Rejecting the Frivolous Cake

titus-groanSome things are not meant to be analyzed. Poems and rejection slips, for instance. I stare at my latest editorial comment on “multiple points of view” and “episodic plot” and give up after a bit. The latest news from Galleycat is that a seventeen-year old has landed a 3-book deal with Random House. Obviously, I am too old for this game. I should have started in kindergarten.

Whatever. I turn to my favorite nonsense poem for solace, “The Frivolous Cake” by Mervyn Peake, a write of mad genius who penned the twisted Gormenghast books. He also illustrated Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the Brothers Grimm’s Household Tales, and RL Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

I had always thought “The Frivolous Cake” to be a comic poem, sort of like Lewis Carroll for adults. Imagine, if you will, a cake sailing upon a sea, ‘in a manner emphatic and free’, pursued by a lustful dinner knife. Unfortunately, the first hit Google turned up was not the full text of the poem, but a dissertation on its’ sinister cannibalistic interpretations. I clicked it open, and read it in horror.

Apparently, the knife of the poem is a murderous male, and the cake the unknowing female victim, whose crumbs fly away in the wind even as it is in the ‘throes of love’.

I will never be able to read “The Frivolous Cake” again. I was better off not knowing how terrible it is.

Mervyn Peake, sadly, died before he could complete the Gormenghast cycle. Which brings me to the question: how long does it take to write a 100,000-word novel?

Answer 1: Six weeks, if you’re H. Rider Haggard. You can write the final scene of your soon-to-be-blockbuster novel and fantasy classic She while waiting for your literary agent to return to his office.

Answer 2: Thirteen days, if you’re Robert Jordan. That’s how long he took to write Warriors of the Altaii, his first novel.

Answer 3: Five years, if you’re me.

At my current rate of output, I’m going to need about two lifetimes to complete my fantasy series. Assuming I don’t pop off in an untimely fashion in either one. Excuse me, I need some tea now.

About Rati Mehrotra

Science fiction and fantasy writer. I blog at: Thanks for dropping by!
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6 Responses to Rejecting the Frivolous Cake

  1. Thirteen days? For some odd reason, I am now feeling disappointed in myself and my “I just wrote 100 words! Awesome!” attitude. Kidding.

    Kind of.


  2. It’s a long life… Go for it!


  3. George P. Smith says:

    I hope you’ve reconsidered this wonderful poem, Rati. You don’t have to love the dark to love poetry about darkness.


    • You’re right, of course. And as long as I think of it as a wonderfully nonsensical poem about a frivolous cake, without going into deeper, darker meanings, it still makes me laugh.


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