“He”

The Lovecraft series continues.

Raw Feed (2005): “He”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1925.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

This is the second tale from Lovecraft’s “I hate New York” period, and the language is even more extreme than the first, “The Horror at Red Hook“.

Our narrator is an even thinner disguised version of Lovecraft than usual. He has come to find romance and mystery among the “pinnacles that rise blackly Babylonian” and, instead, become disillusioned with the New York City of

squalor and alienage and the noxious elephantiasis of climbing, spreading stone

and the streets crowded with

shrewd strangers without dreams and without kinship to the scenes about them, who could never mean aught to a blue-eyed man of the old folk.

The story is good, but it also turns out to be reminiscent of other Lovecraft tales.

The man who invites the narrator, after seeing him on his nocturnal antiquarian explorations, to his home turns out to be a sorcerer who has lived in the area since Greenwich was a village separate from New York City.

This story reminded me of Lovecraft’s later “Cool Air” in that both involve a man preserving something way past its natural time of extinction. In the latter story, it is a man extending his existence after he has died via refrigeration to stave off physical decay. Here the sorcerer extends the life of his home and himself by a sheer act of will.

“Cool Air” was definitely inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Case of M. Valdemar”, but I think this story was too. Whereas Poe used hypnosis to give a will capable of violating natural order, it is sheer sorcererously-amplified will that does it here and not only to the benefit of one man’s body but his surroundings too. The sorcerer’s house, which vanishes when the remains of Indians killed by his ancestor take their revenge, vanishes, and the narrator can’t find it again in the city.  This reminded me a bit of the odd portion of an unnamed city where Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann” is set.  (Feb. 13, 2005)

 

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“Under the Pyramids”

Yes, that’s the Harry Houdini on the byline and H. P. Lovecraft is lurking in the brackets because he was the ghostwriter. This is not the last time we’ll see him in that capacity. Most of his pathetic income was actually derived from ghostwriting.

Going from memory (because I’m not going to take the time to fact check) Lovecraft finished this story up during the honeymoon of his disastrous marriage and en route to New York City where he was going to have a horrible couple of years (even if he got to hang around with his friends in person).

But, as S. T.  Joshi noted in his biography of Lovecraft, the New York City exile strengthened Lovecraft as a person. It certainly led to a burst of creativity when he returned to his home in Providence, Rhode Island.

Raw Feed (2005): “Under the Pyramids”, Harry Houdini [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1924.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

I would be curious as to why Houdini had this story ghostwritten for Weird Tales and why he chose Lovecraft as the ghostwriter.  (I’m sure when I get around to reading Joshi’s biography of Lovecraft, he will answer those questions.)  [And it does, and I’ll probably post something about it in the future.] Was Houdini at this point in his career (1924 — he was to die the next year) trying to become a multimedia star? After all, he had already done three movies in 1919. Though he wrote nonfiction, he may have had neither the inclination nor talent to tackle a work of fiction — which clearly is presented with the conceit that its narrator is Harry Houdini recounting an odd adventure he had in Egypt.  However, I’m still curious why he chose Lovecraft.

I’m fairly confident that the basic plot — Houdini going to Egypt, being stranded in some odd passages beneath the Great Sphinx, and escaping (without any revelation of trade secrets as to how he escapes his bonds) — was Houdini’s. However, the language and probably the conceit of elder surviving horrors beneath the Giza plain are Lovecraft’s. Continue reading

“The Festival”

The Lovecraft series is back while I work on writing some new posts.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Festival”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1923.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

Reading this story first many years ago, I mostly remembered this story for two things: Lovecraft’s first mention of the Necronomicon and the classic alliterative line:

It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind.

I was surprised at how effective a mood piece it was and that it’s sort of a dress rehearsal — in the plot element of a man being called by blood back to an old seaport where humans and things (here worms wearing human masks) have been having some sort of horrid intercourse — for Lovecraft’s classic “The Shadow Over Innsmouth“.

 

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Darker Than You Think

A while back I did a Jack Williamson series and I found a few more related reviews in the archive, so I’m taking a brief detour from the H. P. Lovecraft series.

And I am working on some new material.

Raw Feed (2002): Darker Than You Think, Jack Williamson, 1940, 1948.Darker Than You Think

I originally read this novel because Fortean Miriam de Ford listed it as one of the sf works influenced by Charles Fort.  I see no evidence of that.

Fort is not mentioned or even obliquely alluded to.

