"Wagner has some wonderful moments . . . and some perfectly dreadful quarters of an hour!" - Rossini
Rossini, one of the greatest of all Opera compose"Wagner has some wonderful moments . . . and some perfectly dreadful quarters of an hour!" - Rossini
Rossini, one of the greatest of all Opera composers was not too appreciative of that other acknowledged Opera genius, Wagner. I really love Wagner, but having sat through Tristan und Isolde with a wretched cold or Meistersinger von Nurnberg when I was painfully tired, I've often appreciated Rossini's sentiment.
The link is, perhaps, that I was equally desperate to turn the last page on this wretched book, Titus Groan, whose writing for me, is equally well summed up as having “beautifully written pages, but perfectly dreadful 30 page stretches”. If one, as a music connoisseur, can appreciate the lyrical beauty of many of Wagner's orchestral passages it's still perfectly possible to nod off during the recititave, or drama. If one can appreciate those moments when Peake really hits the nail on the head with his writing, coming up with the perfect phrasing and conjunction of words to convey beauty in meaning, equally one has to work through page after page of his painfully affected and weighty prose, the forefather of some kind of creative writing class that suggests that for every short word in the English language there's an awkward long one that would better serve the purpose. Which isn't to say that Peake's prose isn't fine, it's just that it doesn't serve Peake's story very well at all, and what looks unique and clever for the first 30 pages starts to become tiresome and aggravating after 500.
But that wasn't really the link. Really the link was a connection with Wagner's opus, The Ring Cycle that 20th Century fantasy literature seems to thread back to and be obsessed with, and it's a link that really connects the Tolkien fantasy tradition to Peake's novel in a cute little way. Tolkien, of course, mined Wagner's fantasy epic for its themes of power and domination and ripped the symbol of the ring from its heart as well as the mythic fantasy realm of dwarves and dragons and magic. But Wagner isn't just about lusty dwarves seizing power and liberated heroes taking it back again - actually that's the just the surface idea. At the heart of Wagner's Ring Cycle are themes of change, decay and the passing of one old, outmoded ruling world order into the hands of the next. The titular “Twilight of the Gods” sees Valhalla catching fire from the suicidal funeral pyre of Brunhillde, a complex chain of events involving many economic and power related factors, all a result of Wotan's greedy desire to build Valhalla, via striking an illegal deal with the giants to exploit their manual labour.
Wagner's epic is far too complicated and nuanced to get into but the influence on Peake seems clear. The old order of the Groans is brought down because unforseen and unprepared for changes, involving economics and class warfare, are brought into Gormenghast which cannot protect itself despite years of tradition and oppression of other orders (the symbolic carvings at the beginning of Titus Groan could equally be Wotan's spear on which he carves out the treaties that he makes). If lust for power is one of the factor's that brings down the Gods in Wagner, and is one of the factors that creates and sustains the conflict in Middle-Earth, then equally, through the agency of the Machiavellian Steerpike, it's the main factor that brings about change in Gormenghast. It's also interesting to note that Steerpike has Lord Sepulchrave's library burned which is essentially the seat of his power (and his sanity)
Sadly, Peake's opus is neither as good as Wagner or Tolkien, but that's not too much to its detriment. Peake is no storyteller and his book remains without heart, passion or any real coherent philosophy. We're introduced to a bunch of events and characters within Gormenghast and we're told of the changes that take place, but we're never truly connected with them. Neither are they all that complex when one sits them alongside its Wagnerian inspiration. Steerpike, the only semi-realised character within the book doesn't have a lot to do or any real motivation to do it. He's introduced as part of the working class and clearly has single-minded ambition to better himself, but this simply amounts to sweet-talking a couple of idiots and burning a library. Other characters are introduced with a wealth of detail and overburdened prose but few come to life as anything other than side-pieces and fluffed up ornamentation for the work, and as the book notes the passing of time we also note the passing of any attempt at a narrative to hook the albeit beautifully realised events together. Swelter vs Flay, the fire in the Library, Titus' Breakfast etc. are all vividly described and brought to life in perfect tableaux, but each and every event rings hollow within the grand schema.
