Gothic Grandeur


So one afternoon I set off with a flask of whiskey and a stout stick,

and after tramping down a soggy cart track between thick growths of birch and alder

I found myself beneath a vast grey sky with miles of flat, boggy fen before me

and a lake in the distance.

The air had a smoky, autumnal tang to it, I remember,

and as I picked my way over the rough damp clumps of peat and moss,

all tufted with marsh grass and bristling in the wind,

and puddled between rank, black water,

my heart exalted at the stillness and desolation of it all.

Wildfowl rose from their nests in the weeds and with a great honking flurry

went flapping off towards the water,

and I came squelching on through in my Wellington boots

and my thick tweed cap pulled low beneath the bite of the wind.

Patrick McGrath from The Grotesque


The novels of Patrick McGrath are often described as Gothic. They unfold across foggy landscapes and rolling moors, on marshes dotted with isolated houses and dead trees. There is a lot of rain.


For those brackish marshes and dust-filled hospital wards are extraordinarily well-described; indeed, McGrath’s eye is intimidating in its detail, supplying information across the senses, giving us the taste, smell, and sound of his fictional worlds, in beautifully crafted sentences. His landscapes are precise, vivid, and worth re-reading.

[Images: The Abbey in the Oakwood, 1809-10, Cloister Cemetery in the Snow, 1817-19, Monk by the Sea, 1809, by Caspar David Friedrich]



~ by eaesthete on 01/31/08.

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