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Ask Lovecraft
January 28, 2013 3:12 AM   Subscribe

HP Lovecraft answers your questions about everything from dating to bagpipes.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants (47 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related: HP Lovecraft answers your relationship questions.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:19 AM on January 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is he ever in Brooklyn?
posted by taff at 3:38 AM on January 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's not HP Lovecraft.
I have his brain in a jar. He likes to tour the universe.
This guy does have an uncannily accurate voice.
posted by Mezentian at 3:43 AM on January 28, 2013


Also, he's wrong about bagpipes.
posted by Mezentian at 3:44 AM on January 28, 2013


Of course he's affecting an English accent.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:44 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, he's wrong about bagpipes.

Oh, I know. Bagpipes are awesome.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:56 AM on January 28, 2013


Every time I have heard him he has that quasi English accent. Every time. Stretched vowels and deep voice and all, and I am sure I heard some of his voice in a docco years ago. Is it not accurate?
posted by Mezentian at 4:05 AM on January 28, 2013


Old loves die hard.
posted by ersatz at 4:05 AM on January 28, 2013


Pope Guilty : Of course he's affecting an English accent.

Not sure if you mean that seriously or mockingly, but despite spending his entire life in Providence, RI, he very much counts as a hardcore anglophile. I have little trouble believing he would deliberately affect an accent to distinguish his speech from the vulgar patois of all the degenerate immigrants with which he found himself surrounded. ;)
posted by pla at 4:09 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


He still dropped his "r's" like a mutha, believe it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:33 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have little trouble believing he would deliberately affect an accent to distinguish his speech from the vulgar patois of all the degenerate immigrants with which he found himself surrounded.

Which sort of brings up a complexity inherent in the lovable-eccentric image of Lovecraft which gets promulgated by things like this. The guy was an Olympic-level racist, which obviously nobody wants to replicate in a comedy YouTube video.

The Cthulhu stories have both an interesting and open-ended mythos (what we call lore these days, I guess) and a humorously overwritten style that endear them to modern readers, who them sort of reverse-engineer a Lovecraft from those stories, who is a kind of sanitised simulacrum of the historical Lovecraft.

Nnedi Okarafor wrote an interesting (warnings for racist language in quotation) blog post about winning a World Fantasy Award, and the complexities of an African writer being awarded a bust of HP Lovecraft, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia an interesting in-part-response about publishing Lovecraftiana despite (and perhaps because of) belonging to one of the groups Lovecraft despised.
When Paula R. Stiles and I read slush, we still find a lot of stories that try to emulate Lovecraft by placing the tales in New England, with upper-crust white men as protagonists. During our Historical Lovecraft submissions period we got a big wave of the Victorian white gentleman, which caused me to blog about this and request more stories that veered from that narrow location and era because, hell, who wants to read an anthology called Historical Lovecraft and find out all we are representing is Boston 1880 to 1910.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:53 AM on January 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, my gut reaction to this was the desire to send him a stream of racially sensitive questions. Apparently my sjw tendencies intersect directly with my desire to troll people on tumblr.
posted by emperor.seamus at 5:04 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hmmmm. On the "Madness" video. First, I am pretty sure Lovecraft would have been OK with LinkedIn and other social media. Dude wrote a lot of letters. Also, interestingly, characters don't "go mad" all that often in Lovecraft's stories. They faint, run off in panic, and suffer from a wide range of emotional shocks, but mad? Not so much. Arthur Jermyn, the seaman in "The Call of Cthulhu," the narrator in "The Rats in the Walls," but not that many more. Compared to fainting, madness is a footnote.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:09 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not sure if you mean that seriously or mockingly, but despite spending his entire life in Providence, RI, he very much counts as a hardcore anglophile.

That was exactly what I meant, yes.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:28 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hopefully this is OK in-thread, rather than in a seperate MeTa thread: Does anyone remember a short Lovecraft-inspired piece, that was a sort of home management guide for the women of Innsmouth? It was supposed to have been written by a notable lady in town, and circulated secretly amongst the women. The advice covered everyday things like the best foods for their husbands and fish-man ettiquette, but the bits that stick in my mind are advice on how to recognise whether newborn babies are fish-folk, and how to raise them.

