Wedge-headed man

Wedge-headed man

Trying to imagine the angle of the wedge!  Was it a heavy-jawed man with a pointed head, or one with a wide forehead and a pointed chin, or something all together more surprising? And always intrigued by people who can engage in abstract language at dizzy levels of...
An opiate vista

An opiate vista

A curious vista of ‘tallow-coloured’ images floating before an opium-steeped lord. ‘Laudanum’ was the name for various opium-based preparations and now refers to an alcoholic tincture of the same drug.  ‘Chloral’, of apparently...
On illusory madness

On illusory madness

A fine description of Mervyn Peake’s balance between bounding imagination and taut writing, rounded off with a vintage metaphor. ‘It remains essentially a work of the closed imagination, in which a world parallel to our own is presented in almost paranoiac...
Slaves to the sun?

Slaves to the sun?

While for the most part these twin sisters are nothing short of bonkers, I liked when one of them questioned the tyranny of time, speaking with splendid disregard for the sun of day and moon of night. For other examples of their more eccentric exchanges, see how they...
Heron-like paces

Heron-like paces

I love the idea of a human walk embodying the fastidious strut of the heron’s dainty stride. ‘He strode to the wooden shutters with long, slow heron-like paces, and the dust rose behind him.’  See another heron simile, by the poet Kevin...
Lime-green river

Lime-green river

In the context of Gormenghast, this intriguing river colour would unlikely be a sign of toxic effluent or bloom, so it struck me, along with the prediction of inheritance fishing. ‘The lime-green river where twelve years later he would be angling for the hideous...
Quill-like face

Quill-like face

Trying to picture this face resembling a quill, particularly as it describes the kindly, emotionally intelligent, acerbic doctor enjoying a soak in his veined-marble bath. ‘Only his quill-like face emerged above the perfumed surface of the water.’  ...
As warm as …

As warm as …

A surprising simile, something as ordinary and comforting as warm tea, here poured differently to describe a stream of blood.  Steerpike is the worst person in the granite pile of Gormenghast – may we all be spared his scheming type. ‘The blood, streaming...
As ripe as …

As ripe as …

Swelter is assailed by life-sapping loathing for Flay, who returns the compliment.  Their battle is astounding for its intensity and outcome. Here a bursting simile for murderous hatred ready to pop. ‘… while Swelter, whose frustrated blood-lust was ripe...
A milliner’s invention

A milliner’s invention

Again, the charming Swelter, whose every move is offensive to one sense or another. See, for example, the sound of his feet when he walks. Here his gaping yawn makes nudity seem prim. ‘He does not listen for an answer, but yawns, his face opening lewdly upon...
Sucking at stones

Sucking at stones

Swelter is one of the less attractive characters in Mervyn Peake’s sprawling, crawling, mossy pile of forgotten granite, Gormenghast.  He consumes prodigious quantities of food and wine and is consumed by hatred (fully reciprocated). Peake depicts his...
Of guardian trees

Of guardian trees

A beautiful way to convey the kind, protective presence of someone quietly keeping an eye on the well-being of another.  I hope you have such benevolence in your life, from both people and trees. ‘As the days passed he began to know her better, in the great,...
Quick as …

Quick as …

Not an eye you would want settling its penetrating gaze on you, giving you a cold adder-quick assessment through the lace curtains of its blood-alley veins. This is one of many descriptions of a quite terrifying individual.’So alive is it, this eye, quick as an...
As huge as …

As huge as …

Mervyn Peake is a fount of original similes and metaphors.  Given the granite-gothic ambiance of Gormenghast, it makes sense that ‘huge’ should evoke ‘doom’. ‘… at their centre, between the brittle petals, lies a pool of indigo,...

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