PEAKE'S PROGRESS: Selected Writings and Drawings of Mervyn Peake by Mervyn Peake

PEAKE'S PROGRESS: Selected Writings and Drawings of Mervyn Peake

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Mervyn Peake (1911-1968) is best known for his fantastic Gormenghast trilogy and his suave, slightly overripe book illustrations. Yet behind the prolific fabulism, the metamorphic character of his figures (the Goat and the Hyena rule as personal psychic lords), and the polished nonsense, aficionados have discerned something more: a grotesquerie, even a sinister hard-mindedness. In this omnibus volume of work selected by Peake's widow, these qualities declare themselves especially in such nonsense poems as ""Tintinabulum,"" ""O Here It Is and There It Is,"" and ""I Cannot Give The Reasons"": ""In gorgery and gushness/ and all that squishified/ My voice has all the lushness/ of what I can't abide./ And yet it has a beauty most terrible/ denied to those whose duty/ is to be cerebral./ Among the antlered mountains/ I make my viscous way/ and watch the sepia fountains/ throw up their lime-green spray."" Best example of this ""beauty most terrible"" is the short novel ""Boy In Darkness""--an allegory published in 1956 (in a volume that also included work by William Golding, whose similarity to Peake, in tone and dark, out-of-time situation, grows ever more striking over the years). A suck-hole of a story, truly frightening and somehow episcopal, it is Peake at his strongest and strangest. But little else here is: a farce-around-a-coffin (in verse, yet!) would be only slightly more excruciating to sit through, staged, than it is to read. Most of the serious poems are tepid (though one, a narrative, ""The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb,"" is impressive), the drawings unctuous. The publisher plans to reissue the Gormenghast trilogy, but for now Peake is on display at a flicker only.

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 1981
Publisher: Overlook--dist. by Viking