Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"The Ninth Day of the Month"...

For those of you who stuck it out with The Squealing Nerd since its start in 2010, I invite you all to remember when I used to do a "Ninth Day of the Month" op-ed based on a monthly tradition introduced to me by Secretary Barquentine in an extraordinary work by Mervyn Peake entitled Gormenghast. 

Mervyn Peake inspired me many years ago, and he may yet be inspiring me now as I make progress through a novel project entitled The Thaumaturge of Mircea. His trilogy, Gormenghast, his magnum-opus, also inspired some of the greatest authors of fantasy fiction, authors like Neil Gaiman and Michael Moorcock.

Neil Gaiman tweeted that a certain group (unnamed) will be speaking to studios to see who would be interested in Gormenghast as a film. 


Seventeen hours ago puts this relatively smack in the middle of--well of today, the Ninth Day of the Month! 

Personally, the BBC miniseries adaptation will always be my first choice of media for Gormenghast. I have a hard time envisioning Gormenghast for the popular audience without a seriously harsh re-working of the text. Gormenghast is character-driven, story driven. So many films now require the plot to be action-driven, and by action, I mean killing and explosions. Now there are plenty of corpses to go around in Gormenghast, but I think of the books as being more like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre: lots of someone suddenly opening a door and surprised faces, "Oh. I'll just go," with lots of tension and riveting implications of Gawd-Only-Knows-What and only enough murder to keep it interesting (TTSP the book was way better at answering questions than the film). More than a fantasy novel of a decadent kingdom that is slowly killed from within by its own indolence, Gormenghast reads as a warning to the ruling class: you had better wake up now before the working class figure out there's more of them than there are of you. 

The casting of the BBC version was perfection; the atmosphere was just the right balance of the fantastic and the decayed. Each person is a colossal caricature, Gertrude was just the right amount of languid. Alfred Prunesquallor was just the right amount of spasmodic and Miss Prunesquallor was just the right amount of total insanity and so aptly portrayed by Fiona Shaw that I really can't imagine anyone else in the role. 
Irma Prunesquallor and her brother Alfred. Irma portrayed by Fiona Shaw

And the inimitable Christopher Lee as Flay! There it is; there will never be a better Flay! It can't be done. 

Christopher Lee as Flay, Manservant to the Earl

Jonathan Rhys-Myers more than perfectly capture Steerpike's cruelty and cunning. 

Steerpike, the kitchen boy turned usurper as played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers

I could go on. I really could. Other names like Stephen Fry and Dame Maggie Smith along with the rest of the cast of Harry Potter color the screen with their brilliance.

Naturally we all began taking up opinions as to who would do the work justice. Peter Jackson is totally out.


And Guillermo del Toro is definitely in. 



Mr. Del Toro certainly has my vote!

I'll be keeping my eye on this story as it unfolds. I encourage everyone to give the BBC version of Gormenghast a view this week and discover the wonderful, whimsical, beauty and majesty of one of fantasy fiction's most enduring works. 

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