The tone was understated and dark, and I'm almost sure that I found it linked from Metafilter.
posted by metaBugs at 6:35 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which sort of brings up a complexity inherent in the lovable-eccentric image of Lovecraft which gets promulgated by things like this. The guy was an Olympic-level racist, which obviously nobody wants to replicate in a comedy YouTube video.

What I think is interesting about Lovecraft is that it seems to me that a big part of what makes his stories work is his appalling, bone-deep racism. I read a Daniel Handler review of a Lovecraft anthology years back (maybe in the Times?) where he remarked on how somehow the purpleness of Lovecraft's writing drowns and overwhelms your sensibility after a while and begins to work in spite of its ridiculousness. I feel that way about his writing, too, but I think the reason that it does so is that you can sense true fear underneath it, a fear that is strange to modern sensibilities and therefore all the more disturbing --- fears of miscegenation, of barbarism, the corruption and decadence of the white race. All that along with a cringing over-awe of Our Puritan Forefathers that almost amounts to fear. It lurks just beneath the surface of his writing, and you can tell he means it, and that gives it a chill that other writers can't match.
posted by Diablevert at 6:44 AM on January 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think the reason that it does so is that you can sense true fear underneath it, a fear that is strange to modern sensibilities and therefore all the more disturbing --- fears of miscegenation, of barbarism, the corruption and decadence of the white race.

I agree completely, and this aspect of Lovecraft's writing is exactly what pastiche writers don't watch to match. Lovecraft wrote about a kind of horror that we, 80 years later, don't feel as acutely anymore. He was hardly alone in writing about it, but he is the most prominent literary survivor. It's the horror of having to live out life surrounded by mongrels, half-bloods, and beast-men, a life of constant fear of the unknown other. By comparison, death offers easy release, which is why so few of Lovecraft's characters die from outright violence.

I think that something of Lovecraft echoes in Matheson's I Am Legend, in which a lone survivor lives in constant fear among the undead. And I think there's more than a little of Lovecraft's racism inherent in zombie fiction. We cheer so readily when zombies are killed, despite their human-like appearance. And even when "moral dilemmas" come up, such as they are in zombie plots, the solution is almost always biased toward more violence. Zombies may not be the Tcho-Tcho tribe, but they are hideous, despicable, an abomination deserving of immediate destruction.

Writing this, I realize that an insightful and capable writer has several choices for turning around or "refracting" the all-permeating fear of Lovecraft. I got more than a whiff of Lovecraft from Amos Tutuola's mythopoeic writing, and I'm sure there's plenty of room for post-colonial Lovecraftian fiction in which the majority in power are the unwitting monsters.
posted by Nomyte at 7:10 AM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm sure there's plenty of room for post-colonial Lovecraftian fiction in which the majority in power are the unwitting monsters.

This is what made Stross' "A Colder War" so terrifying - forces beyond reason are put into play by those who have only the most tenuous understanding of the consequences. The arrogance of world leaders, toying with the unknowable as if it were just another tank or airplane.

It's also what makes the Laundry less frightening - the mythos stuff stands in for terrorism and terrorists, but it lacks the world-encompassing scope of those employing the terror as "A Colder War" exhibited.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:19 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


He most certainly doesn't like Italians or other southern Europeans.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:22 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah I mean bro came from a time when racism against other white folks was a thing. It takes some doing to be notable as a racist in times like those, but Howie pulled it off.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:31 AM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I haven't watched them all, but I'm still looking for the one about dating bagpipes...
posted by DreamerFi at 7:59 AM on January 28, 2013


I finally squared up and sat down to read a collection of Lovecraft's stories and I found myself confused at the continuing relevance of his writing. I mean, I understand that his approach to horror and science fiction was deeply influential on the development of those genres, but to the extent that that torch was taken up by other writers more successfully I don't see why his stories still have a place in the canon. I don't mind florid prose, but in his case I think his style is brittle* and distant, making it not particularly well-suited to the sort of immediacy that I think horror really requires, especially since the man never forgoes an opportunity to describe some fearful object or creature with one of his go-to adjectives instead of using actual sense imagery. They're distant too in the framing, where the narrator is almost always relating the story secondhand or after the fact, which isn't to say that such a framing doesn't have its advantages but rather that Lovecraft obviously isn't equal to its challenges and it just saps the energy and motion out of his plots. There are a few moments of brilliance: "Nyarlathotep" is a beautiful, hallucinatory reverie; the setup in "The Call of Chthulu" is well-constructed and really compelling; "The Color Out of Space" has some nice imagery; and "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" has a great atmosphere to it; but, to be honest, what I felt most often when reading through that collection was boredom at the hands of technically clumsy writer.

