The Peake Test

While searching for something else entirely I found this article on Mervyn Peake, one of the most important people in my bookshelf. Peake was a brilliant, often overlooked writer and artist, and a slightly erratic but still wonderful poet. He’s also one of those writers you either love or…don’t.

Which is why I have, for the past few years, been using the Peake test, or the Peakometre. I ask people if they have read Peake. If they have not (as is usually the case) I wait and watch for other signs of compatibility. If they have and they dislike him (or worse, are indifferent to him), I lose hope. If they love him, I like them immediately. If, the first time I’ve ever spoken to them they say they wish fantasy had gone in the Peake direction instead of the Tolkien one* we are friends for life. Is this a fair or even rational way of choosing one’s friends? Probably not.

I have forced the Gormenghast books down various people’s throats. Shikha took ages to get past the first few pages because of the sheer loveliness of them, she’d keep rereading them. (She did eventually get around to the rest. She loved it, of course). Bhuvi is currently refusing to give me back the copy of Gormenghast she borrowed (luckily I have two. hah!). I bought Mieville’s Perdido Street Station because he’d mentioned Peake on the acknowledgements page. The verse at the top of this blog is from Peake’s A Reverie of Bone.

here are the basics. Read him if you haven’t already.

*Yes I do love Tolkien, but that’s irrelevant to this discussion.

14 Comments to “The Peake Test”

  1. Perhaps the unTolkienian mode peaked with him. Possibly writers found difficult to scale those heights.

  2. I like mor the russian writers, like Arseni Tarkovski. I put some links to Hindi poetry on: http://www.oskarlewis.com/weblog/archives/1317

  3. I spit me of Tarovski!

  4. Roswitha – What is it with everyone around me and bad puns today? Is my dad not bad enough? Mithun was punning at me too, earlier.

    Oskar – er. Thank you? I’ve somehow never been able to read the Russian writers, which is a pity.

    Shikha – I was so tempted to say that! Thank you for doing it first. How are you?:D

  5. Plum would never forgive us, had we exercised self-restraint and let the moment pass. Radically anti-Eno’s fruit salt, our Plum. Very unlike our friend Ibsen.

    …Except I might have just lost you an ardentreader, that very rare species of orange.

    I’m alright. Looking forward to the term getting over so I can stagger forth to Delhi and Calcutta and fill my internals with various edible things.

    Did you finish the Flashy? What did you think? And what time are you usually online?

  6. should the writers be branded? Some writings of a writer is exceptionally good that does not mean that every work of his is great. Why i should go by uther and not by some excerpts or review of the work.

  7. If, the first time I’ve ever spoken to them they say they wish fantasy had gone in the Peake direction instead of the Tolkien one* we are friends for life.

    Hee.

    Shikha took ages to get past the first few pages because of the sheer loveliness of them, she’d keep rereading them. (She did eventually get around to the rest. She loved it, of course).

    Ditto here.

    *Pats self on back for brave foray into the world and retreats smugly into shell*

  8. I’ve only heard his name. :( I do remember seeing Gormenghast cradled in my brother’s arms though. Of course, half the books he borrows he does not read (like me). But this means it is available in the nearby library. Hah!

  9. Hmmm,
    Adds himself to the queue of people waiting to borrow the book.

  10. Read on Roswithas blog…
    happy 21st…have a great year ahead…

  11. ooh..Please recommend more fantasy authors..have been devouring fantasy alomst indiscriminately for a long time and am now running out of choices (that I know of..)…do you like any of the new crop ? Pratchett ?

  12. Shikha – Tis true! And come home. Soon.
    As for the rest, will email.

    Atul Tayade – Er. Well you could choose not to go by author (though most great authors display greatness, if not actual GOODness in all of their work),I think it depends very muich on the type of books you read.

    Adi – I had that happen recently, it was wonderful. Welcome to the world, you must visit more often! ;)

    Anirudh – I insist that you read it if it is available at the local library. The BCL no longer has it.

    Anonymouse – Let me know what you think when you do manage to get hold of it.:)

    Szerelem – Thank you!

    Anonymous – Eep..erm..reccos..Pratchett, definitely, Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, George R. R Martin, Ursula LeGuin, Diana Wynne Jones…what have you been reading over the past year? Email if you like, it’ll give me a better idea of what other authors you might like.

  13. I loved his portraits but his nonsense verse was a class apart in itself. The gap left behind by peake would take a long time to fill. May he rest in peace.

  14. That list looks good. I have the name written down, will see if I can locate a copy.

    Currently hunting: Stanislav Lem’s works, translated to English.

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