Moorcock’s Epic Pooh essay

It had eluded me until today.
Epic Pooh is Michael Moorcock’s throwdown on Lord of the Rings and other Fantasy works, comparing LOTR and others to Winnie the Pooh, which he doesn’t like either.
“If the bulk of American sf could be said to be written by robots, about robots, for robots, then the bulk of English fantasy seems to be written by rabbits, about rabbits and for rabbits. “
It’s a quandry for me because of this: My four favorite fantasy writers are Moorcock, Tolkien, Peake and Lloyd Alexander. In this essay, the first of those writers goes after the second with a meat ax. He also pooh-poohs Alexander. He loves Peake and dedicated a book to him.
But I can agree with him in one way. What he seems to hate most is whimsy. (If you’ve read Elric or Von Bek or just about anything else by Moorcock, you know that he is whimsy-free.) And, frankly, it’s all the whimsy that sometimes makes one blush before telling someone that you’ve just read a fantasy novel.

Did Tolstoy inspire Gormenghast?

Probably not, I suppose, but look at this:
He alone did not obey the law of immutability in the enchanted*, sleeping castle.
It’s like a little synopsis of Gormenghast, but I ran across it in War & Peace.
Nothing else I’ve read so far in War & Peace appears to have any connection to Gormenghast at all, so I guess this is just a flukish sentence.
 *True, some might argue that Gormenghast is a decidedly unenchanted castle.

Mervyn Peake’s “Boy In Darkness” available in new edition

I just got an alert from Peter Winnington about a new edition of “Boy in Darkness.”


Peter tells me it has many Peake illustrations in it. And as we’ve discussed before, Peake is a powerful illustrator…

(from Treasure Island)

If you haven’t read Boy in Darkness, you should. It is unlike anything I have ever read, including the Gormenghast novels.

Yet, Boy in Darkness seems to be a part of the Gormenghast story. I certainly can’t claim to have understood it, or made much sense of it, but I’m glad I read it.

Whatever it is, it’s HIGHLY recommended.

Since I haven’t read it in some time, I asked Peter if it was kid-friendly. But that’s a hard question to answer. Let’s say that a very bright high-schooler might be spellbound by it, but not someone looking for a Harry Potter-style fantasy.

Poetry Friday – Mervyn Peake

Book cover - Mervyn Peake: The Man and His Art

Well, it’s turned into Mervyn Peake week around here, so why not finish it off with a Peake poem?

And let’s keep it fun, by skipping past the rough stuff in Peake’s Progress to “Aunts and Uncles.” Here is a great verse from that poem:

When Uncle Jake

Became a Snake

He never found it out;

And so as no one metions it

One sees him still about.

You can see an animated picture of Uncle Jake and read other poems at


This picture, by the way, is of a book edited by Peter Winnington, who has spent the week trying to clue me in about Peake & Bleak House.


 I cannot stress enough how amazing Mervyn Peake and how you really owe it to yourself to get “Titus Alone” and start reading. It is not exactly Kidlit, nor is it exactly fantasy, nor is it remotley like anything you’ve ever read before.

You will meet characters you will remember for the rest of your life. And it will all begin with Rottcodd, the duster of Bright Carvings and frequent napper…

 “One humid afternoon a visitor did arrive to disturb Rottcodd as he lay deeply hammocked, for his siesta was broken sharply by a rattling of the door handle which was apparently performed in lieu of the more popular practice of knocking at the panels.”

Peake’s Bleak House drawings update



These are just glorious, but there’s more – much more – that I’ve never seen.

Peter W., who commented on the previous Bleak House illustration post, has informed me by email that Peake made more sketches than what are available at the site I mentioned.

These are the sketches that appear in the “Sketches from Bleak House” book, which is introduced by kidlit god Leon Garfield, no less. Peter’s website has more information… (All the way at the bottom.)

I looked for the book on Abe and found that the only US copies are going for $560. An Amazon vendor may have one for $118 or so.  It would be cheaper to have it shipped from Europe, I think.

Mervyn Peake’s Bleak House drawings

As you may know by now, “Bleak House” and “Gormenghast” jostle at the very top of my all-time favorite books list. Just as their authors jostle for the the title of Favorite Writer.

Amazingly, the author of Gormenghast is an illustrator of Bleak House. Although it seems his drawings were never published in a Bleak House edition, they are blessedly online and, indeed, offered for sale! (They cost considerably more than my house, sadly.)


Here is The Rev. Chadband. You really should go see the full size version.


And here is the lovely Judy Smallweed, just waiting to “shake up” Mr. Smallweed.

What a book! And what illustrations!! Could any other illustrator have gotten these awful, awful people so right?

 Peake is ….

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