Join 3,562 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


When Mrs Cohen met Mr Peake
January 31, 2013 7:30 PM   Subscribe

In 1939 Mrs David Cohen, president of the Industrial Arts Society of New South Wales, addressed a literary luncheon on the subject of 'her eleven months sojourn in foreign places'. Of particular note was her meeting with a 'twenty-seven-year-old painter-poet, Mervyn Peake'.
posted by misterbee (38 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I assume that name means something to a person from Australia. Care to let the rest of us in on the joke?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:48 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chocolate Pickle: I believe it is referring to this Mervyn Peake, the author of a wonderful but sadly unfinished sequence of fantasy books -- the Gormenghast series.

The books are an immersing, and sometimes frankly terrifying (if you're a young child like I was when I read them), mix of surrealist Gothic fantasy concepts. They're great.
posted by felixc at 7:55 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


There is definitely a cool FPP to be made about Peake, his Gormenghast, his illness and decline, his illustrations and his own illustrated books, such as Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor and Letters From a Lost Uncle. I'm not sure there's enough meat in this FPP to make it that FPP.
posted by Nomyte at 8:04 PM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thanks, felixc, I was perhaps a little scanty with the background on this one. Meryvn Peake, as previously reported, is indeed primarily known for the Gormenghast novels, but was also a prodigiously talented artist and illustrator. And I just found the article so damn charming.
posted by misterbee at 8:06 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oooh! I'm about two months into the second Gormenghast novel - I expect I should have it completed by the end of this year. Such wonderfully dense writing!
posted by rebent at 8:08 PM on January 31, 2013


The BBC miniseries adaptation starts the talented Mr. Dursley as Swelter.
posted by Nomyte at 8:20 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here is the poem mentioned in the article - Rhondda Valley by Mervyn Peake. There is a surprising consumptive cough at 2:15.
posted by unliteral at 8:21 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reminder it's about time to read again! Such amazing books.
posted by parki at 8:33 PM on January 31, 2013


Yes. This shames me into the fact I have never finished the trilogy.
Gormenghast is such a fabulous book once you get over the language hump.

Actually, I think the fact a decade-plus has passed since I put Gormenghast down for the last time scares me.
posted by Mezentian at 8:42 PM on January 31, 2013


I think Gormenghast is wonderful exactly because I've never been able to finish it. It reminds me of the time before I knew the outline of the story in Lord of the Rings, having only seen parts of the Rankin-Bass cartoon: a story about men, and dwarves, and wizards, and elves, and magic rings, in a time before time. I think Peake's trilogy works really well as a series of loosely connected, dream-like episodes.
posted by Nomyte at 8:59 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


This shames me into the fact I have never finished the trilogy.

It's OK — neither did Mervyn.
posted by Wolof at 9:10 PM on January 31, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think Gormenghast is wonderful exactly because I've never been able to finish it. It reminds me of the time before I knew the outline of the story in Lord of the Rings, having only seen parts of the Rankin-Bass cartoon: a story about men, and dwarves, and wizards, and elves, and magic rings, in a time before time. I think Peake's trilogy works really well as a series of loosely connected, dream-like episodes.

Bits of books, a short story in an unrelated connection where Titus wanders the world, bits of the TV series. Its pretty amazing.

If there's anything to this story that requires on the ground investigation, I live close to the places mentioned.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:10 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


please don't make a Gormenghast movie please don't make a Gormenghast movie please don't make a Gormenghast movie please don't make a Gormenghast movie
posted by mattoxic at 9:11 PM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


please don't make a Gormenghast movie please don't make a Gormenghast movie please don't make a Gormenghast movie please don't make a Gormenghast movie

They made a nice TV series. I'd like to see someone like David Fincher or Micheal Mann do one that's mostly just tours through Gormenghast.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:14 PM on January 31, 2013


it would make an absolutely terrible movie because the story itself is not very important - it's the setting, the descriptions, the prose that makes it incredible.
posted by rebent at 9:16 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


it would make an absolutely terrible movie because the story itself is not very important - it's the setting, the descriptions, the prose that makes it incredible.

Hmm, I don't know. If Titus was a kick ass marshal arts dude and had special powers. And if Steerpike was really Titus' lost brother...
posted by mattoxic at 9:24 PM on January 31, 2013


Nah the worst would be a standard Tim Burton quirkfest. But what you want is something by an old fashioned action director, someone like the guy who did the original Die Hard or Dredd 3D or James Cameron. This should be a movie about moving around in a fictionalized physical space, so you want shots of Steerpike climbing up and around sets in below and above things.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:27 PM on January 31, 2013


I'd like to see someone like David Fincher or Micheal Mann do one that's mostly just tours through Gormenghast.