I think, amongst other things, Williamson was clearly influenced by the work of Rhine on psychic powers, and the notion that these strange powers (which are mentioned in, partially, Fort’s Wild Talents) may be studied scientifically almost certainly comes from there.

If there is any Charles Fort influence, it may be by way of Eric Frank Russell’s Sinister Barrier.

Both novels were published in John Campbell’s Unknown magazine, Russell’s in 1939, Williamson in 1940.

Both novels feature a broad battle between humans and non-humans, Russell’s Vitons and Williamson’s witch-people, with the evidence of those battles showing up in human psychology and odd events. Continue reading

“The Unnamable”

The Lovecraft series continues though I actually am starting to work on drafts of new material.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Unnamable”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1923.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

This is an odd story.

I wonder if it was written for or with a real person in mind or as a response to a criticism of his writing that Lovecraft may have heard (and is still heard today): his alleged tendency (not as pronounced as some would say) to fall back on having his horrors undescribable.

The narrator, a pulp horror writer, is taken to task by his thoroughly mundane, schoolteacher friend who has a typical New Englander’s “self-satisfied deafness to the delicate overtones of life”. The schoolteacher says we can only know the world through our five senses, and, therefore, there is no such thing as an unnameable, indescribable horror.

The narrator then relates the details of a particular house and grave and, eventually, the two men who have a near fatal encounter with “an unseen entity of titanic size but undetermined nature”. Continue reading

“The Lurking Fear”

The Lovecraft series continues.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Lurking Fear”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1922.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

This is one of the earliest Lovecraft stories I can remember reading, maybe the second one after “The Colour Out of Space“, and it’s still ghastly lurid fun with an incest theme even after not reading it for more than 25 years.

This is another story heightening the horror by using historical events though, unlike the later The Case of Charles Dexter Ward which opens with a disappearance, the horror has already been well introduced with the deaths in the mountains of New York state.

 

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“The Hound”

 

The Lovecraft series continues.

Raw Feed (2005, 2013): “The Hound”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1922.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

Another early Lovecraft tale with buddies, here a couple of dissolute rich guys who take to occultism and graverobbing for thrills, in which the narrator talks about how his friend comes to a bad end after robbing the wrong tomb. There’s no tension between them unlike the main characters of Lovecraft’s “From Beyond” or “Herbert West: Reanimator“, but, like the narrator of Lovecraft’s “Dagon“, the storyteller knows his horrible end is near.

On reading this story for at least the second time, I noticed there really is a lot of attention to dead human bodies in Lovecraft.

Here we have grave robbers.

His collaboration with C. M. Eddy, “The Loved Dead”, is of course, veiled necrophilia. Continue reading

“Herbert West: Reanimator”

The Lovecraft series continues

Raw Feed (2005): “Herbert West: Reanimator”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1921-1922.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

Lovecraft claim to not much like this story regarding it as (which it sort of was) serial hackwork written for a humor magazine Home Brew and that debuted in its first issue.

At the beginning of each of the six sections, Loveccraft has to take some time out to summarize the story thus far, but T. E. D. Klein is right.  This story is fun and full of gory wit.

Lovecraft called it “mechanical and unimaginative” and “manifestly inartistic”. However, as Lovecraft biographer S. T. Joshi noted, he protested too much and probably enjoyed it since, by the end, the story has become a conscious parody.

This, like Lovecraft’s “From Beyond“, features a narrator who grows increasingly afraid of the obsessive hero — here the Aryan Herbert West. (Both the narrator and West are graduates of Miskatonic University’s Medical School making this the first reference to that esteemed university.) Lovecraft presents, accounting for the necessary quirks of its serial origins, a good horror story of how 20 years of botched experiments (including one in France with some war dead) come back to haunt Mr. West. Continue reading

“The Other Gods”

The Lovecraft series continues though a one sentence review seems kind of a violation of book blogger ethics.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Other Gods”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1921.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

Another Dunsanian tale set in Lovecraft Dreamlands the same as most of his other Dunsanian type stories.

 

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“The Moon-Bog”

 

Picking up the Lovecraft series again with one of his more obscure stories.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Moon-Bog”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1921.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

Another early Lovecraft story in which the narrator relates the downfall of his friend. Here the hero’s mistake is insisting on draining the bog, site of an ancient cult, in front of his castle in Ireland. There is none of the hostility and bitterness between the men that shows up in Lovecraft’s “From Beyond“.

 

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