* The notes in the back of the book that I have suggest that "The Hound" was a piece of self-satire, and that therefore Lovecraft was in control of his style and not vice versa, a notion I found little evidence of.
posted by invitapriore at 8:54 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lovecraft seems to have detested the Portuguese.
posted by Mister_A at 8:57 AM on January 28, 2013


I've owned a couple of HP computers that I nicknamed "Lovecraft".
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:00 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


invitapriore - it helps to have read Lovecraft when you were thirteen years old.

I recall reading a critical review of Lovecraft, which was obviously written by someone who loved his work - but made the point that if Lovecraft could have added more and larger exclamation points in a bright red color, he would have. In other words, Lovecraft was a less than brilliant writer.

Nevertheless, I was glued to the books, turning page after page as I read late into the night - the best time to read about indescribable horrors, a mere glimpse of which could drive men to madness!(!!!!)
posted by Xoebe at 9:03 AM on January 28, 2013


Oh and for readers looking for weird fiction with less racism, here are a few authors to look up:

-Caitlin R. Kiernan
-ST Joshi
-Elizabeth Bear
-Laird Barron
-Marc Laidlaw
-Thomas Ligotti

Most of these authors write short fiction, so you can ease into it. They're all well anthologized. Kiernan is one of my favorites in that bunch; Ligotti is the furthest from traditional 'horror' fiction. I also read a terrific China Miéville short, "Details", that is really eldritch and all that.
posted by Mister_A at 9:10 AM on January 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Clarification: Joshi writes ABOUT Lovecraft a lot, and also edits editions of his work, anthologies of the weird, etc.
posted by Mister_A at 9:27 AM on January 28, 2013


Yeah, Lovecraft had a dislike for Italians, Portuguese, and, I believe, Poles -- these being the main immigrant populations in RI in the late 19th/early 20th C. Racism is a pretty fluid thing; we seem very able to identify othering characteristics in our neighbors on almost any criteria. A lot of this was also driven, I think, by Lovecraft's class anxieties over his decayed social position. He had to find a way to keep separations between the poor people around him and his "genteel self." Not that excuses anything; it's just that, if you want to understand Lovecraft (useful, if you are interested in his fiction and/or literary legacy), the explanations are more complex than they seem at first (and form roots for even more of his ideas/images).
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:30 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I finally squared up and sat down to read a collection of Lovecraft's stories and I found myself confused at the continuing relevance of his writing.

He did fear of the unknown pretty well. His prose is a huge stream of purple barf, and when his stuff works, it works in spite of that prose, not because of it.

So why is he still relevant? Well, like I say, he did fear of the unknown well, which is a big broad target if you're a horror writer but he still hit it in a fairly memorable way. His style of first-person breathless recounting of recent events is one of the many ways he was biting Poe, and you're right, it removes a lot of immediacy from what he was trying to do. That's kind of the crux of a lot of his problems as an author - he wasn't talentless or anything, but he was trying to take the style of Poe and use it in the emerging weird fiction genre, and he didn't always have the firmest grasp of the nuts and bolts behind what made Poe's style work.

That fear of the unknown also contributes to the fact that his best work tends to be his one-off stuff, or anything removed from the Chthulhu mythos; by expanding on the specific gods and monsters in his mythos, he necessarily made them less scary, less full of nameless dread - you can (almost) never make horror more effective by shining light on it. When encountered here and there, as weird words uttered by a dying man or a strange sculpture of a tentacled idol, it works well. When the whole thing is spelled out, it's more interesting as pulpy SF but it's not horror. After a while, Cthulhu essentially becomes Godzilla. Nothing wrong with that, but again, not scary.

