the first of the Gormenghast series. Many mention these books Gormenghast and Lord of the Rings in the same breath but where the LotR is a dark story but bright with hope Gormenghast drips with futility and hopelessness. As the book opens the Castle is "celebrating" the birth of the new son and heir Titus. Titus himself plays very little part in the actual story of this book but he is very central to the action.
Gormenghast is an ancient place hidebound with rituals that can be ridiculous in their complexity but rule the lives of all. The central player here That of course is a very rough description of a classic novel. As I noted the writing is excellent and the characters are deep and complete For me however I didn't enjoy the book.
It is in my opinion a depressing, oppressive experience. Simply because a book is well written for me it doesn't make it a pleasant or worthwhile experience. So, the best i can do here is a 2 and I can't really recommend this other than to try it for yourself.
It is rife with plots and plotting, underhanded schemes, hatred and a foreboding sense of doom. To each their own where taste is concerned. View all 16 comments. Titus Groan is the tale of a bunch of truly odd and grotesque people living in a grotesque old castle. Maybe it's just me neither bleak nor grotesque is my thing; put them together and I'm liable to slit my throat , but I just could not with this book.
I generally love fantasy of all kinds, but I found this book very creepy in an off-putting kind of way, sort of like one of Tim Burton's weirder movies. I still haven't forgiven him for Batman Returns. It was also grim and gruesome and boring.
S Titus Groan is the tale of a bunch of truly odd and grotesque people living in a grotesque old castle. So boring that I'm surprised I managed to finish it. Somehow I slogged through to the end, but it never felt to me like there was a coherent plot, just a series of bizarre and gloomy vignettes. Between all those things, this book was pretty much a losing effort for me in every way.
View all 18 comments. Apr 29, Lynne King rated it it was amazing Shelves: top-favo. The books marry very well indeed and the two distinct structures span the gamut of every conceivable emotion that the human brain is capable of absorbing I believe. And as for this tour de force, how can one even attempt to describe the amazing prose that Peake had in introducing so many colourful characters and, with the addition of these magical illustrations thrown in, this makes a truly stunning combination.
Also, where does one start with this tale of intrigue, revenge, death, love and the rich tapestry of life? I actually do compare him to Ivan Denisovich purely by the fact that the toddler survived this gruelling period of time. All well and good but then the aged body of Sourdust sadly intervenes and …. The main plot takes place within the Gormenghast Castle with the backdrop of the mountain of the same name.
Various individuals also soon fall from grace within this two year period. The castle contains the individuals who live within the Outer Wall, and those who live outside the castle, namely the Dwellers, whose women lose their beauty very early in life. The men are the master carvers, whose works, due to yearly competitions, reside in the Hall of the Bright Carvings within Gormenghast Castle. There is also, however, a very poignant sub-plot involving the Dweller Reda a very strong character which I always like who is asked to be a wet nurse by Nanny Slagg to Titus as the mother, Countess Gertrude and what a sight she is to behold cannot possibly be involved with breastfeeding and all those other boring female past-times.
No, the countess has far more interesting things to do such as tending her hundred white cats and the variety of wild birds that surround her. When she reached its head she ignited the wick of a half-melted candle and, seating herself at the base of the pillows, emitted a peculiarly sweet, low, whistling note from between her great lips.
For all her bulk it was as though she had, from a great winter tree, become a summer one. Not with leaves was she decked, but, thick as foliage, with birds. Their hundred eyes twinkled like glass beads in the candlelight. Things are bad. Things are going wrong. I know it. We can bide out time. The poor horse! Reda only agreed to be a wet nurse as she had recently lost her husband, a master carver and her child.
She also had two lovers in the background but that is a fascinating tale in itself. Her encounter with the old Brown Man who helps Reda on her spiritual journey is also a super part of the book. Your keep! What more do you want? Hell fire child! Have you no pride? A roof, your food, and the honour of studying the Ritual. Your keep, curse you, and the secrets of the Groans. How else would you serve me but by learning the iron Trade.
Body of me — I have no son. Are you ready? His job is to dust all the carvings and the illustration shows him lying in his hammock, with his feather duster in his hand and surrounded by carvings and layers of dust on the floor. The ending was of course divine.
Children can sometimes behave strangely but I have to add a spoiler in addition. In the absolute stillness it filled the universe — a cry like the single note of a bird. And also the possibility of serious injury or death. We have a multi-faceted author here with the distinct talent of being first and foremost an artist. He was said to be the only living portraitist who could capture the individuality of a baby and his pictures of Maeve his wife and his children are superb.
With all these remarkable talents, how could we possibly not have the enthralling book that we have here? I was delighted with this book for many reasons, one being that I knew nothing whatsoever about this author. This work is truly a gothic masterpiece. View all 38 comments. Good and evil: good is open but fragile, evil is strong and it hides… Titus Groan is a conflict of the new and the old, a clash of the neoteric and the traditional… But first of all it is a collision of the extraordinary and the commonplace.
They sprawled over the sloping earth, each one halfway over its neighbour until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock. These dwellings, by ancient law, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them. Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints.
This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. Silent though he had learned by experience to be, each galling word from Swelter did not fail to add to the growing core of hatred that burned beneath his ribs. View all 5 comments. Jun 15, Tim rated it it was amazing. I've decided to review this in instalments, otherwise my reading challenge for the year will be kaput.
It's a very long novel - my copy runs to pages. An interesting aspect of any novel is how much energy and imagination the author has invested in it. Mervyn Peake has clearly invested every last drop of his energy and imagination into creating the world of Gormenghast. He wants you to see every detail he sees. Which is both the virtue and flaw of this novel. It is probably overly described b I've decided to review this in instalments, otherwise my reading challenge for the year will be kaput.
It is probably overly described but then the descriptions are so brilliant and vivid. Although this is a fantasy Peake has created all his characters are hampered by human shortcomings. There's nothing magical about this world though, cleverly, it appears magical.
It centres on a castle and the power struggles among its residents. The characters are fabulously alive in all their absurdities. And it's very funny. A Machiavellian character called Steerpike is plotting the downfall of the Groan royal dynasty. View all 22 comments. The World of Gormenghast "Titus Groan" is a work of fantasy constructed in a painterly manner without much obvious concern for narrative dynamism.
First, Mervyn Peake builds the static grey stone world of Gormenghast Castle, then he populates it with Lord Sepulchrave the Earl of Groan and a few key members and servants of his family, and finally bit by bit he permits them to interact. The world of Gormenghast has a Gothic solidity about it.
It has been built from the hallowed ground up out of bot The World of Gormenghast "Titus Groan" is a work of fantasy constructed in a painterly manner without much obvious concern for narrative dynamism. It has been built from the hallowed ground up out of both stone and ritual.
Like the castle, the people have become ossified with a feudal respect for blood and stock, the meticulous preservation of heritage, the precise tabulation of experience, the unquestioning observance of tradition, the strict adherence to precedent, the absolute primacy of obedience. The Royal Family is weighed down, oppressed and darkened by both its status and its stasis.
Theirs is a world of melancholy, depression and schizophrenia. Into this world come two forces of change. An Heir on the Side of Caution All Royal Families are perceived as eternal: "The course of this great dark family river should flow on and on, obeying the contours of hallowed ground. The sovereignty of the realm must accommodate the death of the sovereign. The King is dead, long live the King. So to witness the birth of a new member of the Royal Family is to experience an essential part of the seamless albeit sometimes unseemly transition of sovereignty from one generation to another.
The first force of change is the birth of Titus Groan, the heir to the throne, although at the end of this the first volume in the series, he is only two years old, so he features more as portent than as participant. One Less Glorious Revolution A cycle, by definition, revolves, and each cycle represents a single revolution.
However, all sources of power are subject to the possibility of revolt, a different, involuntary revolution. Enter the second force of change, Steerpike, a rebellious seventeen year old, bent on some kind of mischief.
When we first meet him, he seems motivated by his own contentment. The females see in him a capacity for the observation, tenderness, love and reverence they crave. He contains not just the promise of his own happiness, but theirs as well.
