Thursday, February 03, 2011

Faulks on Fiction, BBC2 Saturday, 26th February 2011

'His face was pale like clay and save for his eyes, mask-like.'

In the forthcoming companion to the television series, Faulks on Fiction, the writer Sebastian Faulks heads his chapter on Steerpike, in the Villains section of the book, 'A Problem Case' . Quoting from Prunesquallor's rhetorical question to the anti-hero: The doctor asks Steerpike whether he is a 'problem case', or 'a clear-cut young gentleman with no ideas at all?' This unresolved dichotomy forms the basis of Faulks' enquiry into the very heart-beat of the character.

'While I take my Gormenghast neat', writes Faulks incisively, 'some readers have preferred to take it with a shot of Nuremberg', alluding to the fact that, certainly the novel Titus Groan, was both conceived and written during war time. Earlier in the two thousand word essay the writer gives a very eloquent assessment of why readers should never confuse Tolkein with Peake. 'Like a child's game, dolls and teddy bears take the place of people', he suggests about the former, 'but in the child's very real house and garden'. Peake's world however, is 'less predictable, less delineated; it is not such a comfortable place as Middle Earth'.

He's right, it's the real world. Or, as a well-known contemporary writer observed recently... 'Tolkein stands on a hill directing his forces from a distance, while Mervyn Peake is down there with his troops...'

The book is published by BBC Books.

The episode featuring Streerpike will be shown on BBC 2 Television on Saturday 26th February at 9 pm.


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