Three Lovecraftians--one old, one new, and one in-between--are all elaborated further down under various headings. The old--dating back to his 1970's membership in the EOD--is Will Hart, who has released photography sets such as that of the 1990 Lovecraft Centennial Conference as well as audio files (e.g., of Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber) and has recorded "The Fungi from Yuggoth." Besides books about Lovecraft's work, the new-to-me David Haden produces TENTACLII: H.P. Lovecraft Blog with its tremendous number of links. Finally, since 2005 Chris Perridas has been writing a blog, H.P. Lovecraft and His Legacy, and comes up with very intriguing biographical and other tidbits, including links to unpublished letters.
"At the Mountains of Madness: A Tribute to the Writings of Lovecraft" (October 16, 2010-November 8, 2010) is an art exhibit in Alhambra, Calif. put on by Nucleus gallery (via TENTACLII). *** Creature Lab students at the Rhode Island School of Design have been assigned to create a non-humanoid Lovecraft entity.
"The Dunwich Horror" is to be "the world's first audio horror film." It is to be played in cinemas where people can listen to it.
The play Beach Blanket Beyond in Portland, Oregon had a cameo of a teenaged HPL carrying a magic book.
Not Pickman's, but these image models are supposed to be useful for animation or 3D illustrations of his stories.
David Langford's online Ansible notes an HPL event for 12 December at the Reading [England] Central Library from noon to 6pm. *** "Is Lovecraft Hurting Horror?" was the name of a panel at ArmadilloCon 32, which refines its question as, "Is Lovecraftian writing hurting horror by giving people shortcuts?" *** Hear Dirk Mosig, J. Vernon Shea, Don, S.T., and Fritz Leiber talk at the 1978 IguanaCon courtesy of Will Hart at CthulhuWho1's Blog (under 20 August). The theme of their panel is, "What If Lovecraft Had Lived into the 1960′s?" Also, Will has released his first H. P. Lovecraft reading on his site.
Listen to Erik Davis at the Philip K. Dick Festival discuss "Dreaming, Writing, PKD, and Lovecraft." Davis draws parallels between Dick and Lovecraft. Among his comments: three authors certain to be studied this century are HPL, Raymond Chandler, and PKD. There are fantasy stories, horror stories, and Lovecraft stories. It is typical to see him on covers for his work, unlike most writers. *** For a course project Peter G. Epps put together H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937): An Annotated Bibliography (2008).
Declan Moran and others have rendered on YouTube the excellent "The Call of Cthulhu in [Like] 2 Minutes" (via SF Signal).
A mistake in volume one of Selected Letters has been discovered and corrected by Chris Perridas, who e-mailed me: "If you read one of the Kleiner letters, I think the 16 Nov 1916 one, it mentions 'Mr. Manow.' For years it was a typo that no one researched, and I uncovered that it was not Manow, but Morrow--probably Derleth or his typist could not read Lovecraft's scrawl."
He is to be "the subject of a special walking tour and film series during the annual Flickers: Rhode Island International Film Festival, Aug. 10-15." This will be in the past by the time you read this.
*** If you wish to commit artistic suicide, At the Mountains of Madness is the place to begin, and this is the movie Guillermo del Toro and James Cameron (among others) are doing. However, while if made, this may be a strong movie, it won't catch the spirit of AtMoM. Indeed, I suspect it may be what the character in Sunset Blvd. said about his Okies in the Dust Bowl script--it was changed to a torpedo boat setting. Based on the visionary creatures in Hellboy 2 by del Toro, I would have preferred he tackle The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. (These reflections are prompted by the bombshell that AtMoM the movie may actually take place within my lifetime. It's all over the web. For example, look at Grim Reviews, which includes the draft of a screenplay for the novel. Dejan Ognjanović predicts the missed opportunities that will be in AtMoM.)
