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The Gormenghast Novels (Titus Groan /…

The Gormenghast Novels (Titus Groan / Gormenghast / Titus Alone) (original 1967; edition 1995)

by Mervyn Peake, Anthony Burgess (Introduction), Quentin Crisp (Introduction)

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3,182461,758 (4.11)1 / 69
Title:The Gormenghast Novels (Titus Groan / Gormenghast / Titus Alone)
Authors:Mervyn Peake
Other authors:Anthony Burgess (Introduction), Quentin Crisp (Introduction)
Info:Overlook Press (1995), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 1168 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Gormenghast Novels : Titus Groan; Gormenghast; Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake (1967)


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English (45)  French (1)  All languages (46)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Outstanding read! ( )
  sundowneruk | Feb 2, 2016 |
Beautifully written but boring. There is no story or plot to speak of. It is more like beautifully described stationary scenes in the
life of a noble family. The language is powerful and everything is vivid. The characters and settings are described intricately but "stretched out." It is this aspect that gives the story its "gothic" affiliation. The fat chef is not just fat but squishy, obese, lardish, lumpy. The skinny valet is angular, creaky, skinny, tall, pointy…

Unfortunately the lack of a story to move it along caused me to lose interest early and I couldn't read it just to enjoy the writing. ( )
  Hae-Yu | Jul 4, 2015 |
This is a book that will always be loved by those who enjoy immersing themselves in a story that takes them o other worlds. It is long, moves forward with a ponderous slowness and is very oriented to the place. That is, much of the narrative is given over to descriptions of the surroundings. The characters seem not human in nay real sense. One reviewer likened them to characters of Edward Gorey and that's accurate. They are weird to a degree that takes them outside human experience. This is not a comfortable review because I'm not sure quite how I really feel about he books. I'm glad I read them. I would, under no circumstances, read them again. ( )
  turtlesleap | Sep 9, 2014 |
There are only two large-scale fantastic works whose worlds, once I am in them, I am unable to leave until I have once again devoured them completely (the food metaphor is apt, because there is something about the way I resent any time I can't spend reading these books once I've begun them that feels like being hungry and not being able to eat) and by which, every time I return, which I have been doing since I was a teenager, I am equally, utterly, enthralled. One is John Crowley's Little, Big. The other is is Titus Groan. I must add Gormenghast as well, since it completes the perfect story arc of the rise and fall of Steerpike and the birth, childhood and coming of age of Titus - with the caveat that the overlong, miscalculated, belabored, unfunny side story of the Professors, Bellgrove, and Irma Prunesquallor, can be completely excised and the novel misses almost nothing of substance and in fact regains the same kind of breathtaking force of sheer storytelling as the first book.

Titus Alone, on the other hand, is a entirely different animal - as many readers have noted, it's almost like being struck in the face, after the incomparably intricate Gothic perfection of the first two books. I will never love it, but I admire Peake for taking Titus' story in a completely unexpected direction, as if he had handed over part of his brain to Kafka or some other grotesque Eastern European modernist. Whether his disease overmastered his abilities will always be debated. But to have given us the inimitable world of Gormenghast in the first two novels with such exquisite detail that you can feel yourself breathing the air of the place on every page is something I'll be grateful for until I close them for the last time. It's a climax reading experience. ( )
3 vote CSRodgers | Jun 15, 2014 |
It seems churlish to fault the Gormenghast trilogy as flawless; that it isn’t is only partially the author’s fault. The first two books are extraordinary, a triumph of atmosphere and sense of place. Peake captures the claustrophobia of Gormenghast, a place of inertia hidebound by tradition and archaic rules populated almost solely by grotesques. Every character, every action is saturated in symbolism, Peake’s writing is often so dense in conveying what’s going on it approaches poetry – given how often he describes colour and texture, you can see how strongly his skills as an artist influence his prose. This means that the pacing of events is often glacial, despite the timescale covered, so those first two books are best savoured rather than zoomed through.

