Captivated by Lord of the Rings in junior high, I discovered the Ghormenghast Trilogy early in high school and spent a good deal of my sophomore year reading Titus Groan. Some of my (ahem) less intellectually-evolved classmates thought it was weird that I read thick paperbacks alla time and would ask “You still readin’ Tight Groin?” (hyuck hyuck hyuck). Perhaps because of all the shit I got, I never did finish the three books, but went crazy about the illustrations, which I thought were a superb example of a writer who was also an illustrator being the ideal person to do the visuals.
Then I screwed up and forgot about Peake for decades until after his passing I learned he was primarily an artist. Then I continued to screw up and only got a version of Alice in Wonderland that he illustrated (since he seemed like an unquestionable descendant of John Tenniel).
Just a while ago I stopped screwing up and got a copy of Mervyn Peake: The Man and His Art compiled by Sebastian Peake and Alison Eldred, Edited by G. Peter Winnington (Peter Owen, 2006). I am beyond enchanted. Among dozens and dozens of prized new pictures, I think I now have the definitive rendition of Algernon Blackwood’s Wendigo.
The fragmentary, eerie, quiet but circling off-center meditations of Turbamulta (Clean Feed) and “Halloween” by Bo Bartlett:
One of David’s superb characteristics is that he made sure if you hung out with him you would learn art information that was exciting and important to you. During that same St. Louis visit, he ensured we went to what he called the most essential exhibit in the city for me. Turned out to be a small gallery featuring a bunch of early drawings by Jim Nutt (one of the most perfect artist names, ever) including most of the items on this page.
I was captivated and transported. I knew nothing of Nutt (love the phrases that happen spontaneously) barely more about The Hairy Who than they had a super-cool name. Now we’ve got three books about Nutt and the Hairys and a lot more savvy about a major part of early Pop Surrealism. Thanks to David.
The first is from the original edition of the H.G.Wells landmark. The second from a fairly contemporary Brazilian translation. The third from the terrific, much more recent, treatment by Edward Gorey.
The thing that always puzzled me about these creations is that Wells accurately presented the Martians — giant heads on top of tentacle-like fingers — as crawling around and gasping, clearly oppressed by the thick atmosphere and strong gravity of Earth (compared to Mars). And yet these weird, spindly war machines, persuasive products of the Martian environment, were not similarly crushed and slogged by the Earth environment. Maybe they worked out a magic technology in prep for the invasion.