Mervyn Peake, a Life: My Eyes Mint Gold

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9781585672110: Mervyn Peake, a Life: My Eyes Mint Gold

Famously witty, eccentric, widely popular, and attractive to women, Peake was also sturdily independent of the literary and artistic movements of his day and achieved cult status even before his early death in 1968.

Famously witty, eccentric, widely popular, and attractive to women, Peake was also sturdily independent of the literary and artistic movements of his day and achieved cult status even before his early death in 1968.

Malcolm Yorke brings us the first objective biography of this brilliant figure, written with the Peake family's full cooperation. With access to letters, photographs, and drawings never previously published, Yorke charts a life often shadowed by mental turmoil and worry yet always, until its tragic end, relieved by Peake's quirky humor and ceaseless creativity.

Mervyn Peake was born in 1911 in revolutionary China, where his parents were missionaries. He later drew on his exotic childhood and its often savage images in his adult creations. Throughout his life, he was a bohemian: as a student and then, later, in an artists' colony on the island of Sark, a place to which he often returned when city life became too stressful or expensive. Teaching in London, he fell in love with one of his students, Maeve Gilmore, and the two married despite her family's opposition. It turned out to be a close and lasting relationship, lived among a circle of friends that included Graham Greene, Augustus John, Dylan Thomas, and Walter de la Mare. Peake proved to be a miserable and incompetent soldier during World War II, and it was during this unhappy period that he began to write Titus Groan, the first book of the Gormenghast trilogy. In 1945 he was sent by a magazine to Germany, where he visited the Bergen Belsen concentration camp immediately after its liberation-an experience that would profoundly affect his subsequent work.

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About the Author:

Malcolm Yorke has written biographies of Keith Vaughan, Eric Gill, and Matthew Smith. He is also a painter, a wood and stone carver, and the author of more than twenty children's books.

From Publishers Weekly:

The life of author-illustrator Mervyn Peake (1911-1968) offers almost as many strange twists as his well-known novels, as Yorke demonstrates in this detailed biography. A childhood spent in a British missionary compound in China, stints in art schools, his marriage to a fellow artist and his career as an illustrator all make for entertaining, touching and often amusing reading. Yorke livens the story with odd anecdotes, such as when Peake finds an elephant housed below his apartment he "fed it sugar lumps and buns." Not surprisingly, Yorke focuses on inspirations for Peake's Titus Groan novels. But his research and the many illustrations included make it clear that Peake was also an accomplished and respected illustrator. Yorke also reveals Peake as a charming, sensitive man. He is on shakier ground, however, when he critiques Peake's creations. As an artist himself and biographer of British artists Keith Vaughan and Matthew Smith, Yorke knows his subject. Unfortunately, he indulges in excessive and questionable analyses, even though he admits that Peake himself would "have none of this fancy stuff." He criticizes his subject's lack of art theory, when Peake states "after all, there are no rules" in art. Yorke cannot accept the works simply as they are. Speaking of Peake's book Letters From a Lost Uncle, Yorke writes: "In an encounter with a huge white polar bear Uncle is unable to use his phallic [wooden] leg because it embraces him" a clumsy construction, besides being a stretch of analysis. Hopefully, this won't deter Peake's well-deserved new admirers from reading this otherwise informative book. 28 b&w photos, 94 b&w illus.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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