*** The YouTube The Interactive Lovecraft: Behind the Scenes of Project Space Squid features the Vancouver Film School's use of Lovecraft stories in a digital environment. Unfortunately, there are gore effects, so this looks like Lovecraft-washing (the Lovecraft name without the Lovecraft spirit [cf. greenwashing]). Via Will Hart. *** Begun in Winnipeg but moved to Montreal, the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies targets horror analysis and criticism for fans (Montreal Gazette, 10 July 2010). *** A search for "Cthulhu" in imdb.com brought forth results such as Cthulhu Blues Productions, the character Joe Cthulu (played by Clint Howard in The Haunted World of El Superbeasto ), producer Daniel Chun aka David Cthulhun, and actor Robert J. Baker aka Cthulhubob.
*** Screenwriter Christopher Wickling wrote that producer and director Roger Corman "was contrite about 'the unhappy circumstances' that led to 'Edgar Allan Poe's The Haunted Palace' being 'treachery' to Lovecraft" (Horror: Another 100 Best Books [Carroll & Graf, 2005], p. 56; quoted from Google Books). As is well known, the movie was based on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
Via Chris Perridas' site: "'Ex Oblivione' has been turned into a one-act chamber opera by composer and librettist Kyle Gullings. His new opera, Oblivion, [ran] July 8-25, 2010, as part of the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, DC." *** Apparently Neil Gaiman has a Cthulhu influenced ukulele.
Howard Philips Lovecraft, H. P Lovecraft, Howard P. Lovecraft, and H.P Lovecraft are examples provided by George Oates as various ways of doing an author search in the Open Library. He also refers to August Derleth, Lin Carter, and Harry Houdini.
In PopMatters Dennis P. Quinn reflects on "Cults of an Unwitting Oracle: The (Unintended) Religious Legacy of H. P. Lovecraft."
The online Scientific American begins the slide show "Illusions: Colors out of Space" with introductory comments about its name predecessor. *** Alan M. MacRobert, a senior editor of Sky & Telescope magazine, quotes HPL in his Boston Globe "Star Watch" column for 7 August 2010.
A one-man stage show from Michael Sabbaton based on "The Call of Cthulhu" appeared at the Edinburgh Festival. *** From October to November Seattle's Open Circle Theater dramatizes "Pickman's Model," the scene being changed to that city. This marks the theater's eighth annual production of a Lovecraft work.
While the cover states it's "A Guide to Macabre and Ghastly Sites in the Northeast U.S.," I haven't seen the contents of The New England Grimpendium (Countryman Press, 2010) by J. W. Ocker; but its author has a blog (O.T.I.S.: Odd Things I've Seen) with an account of his visit to Lovecraft sites. Ocker has written for Rue Morgue magazine as well as Studies in Australian Weird Fiction.
The Boris Karloff hosted television series Thriller has come out on 14 DVD's. A couple of its impressive adaptations are Robert E. Howard's "Pigeons from Hell" and August Derleth's and Mark Schorer's "The Return of Andrew Bentley"--with a screenplay by Richard Matheson. Back in 1961 this creepy dramatization was my introduction to a book of forbidden text. I will have more on the series in a future ish. *** There is a collection of Cthulhu & company YouTubes.
Online there have been two very popular subjects related to HPL. One is the imminent? movie version of AtMoM by Guillermo del Toro. The other is a site called I Write Like. Perhaps due to a certain narcissism this has captivated many bloggers. The site analyzes a prose sample and reveals which writer this resembles. HPL is one. However, when I put in different bits of prose by him six times, I would alternatively get his name and Edgar Allan Poe's.
John J. Miller provides an appreciation of Fritz Leiber in The Wall Street Journal. *** In Critic'ter 40 I quoted a poem with Lovecraft references by R.H.W. Dillard. A comic novel by this author, The Book of Changes (Doubleday, 1974), has in one chapter a list of books, among them The Necronomicon by Abdul Alhazred, People of the Monolith by Justin Geoffrey, and Cthulhu in the Necronomicon by Laban Shrewsbury (p. 90-91). Soon thereafter a character discovers a note that reads in part "They are here. They are real. And they are returning---the Old Ones, subterranean, hideous. The ground trembles daily. There are foul smells in the air. Examine De Vermis Mysteriis" (p. 92). On the back cover there is praise by Colin Wilson. *** Combining a love for Mark Twain and an interest in Lovecraft, Joe R. Lansdale has produced the novella Dread Island (IDW) as part of the genre mash-up series Classics Mutilated. *** In Publishers Weekly ("Why I Write"; 12 July 2010, p. 22) Laird Barron discusses discovering HPL, who "tackled the biggest questions of them all."