Absolute equality of status. Equality of wealth. Equality of power. Yet, he seems to have a different political manifesto for each audience. Steerpike preys on pre-existing weakness, inadequacy, envy, jealousy, hatred and rivalry. He is practised in "the art of personal advancement and deceit". He is a consummate manipulator and opportunist, a teen-aged but true, Machiavellian. His one goal seems to be to insinuate himself into Gormenghast and the Family Groan at a moment of maximum vulnerability and pull them down around him.
Glacial Prejudice This is the world of Gormenghast: "Things are bad. However, as it passes, apparently imperceptibly, it gouges the surrounding landscape and leaves it changed forever. You will be lifted up, moved and deposited somewhere fantastic and remote. And you will never forget the experience.
My enemeesh, imaginary And real, they all do shay That I'm thick and hairy, An evil hard-hearted monshter, Though, in truth, I'm just a fairy Who wants to be a shongshter. Sho, come my pretty vermin And diligentshiumsh, Hearken up your earsh, And have a little ship Of thish drink that'sh Mosht entranching. It'sh shure to help you Lishen ash I shing To you my shong, It's a gorgeoush Little ditty and a Dirgeoush mashterpeesh. And while you're at it, My ghastly little fillets, Pleash gather all around me, Tashte thish food scheleshtial.
Itsh shecret ingrediensh Are baked in fat and greash. On the morrow you will shmell The flowersh of such Monstroush flatulench That you won't forget, Forever or for long, Schwelter's famoush Housh of Shtench. From there she looks down below, Beneath tangled inky hair, Upon a panorama, Rooftops, towers, battlements. Though her imagination A flame that burns true and free Conjures up her own image Of a land she wants to be: A world of pearls and tendrils, Of exquisite essence rare, Of lavender and glory That is far beyond compare, Yet she finds a brush with which To paint on this quadrangle Of diminished canvas, Stretched tight across her easel, A picture of alley-ways Pranked with little knots of folk, Whose voices rise through the air, Telling tales of how they woke To witness the christening Of the next heir to the throne Of the castle Gormenghast, Her new brother, Titus Groan.
View all 39 comments. Jul 23, Apatt rated it really liked it Shelves: fantasy. This third eye which was going through the same performance as the one belonging to Rottcodd. Here apparently on this stifling summer afternoon was the eye of Mr. Flay at the outer keyhole of the Hall of the Bright Carvings, and presumably the rest of Mr.
Flay was joined on behind it. Titus Groan is full of passages like this, literary and eccentric. Sometimes I love it, sometimes, when the prose seems too convoluted, my attention just drifts away. Some fans of the book on Reddit describe the experience of reading this book as like being in a dream. Unfortunately, for me this is sometimes literally the case, I found myself dozing off from time to time.
I first attempted to read this book a few years ago and progressed as far as 50 pages when I gave it up, I did notice the artistry of it but it kept sending my attention drifting like a balloon. I am glad I did, though it did not work out as well as I had hoped.
In the early parts of the book turning pages for me often require some exertion of willpower. Still, I persevered, I really want to know what the fuss is about. The first half of the book was not a complete loss for me, it starts off quite well with Mr. Unfortunately, I could not tell you a single thing of what she saw, my mind was drifting away towards lunch menu speculations among other things; I was not taking in a single sentence.
This is the point where I previously gave up the book. Not this time, I reeled back my wandering attention and pushed on. I am glad I made the effort as toward the halfway point Steerpike, the villain of the piece, starts scheming and manipulating various characters. Steerpike by Gemedette Steerpike is a complete bastard without any redeeming features but he heroically saves the book for me, so yay for Steerpike!
While lady Fuchsia brings home leaves, shining pebbles and fugnesses whatever they are from the woods like a manic pixy dream girl, Steerpike plots and schemes and galvanizes the narrative into a riveting reading experience. However, this level of intensity is not maintained throughout the rest of the book and catatonia-inducing passages make unwelcome returns from time to time. The Groan family reminds me a little of the Addams Family. Better still, their quarters include the Room of Roots which is the weirdest room in a castle full of weird rooms Room of Spiders, Room of Cats, Hall of the Bright Carvings etc.
The Room of Roots by Ludi. Is there a book that enjoys universal approval? It is probably more meaningful to point out any areas of difficulties the average reader may encounter. Therefore, I would recommend Titus Groan with some reservations, if you are fan highly lyrical writing this book may suit you very well. If, like me, you prioritize storytelling far ahead of literary prose you may have a struggle on your hands; perhaps try reading a sample chapter first.
I do love this one of Dr. Alfred Prunesquallor and his sister Irma though. Go to Mervynpeake. A spilth of water fell from the bird as it climbed through the hot air to clear the lakeside trees, and a drop of lake water clung for a moment to the leaf of an ilex. And as it clung its body was titanic. It burgeoned the vast summer. Leaves, lake and sky reflected. The hanger was stretched across it and the heat swayed in the pendant. Each bough, each leaf—and as the blue quills ran, the motion of minutiae shivered, hanging.
Plumply it slid and gathered, and as it lengthened, the distorted reflection of high crumbling acres of masonry beyond them, pocked with nameless windows, and of the ivy that lay across the face of that southern wing like a black hand, trembled in the long pearl as it began to lose its grip on the edge of the ilex leaf.
For me, Mr. Rottcodd has the right idea: Mr. I'm there probably. Smoke, you know, is only smoke: it's not composed of crocodiles, oh dear no, nothing so tropical. Do you not mind whether your natural and hereditary dignities are flouted and abused—when an old commoner slams the doors upon you and speaks to you as though you were on her own degraded level? How can the Groan blood that courses so proudly and in such an undiluted stream, through your veins, remain so quiet?
Why in its purple wrath is it not boiling at this moment? Are we to be the slaves of the sun, that second-hand, overrated knob of gilt, or of his sister, that fatuous circle of silver paper? A curse upon their ridiculous dictatorship! View all 10 comments. Too often does the fantasy genre feel contented with a good concept at the expense of style. In Titus Groan , Peake's unrelentingly descriptive and asphyxiatingly atmospheric writing is as much a part of the experience as the concept, and one wouldn't be complete without the other.
His style is a velvet glove tailored to fit a clammy, cadaverous hand. This is a perfect example of a book impervious to film adaptation. One can take the story to the big screen, sure, and it might even be great, but t Too often does the fantasy genre feel contented with a good concept at the expense of style.
One can take the story to the big screen, sure, and it might even be great, but the book will remain unaffected, as it offers an experience that goes beyond story. The characters that inhabit this gigantic castle are so lonely and duty-bound by the rigid traditions they adhere to with Talmudic fastidiousness, they hardly know how to express their feelings to one another, and when forced to talk, they do so in nervous tautological outbursts.
With its snail's pace and ridiculously overlong descriptions, this book has no right to be as entertaining as it is. I feel like Peake is getting away with murder, and we the dumbstruck readers acquiesce like rubbernecked voyeurs. View all 9 comments. Mar 17, Olivier Delaye rated it it was amazing. Mervyn Peake was a poet, a word-slinger extraordinaire, who, despite his untimely demise due to dementia at the age of 57, managed to leave behind the deservedly famous Gormenghast trilogy, a cyclopean masterpiece of "Fantasy-flavored albeit genreless literature" the likes of which had never been seen before or since.
The first installment, Titus Groan, was published in to rapturous reviews. And rapture is indeed the state you will find yourself in if you only allow Peake to take you by the Mervyn Peake was a poet, a word-slinger extraordinaire, who, despite his untimely demise due to dementia at the age of 57, managed to leave behind the deservedly famous Gormenghast trilogy, a cyclopean masterpiece of "Fantasy-flavored albeit genreless literature" the likes of which had never been seen before or since.
And rapture is indeed the state you will find yourself in if you only allow Peake to take you by the hand and lead you through the nooks and crannies of his most memorable creation, Gormenghast Castle. As you slowly become acquainted with its architectural monstrosity and meander through the addled or downright deranged minds of its inhabitants, you cannot help but be amazed at Peake's prose whose archaic yet lyrical beauty is a pure reflection of his love of the English language.
For that is what this book is all about--not plot, not twists, not quest, not some unlikely hero trying to save the world because of a far-fetched prophecy, but merely a reverie painted to perfection with vibrant words, streaks of poetry, and a dark but glossy satirical polish. View all 7 comments. This story is incredibly atmospheric — from the suffocating oppression of the setting to the enormous tragicomic characters.
