Peake in the Attic?

Lovers of Mervyn Peake's unique fantasy trilogy Gormenghast are notoriously touchy, protective and defensive about this literary treasure.  First, the series exists sadly only in a damaged state, its third volume not completed properly due to the author’s degeneration from Parkinson’s.  Second, as the “other” seminal fantasy trilogy from mid-twentieth century, Peake’s masterpiece has always played the underdog to Tolkien’s.  Fans and critics are prone to rhapsodize about what commercial fantasy fiction might look like nowadays, if only Peake had triumphed over his Inkling rival.


So news that the manuscript of a fourth book in the series, Titus Awakes, had been found was immediately greeted across the internet with trepidation and concern.  Especially when it was learned that the work flowed exclusively from the pen of Peake’s wife, Maeve, who had no prior fiction track record and was inspired by a mere “page and a half of fragmented notes” left to her by her husband.  Maeve Peake’s involvement with her husband’s vision might have approached collaborative status while he lived, for all we know, but the novel is still not by Mervyn himself.

Until publication, we have only the word of son Sebastian that the sequel honors the original.  Rather like the recent controversy centering on Nabokov’s The Original of Laura, heirs might be bowing to the lure of a legend, rather than the sheer quality of the work.



July 22: On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey into Night to his wife, Carlotta.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.


What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.