Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Short Appreciation of a Very Great Work

It's taken me twenty years to be ready for Mervyn Peake, and now that I've read his Gormenghast books (They are not a trilogy)- Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone- I feel as if I belong to some sort of secret conspiracy of magnificence. The end of Mervyn Peake's life was a tragedy of illness and under-appreciated genius, and it was only through the diligence of a few well-placed friends and admirers that his body of work has thrived rather than faded into obscurity.

According to Quentin Crisp, Peake once said of his work, "I believe in doing what I like. I set about selling it afterward." It is an attitude that appears to have cost him in his own too-short lifetime, but one that has rewarded readers immeasurably since his death. It is an attitude that I also hold dear, though if I could manifest even a thousandth of that man's talent and originality I would consider my job as a writer fulfilled. He was an accomplished artist, a poet, playwright, and a writer whose ability to paint with prose has had few equals in the English language. If you are a writer and you haven't read him, do it. It will make you better and it will humble you. As a reader, you must be patient. Traveling with Peake is a long journey in a vague direction with no particular destination, but the sights you will see and the company you'll keep will mark your psyche for the rest of your reading life. - Peake's official site
An Excellence of Peake by Michael Moorcock

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