“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)

 

More Lovecraft related reviews are indexed on the Lovecraft page.

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

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Growing Concerns

It’s the summer time, definitely a time of growing concerns with me. Ideally, I’d like to take Agent Orange to my whole lawn or pave it over. However, various regulations and erosion make that a poor idea. Urban living requires the futile and time consuming job of managing nature rather than giving it the much freer range allowed during my rural youth.

So, in honor of the latest seasonal holding action against nature, I called this title up on my Kindle.

This review exhibits a sort of a dereliction of reviewer duty. (Rather like my weeding and fertilizing.) Even I almost feel guilty about its lateness.

My records say I got this review copy via LibraryThing on February 3, 2014.

Normally, I’d just say we live in the age of the long tail, that this review might generate publicity and sales even years later for the book and its authors.

However, in this case, this Chupa Cabra House title isn’t even for sale any more on Amazon. However, the link below will take you to Smashwords where you can still buy it.

This brings up an unpleasant truth for authors wanting their new works reviewed. (Or, at least, the truth of how things operate at MarzAat.)

You’re not just competing for my attention with the authors whose works were released the same week, the same month, or the same year. Sometimes you’re competing with authors millennia dead. Some of us have a large mental list of titles we’d like to read. And your book, however interesting it sounds, may not rise to the top immediately.

And it’s not just a mental list with me. I have hundreds of dead tree books in the house waiting to be read and many e-books.

Publishers, authors, and editors impose opportunity costs with reading even a free book – to say nothing of reviewing a free book.

Still, I did promise a review, so I’m going to do a Low-Res Scan of the stories in the two months since I read them.

Low Res Scan: Growing Concerns, ed. Alex Hurst, 2014.Growing Concerns

With a title like Growing Concerns and a cover full of leaves and a horror publisher, you’d expect tales of sentient vegetation, malevolent and mutant plants, and mad scientists.

And that’s what you get. But you also get other approaches to the anthology theme, some non-fantastic.

I don’t remember too many bad stories in this book.

But I also don’t remember every story, so I’m going to only mention those that stuck in my memory after two months. Continue reading

“The Horror at Red Hook”

Yes, it’s time, with no apologies, for that story.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Horror at Red Hook”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1925.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

This is the first of what I term the “I really hate New York” stories of Lovecraft. Part of their charm is the sheer hatred and disgust of the city that comes through Lovecraft’s vituperative prose.  The city and its mongrel, money-grubbing inhabitants are base, degraded, devolved, unimaginative, and unregeneratively evil.

The evil (Yezidis — devil worshipping Kurds from Kurdistan) is still festering, growing again at Red Hook at story’s end. [Yes, I am well aware that Yezidis are not exactly Satan worshipers — at least not of a Christian version of Satan and have been aware of that since reading Arkon Daraul’s A History of Secret Societies in 2002.]

Unconquered evil, is of course, hardly exceptional in Lovecraft, though.

This story sort of stands at a cross road for Lovecraft. Like the story Lovecraft wrote immediately before it, “The Shunned House“, that features a rather traditional horror creature: the vampire with its reference to Lilith, this story has a traditional evil. Continue reading

“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“.

 

More reviews of Lovecraft related items are indexed on the Lovecraft page.

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

“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.

 

More Lovecraft related material is indexed on the Lovecraft page.

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

“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

“Hypnos”

The Lovecraft series continues.

Raw Feed (2005, 2014): “Hypnos”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1922.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

This is an odd Poe-like story.

Specifically, it reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe’s deranged narrator from “The Tell-Tale Heart”. At story’s end, the deranged sculptor hero claims his great statute is of his mysterious friend, a man whose name or age he does not know, a man he befriended after finding him faint at a railway station, a man who initiates him into various mystical knowledge but then, after a horrible experience while dreaming, warns the narrator they must never sleep, a man who disappeared in “horrible red-gold light”.

His friends tell the narrator the sculpture is a self-portrait.

On my second reading, in 2014, what most leaped out at me was that this is the Lovecraft I love with something missing. 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