That said, he stays relevant in large part because of the great many decent creators who were influenced by his work. And, as Xoebe said above, Lovecraft is fine to read if you're in your early teens or so, as a gateway to horror writing. Eventually the reader will outgrow him - or will skip past him entirely, reading the works he inspired, in which case he's kind of hard to pick up because all of his good ideas have been picked clean and recycled into much more entertaining work, so the only new experience he brings to the reader is the discovery of all the ways in which he is tedious.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:33 AM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lovecraft seems to have detested the Portuguese.

There are actually two separate stories where he is racist towards *Eskimos*. I think he was trying to branch out.

Altho to be fair, towards the end of his life it was clear that he was starting to come around and be a bit less of an ass about the whole 'corruption of the noble white race' thing. It just happens that he died incredibly young, before that journey could really take off in full (on this mortal plane, at least).
posted by FatherDagon at 9:58 AM on January 28, 2013


I don't see why his stories still have a place in the canon.

I'm not sure I completely understand the question.

On one hand, popularity can be self-perpetuating. Not many people may enjoy reading the original text (as opposed to reading more recent pastiches, watching related TV shows, and playing tie-in board games), but Lovecraftian prose is at this point indelibly linked to a single name — Lovecraft — which means continuing interest and continuing republication.

But that's a publishing phenomenon. I think your question is more abstract, and this is the part I'm not sure I understand. You note several big differences in the way Lovecraft and his followers narrate stories. For lack of a better word, Lovecraft wrote in a "mode" that's different from the one most fiction writers use today. As you note, the narration is often second-hand, there is some kind of framing device, or it's an epistolary story. I don't think you can easily make the point that Lovecraft's mode is more primitive than the more recent present-tense action writing. One is certainly more common than the other today, and in some ways the tradition Lovecraft participated in is something of a lost art, just like hardly anyone today can write quite like Pepys, Defoe, or Swift. But it's certainly possible that modern readers who hadn't previously encountered this kind of intimate, deeply embedded narration might find it an appealing and effective choice. I've read this and that in early precursors to SF&F, and I do find Lovecraft's creative choices reasonable and enjoyable.

And, finally, every generation has a few scholars of SF&F and writers whoi like to intellectualize what they do. This generation, we have people like Neil Gaiman and China Miéville, who like to draw connections between writers today and writers from the first part of the last century. Lovecraft happens to be a very easy target for drawing connections.
posted by Nomyte at 10:01 AM on January 28, 2013


Well, maybe my question wasn't clear because I talked around it, but it's pretty simple: although his ideas were clearly novel, why are Lovecraft's stories consistently recommended as examples of good horror writing? I then said that I thought it wasn't particularly effective horror writing and that his style is to blame, not because that style is more primitive or inherently incompatible with horror but because his choices introduce obstacles to creating a sense of horror in the reader (namely that they introduce a significant psychological distance) that he didn't have the skill to surmount.
posted by invitapriore at 10:41 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I must confess: despite my previous identity and these links and a life growing up as a nerd in New England I was never a huge Lovecraft fan. Part of it may be the coded racism: A large part of my background is Italian (I am what people in Australia call a 'wog'), and seeing Lovecraft describe his horror at people like me is off-putting. I've tried to emphasize Lovecraft's racism to my little brother, who is a obsessed to the point of making Lovecraft horror movies out of LEGO. He understands it, but still loves Lovecraft. And that's a fine thing for a horror fan: Stephen King and Gulliermo Del Toro and John Carpenter and Ramsey Campbell and Neil Gaiman all prove that. Though it's worth noting that while King PRAISES Lovecraft, he hardly ever writes like him. He has too much empathy for his characters and love of world-building.

At his best, Lovecraft captures the pure existential terror of staring into a sky that is gaping and yawning and knowing that the universe is infinite and human life is short. At his best, Lovecraft's Elder Gods personify that terror and then make it manageable. But that gets lost when he's reduced to a series of plush toys and cardboard cut-outs.

My favorite Lovecraft stories are the dream-quests, which are the sort of pure surreal Lord Dunsany pastiche I wish we had more of. They read like what I imagine an acid trip would be like, and the lack of narrative or terror allows the imagery to flourish. But they're harder to turn into a meme.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:09 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I then said that I thought it wasn't particularly effective horror writing and that his style is to blame, not because that style is more primitive or inherently incompatible with horror but because his choices introduce obstacles to creating a sense of horror in the reader (namely that they introduce a significant psychological distance) that he didn't have the skill to surmount.