Gormenghast Ark.
Gormenghast Satyricon.
posted by Nomyte at 9:28 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm finding this article very interesting for the rabbit holes (pun intended) it is taking me down.
Mrs (Marjory) David Cohen is the daughter of Sir Isaac Isaacs, High Court Judge and Governor General, vehement anti-Zionist.
Whickam Steed alleged that the Germans were experimenting with biological weapons in the London Underground and Paris Metro.
Christina Foyle may not have got an R.S.V.P. from Hitler, but she did get a letter from him in response to her complaint about Nazi book-burning.
Funnily enough, it seems that Miss Foyle was the namesake for Christopher Foyle in Foyle's War, mentioned in the Steed piece.
posted by unliteral at 9:43 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


And 'David X Cohen' is the name of a producer for Futurama.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:57 PM on January 31, 2013


I love the first two books in the Gormenghast trilogy but the third book is a difficult read. Peake was depressed and seriously ill and the book was never finished. It shows. 'Titus Groan' and 'Gormenghast' have a beautiful twilight melancholy and a theme that things are ending, but in 'Titus Alone' there's an overwhelming mood of despair and confusion and alienation. I sometimes recommend that people don't read it.

Peake was (and is) a massive influence on many authors, particularly Michael Moorcock and China Miéville. If you enjoyed 'Perdido Street Station' you'll probably enjoy at least two of the Gormenghast novels.
posted by BinaryApe at 11:10 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Flay vs. Swelter. So good.
posted by neuromodulator at 11:13 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way, I got to know Mervyn Peake through his illustrations for the Alice books first - check out his Cheshire Cat. Terrifying.

(And I for one like the last book. It's definitely not as good as the first two, but I think it gives glimpses of what might have been in a pretty rewarding way).
posted by neuromodulator at 11:17 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have spent most of my life raving about Peake in general and Gormenghast in particular to anyone willing to listen (and a few unwilling, too), but this seems rather inconsequential as a solitary link.
posted by Decani at 1:02 AM on February 1, 2013


But what you want is something by an old fashioned action director

Or Kusturica, or Ki-duk Kim, or Kitano, or (if they weren't inconveniently dead) Kieślowski or Kurosawa.

...a series of loosely connected, dream-like episodes.

Isn't that just how life is, though?
posted by titus-g at 1:26 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


this seems rather inconsequential as a solitary link.
Serendipity. I have found it to be hugely rewarding.
posted by unliteral at 2:16 AM on February 1, 2013


Anyone who loves the books should absolutely track down the BBC miniseries, which is wonderfully weird (and which may or may not be available to watch on YouTube, ahem).
posted by fight or flight at 3:14 AM on February 1, 2013


If you need any further persuading, the BBC series stars Jonathan Rhys Myers as the odious Steerpike and an excellent Christopher Lee as Flay.
posted by fight or flight at 3:15 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


A literal trove! Thanks, Australia!
posted by steef at 4:28 AM on February 1, 2013


Flay vs. Swelter ... in Bullet Time.
posted by Mezentian at 6:33 AM on February 1, 2013


Gormenghast was one of the shelters of my adolescence. The linked article was worth it simply for this line:
[Peake], who adores bright colours, [sported] copper tweeds, orange velvet tie, and bright blue shirt.
And the deadpan followup: "He is known as the exponent of brighter dressing for men."
posted by jokeefe at 7:44 AM on February 1, 2013


And another vote for the miniseries. They did it properly. Fuchsia, in particular, looked exactly as I had imagined her (with help from Peake's drawings of course).
posted by jokeefe at 7:46 AM on February 1, 2013


Oh Lord, my father got a hold of a copy of the miniseries, somehow, at some point in my young adolescence (I must have been 12? I have no idea how he got it, it was only showing on the British BBC at the time.) I credit that with a major, major influence on my subconscious development-- and probably the reason why I didn't freak when I tried hallucinogens for the first time as well.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:04 AM on February 1, 2013


Oh Lord, my father got a hold of a copy of the miniseries, somehow, at some point in my young adolescence (I must have been 12?

I feel so old.

Personally, I'm of the "avoid the mini-series' camp, because Gormenghast is a head-fuck book.
At the very least, avoid it until you have read it. Which is usually good advice. But, if I remember, TV Gormenghast is less grand, less expansive, less crumbly than Book Gormenghast.
posted by Mezentian at 9:12 AM on February 1, 2013


My favourite thing about the books was the beautiful illustrations.
posted by maiamaia at 2:38 PM on February 1, 2013


I loved the first two books, and read them compulsively as as a teenager...the third one is very strange, you can really sense his disintegration. Time to treat myself to a reread and maybe to buy a lovely edition, I think...mine have pretty much fallen apart.

His illustrations of other authors are amazing as well.
posted by tardigrade at 3:16 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, who composed the beautiful score for the Gormenghast miniseries, died just after last Christmas. I mention this because the opening theme haunts me to this day.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:26 PM on February 1, 2013


The theme seems a lot like a musical rendition of the Children of the Stones theme, as stored in my head. I am afraid to check.
posted by Mezentian at 5:30 AM on February 2, 2013


« Older Heineken's "Eurotopia"...  |  telegeography.com... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments