Archive for sourdust

Titus Groan: Swelter receives a surprise

Posted in Gormenghast journey with tags , , , , , , , on March 15, 2010 by echostains

Titus Groan, read but still writing about it

Well I finished Titus Groan  a several weeks ago.  I saw him safely come into his Kingdom and I have been propelled five years into the future.  Ghosts haunt Gormenghast – but some aren’t dead.  Flay is living, not roughly but quite nicely thank you.  He has now acquired two caves for himself, which he has furnished sparsely.  He had become a keen hunter, he cooks, he cleans, he still slips into Gormenghast from time to time, he watches and he waits – but what for, he doesn’t know.  But he has survived.

So has Steerpike.  he has dispensed with the Doctors dispensary and spare room and ensconced himself in a nice apartment befitting his new position – but I am getting beyond myself: far into Gormenghast.  I am following on from Keda, Titus’s wet-nurse.

sepulchrave played by Ian Richardson

Sepulchrave haunts the burnt out library.  He travels from shelf to shelf reciting the classics.  he is joined by burnt up Barquentine – minus head.  If you remember, his head had to be replaced with that of a small calf as the original had been stolen.  Well, the original does turn up again, in a further chapter…

Swelter is another ghost.  He has been replaced by a bow-legged chef with a mule shaped head and mouthful of metal teeth!  Where do they get their staff from?  I digress.  Back to Titus Groan.

It is the morning of the Titus’s christening and all are preparing for the event.  Even the head gardener Pentecost (where does Peake get these names from) is cutting flowers and polishing the apples in his little leather cape.

In Gormenghast violet eyes are an unfortunate disfigurement.  Titus’s are mentioned quite a few times in a uncomplimentry way.  It’s a good job Elizabeth Taylor wasn’t born in Gormenghast – her career would never have taken off.  But I digress…..

flay

Nannie Slagg is trying to awaken Fuschia, Sepulchrave and Sourdust are eating breakfast together.  Rottcodd is still dusting and the Dr is singing away in his bath.  The main action in this chapter comes from Flay and Swelter though:-

Suddenly the door opened and Flay came in.  He was wearing his long black moth-eaten suit, but there had been some attempt on his part at getting rid of the major stains and clipping the more ragged edges of cuff and trouser into straight lines.  Over and above these improvements he wore around his neck a heavy chain of brass.  In one hand, he balanced on a tray, a bowl of water.  The negative dignity of the room threw him out in relief as a positive scarecrow.  Of this he was quite unconscious.  He has been helping to dress Lord Sepulchrave. and had made a rapid journey with the christening bowl as his lordship stood polishing his nails by the window of his bedroom……..

I love this encounter between these old adversaries, but Flay is no match for Swelter’s dripping sarcasm..

A voice came out of the face: ‘Well. well well,’ it said, ‘may I be boiled to a frazzle if it isn’t Mr Flee.  ‘The one and only Mr Flee, Well, well, well.  Here before me in the Cool Room.  Dived through the keyhole I do believe.  Oh, my adorable lights and liver, if it isn’t the Flee itself.’

swelter as played brilliantly by Richard Griffiths

To add insult to injury, Swelter then proceeds to introduce Mr Flay to his kitchen boys:-

‘Mr Flee, I will introduce you,’ said Swelter as the boys approached, glueing their frightened eyes on their precarious cargoes.  ‘Mr Flee – Master Springers – Mater Springers – Mr Flee.  Mr Flee – Master Wrattle, Master Wrattle – Mr Flee.  Mr Flee – Master Spurter – Mr Flee…….

For Flay, this proves too much.  He strikes Swelter across the face with the heavy chain.  But before there can be any retaliation, Flee manages to escape.  The next encounter between the two enemies is interrupted by Sourdust being there, so there can be no return match.  Later.

Advertisements

Titus Groan: Lord Sepulchrave – why the long face?

Posted in Flashback challenge, Gormenghast journey with tags , , , , , , , on February 1, 2010 by echostains

sepulchrave played by Ian Richardson in the BBC adaptation

This chapter gives us a better idea of the melancholy Sepulchrave, the man and his world as he starts his morning in the Stone Hall, where his ancestors have before him.  The raised table gives him a good view of the refectory and its ancient ceiling:-

On either side and running the entire length, great pillars prop the painted ceiling where cherubs persue each other across a waste of flaking sky.  There must be about a thousand of them all told, interweaving among the clouds, their fat limbs forever on the move and yet never moving, for they are perfectly articulated.  The colours, once garish, have faded and peeled away and the ceiling is now a very subtle shade of grey and lichen green, old rose and silver.

This man has no sentimental feelings towards his home – only a sense of duty and a weariness, which seems to be part of his disposition.  His life is dictated by ritual –  different ones for each day of his life.  They must be adhered to because?  He doesn’t know why exactly – only that it must be.  There is not much narrative in this chapter, though Sepulchrave does sigh a lot. Here’s a description his breakfast – what a wonderful picture it paints!

The silver shone and the napkins were folded into the shapes of peacocks, and were perched decoratively on the two plates.  There was a delicious scent of bread, sweet and wholesome.  There were eggs painted in gay colours, toast piled up pagoda wise, tier upon tier and each as frail as  as a dead leaf; and fish with their tails in their mouths lay coiled in sea blue saucers.  There was coffee in an urn shaped like a lion, the spout protruding from the animal’s silver jaws.  There were all varieties of coloured fruit that looked strangely tropical in that dark hall -.  There were honeys and jams, jellies nuts and spices and the ancestral breakfast plate was spread out to the greatest advantage amid the golden cutlery of the Groans.  In the centre of the table was a small tin bowl of dandelions and nettles.

This is the very first meeting with Sourdust, the ancient keeper of the rituals.  Without him, Gormenghast would come to a halt.  He is the Lord of the dance, the oil that makes the creaky repetition of Gormenghast gasp.  His age is indeterminate, his beard black, white and knotted and:-

…His face was very lined, as though it had been made of brown paper that had been crunched by some savage hand before being hastily smoothed out and spread over the tissues……

What a wonderful explaination Peake offers us of the old servants face!  More about Sourdust later.  Here we get a more detailed description of Lord Groan’s physical appearance :-

…His face was very long and was olive coloured.  His eyes were large, and of an eloquence, withdrawn.  His nostrils were mobile and sensitive.  His mouth a narrow line.  On his head was the iron crown of the Groan’s that fastens with a strap under the chin…..

Sourdust reads from 3 huge books.  All the rituals of the day are written there – hour by hour, minute by minute.  The clothes to be worn, routes that Lord Groan will take, the gestures, the rituals that he shall perform.  All lies within the books.  Is it any wonder that the man is melancholy?  This is all he has to look forward to – all his time mapped out for him. Yet, he loves his library and his books!  Where does he find the time to enjoy it though? What time does he have to himself?  He is enslaved to those ancient stones.  He has no power over his own will.  He has no will.  The stones own him.

HERE is the wonderful website of Gormenghast

Lot’s of information about Peake and his work at Peake Studies