*** With a story in Cthulhu's Reign (DAW, 2010), John R. Fultz comments about Lovecraft and more in an interview with Frederic S. Durbin. *** Writers News Weekly "talks with Carrie Cuinn, the woman behind the Cthulhurotica anthology." *** Alan Moore is working on a comics project that, he writes, has "put back some of the objectionable elements that Lovecraft himself censored, or that people since Lovecraft, who have been writing pastiches, have decided to leave out. Like the racism, the anti-Semitism, the sexism, the sexual phobias" (via TENTACLII).
I learned this via Wilum's website and so congratulate S.T. on the publication of his first novel (as J.K. Maxwell), The Removal Company: An Historical Mystery Novel (Borgo Press, 2010). Samples of the novel are available through Google Books.
Thank you, former member Will (William E.) Hart, for putting on Flickr your complete run of Eldritch Leanings (February 1976 [Mailing 13]-October 1979 [Mailing 28]). Comments from still active EODers appear in various issues.
Here are some things I learned from the series of time capsules of that decade. The second issue refers back to another fanzine's reprint of "Horror Story Author Published by Fellow Writers," which states "the publishers [Arkham House] expect to have 50 typewriter volumes before they're through" (24 February 1940). Like Will I wonder how many volumes they produced.
Among the reprinted letters written to the May 1952 "Eyrie" are those by John Gatto--who would write a book of criticism about HPL and was an Ofian with comments in EL--and Irving Glassman, who I've mentioned in a prior number as writing a 1959 letter to the New York Times. *** The February 1977 ish reveals that Playboy (September 1971) had a Lovecraft parody, "The Unnamable" by Richard Sharkey. *** Alan Dean Foster's script for Star Wars II included a giant statue of Cthulhu (Oct 1977). Also, Fritz Leiber has done four paintings that illustrate scenes from Lovecraft tales. A later issue explained that George Lucas passed on the screenplay, but the novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye had a Cthulhu statue under another name.
Will finds in the home of Forrest J Ackerman a case in the living room of rare American and foreign HPL editions; elsewhere is an "excellent" painting entitled "Cthulhu" by Richard Matheson(!) (June 1978) [There's a new book, Richard Matheson on Screen: A History of the Filmed Works (McFarland, 2010) by Mathew R. Bradley.] *** Will speaks of getting the California license plate "CTHULHU"--all seven letters of it. I had a Missouri plate in the eighties with "CTHULU" as only six letters are allowed. *** In the Marvel comic Tarzan (August 1978) Abdul Alhazred makes an appearance.
Mai Ling 151
Ken: Manly Wade Wellman's book on General Wade Hampton was Giant in Gray; A Biography of Wade Hampton of South Carolina (Scribner, 1949). *** Re the worldwide publication of Lovecraft's work--the Lovecraft success narrative/myth goes something like this. By keeping his name alive after he died, Arkham House and a coterie of fans and readers caused his success to grow to a critical mass, so he became world famous. I imagine that movies, games, and other media also played their part in spreading his reputation. But (perhaps) the missing 799 pound gorilla from this story was the failure of copyright to protect his writing. At least after the death of Derleth, amateurs and professionals could reprint his work without having to get permission or pay a fee. Lovecraft could appear in anthologies, single author collections, and various adaptations for free, and so he did.
*** It's unfortunate that during your Quebec trip you didn't get to see the blue plaque commemorating where HPL stayed, put up by "Les Gens de Québec Se Souviennent" in 2001.
