Gormenghast of the Mind

After the BBC’s disastrous television production of Gormenghast, the trilogy of novels by Mervyn Peake, they are now making amends with a splendid radio adaptation. It’s impossible to translate that Gothic creation of arcane, stultifying rituals and trapped flights of fancy, all captured within a seemingly endless maze of stone corridors, towers and parapets, in a flat visual plane. All the television production did is recreate a gallery of grotesques, rendered ridiculous by too literal images. Gormenghast needs the infinitely liberating power of the imagination, something radio does perfectly.

I remember falling into the novels and knowing nothing of ordinary reality until I emerged, dazed at the end.  A superb fantasy, so grounded in detail that its world seemed as solid as real life.  If anything, real life seemed a bit gray and tenuous for a while afterwards. I fell in love with Fuschia Groan, hating the upstart Steerpike for his cynical pursuit of her, while being forced to admire his ambition and determination to overthrow the Groan dynasty.

So here it is, starting with the first of six episodes, and available for about four weeks.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b016ljn0

Best of all, though, is to read the novels. Here’s the opening paragraph of Titus Groan, first novel in the trilogy.

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. 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. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.

Happy Bloomsday

Today in 1904 Dublin, James Joyce and Nora Barnacle went on their first date. Joyce celebrated the occasion with an iconic novel that everyone has heard of, and most people haven’t read. Which is a shame because James Joyce’s Ulysses is only occasionally difficult – the rest is a cracking read. Even the challenging bits can be negotiated by simply going with the flow of the language. Our minds supply multiple meanings if we let language have its wicked way.

My good deed on this happy day is to post RTE’s ‘unabridged audiobook’, weighing in at at 9 hours and 33 minutes. I just started re-reading the novel, so I’m wary of the audiobook in case it preempts the picture I get from reading the text. I’ll read first and listen later.

I hope you enjoy the audiobook, realising there’s nothing to fear except fear itself. And heaping handfuls of glorious language to enjoy.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman’s new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is out. It sounds so mouthwateringly good that I might even buy a copy new, rather than wait for it to show up in my local charity shop.

The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing, and Ideas, is a literary and publishing centre in Melbourne, where he recently gave a talk and read from the book. I like this Wheeler Centre, and I like the interviewer, a woman with the fetching name of Alicia Sometimes. It’s an Antipodean TED, only much more interesting because of the Australian attitude. TED tends toward the bland and corporate. I might dump the occasional TED Talks feature in favour of the Wheeler Centre videos.

And here’s Neil.

Tumult in Clouds

This is Yeats’ poem, An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, set to music by Ela Orleans. I’ve always liked this poem, to the point of memorising it, but the music video gives it an extra wallop.

Thanks be to KILTR, a brilliant Scottish online community, for the original posting. I’d never have seen it otherwise.

People of Kiltartan Cross

Poetry: Bryan Reid

Catherine McCallum

Bryan Reid was the founding secretary of the Johnson Society of Australia and is a true Johnsonian, a person ‘devoted to the works and life and personality’ of Samuel Johnson and of his biographer James Boswell. Bryan is also a journalist, an author and occasional poet, and a dear friend. As far as I know, he’s not submitted any of his poetry for publication, but I think good poetry should be shared, even if it’s in a blog post!  These are two of his poems I love.

Hunting and gathering

Last night I lost adumbrate.
I thought I had it well
and truly penned, but
some time between
my second glass of wine and
my first glass of scotch
it slipped away
back into the thickets
of the Concise Oxford.
Still, I managed yesterday
to rope and tie condign and
corral paradigm, but
I just missed out on
recondite

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