One should not act or speak as if he were asleep. - Heraclitus
Earlier last month, in H.P. Lovecraft's Providence, the largest congregation yet in honor of HPL was held: the NecronomiCon, of course. It's good to see HPL's name finding ever-larger recognition. The Washington Post even had a story about it. (See "Fans To Celebrate Horror Writer H.P. Lovecraft With NeconomiCon Gathering.") Michelle R. Smith notes that in HPL's "creations and works [...] they influenced might be better known than the man himself." Aye. It seems that for many of my favorite writers this is the story. Why? I don't know. We're reminded of the mental illness in his family and in HPL, and his 80,000 letters and his social networking with other writers. And he died in 1937.
Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi is quoted twice: "For (HPL), the most terrifying thing that could happen is to defy our understanding of the known laws of physics." Later in the piece Joshi says he thinks "we're finally getting to the era where horror fiction can be looked at as more than just something to scare you." And I wonder and ask: If true: why? Whatsit about "today" that allows a re-evaluation of a former "pulp"writer, someone the eminent critic Edmund Wilson wrote out down as a "hack" and "bad taste and bad art."?
Tom Jackson had noted before the NecronomiCon how the city of Providence was starting to honor its native son, HERE. Why? Hey, I love HPL. But why the building burgeoning ballyhoo? What's changed?
the artists's name?
My favorite quote from this article is by Elizabeth Bear, who, when asked why HPL was still such a big deal despite being a racist and all that, answers: "Because authors are read, and remembered, not for what they do wrong, but for what they do right, and what Lovecraft does right is so incredibly effective. He's a master of mood, of sweeping blasted vistas of despair and the bone-soaking cold of space. He has at his command a worldview that the average human being, drunk on our own species-wide egocentrism, finds compelling for its sheer contrariness."
That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange eons even death may die. - Abdul al-Hazred
in the link to HERE) If this Thing mated with a
gila monster, it might all make sense!
The growing popularity among intellectual types of Lovecraft's work may be testimony to this. In a review of a collection of HPL titled Classic Horror Stories in the prestigious Los Angeles Review of Books, Jess Nevins reviews the extensive introduction and exegetical chops of the editor, Roger Luckhurst, and Nevins says Luckhurst's explanatory notes on HPL's style, allusions, and inventions are "exhaustive." I'll have to see for myself. The aforementioned Joshi and other scholars of HPL such as Dan Clore may have something to say here, but nonetheless, the most interesting thing to me, the aspect of HPL that seems to have opened the door toward some semblance of academic acceptance and canonicity is the trope that he's not strictly a "horror"writer or even "science fiction." Rather: he's "Weird." And elements of the Weird are given as "concerns with liminal things, in-between states, transgressions always on the verge of becoming something else." For Luckhurst this places HPL in a tradition that goes back to the 1880s and Coleridge, up to today's China Mieville. On the face of it, this doesn't wash with me, as I'd read Lovecraft's own analysis of his tradition in the long, tremendous essay, Supernatural Horror In Literature, and he sees his antecedents and influences as going back to around 1810, with the more extreme Gothics. Luckhurst obviously knows this essay well, but would rather argue that what makes HPL worthy of respect by the cognoscenti is those aspects of the "Weird."
It's cool that maybe a few thousand MA and PhD theses will be written on Lovecraft, but for me: Contra the common claim of critics that HPL's style was "execrable," I love his baroque catachreses and mixed metaphors, his obscure words and borrowings from science and Egyptology and late 18th/early 19th century archaisms, his psychedelic mixture of factual content with the speculative and eldritch bizarre imaginings. If academics see fit to worm Cthulhu into canonicity, fine, but trying to assert that he's not tainted by "being" a science fiction or horror writer (declared declasse and out-of-bounds among the Highly Learned long ago) and rather his classification is now respectably "Weird" like someone in, I don't know...the French Academy respect? This for me does not fly. His overall vision and style seems enough to be taken seriously.
