Friday, December 12, 2008

The Lurking Fear

So here I am reading different bloggers and two of them seem to be HP Lovecraft fans. I like the way these two's minds work on their blogs, so I check into HP and some of his works. Maybe I had to mature some in order to be ready for his writings. I have just absorbed several short stories, one 96 minute online Movie, "Necronomicon" (a trilogy of Lovecraft stories)and a couple of web biographies. Lovecraft appears to be another poster child tortured artist. He could give Poe or Van Gogh a run for their money on the misery and borderline looney tune index.

Now I wonder what the Hell was I thinking to skip by this guy. Once I got into the rhythm of his words, I fell into almost a trance. Before I knew it, four hours passed and I had been taken into the mind of a very disturbed but talented intellect. Way cool. HP Lovecraft is a new friend. I look forward to reading more of his works.

I am not sure why I or how I missed the Lovecraft boat. I remember vaguely reading something by him long ago. College maybe. Seems Lalli my first female roomate was a fan. But I was never much into horror. Science fiction, some fantasy, a little mystery, history, and classic fiction were more what I focused on. Horror, especially Gothic horror left me empty. I read Dracula and Frankenstein. Enjoyed Poe as far as it went. But the flowery imagery and over abundance of words found me impatient and frustrated at the emphasis on creating mood over action or dialog. I imagine that is why I never gave Lovecraft a chance. His writing reminded me of the mind numbing experience of earlier Gothic writers. I can't tell you how many times I tried to get through "Wuthering Heights".

Or maybe it was that I had become desensitized to horror after a childhood of growing up with the poorly rendered attempts on the silver screen. Watching a fake monster with rubber tentacles come out of the sea preset an image in my mind. When I read something akin to it in a Lovecraft type work, the mood was immediately broken and I would chuckle. That was then. This is now.

The wonderful part of the arts is that we insist on recording and remembering them. We do not just want to catalog and compile the sum knowledge of our species, we want to warehouse our cultural imagination as well. It is like we always want to be able to re-visit the minds of past masters and see what they saw, read what they thought, or hear what they heard. If there is one thing I find noble about humans, it is this insistence on cataloging our imaginary existence. We seemed determined to leave a legacy filled with more than science, math and philosophy. We want those who come later to know we treasure all that our minds can come up with. That we prize those who can create, whatever it might be.

By necessity I am a cheap bastard. I also suffer from that typical American malady of needing instant gratification. So what do I do if the coffers are bare and the only decent library is 8 miles away? I use my mouse and it's pad to wander the backrooms of the Google warehouse to find dusty reprints of Lovecraft's writings.

I read his bio. Child prodigy raised in a family stricken with multiple mental issues. Began writing poetry before he was ten. Never made it to his high school graduation blaming it on a "nervous breakdown". Spent the rest of his short years on the planet impoverished and pumping out stupid amounts of prose, comment, and over 100,000 letters to friend and foe alike. Died at 46 broke and in intense pain from intestinal cancer. When I looked up images of him in Photobucket, I did not see one where he was smiling. The one to the right is as close to a smile as I could find.

I found one site that claimed to have "the complete works of HP Lovecraft". I cannot say if this is the truth, but they had more than I could read in 4 hours.

I decided to start with his early fiction. Written before he turned 18. Short pieces that would not even be considered short stories I guess. His talent was apparent almost immediately. I read "The Alchemist" and "The Beast in the Cave". Finally I read "The Lurking Fear", a piece written in 1922 for "Home Brew" as a four part serial. Maybe it's just my renewed fascination with the mechanics of writing, but I find his word composition to be amazing. Even though his sentences run longer than I like usually, they work well for his style. And from the beginning of each story, a negative and creepy mood is created almost immediately. His first two creations reminded me of the real "Grimm's Fairy Tales" my father turned me onto as a kid.

Reading the stories online seemed wrong though. Sacrilegious almost. A good story needs to be absorbed by turning pages. A good story needs to be felt by it's weight on your lap as you finger the pages remaining and hope it never ends. I do not think I will ever be able to really enjoy reading off of a computer screen. I will have to now start looking at flea markets, used book stores and yes even the library for some of HP's stuff. His words deserve a place on my book shelf. Jeez I might even buy some new books. Haven't done that in ages.


Randal Graves said...

Another convert to the Esoteric Order of Dagon! You'll be receiving your membership card in the mail in 6-8 weeks.

I've got the older Arkham editions from the mid-80s, but I know the Library of America has a volume out of most of his stuff. Apparently, Barnes and Noble has published a volume with all the fiction. Just lovely, creepy stuff.

Bull said...

I have all of the Ballantine paperbacks from 1981 or so; I would love to replace them with some good, hardcover editions.

I only recently started re-reading Lovecraft and it shows me just how much I didn't "get it" when I was young, as far as he's concerned.

Tolkien once said that he did not write The Lord of the Rings for kids - that it was the adult mind that needed the respite of fantasy much more than the young. I'm finding the same applies to Howie.

Some interesting Lovecraft links I've blogged about, if you want more background:

The H.P. Lovecraft Archive
H.P. Lovecraft on Scriptorium. The writer of that piece is considered one of (if not the) foremost "authorities" on Lovecraft.

BBC said...

I mostly just read heavy stuff, or how to books, fiction for the most part turns me off. I know that I read too damn much news.

I also suffer from that typical American malady of needing instant gratification.

I don't know what it takes to gratify you, but some co-co mix in a morning cup of coffee works for me.

Or a good visit with a friend, or a dry and warm room. Or seeing a rich fuck go broke. Feeling the sun on my face and my feet buried in the sand. A peanut butter sandwich.

Tom Harper said...

I read something by Lovecraft a long time ago. I was stoned at the time; that was a mistake. It took me forever to read it because I kept going back and rereading sentences. And when I was done, I couldn't remember anything of what I'd read.

I probably should give him another chance sometime. I did enjoy a book by Peter Straub ("Mr. X") that was heavily influenced by Lovecraft.

Anonymous said...

Mr.Macrum. You have outdistanced me. This, in itself, is not hard to do, providing you are doing the impossible. Lovecraft's work is impossible for me to get engrossed in. Bravo to you my dear for your four hours of intensity.

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Donovan said...

Given that you're in Maine, you'll appreciate Lovecraft's tales set in New England. "The Thing on the Doorstep" mentions Biddeford, Saco, and Chesuncook, but only in passing. You're only about 60 miles from Newburyport, Massachusetts, so perhaps you'd enjoy "The Shadow Over Innsmouth". Have fun!

Donovan K. Loucks
Webmaster, The H.P. Lovecraft Archive