Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Birthday books

I’m delighted that, following a series of broad hints (could printing out details from Amazon be broader?) this year’s birthday netted the book I most wanted: Mervyn Peake: the man and his art, compiled by his son, Sebastian Peake, and Alison Eldred. Peake has been one of my favourite authors, artists and poets since I first read him aged 14 or so, and fell in love with Gormenghast and its gruesomely captivating inhabitants. The new book is beautiful, lavishly illustrated, and contains 11 chapters with contributions garnered from Peake’s friends, family and others. The book arrived in the same week as a much-longed-for DVD of Mr Pye, perhaps these days one of Peake’s lesser-known works; filmed in 1986 as a series by Channel 4, it starred Derek Jacobi as Mr Pye, and is a delight. More on both anon – although so much has been written on Peake since I first dreamt of owl-infested towers that I feel unqualified to utter a single word.

The birthday also brought Roger Deakin’s Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees. This is another work I have wanted to read since it came out, and should provide much food for posts on Cat Musings, where I am now restricting myself to “country matters”, although perhaps not quite in the sense which Hamlet meant.

Finally, sheer indulgence, in the form of a comic book: from my younger son came the first instalment of Joss Whedon’s sequel to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As in the television series, overall control will remain with Whedon, ensuring the integrity of the series. Apparently Buffy and the Slayers are now based in Scotland – I can’t wait!

Please note: this is currently an image-free - and almost post-free - zone, since my broadband connection will allow me only the most limited and fragmentary contact with the outside world. Full details of my woes on Cat Musings.


  1. A very happy birthday to you!

  2. Happy Birthday - again!

    I've never been able to get on with Gormengast. Convince me that I should try again.

  3. Thank you, Tara!

    Ann, I'm not entirely sure I can. Peake is one of those writers, I think, that you either adore the minute you start, or it will never work for you. With all his work you have to love the grotesque, and I suspect that it is actually easier to to fall for him when you are very young; Titus, Steerpike and Fuchsia speak most directly to adolescents? I'm not saying the empathic leap can't be made by anyone else, and I know there are many books about young people that you and I both enjoy. On the other hand, I wouldn't even try to read On the Road now - if Kerouac didn't work for me when I was 16, he certainly isn't going to work now.

    If you were to try Peake again, I would recommend starting with some of the other work, like Mr Pye, or his poetry. Or his art - if you don't love that, you won't like Gormenghast, I'm convinced.

  4. Right, I'll look out for a copy of 'Mr Pye'. I know just what you mean about needing to learn to love some books when you are an adolescent. I make a joke about my inability to read 'Wuthering Heights', but I'm sure that that is one of those books you need to come to while you're young and somehow it slipped me by. Now, it is known as THAT book. I have three copies which well-meaning friends have given me, each convinced that the only reason I haven't read it is because I don't have a copy. They all languish on my shelves.