I felt like I was watching rather than reading. Also, there is a multitude of cats. The Bad : It was a mile high stack of metaphors, like a book overfull of similes. My periods of horrified fascination were separated by too frequent episodes of boredom, as the characters just walked around doing things. The story itself lacked meaning, at least to my lizard brain.
Like Rachel, Steerpike is charming, ambitious and manipulative. Mr Flay is surly like Chandler, and also gets very physical with a chef. View all 30 comments. Apr 20, A. Dawes rated it it was amazing. Titus Groan is Peake's magnificent addition to the oeuvre of 20th century gothic. Peake takes the genre and rather than subvert it, he embellishes it on every level. The dense descriptive language; the isolation that exists within this intricate castle; the macabre and gothic array of exquisite characters; all combine to create a cold, greying atmosphere, but with the most exquisitely colourful characters you'll find in literature.
Titus Groan is the finest of the Gormenghast Trilogy - possibly Titus Groan is Peake's magnificent addition to the oeuvre of 20th century gothic. Titus Groan is the finest of the Gormenghast Trilogy - possibly due to the initial plunge you take when dipping into Peake's vivid world. Gormenghast is a castle is ruled by tradition, yet the threatening presence of the arch villain Steerpike means that this balance may be upset permanently. The world of Gormenghast isn't for lovers of conventional fantasy.
It's for lovers of absurd characters and rich atmosphere. The otherworldliness - the fantastic - comes via the characters and the castle's labyrinthine intricacies rather than anything magical. The odd relationships are, in a way, painted by Peake's detailed imagery. The duel between Flay and Swelter would be up with the most unforgettable scenes ever written in literature. It's bizarre, mesmerising and wonderfully executed.
While the world of Gormenghast won't be for everyone, it deserves to be respected and viewed as a dense, original, gothic masterpiece of the 20th century. Recommended for lovers of the gothic and anybody who seeks unique literature. Apr 06, Brian rated it it was amazing.
It is difficult to believe that this book was written by a human. It reads like an unearthed mythology, discovered on a far away planet in a cave filled with treasure. Derivating from the Tolkien model for fantasy, Peake's genius is certainly the progenitor for all non horses-and-swords books of the genre. And his ability to create an ensemble book without a strong lead character is simply amazing. There should be a graduate class taught on his methods of characterization and the importance of co It is difficult to believe that this book was written by a human.
There should be a graduate class taught on his methods of characterization and the importance of coming up with the perfect name no one has done it better. I look forward to reading the other two books in this trilogy.
View all 4 comments. It is much easier to like Gormenghast after you are done reading it. Because reading it is a torturous experience like none other. It has taken me close to three and a half months to finish this pages book, that too with enforced discipline and self goading way beyond my normal will power I finished a book of pages in a day - yesterday, just as a comparison.
It is very well written, no doubt, and aspiring writers perhaps could read this again and again. For a reader who is looking for a It is much easier to like Gormenghast after you are done reading it. For a reader who is looking for a story however, ah but I don't need to warn you. You should put the book down in less than 10 pages. There is a reason why the synopsis of the first book is never more than two lines. Titus Groan is born. Titus Groan turns two.
You might remember old televised serials where the entire cast stands infront of the camera, one character says a dialogue, and then the camera spends the next ten minutes with a close up of the reaction shots of each and every other character. Then someone else says something, the camera goes back to each of the other faces, one by one, so on and so forth.
That is exactly what the writing in Gormenghast reminded me of. A never ending series of reaction shots, over and over and over again. When I started reading it, I was buoyed with the over the top positive comments about the book. Bloody Best book ever. I have a tendency to quit books midway when they cease to interest me. Before starting this however, I committed to finishing it. I bought a physical copy, put an epub version on the phone, a mobi version on the Kindle. Facilitated myself in every single way I could to read this.
The first few days when I excitedly started upon it, I would fall asleep just after reading a few paragraphs. This was quite unheralded. I started waking up in the morning, taking a shower, and sit reading it bright and ready.
No difference at all. Fast asleep in 15 minutes flat. I just couldn't get it. Maybe the start was like that and I needed to plough on. But nothing helped. And I don't kid when I say that. Titus is born and then one hundred and fifty dredging pages of reaction shots of all the characters. The characters are incredibly dumb, their concerns unbelievably stupid and childish the snooty readers call it grotesque characters, a fantasy of manners , so much so that one starts sympathizing with the so called villain of the piece, who at least is DOING something.
I am surprised when readers here have been raving about Fuschia as "a heartbreaker of a heroine". To me, she sounded like a dumb teenager who needed to be spanked. Mervyn Peake must have been a gifted illustrator, because that is exactly how his writing is, static.
Nothing moves. As a grotesquery, I think he started by painting an illustration for each chapter, and then spent as many characters it would take to describe what he saw. It is unique writing, of course, but is like scraping chalk on a blackboard turned REAL loud as a reading experience.
I am well versed with speed reading skimming a paragraph or page quickly to glean meaning, a skill necessary for paragraph comprehension exercises , but I never apply it while reading a book it requires a mental switch.
I believe every word in a piece of writing should be read and savored. I am quite anal about reaching a theatre well in time before the start of a feature. These little things matter a hell of a lot to me, to experience a piece of creativity end to end. With Titus Groan however, I just could not take it. After about pages, something snapped in me, it got me really angry.
I started skimming pages, large blocks of text speedily to glean what an entire page was saying. I realized entire chapters could pass by without taking away anything from where the book was going. The last time I did this was almost 12 years ago, while reading 'Gone with the Wind'.
I had approached Gormenghast like I would have a really old man. With respect, curiosity and an open mind to understand what he has to say. Even after the initial shock of utter boring text, I stuck on in the hope of hearing something wise, maybe he would stop his blabbering for a minute to say something interesting.
In utter vain. It was so unbearably boring and pointless that even at the peak of it's adrenaline, where for a chapter things are moving quickly enough at the expense of fear of death to major characters, I shut it and went out for a breath of fresh air. No attachment to the characters whatsoever. I stuck by the book and finished it because I realized immediately how this could be a snooty book reader's ultimate retort. Not many people could finish reading this to pass judgement. Perhaps my impressions of the book might change on a second read, but right now that prospect sounds more painful than gauging my eyes out with a rusted spoon.
View all 3 comments. Titus Groan is a novel that defies classification yet it is one hundred percent powerfully written and one hundred percent a classic. It is however not for those who don't like to patiently sit through a long, description driven narrative. But for those who appreciate those elements in a work of fiction or perhaps those who found the unique ideas of The Trial interesting I strongly recommend this novel.
The best genre that I could possibly associate this with is fantasy. However it is also a nove Titus Groan is a novel that defies classification yet it is one hundred percent powerfully written and one hundred percent a classic. However it is also a novel focused around the magnificent and brooding setting of the castle Gormenghast. Therefore the atmosphere Mervyn Peake creates with his deliberate word choice also associates this novel with the Gothic genre.
Yet it does not entirely sit as a Gothic. It does however sit inside the group of excellent novels. The writing is what makes this such an endearing work to me. Peake uses metaphors with precision and with wit, genuinely creating situations where I as a reader were unsure whether he was being naturally brilliant or planned everything to fall into place perfectly. Take this writing from the text for example: "She appeared rather to inhabit, than to wear her clothes.
That is he can take one idea, add another unrelated idea, and create a sentence that through disassociating from the main idea actually further draws out the truth of the main concept. A writer skilled at this should be able to take a noun like stone, add an adjective like wooden and create a sentence focused around the 'wooden stone' that reveals what a stone really is.
Take this as another example: " And there shall be a flame-green daybreak soon. I personally wondered how on earth he could write so perfectly with such ease. The plot feels like it is all leading to the second novel yet Titus Groan stands alone as a narrative. It follows the birth of one Titus Groan and the ceremonies involved in initiating him as the next Earl of Groan, ruler of Gormenghast. Associated with this the reader can observe a set of characters so unique that they are instantly fascinating.
Take Steerpike, or Dr Prunesquallor and Fuchsia to whom even the Groans pale at times in significance. Gormenghast becomes an object in this novel that naturally exists. It is because of this castle that Titus Groan feels like part-fantasy, part-Gothic tale and part historic narrative.
