“Beyond the Wall of Sleep”

The Lovecraft series continues.

Raw Feed (2005, 2015): “Beyond the Wall of Sleep”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1919.

This is one of the very few Lovecraft tales where the narrator actually has a job other than college professor. He works, appropriately enough, at an insane asylum. Of course, he’s still very much in the Lovecraft vein of rich and smart protagonist or, at least, rich and smart enough to build his own electrical device to facilitate telepathy.

The alien inhabiting the body of white trash (proving that Lovecraft could certainly disparage Anglo-Saxon types as well as Italians, blacks, Poles, and Jews) is, in this 1919 story, the first example of the bodyswitching/bodysharing/psychic possession themes of the later tales “The Thing on the Doorstep“, “The Shadow Out of Time“, and “Through the Gates of the Silver Key“.

 

Besides the things I noticed on this first reading, this time I noticed how much of later Lovecraft is here: the dream lands which will appear, in another form, in his Randolph Carter story, and the rich, casual references to a hidden past and distant future. There are references to the future empire of Tsan-Chan, insect-philosophers on a moon of Jupiter. This is another example of earthly existence is a prison both temporally and physically.

On the first reading, I missed the reference to Professor Garrett P. Serviss, popular writer on astronomy and early sf writer most known for writing a sequel to H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, his Edison’s Conquest of Mars.

 

More reviews of Lovecraft related material is on the Lovecraft page.

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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