This is a sometimes great book but it's never a great novel. In the wake of late 20th C Tolkien backlash a lot of fantasy fanatics were determined to find an alternative to give their genre respectability and, passing up Eddison's Worm Oroborous they settled on Peake for his “Dickensian” stylings and obvious metaphors (Gormenghast, it's like … a castle. Represents stability and tradition). It's a great book and a good choice but its unfortunately not the completely satisfying master-work it's frequently billed as. Why Eddison can't have the trophy now I don't know. Or maybe we should just give it to Wagner instead?...more
I've been expecting this series to slow down at some point, but every time I think it might it just bounces back and gets stronger. Some of the finestI've been expecting this series to slow down at some point, but every time I think it might it just bounces back and gets stronger. Some of the finest artwork so far appears in this volume as Hino has really worked out how to create a gorgeous page layout to full effect. This volume is also a little less confusing and more character heavy, focussing a lot more on Yuuki's confused relationship to her past and how this affects her relationship to Kaname. There are, of course, the requisite plot twists and sexual situations but the slower pace of this volume was really welcome for me and helped build the tension even more.
Whether Hino can throw out any more plot-stalling devices successfully to keep the series running or whether and how she's going to explode the plot at this point remains to be seen. It'll be fun finding out....more
The sexual tension continues to ooze from every page. Hino is an absolute master of showing everything and nothing, creating incredibly erotic situatiThe sexual tension continues to ooze from every page. Hino is an absolute master of showing everything and nothing, creating incredibly erotic situations that occasional erupt into graphic blood feeding encounters that are highly ambiguous in nature and perhaps even a little morally problematic (like all good Vampire fiction!). In other words - it's s still fucking hot.
The steady build of the central plot at the moment is simply introducing new characters and hinting at enmities and rivalries through subtle flashbacks, it all makes me want to read on quickly to find out in what way these tensions are likely to resolve themselves.
I'm hesitant to comment on the nature of the plot or ideology at this stage (though I've seen the anime, so have an idea where it's going) but I want to note that the comparisons to Twilight are quite ridiculous. Whereas Twilight uses Vampirism to - bizarrely - expound a very chaste, reserved ethos towards love and sex, Vampire Knight screeches in the opposite direction regarding liberal sexuality and erotic attraction. Yuuki may in many regards be a passive narrative cypher but she and those around her are so sexually charged it seems likely she'll explode. ...more
After the first three fairly conventional Timewyrm novels I'm full of admiration for Cornell for attempting to do something completely different withAfter the first three fairly conventional Timewyrm novels I'm full of admiration for Cornell for attempting to do something completely different with the fourth and to push Doctor Who into directions that fans would be completely unfamiliar with. Sadly, good intentions don't necessarily make good novels and Cornell wasn't up to the weighty task he'd set himself of creating a surrealistic adventure set in alternate dimension, hell, the Doctor's mind, or on the moon. Unfortunately if one tries literary experimentation and gets it wrong, one tends to be left with something truly tiresome to read and this novel was for a dull chore to get through. What we get is a hodge podge of poorly interrelated ideas, a bunch of Wizard of Oz references (seriously, yes, Ace will always be called Dorothy and that will never be clever)a Church with a disembodied conscience and the re-appearance yet again of old Doctors and old companions and there seems to be no literary justification for any of them other than "The Doctor is fighting the Timewyrm inside his own conscience. Or in another dimension. Or something.
The novel is poorly paced, jumps around a lot, has very few genuinely interesting scenarios/passage or ideas, and there's really no sense of progression or climax. I ultimately didn't find myself caring who lived or died, why the Doctor was fighting the Timewyrm or whether or not it was a threat to the entire universe. Worse, I didn't find myself caring about either the Doctor or Ace's subconsciousness or their relationships to one another (or the other characters in the novel, whose reason for being there I didn't manage to fathom out by the end... other than that "it was all part of the plan!"
Yet it made me hopeful and pleased that the Virgin New Adventures were prepared to take risks with their material. This series was obviously not destined to be filled with bog-standard tie in dross. if you're going to fail it's probably better to do it spectacularly. ...more
Totally hot. Probably hotter than the first volume. Zero and Yuuki get it on a fair bit via some discreet - very hot - bloodsucking and Kaname spendsTotally hot. Probably hotter than the first volume. Zero and Yuuki get it on a fair bit via some discreet - very hot - bloodsucking and Kaname spends the entire volume being a totally hot bishie. ...more