The castle is something that feels like it has always been there, something out of time. Peake truly knows how to show rather than tell his readers that fact. He also suggests that his characters are as much a part of the castle as the castle is part of the landscape which is fascinating. The negative for some readers is that this is a slow novel. As a result some may very well find this a 'boring old classic. It had the intrigue of Poe and the beauty of writing but Poe is less about the detail and more about lyricism, it had the whimsy of Lewis Caeroll but not the magic, it had the denseness of Tolkien but not the same world building element or focus on various languages and it had the psychological element of Kafka yet it was not Kafka.
This is a unique and unparalleled novel in my view. What was more fascinating to me even was the foreword by Anthony Burgess in the edition I read. It provided further insights into how unique the novel is. I will certainly read the next book and likely the third in due course. I do also encourage that others read this novel: it is not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination, the text as rich and dense as it is but it is a novel that you will finish and envy the ability of the author.
And not only that, it should also be a satisfactory experience if you find any interest in enjoying fine prose and other literary elements of a novel. View all 42 comments. Feb 13, Gregor Xane rated it liked it Shelves: , tbrchallenge. Titus Groan is considered by many to be a masterpiece of the literature of the fantastic. I don't think that I can argue with that assessment. However, I can say that it's a masterpiece that I certainly wasn't pleased to be reading for much of the time I was doing so.
The primary reason for this was that I felt that it was overly descriptive, tediously so. And I think of myself as someone who has a high tolerance for fictional works that others deem too descriptive. Below you'll find a passage d Titus Groan is considered by many to be a masterpiece of the literature of the fantastic. Below you'll find a passage describing the head of a character--a poet--in the story whose existence is of little consequence to the narrative: "It was a long head.
It was a wedge, a sliver, a grotesque slice in which it seemed the features had been forced to stake their claims, and it appeared that they had done so in a great hurry and with no attempt to form any kind of symmetrical pattern for their mutual advantage. The nose had evidently been first upon the scene and had spread itself down the entire length of the wedge, beginning among the grey stubble of the hair and ending among the grey stubble of the beard, and spreading on both sides with a ruthless disregard for the eyes and mouth which found precarious purchase.
The mouth was forced by the lie of the terrain left to it, to slant at an angle which gave to its right-hand side an expression of grim amusement and to its left, which dipped downwards across the chin, a remorseless twist. It was forced by not only the unfriendly monopoly of the nose, but also by the tapering character of the head to be a short mouth; but it obvious by its very nature that, under normal conditions, it would have covered twice the area.
The eyes in whose expression might be read the unending grudge they bore against the nose were as small as marbles and peered out between the grey grass of the hair. This head, set at a long incline upon a neck as wry as a turtle's cut across the narrow vertical black strip of the window.
Steerpike watched it turn upon the neck slowly. It would not have surprised him if it had dropped off, so toylike was its angle. As he watched, fascinated, the mouth opened and a voice as strange and deep as the echo of a lugubrious ocean stole out into the morning. Never was a face so belied by its voice. The accent was of so weird a lilt that at first Steerpike could not recognize more than one sentence in three, but he had quickly attuned himself to the original cadence and as the words fell into place Steerpike realised he was staring at a poet.
I would have--and easily could have--included much, much longer passages to illustrate my point, but I didn't want this review to run on forever. I'm sure many find the passage above to be beautiful, poetic, a magical feat of descriptive language, and I'd understand where they'd be coming from.
Never understand. Turn right and left again—again. Flay, drawing a bunch of keys from his pocket and selecting one with great care as though he were dealing with objects of rarity inserted it into the lock ofan invisible door, for the blackness was profound. Steerpike heard the iron grinding in the lock. Come here. Suddenly he found himself next to the dank smelling garments of Mr. The only interpretation he could give to the ejaculation was that Flay was referring to him as a cat and asking to be given more room.
Yet there had been no irritation in the voice. He opened the door slowly and Steerpike, peering past him, found no longer any need for an explanation. A room was filled with the late sunbeams. Steerpike stood quite still, a twinge of pleasure running through his body.
He grinned. A carpet filled the floor with blue pasture. Thereon were seated in a hundred decorative attitudes, or stood immobile like carvings, or walked superbly across their sapphire setting, inter-weaving with each other like a living arabesque, a swarm of snow-white cats. Flay passed down the centre of the room, Steerpike could not but notice the contrast between the dark rambling figure with his ungainly movements and the monotonous cracking of his knees, the contrast between this and the superb elegance and silence of the white cats.
They took not the slightest notice of either Mr. Flay or of himself save for the sudden cessation of their purring. When they had stood in the darkness, and before Mr. Flay had removed the bunch of keys from his pocket, Steerpike had imagined he had heard a heavy, deep throbbing, a monotonous sea-like drumming of sound, and he now knew that it must have been the pullulation of the tribe.
As they passed through a carved archway at the far end of the room and had closed the door behind them he heard the vibration of their throats, for now that the white cats were once more alone it was revived, and the deep unhurried purring was like the voice of an ocean in the throat of a shell. They were climbing stone stairs. The wall on their right was draped with hideous papers that were peeling off and showed rotting surfaces of chill plaster behind.
A mingling of many weird colours enlivened this nether surface, dark patches of which had a submarine and incredible beauty. A thousand imaginary journeys might be made along the banks of these rivers of an unexplored world. Still following me? I know what my name is.
Flay put a knuckly hand on the banisters preparatory to mounting the stairs again, but waited, frowning over his shoulder, for the reply. Two Squeertikes, two of you. Twice over. What for? He concentrated his dark eyes on the gawky figure above him for a few moments and shrugged his shoulders imperceptibly. Then he spoke again, showing no sign of irritation. May I ask? Who do they belong to?
Flay held up a finger. His hard voice seemed a part of this cold narrow stairway of stone and iron. All hers. Hold your tongue you greasy fork. Steerpike followed him in. Flay had been longer away from his lordship than he had intended or thought right and it was on his mind that the earl might be needing him. Directly he entered the octagonal room he approached one of the portraits at the far end and pushing the suspended frame a little to one side, revealed a small round hole in the panelling the size of a farthing.
He placed his eye to this hole and Steerpike watched the wrinkles of his parchment-coloured skin gather below the protruding bone at the base of the skull, for Mr. Flay both had to stoop and then to raise his head in order to apply his eye at the necessary angle. What Mr. Flay saw was what he had expected to see. From his vantage point he was able to get a clear view of three doors in a corridor, the central one belonging to the chamber of her ladyship, the seventy-sixth Countess of Groan.
It was stained black and had painted upon it an enormous white cat. The wall of the landing was covered with pictures of birds and there were three engravings of cacti in bloom. This door was shut, but as Mr. Flay watched the doors on either side were being constantly opened and closed and figures moved quickly in and out or up and down the landing, or conversed with many gesticulations or stood with their chins in the curled palms of their hands as though in profound meditation.
Young Steerpike glued his eye to the hole, keeping the heavy gold frame from swinging back with his shoulder. All at once he found himself contemplating a narrow-chested man with a shock of grey hair and glasses which magnified his eyes so that they filled the lenses up to their gold rims, when the central door opened, and a dark figure stole forth, closing the door behind him quietly, and with an air of the deepest dejection. Steerpike watched him turn his eyes to the shockheaded man, who inclined his body forward clasping his hands before him.
No notice was taken of this by the other, who began to pace up and down the landing, his dark cloak clasped around him and trailing on the floor at his heels. Each time he passed the doctor, for such it was, that gentleman inclined his body, but as before there was no response, until suddenly, stopping immediately before the physician in attendance, he drew from his cape a slender rod of silver mounted at the end with a rough globe of black jade that burned around its edges with emerald fire.
The doctor coughed. The silver and jade implement was pointed to the floor, and Steerpike was amazed to see the doctor, after hitching his exquisitely creased trousers to a few inches above his ankle, squat down. His great vague eyes swam about beneath the magnifying lenses like a pair of jellyfish seen through a fathom of water. His dark grey hair was brushed out over his eyes like thatch. For all the indignity of his position it was with a great sense of style that he became seated following with his eyes the gentleman who had begun to walk around him slowly.