Much as the third book makes thematic sense – Titus going out into the big wide world and discovering he’s not as special as he thinks – it comes across as an appendage to those first two books, lacking a sense of place or the languidly explored grotesque characters of the first two volumes. It also lacks the backbone, the compelling story that Steerpike’s ambitious treachery gives the previous volumes. It’s bitty and episodic, a sketch as opposed to the fully realised art that preceded it. It doesn’t help that Titus is such an unsympathetic lead character, though it could be argued that it’s not an inaccurate portrayal of a youthful man, particularly one with Titus’ strange upbringing. But the bitty, episodic nature of the narrative feels a touch unsatisfying compared to what’s gone before. Well worth reading for the glorious mannered madness of the first two volumes though. ( )
  JonArnold | Apr 13, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peake, Mervynprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hellar, JulekCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miéville, ChinaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dost thou love picking meat? Or would'st thou see/A man in the clouds, and have him speak to thee?
-- Bunyan
For Maeve
First words
Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls.
Introduction by Quentin Crisp:  Style is a terrible thing to happen to anybody.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Introduction by Quentin Crisp (p. ix),
Introduction by Anthony Burgess (p. 1),
Titus Groan (p.7),
Gormenghast (p. 397),
Titus Alone (p. 809),
Critical Assessments (p.1025) includes:
"The critical reception of Mervyn Peake's Titus Books" by G. Peter Winnington;
"Memories of Mervyn Peake" by Louise Collis;
"The Gutters of Gormenghast" by Hugh Brogan;
"Situating Gormenghast" by Ronald Binns;
"'The Passions in their Clay': Mervyn Peake's Titus Stories" by Joseph L. Sanders;
"Titus and the Thing in Gormenghast" by Christiano Rafanelli;
"Fuschia and Steerpike: Mood and Form" by G. Peter Winnington;
"Gormenghast: Psychology of the Bildungsroman" by Bruce Hunt;
"Gormenghast: Fairytale gone wrong" by Margaret Ochocki;
"The Cry of a Fighting Cock: Notes on Steerpike and Ritual in Gormenghast" by Ann Yeoman;
"Beowulf to Kafka: Mervyn Peake's Titus Alone" by Colin Greenland;
"A Critical Conclusion: The End of Titus Alone" by Laurence Bristow-Smith;
"A Barrier of Foolery? The Depiction of Women in Titus Alone" by Tanya Gardiner-Scott
Titus Awakes (p. 1165)
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0879516283, Paperback)

Mervyn Peake's gothic masterpiece, the Gormenghast trilogy, begins with the superlative Titus Groan, a darkly humorous, stunningly complex tale of the first two years in the life of the heir to an ancient, rambling castle. The trilogy continues with the novels Gormenghast and Titus Alone, and all three books are bound together in this single-volume edition.

The Gormenghast royal family, the castle's decidedly eccentric staff, and the peasant artisans living around the dreary, crumbling structure make up the cast of characters in these engrossing stories. Peake's command of language and unique style set the tone and shape of an intricate, slow-moving world of ritual and stasis:

"The walls of the vast room which were streaming with calid moisture, were built with gray slabs of stone and were the personal concern of a company of eighteen men known as the 'Grey Scrubbers'.... On every day of the year from three hours before daybreak until about eleven o'clock, when the scaffolding and ladders became a hindrance to the cooks, the Grey Scrubbers fulfilled their hereditary calling."

Peake has been compared to Dickens, Tolkien, and Peacock, but the Gormenghast trilogy is truly unique. Unforgettable characters with names like Steerpike and Prunesquallor make their way through an architecturally stifling world, with lots of dark corners around to dampen any whimsy that might arise. This true classic is a feast of words unlike anything else in the world of fantasy. Those who explore Gormenghast castle will be richly rewarded. --Therese Littleton

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:24 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Enter the world of Gormenghast: a vast, crumbling castle of labyrinthine corridors and cloisters, turrets and dungeons. At the center is the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, Lord and heir to all. Titus is expected to rule this extraordinary kingdom and his eccentric and wayward subjects, but he longs for a life beyond the castle walls. With the arrival of an ambitious kitchen boy, Steerpike, the established order is thrown into disarray. Things are changing and Titus must contend with a kingdom about to implode beneath the weight of centuries of intrigue, treachery, manipulation, and murder."--Dust jacket.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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