Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Through the Looking Glass

Some of the actresses from the Trinity College of Acting & Performance whose production at Dinefwr Castle of Through the Looking Glass was so rapturously received by a full house.

Titus Alone, a new US edition

Asked to write the introduction to the new Overlook Press edition of Titus Alone, David Edelman triumphs. Early on in the lengthy assessment he dispenses with the somewhat repetitious chestnut about the third part not being on a par with the others. He advances arguments about the novel which place it where it should be, at the then very forefront of contemporary writing.

In fact Titus Alone differs from the previous two parts of the trilogy in which 'Peake ambles through page after page of glorious lyrical exposition' by taking here, the 'linguistic expess route'. Titus Alone, Edelman contends, is 'bursting with sexuality, both expressed and repressed'. 'Can you imagine anyone', he asks, 'in the first two novels saying, as Titus says to Cheeta, "let me suck your breasts, like little apples and play upon your nipples with my tongue"?' In the long, considered, and by the end of the introduction obviously partisan and won-over analysis of the novel, Edelman notes correctly that 'clearly Mervyn Peake was not finished with Titus Alone, as 'we know that Peake planned to write further episodes in the saga'. 'The more I study Titus Alone' he concludes, 'the more I realise that Peake knew precisely what he was doing with the book'.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Borders in Bristol

Photographed with Stephen Froom's wicker man sculpture from Treasure Island at Borders Bookshop, Bristol, where I 'represented' Mervyn Peake at a signing and sales session in the large store, located next to both the university and the City Museum. Later the same day, I spoke at the Bristol City Museum to a full house and the talk was followed by many interesting questions. Several copies of Mervyn Peake: The Man & His Art were sold. The hardcover edition has now virtually been sold out but a paperback edition is about to be published, and will cost just under £20.

A watercolour by E L Peake

I was contacted recently by a visitor to the site who found this watercolour in an antique shop in the West Midlands. Signed E.L.Peake, and dated 1920, it is likely to be the work of Mervyn's elder brother 'Lonnie' who would have been 16 at the time and still living with his parents and brother in China.

Lincoln Librarians

Following a talk on 16th May, at the Library of Branston College, near Lincoln, several of those attending stayed on to have their photograph taken with the speaker. A print of Mrs Pardiggle and her brood; one of the illustrations for Bleak House, was presented to the librarian, who has agreed to frame it and hang it in an appropriate part of the library.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Travels Through the Looking Glass

The final performance of Travels Through The Looking Glass took place on Friday 9th May, playing to a packed house both inside and outside Dinefwr House, in deepest Carmarthenshire. The outstanding performances from the cast began within the plush surroundings of this beautifully-restored, and very recent National Trust acquisition, before, led by the Frog Footman, we were beckoned outside where the play continued. Rousing, prolonged applause greeted the actors at the end of the adaptation. Dressed in fawn-coloured calico, the costumes shaped from the original Peake illustrations, the actors then brought us all back inside again for the final poetic flourish. The clapping took some time to die down.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Forbidden City

John Keay, writing in the current Times Literary Supplement reviews among other recently published books on China, Geremie R.Barme's The Forbidden City and writes, 'Nothing better conveys the Forbidden City's reputation as both palace and prison than Barme's revelation that the fictional Gormenghast of the Titus Groan trilogy owed its hide-bound rituals, if not its architecture, to Mervyn Peake's upbringing in nearby Tianjin in the early years of the twentieth century. Peake's creation was another world within a world, another warren of chambers and courtyards in which the fair and foul cohabited promiscuously. It too was built in alignment with the four points of the compass and the passage of a reluctant sun. And like the infant Groan, seventy-seventh Earl of Gormenghast, the young Puyi - China's "Last Emperor" as per the Bertolucci film - must have been "suckled on shadows; weaned, as it were, on webs of ritual: for his ears, echoes, for his eyes a labyrinth of stone".

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Locus Award Nomination

The well-known American fantasy and science fiction magazine, Locus, published in Oakland, California, but popular around the world, has just shortlisted Mervyn Peake: The Man & His Art for an art-book award.