Eventually the figure with the silver rod came to a halt. Indeed I am. Very, very much so; ha, ha, ha. Very, very much so. I am a proud fellow, my lord, ha, ha, ha, ha, a very proud fellow. It appeared to be out of control as though it were a part of his voice, a top-storey of his vocal range that only came into its own when the doctor laughed. Between the laughs he would speak very rapidly, which made the sudden stillness of his beautifully shaven jaws at the time of laughter all the more extraordinary.
The laugh was not necessarily connected with humour at all. It was simply a part of his conversation. Oh very, very satisfactory it all was. Very much so. Anything unusual about him? You need not be afraid to speak out. Completely at a loss, sir. If not structurally, then how, my lord? Out of the corner of his eyes he looked up to find his lordship scrutinizing him.
The face of his little lordship. Oh yes, definitely I noticed it. Did you or did you not? Why must you hedge? Do you understand? I comprehend. Be honest. And never a boy with such—er, ha, ha, ha, never a boy with such extraordinary eyes. Have you not seen them? Hurry yourself. What is it? She was gauche in movement and in a sense, ugly of face, but with how small a twist might she not suddenly have become beautiful. Her sullen mouth was full and rich—her eyes smouldered. A yellow scarf hung loosely around her neck.
Her shapeless dress was a flaming red. For all the straightness of her back she walked with a slouch. She stood in about as awkward a manner as could be conceived. Utterly unfeminine—no man could have invented it. Where, girl? I hate them. Have I? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, he, he, he!
Oh yes! Ha, ha! Oh yes indeed! Let me go! How I hate people! Oh how I hate people! Flay had been gazing out of a narrow window in the octagonal room and was preoccupied with certain matters relating to how he could best let Lord Groan know that he, Flay, his servant for over forty years, disapproved of having been put aside as it were at the one moment when a son had been born—at the one moment when he, Flay, would have been invaluable as an ally.
Flay was rather hurt about the whole business, and he very much wanted Lord Groan to know this, and yet at the same time it was very difficult to think of a way in which he could tactfully communicate his chagrin to a man quite as sullen as himself. Flay bit his nails sourly. He had been at the window for a much longer time than he had intended and he turned with his shoulders raised, an attitude typical of him and saw young Steerpike, whose presence he had forgotten.
He strode over to the boy and catching him by his coat-tails jerked him backwards into the centre of the room. The great picture swung back across the spy-hole. Lord Groan said so. The doctor said so. So hideous. The new baby. They both said so. Most terrible he is. Come here! Been agaping, have you? This he unlocked with one of his many keys and thrusting Steerpike inside turned it upon the boy. From its sweeping arms of iron, long stalactites of wax lowered their pale spilths drip by drip, drip by drip.
A rough table with a drawer half open, which appeared to be full of birdseed, was in such a position below the iron spider that a cone of tallow was mounting by degrees at one corner into a lambent pyramid the size of a hat. The room was untidy to the extent of being a shambles. Everything had the appearance of being put aside for the moment. Even the bed was at an angle, slanting away from the wall and crying out to be pushed back flush against the red wallpaper. As the candles guttered or flared, so the shadows moved from side to side, or up and down the wall, and with those movements behind the bed there swayed the shadows of four birds.
Between them vacillated an enormous head. This umbrage was cast by her ladyship, the seventy-sixth Countess of Groan. She was propped against several pillows and a black shawl was draped around her shoulders. Her hair, a very dark red colour of great lustre, appeared to have been left suddenly while being woven into a knotted structure on the top of her head. Thick coils still fell about her shoulders, or clustered upon the pillows like burning snakes. Her eyes were of the pale green that is common among cats.
They were large eyes, yet seemed, in proportion to the pale area of her face, to be small. The nose was big enough to appear so in spite of the expanse that surrounded it. The effect which she produced was one of bulk, although only her head, neck, shoulders and arms could be seen above the bedclothes. A magpie moving sideways up and down her left forearm, which lay supine upon the bedclothes, pecked intermittently at a heap of grain which lay in the palm of her hand.
On her shoulders sat a stonechat, and a huge raven which was asleep. The bed-rail boasted two starlings, a missel-thrush and a small owl. Every now and then a bird would appear between the bars of a small high window which let in less than no light.
The ivy had climbed through it from the outside and had begun to send its tendrils down the inner wall itself and over the crimson wallpaper. Although this ivy had choked out what little light might have trickled into the room, it was not strong enough to prevent the birds from finding a way through and from visiting Lady Gertrude at any hour of night or day.
Lady Groan flung what remained of the grain across the room and the stonechat hopping from the bed-rail to her head, took off again from that rabous landing ground with a flutter, circled twice around the room steering during his second circuit through the stalactites of shining wax, and landed on the floor beside the grain.
The Countess of Groan dug her elbows into the pillows behind her, which had become flattened and uncomfortable and levered her bulk up with her strong, heavy arms. Then she relaxed again, and spread out her arms to left and right along the bed-rail behind her and her hands drooped from the wrists at either extremity, overhanging the edges of the bed. The line of her mouth was neither sad nor amused, as she gazed abstractedly at the pyramid of wax that was mounting upon the table.
She watched each slow drip as it descended upon the blunt apex of the mound, move sluggishly down the uneven side and solidify into a long pulpy petal. Whether the Countess was thinking deeply or was lost in vacant reverie it would have been impossible to guess. She reclined hugely and motionlessly, her arms extended along the iron rail, when suddenly a great fluttering and scrambling broke into the wax-smelling silence of the room and turning her eyes to the ivy-filled window, fourteen feet from the ground, the Countess without moving her head, could see the leaves part and the white head and shoulders of an albino rook emerge guiltily.
So it is the truant back again. Where has he been? What has he been doing? What trees has he been sitting in? What clouds has he been flying through? What a boy he is! What a bunch of feathered whiteness. What a bunch of wickedness! Wants a great treeful of forgiveness, for his heavy old beak and months of absolution for his plumage. He stood on the foot-rail, his claws curled around it, and stared at Lady Groan. Come here with your old beak and rub it on my arm. Come along my whitest one, come along, then.
Come along. Then his eyes focused upon the rook in a hard stare. He sat there wide awake, a lock of dark red hair between his feet. The small owl as though to take the place of the raven fell asleep. One of the starlings turned about in three slow paces and faced the wall. The missel-thrush made no motion, and as a candle guttered, a ghoul of shadow from under a tall cupboard dislodged itself and moved across the floorboards, climbed the bed, and crawled half way across the eiderdown before it returned by the same route, to curl up and roost beneath the cupboard again.
Her pale eyes would either concentrate upon an object in a remorseless way or would appear to be without sight, vacant, with the merest suggestion of something childish. It was in this abstracted manner that she gazed through the pale pyramid, while her hands, as though working on their own account, moved gently over the breast, head and throat of the white rook. For some time there was complete silence in the room and it was with something of a shock that a rapping at the panels of her bedroom door awakened Lady Groan from her reverie.
Her eyes now took on the concentrated, loveless, cat-like look. The birds coming to life at once, flapped simultaneously to the end rail of the bed, where they stood balancing in a long uneven line, each one on the alert, their heads turned towards the door. What are you hitting my door for? So you want to come in, do you? With his lordship. What have you brought him to me for? Hurry up then! Stop scratching at my door. What are you waiting for? Put the child down and open the door.
Slagg obeyed, and as her back was turned Lady Groan bent forward and peered at the child. The little eyes were glazed with sleep and the candlelight played upon the bald head, moulding the structure of the skull with shifting shade. The old nurse picked the baby up dexterously and began to rock him gently by way of an answer. Oh dear, yes, bless the little thing. Modified though it was, it brought Doctor Prunesquallor to his feet at once. His fish eyes swam all round his glasses before finishing at the top, where they gave him an expression of fantastic martyrdom.
Running his long, exquisitely formed fingers through his mop of grey hair, he drained his glass of punch at a draught and started for the door, flicking small globules of the drink from his waistcoat. Before he had reached her room he had begun a rehearsal of the conversation he expected, his insufferable laughter punctuating every other sentence whatever its gist. Slagg nothing except his head around the doorpost in a decapitated manner, before entering.
