This is a description by Anthony Burgess of the reader’s reaction to Mervyn Peake’s writing in the intricately imaginative Gormenghast trilogy.

My reaction to Peake’s Titus Groan, the first of the trilogy, is that the effect of his writing is cumulative and in the strength of his characterization and his minute descriptions. Other writers can yield dozens of quotable quotes and metaphors, while having less overall impact.  See the bestellar review of this book, with its lavishly illustrated quote-mosaic, packed with fine phrasing and fresh metaphors.  

Some manage both: generating striking, original phrasing in sentence after sentence combined with an overall powerful effect – a couple of such examples that spring to mind are Jane Eyre and Tarka the Otter.

Burgess’ comment on Peake gives writers a demanding but worthwhile aspiration … are you inducing aesthetic (or any other) elation in the reader?  I hope at least that the quotations and metaphors highlighted on WritingRedux regularly trigger such emotions.  (They do in me, in any case, which is why I choose to feature them).

‘… genuine aesthetic elation induced by language finely used.’

And see Borges on two types of aesthetic.  

See also other Key Performance (or Penmanship) Indicators inspired by reactions to Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico; quotations of Henry WilliamsonMolly PeacockHarold Bloom and Adam Nicolson’s kind reaction to this website.


Source: Anthony Burgess, introduction to Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan (London: Vintage Books, 1998), p. 5

Photo credit: Wayne Lee-Sing at


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