And with the new neuroscience of unconscious workings and neurolinguistics, there seems much to bring the multi-diplomaed to a long study of HPL. His transcendently cosmic and gnostic horrors prefigure the feelings citizens may be having in the sort of State we live in now. Or maybe: the subconscious stirrings that give rise to an anxiety that maybe the march of technology has indeed taken over, that the machines are running us, that They have augmented our sensoria as appendanges and managed to convince us that we are still in charge, when it's Them. We are merely a way for Them to make more of Themselves. Okay, maybe I'm getting carried away and the strain of sativa is really good. Perhaps I should've gone more towards an indica. But suffice: the gnostic idea that we've learned enough to know that we are not in charge, but that we must repress this, in order to preserve our species's sanity?As if coming to terms with us not being, as Hamlet said, "the paragon of animals" is too ghastly to live with? That some massively indifferent but - to us - malevolent force is Out There? Doesn't this tap into the still-living imaginations of the children within all of us? (For a more nuanced, detailed and learned exegesis see - well, just about anyone who's written on Lovecraft, really - but I would point to Erik Davis if I had to pick one person. Maybe have a look at "Calling Cthulhu: H.P. Lovecraft's Magickal Realism," as found on pp.114-136 of Davis's stellar collection of occulture criticism and Nomad Codes.) But that's just me. Robert Anton Wilson has some wonderful takes on HPL as well.
"I suspect Dan Brown has as much sense of humor as me, but chooses to hide the fact. I'd like his books better if the professor came from Miskatonic instead of Harvard." - Robert Anton Wilson, in an interview in Secrets of Angels and Demons, p.8
Which takes me to a piece I ran across in The New Republic, a title I semi-stole for this blog: "This Is The Summer of Lovecraft," by novelist Walter Kirn. The opening paragraph hits a Lovecrafty tone and seems worthy of a film, but Kirn's writing about his actual life, lately?: he was "friends" with a sociopathic (psychopathic?) person named Clark Rockefeller - a likely name! - and has realized that for a full ten years he was duped by this guy, but not as bad as Rockefeller duped others. Worse than deception, Rockefeller is an impostor and convicted killer. Think of how you'd feel if you realize your "friend" was a monster all along. If you're like Kirn, you spend all day in "depressing, sedentary hard-labor" teasing out the ways and "methodologies" by which Kirn pulled off his deceptions. Worse: all of this takes place against a backdrop of the advent of what I call The Snowden Era: PRISM, secret FISA courts, the suspicious death of Michael Hastings, the President's private Kill Anyone I Want List. Writing in early August, Kirn doesn't get to Obama itching to bomb Syria because of alleged chemical weapons use. I hope Walter is hangin' tough.
Kirn answers his own question: Who are the winners this summer? Answer: Kafka, Orwell, Huxley, and Philip K. Dick, who suddenly becomes much clearer now to some of us.
It's a short piece and you ought to read it entirely, but don't miss the bits about how Clark Rockefeller used "Persona Management" (and the NSA does too): you invent fake identities online, then win the confidence of others, mine their data, then exploit them. Here's Kirn:
"In one case that I know of, he employed one fictional alter-ego to give a character reference to another. The victims didn't uncover the ploy until I alerted them to it, fifteen years later, and they only believed me when I pointed out that the Managed Persona they'd been scammed by bore the name of a villain from a popular novel."
Keyser Soze LIVES! (?)
What was that fragment from Herclitus? "Things are in the habit of concealing themselves?" (No, you idiot; try this: Nature loves to hide. (Frag 123)
Quick like a bunny: What has a single anterior nucleus embedded in a robust protruding axostyle, and an interior bundle flagella that emerge slightly sub-anteriorly and have a distinctive beat pattern?
If you answered, "Cthulhu Macrofasciculumque and Cthylla Microfasciculumque then you're fucking FREAKIN' ME OUT, dude! If you skipped the day we covered this, see HERE.
Finally, check out these Lovecraft-ish sea creatures that actually inhabit our world, now. I think television nature-channel editors must have seen these guys and thought, "The sponsors will abandon us if we show these demonic looking beasts! Forget it! Let's go with another segment of dolphins or chimps!" I would have been MUCH more interested in Biology in 9th grade if I'd been turned on to just about any one of these dudes. RAW fans: watch the video about the Sarcastic Fringehead, keeping in mind the 2nd circuit and the average hardcore fan of Fox News.
As I write in this, our Summer of Lovecraft of 2013 CE (summer in the No. Hemisphere) is down to its last three weeks. Even less. It's not too late to get to the library and finally read The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. It'll prime you for October! O! The magnificent mind-spaghettifying horrors that await us for our enjoyment!