Down it came, ha, ha—down it came. Oh yes, it did! Slagg had rocked the baby to sleep. Doctor Prunesquallor was running a long tapering forefinger up and down a stalactite of wax and smiling horribly. I thought you would; I guessed it. I get up tomorrow—tomorrow at dawn. I only advise. What he had seen disquieted him, for he had found in her expression such a concentration of distaste that as he deflected his gaze away from her he found that his feet were moving backwards one after the other and that he was at the door before he knew that he had decided what to do.
Bowing quickly he withdrew his body from the bedroom. The baby awoke at the sound and moaned, and Nannie Slagg retreated. I would like to see the boy when he is six. Find a wet nurse from the Outer Dwellings. Make him green dresses from the velvet curtains. Take this gold ring of mine. Fix a chain to it. Let him wear it around his wry little neck. Call him Titus. Go away and leave the door six inches open. Two long sweet notes sang out through the dark air. At the sound, Mrs. Slagg, grabbing the gold ring from the bedclothes, where the Countess had thrown it, hurried as fast as her old legs could carry her from the room as though a werewolf were at her heels.
They were fixed upon the door. Her hands were gripping the edges of her pillow. She became rigid. In the distance, a vibration was becoming louder and louder until the volume seemed to have filled the chamber itself, when suddenly there slid through the narrow opening of the door and moved into the fumid atmosphere of the room an undulation of whiteness, so that, within a breath, there was no shadow in all the room that was not blanched with cats.
It is there, at the long table that he takes his breakfast. The table is raised upon a dais, and from where he sits he can gaze down the length of the grey refectory. On either side and running the entire length, great pillars prop the painted ceiling where cherubs pursue each other across a waste of flaking sky.
There must be about a thousand of them all told, interweaving among the clouds, their fat limbs for ever on the move and yet never moving, for they are imperfectly articulated. The colours, once garish, have faded and peeled away and the ceiling is now a very subtle shade of grey and lichen green, old rose and silver. Lord Sepulchrave may have noticed the cherubs long ago. Probably when a child he had attempted more than once to count them, as his father had done, and as young Titus in his turn will try to do; but however that might be, Lord Groan had not cast up his eyes to the old welkin for many years.
Nor did he ever stare about him now. How could he love this place? He was a part of it. He could not imagine a world outside it; and the idea of loving Gormenghast would have shocked him. To have asked him of his feelings for his hereditary home would be like asking a man what his feelings were towards his own hand or his own throat. But his lordship remembered the cherubs in the ceiling. His great grandfather had painted them with the help of an enthusiastic servant who had fallen seventy feet from the scaffolding and had been killed instantly.
But it seemed that Lord Sepulchrave found his only interest in these days among the volumes in his library and in a knob ofjade on his silver rod, which he would scrutinize for hours on end. Mounting the dais he would move around to the far side of the table where hung a heavy brass bell.
He would strike it. The servants sitting down at once, would begin their meal of bread, rice wine and cake. As he sat, this morning, in his high-backed chair, he saw before him—through a haze of melancholia that filmed his brain and sickened his heart, robbing it of power and his limbs of health—he saw before him a snow-white tablecloth. It was set for two. The silver shone and the napkins were folded into the shapes of peacocks and were perched decoratively on the two plates. There was a delicious scent of bread, sweet and wholesome.
There were eggs painted in gay colours, toast piled up pagoda-wise, tier upon tier and each as frail as a dead leaf; and fish with their tails in their mouths lay coiled in sea-blue saucers. There were all varieties of coloured fruits that looked strangely tropical in that dark hall.
There were honeys and jams, jellies, nuts and spices and the ancestral breakfast plate was spread out to the greatest advantage amid the golden cutlery of the Groans. In the centre of the table was a small tin bowl of dandelions and nettles. Lord Sepulchrave sat silently. He did not seem to notice the delicacies spread before him, nor when for a moment or two at a time his head was raised, did he appear to see the long cold dining-hall nor the servants at their tables.
Lord Groan, his eyes upon the jade knob of the rod which he was twisting slowly upon its ferrule, again rang the brass bell and a door opened in the wall behind him. Sourdust entered with great books under his arm. He was arrayed in crimson sacking. His beard was knotted and the hairs that composed it were black and white. His face was very lined, as though it had been made of brown paper that had been crunched by some savage hand before being hastily smoothed out and spread over the tissues.
His eyes were deep-set and almost lost in the shadows cast by his fine brow, which for all its wrinkles, retained a sweeping breadth of bone. The old man seated himself at the end of the table, and stacked the four volumes beside a porcelain decanter, and raising his sunken eyes to Lord Groan, murmured these words in a weak and shaking voice and yet with a certain dignity as though it were not simply a case of having to get through the ritual, but that it was now, as always, well worth getting through.
Lord Groan propped his chin on the knuckles of his hands that were cupping the jade knob. His face was very long and was olive coloured. The eyes were large, and of an eloquence, withdrawn. His nostrils were mobile and sensitive.
His mouth, a narrow line. On his head was the iron crown of the Groans that fastens with a strap under the chin. It had four prongs that were shaped like arrow heads. Between these barbs small chains hung in loops. The prerogative of precedent on his side, he was wrapped in his dark grey dressing-gown. This he muzzled in his cheek for the major part of the meal. The fish became cold on the plate. Sourdust had helped himself to one of them, a slice of watermelon and a fire-green egg, but all else lost its freshness or its heat upon the ritualistic table.
Below in the long basement of the hall the clattering of the knives had ceased. The rice wine had been passed up and down the table, and the jugs were empty. They were waiting for the sign to go about their duties, Sourdust, having wiped his old mouth with the napkin, turned his eyes to his lordship, who was now leaning back in the chair and sipping at a glass of black tea, his eyes un-focused as usual.
The Librarian was watching the left eyebrow of his lordship. It was twenty-one minutes to ten by the clock at the far end of the hall. Lord Groan appeared to be looking through this clock. Three-quarters of a minute went by, it was ten seconds—five seconds—three seconds—one second—to twenty to ten. It was twenty minutes to ten. Then it slowly lowered itself. At the movement, Sourdust arose and stamped upon the ground with an old thin leg. The crimson sacking about his body shook as he did so and his beard of black and white knots swung madly to and fro.
Sourdust re-seated himself, panting a little and coughing in an ugly way. Then he leaned across the table and scratched the white cloth in front of Lord Groan with a fork. His lordship turned his black and liquid eyes towards the old librarian and adviser. There was a period of silence, Sourdust making use of the interim by re-knotting several tassels of his beard.
The eyes were too deeply set in their sockets of shadow to be seen. By not so much as the faintest sign or movement had Sourdust suggested that he was in a state of emotional stress. Nor was he, ever, save that at moments of reflection upon matters connected with the traditions of the Castle, it so happened that great tears emerged from the shadows beneath his brow.
He fingered the great tomes beside his plate. His lordship, as though making the resolve after long deliberation, leaned forward, placed his rod on the table and adjusted his iron crown. Sourdust gathered the sacking about himself in a quick shaky way, and getting to his feet moved round to the back of his own chair which he pushed a few inches closer to the table, and squeezing between the table and the chair he re-seated himself carefully and was apparently more comfortable than before.
Then with great deliberation, bending his corrugated brow upon each in turn he pushed the varied assortment of dishes, cruets, glasses, cutlery and by now tepid delicacies away from before him, clearing a semi-circle ofwhite cloth. Only then did he remove the three tomes from beside his elbow. He opened them one after the other by balancing them carefully on their vellum spines and allowing them to break open at pages indicated by embroidered book-markers.
The left hand pages were headed with the date and in the first of the three books this was followed by a list of the activities to be performed hour by hour during the day by his lordship. The exact times; the garments to be worn for each occasion and the symbolic gestures to be used. Diagrams facing the left hand page gave particulars of the routes by which his lordship should approach the various scenes of operation.
The diagrams were hand tinted. The second tome was full of blank pages and was entirely symbolic, while the third was a mass of cross references. If, for instance, his lordship, Sepulchrave, the present Earl of Groan, had been three inches shorter, the costumes, gestures and even the routes would have differed from the ones described in the first tome, and from the enormous library, another volume would have had to have been chosen which would have applied.