Well, yes. You wrote that Lovecraft's stylistic choices make his writing unsuited to the task. Then I wrote that I find his writing as suitable as anything else. So your assertion that Lovecraft isn't "particularly effective horror writing" is refuted by my experience, and that of several other people in this thread.

To be clear, I find that calling Lovecraft a writer with novel ideas is a backhanded compliment. To cite an oft-cited example, Dunsany brought out The Gods of Pegāna decades before Lovecraft found a readership. And that book takes inspiration from various collections of "tales from the Orient," garbled mythological and ethnographic accounts from the colonies, and so on, not to mention strains of Gothic fiction that go even further back.

So, if anything, I consider Lovecraft to be a stylist first, a continuator of an interesting and refined writing tradition that is now to a large extent lost. The fictional content of his writing may be interesting as well (or at least many readers say so), but it's definitely not without precedent.
posted by Nomyte at 11:15 AM on January 28, 2013


So your assertion that Lovecraft isn't "particularly effective horror writing" is refuted by my experience, and that of several other people in this thread.

Well, can you go into detail as to what desirable effect the writing had on you and what aspects of the writing were responsible for that and whether they were designed to operate as such? That you enjoyed something is not on its own a refutation of a claim that the thing is somewhat poorly executed.
posted by invitapriore at 11:23 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's effective writing, to those who find it such, BECAUSE of the use of devices like the epistolary style. Lovecraft had a great insight - he knew that he could not describe something scarier than what the human imagination would summon, given a little prompting. The epistolary structure allows Lovecraft to establish the impact of some dread manifestation, and often will be used to establish a pattern of such awful events over time, or establish a terrible transformation in some person over time, without being too overt about what exactly is going on. The events are tied to some abhorrent cult or location, and more information slowly filters in eventually completing the picture of nameless dread! Sometimes we see the monster at the end, sometimes the protagonist realizes his number is up... that's how he used the epistolary device, for one, to build the atmosphere of dread.
posted by Mister_A at 11:51 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


That you enjoyed something is not on its own a refutation of a claim that the thing is somewhat poorly executed.

Once we go beyond whether a piece of writing follows the conventions of written English contemporary to its creation (or credibly recreates the experience of colloquial English, when that applies), "somewhat poorly executed" becomes very difficult to quantify. We can talk about the colorful richness of Lovecraft's attitudes and prejudices in the abstract, but it's really difficult to talk about the affective qualities of his writing style without bringing in an individual reader's experience.

I don't have time to reread much in order to form a fresh and detailed impression. I apologize for reconstructing my feelings from memory. These preliminaries aside, I personally find Lovecraft's writing exciting and involving for many of the same reasons I like William Burroughs.

The interlinked and fragmentary nature of many stories creates the impression that these are "field reports," which makes the reader complicit in connecting dots in Lovecraft's intertextual world. The first-person narration (by otherwise undistinguished characters) allows the reader to gradually discover the environments and locations Lovecraft spends so many pages detailing.

In one of the short stories, for instance, the viewpoint character enters a desert tomb and crawls through some frescoed passages in the rock. His perceptions develop as he crawls further and further into the cave and sees more and more of the design. There are, of course, similar passages in At the Mountaisn of Madness and pretty much everywhere else in Lovecraft's writing.

This motif makes me experience a growing sense of dread, as both I and the narrator interpret and piece together what we see, hear, and feel. It's a combination of reading about archaeology and ancient history (the sense of mystery, gradual discovery, conjecture, and gaps in knowledge), and that feeling you get in dreams (there's that word) where you feel that a horrible threat is coming, but you can't quite identify what it is.

In comparison, it would be a very different (and, I think, "much less effective") piece of writing if Lovecraft had written "and then a bunch of little lizard people jumped out of the cave and jabbed Bob with their spears, killing him." Or else, "And then a shoggoth appeared! It was exactly like a waterbed filled with rice pudding, only much bigger!" The story isn't about the shoggoth, it's about the possibility of a shoggoth.
posted by Nomyte at 12:02 PM on January 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


A waterbed filled with rice pudding is the opposite of a nightmare, buddy!
posted by Mister_A at 12:06 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


My favorite part of At The Mountains of Madness is how, after studying the alien frescos for a few hours, the narrator can figure out which carvings are in a 'degenenerate style'.