Had he been of a fair skin, or had he been heavier than he was, had his eyes been green, blue or brown instead of black, then, automatically another set of archaic regulations would have appeared this morning on the breakfast table. This complex system was understood in its entirety only by Sourdust—the technicalities demanding the devotion of a lifetime, though the sacred spirit of tradition implied by the daily manifestations was understood by all.
His lordship nodded silently. That stairway had been warped and twisted out of shape seventy years ago when the vestibule had been razed to the ground in the great fire. An alternative route had to be planned. A plan approaching as far as possible to the spirit of the original conception, and taking the same amount of time. Sourdust scored the new route shakily on the tablecloth with the point of a fork. His lordship nodded.
Every few seconds he glanced at the clock. A long sigh came from his lordship. For a moment a light appeared in his eyes and then dulled. The line of his mouth seemed for a moment to have softened. He was making noises in his throat and chest, his mouth working at the corners.
Lord Groan looked at him quickly and his face whitened under the olive. Taking a spoon he bent it into three-quarters of a circle. The door opened suddenly in the wall behind the dais and Flay entered. Lord Sepulchrave rose and moved to the door. Flay nodded sullenly at the man in crimson sacking, and after filling his pockets with peaches followed his lordship between the pillars of the Stone Hall.
It lay in the centre of the western wing and upon the second floor. A walnut bed monopolized the inner wall in which stood the doorway. The two triangular windows in the opposite wall gave upon the battlements where the master sculptors from the mud huts moved in silhouette across the sunset at the full moon of alternate months. Beyond the battlements the flat pastures spread and beyond the pastures were the Twisted Woods of thorn that climbed the ever steepening sides of Gormenghast mountain.
Fuchsia had covered the walls of her room with impetuous drawings in charcoal. There had been no attempt to create a design of any kind upon the coral plaster at either end of the bedroom. The drawings had been done at many an odd moment of loathing or excitement and although lacking in subtlety or proportion were filled with an extraordinary energy. These violent devices gave the two walls of her bedroom such an appearance of riot that the huddled heaps of toys and books in the four corners looked, by comparison, compact.
The attic, her kingdom, could be approached only through this bedchamber. The door of the spiral staircase that ascended into the darkness was immediately behind the bedstead, so that to open this door which resembled the door of a cupboard, the bed had to be pulled forward into the room. Fuchsia never failed to return the bed to its position as a precaution against her sanctum being invaded.
It was unnecessary, for no one saving Mrs. Slagg ever entered her bedroom and the old nurse in any case could never have manoeuvred herself up the hundred or so narrow, darkened steps that gave eventually on the attic, which since the earliest days Fuchsia could remember had been for her a world undesecrate. Through succeeding generations a portion of the lumber of Gormenghast had found its way into this zone of moted half-light, this warm, breathless, timeless region where the great rafters moved across the air, clouded with moths.
Where the dust was like pollen and lay softly on all things. The attic was composed of two main galleries and a cock loft, the second gallery leading at right angles from the first after a descent of three rickety steps. At its far end a wooden ladder rose to a balcony resembling a narrow verandah. At the left extremity of this balcony a doorway, with its door hanging mutely by one hinge, led to the third of the three rooms that composed the attic. This was the loft which was for Fuchsia a very secret place, a kind of pagan chapel, an eyrie, a citadel, a kingdom never mentioned, for that would have been a breach of faith—a kind of blasphemy.
She had pulled at the long black pigtail of a chord which hung from the ceiling in one corner of her bedroom and had set a bell jangling in the remote apartment which Mrs. Slagg had inhabited for two decades.
As the sun rose, thorn tree after thorn tree on Gormenghast mountain emerged in the pale light and became a spectre, one following another, now here, now there, over the huge mass until the whole shape was flattened into a radiant jagged triangle against the darkness. Seven clouds like a group of naked cherubs or sucking-pigs, floated their plump pink bodies across a sky of slate. Fuchsia watched them through her window sullenly.
Then she thrust her lower lip forward. Her hands were on her hips. Her bare feet were quite still on the floorboards. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Seven clouds. As Fuchsia turned away from the wall she took an awkward shuffling step towards the bed. Her jet black hair hung loosely across her shoulders. Her eyes, that were always smouldering, were fixed on the door. Thus she remained with one foot forward as the door knob turned and Mrs. Slagg entered. Seeing her, Fuchsia continued her walk from where she had left off, but instead of going towards the bed, she approached Mrs.
Then she made a little noise which seemed to indicate that she was not impressed. Nine for a—nine, nine—ten for a tower of turbulent toast—but what is seven. What is seven? What did you ring for? Quickly, quickly my caution. Very stiff she had become and angular. As soon as the door had closed, Fuchsia leaped at her bed and diving between the blankets head first, wriggled her way to the far end, where from all appearances, she became engaged in a life and death struggle with some ambushed monster.
The heavings of the bedclothes ended as suddenly as they had begun and she emerged with a pair of long woollen stockings which she must have kicked off during the night. Sitting on her pillows she began pulling them on in a series of heaves, twisting with difficulty, at a very late stage, the heel of each from the front to the back.
I will go to my secret room and think things over. It was sly but it was so childishly sly that it was lovable. Her lips, big and well-formed and extraordinarily mature, curled up like plump petals and showed between them her white teeth. As soon as she had smiled her face altered again, and the petulant expression peregrine to her features took control.
Her black eyebrows were drawn together. Her dressing became interrupted between the addition of each garment by dance movements of her own invention. There was nothing elegant in these attitudes into which she flung herself, standing sometimes for a dozen of seconds at a time in some extraordinary position of balance.
Finally her blood-red dress, absolutely shapeless, was pulled over her head. It fitted nowhere except where a green cord was knotted at her waist. She appeared rather to inhabit, than to wear her clothes. Meanwhile Mrs.
Slagg had not only prepared the breakfast for Fuchsia in her own little room, but was on the way back with the loaded tray shaking in her hands. As she turned a corner of the corridor she was brought to a clattering standstill by the sudden appearance of Doctor Prunesquallor, who also halting with great suddenness, avoided a collision. His spectacles held in either lens the minute reflection of Nannie Slagg. The old nurse had never really approved of Doctor Prunesquallor. It was true that he belonged to Gormenghast as much as the Tower itself.
He was no intruder, but somehow, in Mrs. He was not her idea of a doctor in the first place, although she could never have argued why. Nor could she pin her dislike down to any other cause. Nannie Slagg found it very difficult to marshal her thoughts at the best of times, but when they became tied up with her emotions she became quite helpless. What she felt but had never analysed was that Doctor Prunesquallor rather played down to her and even in an obtuse way made fun of her.
She had never thought this, but her bones knew of it. She gazed up at the shock-headed man before her and wondered why he never brushed his hair, and then she felt guilty for allowing herself such thoughts about a gentleman and her tray shook and her eyes wavered a little. Slagg, let me take your tray, ha, ha, until you have tasted the fruits of discourse and told me what you have been up to for the last month or more. Why have I not seen you, Nannie Slagg? Why have my ears not heard your footfall on the stairs, and your voice at nightfall, calling.
He sat there on his heels with the tray at his side and peered up at the old lady, who gazed in a frightened way at his eye swimming hugely beneath his magnifying spectacles. Slagg, that galls me. Are you an animal, Mrs. I repeat are you an animal? Poor Nannie Slagg was too frightened to be able to give her answer to the query. The doctor sank back on his heels. I have known you for some time. For, shall we say, a decade? It is true we have never plumbed the depths of sorcery together nor argued the meaning of existence—but it is enough for me to say that I have known you for a considerable time, and that you are no animal.
No animal whatsoever. Sit upon my knee. Then she gave one frightened look down the passage and was about to make a run for it when she was gripped about the knees, not unkindly, but firmly and without knowing how she got there found herself sitting upon the high bony knee-cap of the squatting doctor. Tell me what you are? Oh yes, ha, ha, ha, oh yes, a very invaluable old woman indeed. It must be a very long time. Months and months and months. Then you can have no idea of why you will be indispensable?
Slagg in the most animated tone that she had so far used. You could eat them up. That will be unnecessary. In fact it would be positively injurious, my dear Mrs. Slagg, and especially under the circumstances about which I must now enlighten you. A child will be placed in your keeping.
Do not devour him Nannie Slagg. It is for you to bring him up, that is true, but there will be no need for you to swallow him first. You would be, ha, ha, ha, ha— swallowing a Groan. Sometime today, if I am not mistaken, my wide-eyed Nannie Slagg, I shall be delivering a brand new Groan. Do you remember when I delivered the Countess of Lady Fuchsia?
Who would have thought? No one ever tells me anything. There is no doubt at all about that. Is there? Oh, I could smack him already. Oh, what a blessing that it is. They will let me have him, sir? His grey hayrick of hair removed itself from the wall. Has she an inkling? Not an inkling, sir, bless her. She hardly ever leaves her room except at night, sir. Very, very, very strange. But not for long, not for long. Be quick. How is her ladyship? As Mrs. It was always a long time before she realized the import of whatever she were told, and it was only now that the full measure of what the doctor had divulged was having its effect.
To be again, after all these years, the nurse of an heir to the house of Groan—to be able to bathe the helpless limbs, to iron out the little garments and to select the wet nurse from the outer dwellings! To have complete authority in anything connected with the care of the precious mite—all this was now weighing with a great load of painful pride across her heart that was beating rapidly. So overpowered was she by this emotion that she had knocked twice before she noticed that there was a note pinned upon the outside of the door.
Peering at it she at last made out what Fuchsia had scrawled in her invariable charcoal. Slagg tried the door handle although she knew that the door would be locked. Leaving the tray and the apples on the mat outside she retreated to her own room where she might indulge herself in halcyon glimpses of the future.
Life, it seemed, was not over for her. There was also a box of dates which Flay had purloined and brought up for her several weeks before, and two wrinkled pears. These she wrapped in a piece of cloth. Next she lit a candle and placed it on the floor near the wall, then hollowing her strong young back she laid hold of the foot-rail of her bed and dragged it back sufficiently for her to squeeze herself between the rail and the wall and to unlatch the cupboard door.
Stretching over the head-rail she grasped her bundle of food and then picked up the candle from near her feet, and ducking her head crept through the narrow opening and found herself at the lowermost steps of the flight that led upwards in dark spirals. Closing the door behind her, she dragged a bolt into position and the tremors which she always experienced at this moment of locking herself in, took hold of her and for a moment she shook from head to foot.
Then, with her candle lighting her face and the three sliding steps before her as she climbed, she ascended into her region. As Fuchsia climbed into the winding darkness her body was impregnated and made faint by a qualm as of green April.
Her heart beat painfully. This is a love that equals in its power the love of man for woman and reaches inwards as deeply. It is the love of a man or of a woman for their world. For the world of their centre where their lives burn genuinely and with a free flame. The love of the diver for his world of wavering light.
His world of pearls and tendrils and his breath at his breast. Born as a plunger into the deeps he is at one with every swarm of lime-green fish, with every coloured sponge. Pulse, power and universe sway in his body.
He is in love. The love of the painter standing alone and staring, staring at the great coloured surface he is making. Standing with him in the room the rearing canvas stares back with tentative shapes halted in their growth, moving in a new rhythm from floor to ceiling. The twisted tubes, the fresh paint squeezed and smeared across the dry upon his palette.
The dust beneath the easel. The white light in a northern sky is silent. The window gapes as he inhales his world. His world: a rented room, and turpentine. He moves towards his half-born. She knew that only eighteen steps remained and that after two more turns in the staircase the indescribable grey-gold filtering glow of the attic would greet her. Reaching the top-most step she stooped and leaned over a three-foot swing door, like the door of a byre, unfastened the latch and entered the first of the three sections of the attic.
Here and there a thin beam of light threaded the warm brooding dusk and was filled with slowly moving motes like an attenuate firmament of stars revolving in grave order. To her right was an enormous crumbling organ. Its pipes were broken and the keyboard shattered. Across its front the labour of a decade of grey spiders had woven their webs into a shawl of lace.
It needed but the ghost of an infanta to arise from the dust to gather it about her head and shoulders as the most fabulous of all mantillas. But they were calm. The excitement that had wakened within them on the stairway had given place to this strange calm.
She stood at the stairhead almost another being. This room was the darkest. In the summer the light seemed to penetrate through the fissures in the warped wood and through the dislodged portions of stone slating in a less direct way than was the case in the larger room or gallery to its right.
The third, the smallest attic, with its steps leading upwards from the gallery with the banistered verandah was the best lit, for it boasted a window with shutters which, when opened, gave upon a panorama of roof-tops, towers and battlements that lay in a great half-circle below.
Between high bastions might be seen, hundreds of feet beneath, a portion of quadrangle wherein, were a figure to move across, he would appear no taller than a thimble. Fuchsia took three paces forward in the first of the attics and then paused a moment to re-tie a string above her knee.
Over her head vague rafters loomed and while she straightened herself she noticed them and unconsciously loved them. This was the lumber room. This high, narrow avenue wound down the centre of the first attic before suddenly turning at a sharp angle to the right.
The fact that this room was filled with lumber did not mean that she ignored it and used it only as a place of transit. Oh no, for it was here that many long afternoons had been spent as she crawled deep into the recesses and found for herself many a strange cavern among the incongruous relics of the past.
She knew of ways through the centre of what appeared to be hills of furniture, boxes, musical instruments and toys, kites, pictures, bamboo armour and helmets, flags and relics of every kind, as an Indian knows his green and secret trail.
Within reach of her hand the hide and head of a skinned baboon hung dustily over a broken drum that rose beyond the dim ranges of this attic medley. Huge and impregnable they looked in the warm still half-light, but Fuchsia, had she wished to, could have disappeared awkwardly but very suddenly into these fantastic mountains, reached their centre and lain down upon an ancient couch with a picture book at her elbow and been entirely lost to view within a few moments.
As Fuchsia rounded this bend she saw what she expected to see. Twelve feet away were the wooden steps which led down to the second attic. The rafters above the steps were warped into a sagging curve so that it was not possible to obtain more than a restricted view of the room beyond. But the area of empty floor that was visible gave an indication of the whole. She descended the steps. There was a ripping away of clouds; a sky, a desert, a forsaken shore spread through her.
As she stepped forward on the empty board, it was for her like walking into space. Space, such as the condors have shrill inklings of, and the cock-eagle glimpses through his blood. Silence was there with a loud rhythm. The halls, towers, the rooms of Gormenghast were of another planet. Fuchsia caught at a thick lock of her hair and dragged her own head back as her heart beat loudly and, tingling from head to foot little diamonds appeared at the inner corners of her eyes.
With what characters she had filled this lost stage of emptiness! It was here that she would see the people of her imagination, the fierce figures of her making, as they strolled from corner to corner, brooded like monsters or flew through the air like seraphs with burning wings, or danced, or fought, or laughed, or cried.
Gripping her eatables tightly in their cloth, her feet echoing dully, she walked onwards towards the fixed ladder that led to the balcony at the far end. She climbed the ladder, both feet coming together on each rung for it was difficult for her to climb with the bottle and her food for the day tucked under her arm. There was no one to see her strong straight back and shoulders and the gauche, indecorous movements of her legs as she climbed in her crimson dress; nor the length of her tangled and inky hair.
Half-way up she was able to lift her bundle above her head and push it on to the balcony, and then to swarm after it and find herself standing with the great stage below her as empty as an unremembered heart. As she looked down, her hands on the wooden banister that ran along the attic verandah, she knew that at a call she could set in motion the five main figures of her making.
Those whom she had so often watched below her, almost as though they were really there. At first it had not been easy to understand them nor to tell them what to do. But now it would be easy, at any rate for them to enact the scenes that she had watched them so often perform. Munster, who would crawl along the rafters and drop chuckling into the middle of the floor in a cloud of dust and then bow to Fuchsia before turning and searching for his barrel of bright gold.
Or the Rain Man, who moved always with his head lowered and his hands clasped behind him and who had but to lift his eyelid to quell the tiger that followed him on a chain. These and the dramas in which they took part were now latent in the room below her, but Fuchsia passed the high-backed chair where she would sit at the verandah edge, pulled back the door carefully on its one hinge, and entered into the third of the three rooms.
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