I also love how Lovecraft's protagonists are terrified by things like math or architecture - it captures the feeling of getting a panic attack in a mall. But many of the creatures are only scary to the protagonists because they're alien without actually being evil.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:17 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, "degenerate" is value-laden, but you do get a startling range of representations in art through history. If I saw a gradual transition from 1 to 2, I'd be at least curious about what happened in the intervening time.
posted by Nomyte at 12:37 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, 'degeneration' is part of the seminal Lovecraftian theme of decay/corruption.
posted by Mister_A at 12:42 PM on January 28, 2013


Point being, it's the idea of degeneration that's important; we have to accept the protagonist's art criticism bona fides without too much scrutiny in order to make the mounting cosmic horror bit work.
posted by Mister_A at 12:44 PM on January 28, 2013


It just seemed absurdly racist, like Hitler's exhibit of 'degenerate' art. And since I've already Godwined my own thread I'll recommend Norman Spinrad's 'The Iron Dream', which is a sci-fi novel written by Hitler. 'Degeneration' and 'corruption' are the two biggest hallmarks of the villainous race in the book, with a short detour to fight tentacled vagina-monsters.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:52 PM on January 28, 2013


I am terrified by math, also by 2nd Empire furniture.
posted by Mister_A at 12:55 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


That motif works on multiple levels for me, actually. One is that something went horribly wrong eons ago, and the further you descend, the more horribly wrong it turns out to be. But on a similar note, there are lots of historical precedents (Nazi and otherwise — thanks, CIS!) for theories of historical "progress" and "degeneracy" in art, just as it was an important cognitive axis in history and, slightly later, anthropology. The history of scholarship in the humanities is full of concerns about progress and decay, personifying political states as strong or weak or decadent, thinking in terms of dark ages and golden ages. We still get some of that with people worrying about the unwritten "great American novel."

You also get a huge dose of that preoccupation in the music of Devo (whose symbolism took direct inspiration from a very special book, which is itself worthy of Lovecraft).
posted by Nomyte at 1:05 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey, I found the Handler review! He makes a really good point about the loneliness of Lovecraft's protagonists which I had forgotten.

As for what I think works about Lovecraft, invitapriore, I've been struggling to put my finger on it. I agree that the prose is, sentence by sentence, quite often execrable. Yet somehow altogether I do find the stories creep me out -- not all of them, but some I find quite effective. For me it's more the domesticated ones that work better rather than the dream-like mythos pieces set in faraway lands --- I think my favourite is "The Color our of Space" but I also like the Innesmouth one and Pickman's model. There's something about the monstrous lurking beneath the prim that gets me I guess.

But the more I think about it, as I alluded to above, I think there's some quality about Lovecraft himself that I find creepy. Sometimes I find myself liking or disliking a book less for its style in and of itself and more for the flavour of the author's mind, not so much whether they write crisply or effusively or whether the characters are loathsome or wholesome but more about what the bounds of the world they have created seem to suggest about how their minds work.

Lovecraft has this hothouse flower quality you get in the Brontes, someone who found themselves peerless, in all senses, in the world in which they grew up, who never had a chance to have their sense of how the world worked broken by the world itself. He never got into the palace to see the scuff marks on the parquet, never got into the slums to see the polished brass on the mantle. But he has such firm ideas about it all...that kind of isolation warps the mind into strange shapes. The conditions necessary for the orchid. And yet they're often more powerful for their self-containment. I mean, has anyone but anyone ever acted like everyone in Wuthering Heights? And yet that becomes the prototype of the gothic romance. There's something powerful about a story which forces you to believe in it without ever believing it's real.
posted by Diablevert at 3:20 PM on January 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Clarification: Joshi writes ABOUT Lovecraft a lot, and also edits editions of his work, anthologies of the weird, etc.

Joshi probably knows and understands more about Lovecraft than anybody else in the world. HPL would probably be horribly appalled, which is all the better.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:39 PM on January 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


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