John C.: Welcome to the EOD. Your interview with Dave Carson comes hard on the heels of Leigh Blackmore's, which it complements. Re Carson's "There seem to be a common misconception that H.P.L.'s entities aren't clearly described.Just read "The Call of Cthulhu." Okay. Here is a passage from that story: "The Thing cannot be described--there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy." Such words would create that "misconception." Earlier a statue of Cthulhu is detailed--which is what all artists (e.g., Raymond Bayless on the Arkham House cover) illustrate as though it were the "real" Cthulhu--so there is ambiguity about its description, which when recorded directly has to be given in metaphor ("A mountain walked or stumbled"). Even then, the reader sees it second-hand, from a journal entry.
Mark: Ditto welcome. The disposition of bodies after death is controversial. Physicians were prosecuted at one time for trying to learn anatomy from the deceased. Paralleling this, now there is the debate over what to do with embryonic stem cells. *** The name of "Alfred Kroeber"--recipient of letters from Robert H. Barlow--rang a bell. He was the father of writer Ursula K. Le Guin, who wrote that nasty review of the subject of de Camp's Lovecraft. It said a great deal about her intolerant character.
*** Thanks for the Barlow facsimiles. The telegram's laconic grammar reminds me of Twitter tweets. Barlow's archaeological discovery of "certain notable survivals . still in operation" sounds Lovecraftian. *** There are scores of books published by or associated with Mexico City College, where RHB ran the anthropology department, and I wonder if an examination of them would bring out new facts about him. The affixed "Roberto H. Barlow" could be an alternative way of searching information about him (e.g., Diccionario de Elementos Fonéticos, en Escritura Jeroglífica [Códice Mendocino] por Roberto Barlow y Byron MacAfee [México, Instituto de Historia, 1949]).
Fred and Dee: What are "Buopaths"? *** Re Australian opossums eating out of the hand--I've been informed they are tetchy and teethy, and it is wise to not let them too close. *** I dislike Art Spiegelman, for his Maus portrays cats as Nazis.
T.R.: Unfortunately your worthy remarks on Computation Theory pass over my head. *** Re our views on greatness in literature, you write, "the world view Lovecraft presents in his fiction is so antithetical to most people's world view it will never achieve widespread recognition as 'great'." One touchstone of literary greatness is not that a work simply re-enforces a person's world view but that it expands it, challenges it, perhaps presents it in a way never thought about before. It offers a truth and alternative to what is perhaps a comforting and insular view so many are content with. Somewhere in a letter HPL talks about that minority of humans who can feel the validity of the unknown and fantastic. I believe that HPL supplies a truth and feeling that perhaps many might not be sympathetic with, but that does not make it anymore less precious. It's a unique contribution to world literature. *** Re your example of "great" literature being To Kill a Mockingbird. While I've not read it, the work--perhaps Norman Rockwell in the South--seems to me to be accepted chiefly as a work of moral fiction, like Samuel Richardson's eighteenth-century novel Pamela, a favorite of pulpit speakers. Whether the modern work is "great" as opposed to morally fashionable (like Fahrenheit 451) is a debate that I shall not pursue.
John H.: Congratulations on your nomination to the board of the August Derleth Society. *** You are not alone in discovering similarities betwixt The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and "The Dunwich Horror," though perhaps it was a matter of convenience for scriptwriter Charles Beaumont to use the theme of mating with the alien in that Ward adaptation, The Haunted Palace (1963) which had the tagline: "What Was The Terrifying Thing In The PIT That Wanted Women?". As I have said elsewhere this issue, I find Ward a re-working of "Herbert West-Reanimator." *** Maybe you have printed a draft of your article?--for there seems a number of occasions when a word should have been dropped or another added. One of these days you may reach as many typos as some professional publications. *** I wonder if a graphic table might be a clearer way of showing the similarities betwixt Ward and "Dunwich," with a column for either with parallel circumstances. *** Another way of describing a pastiche (e.g., by Derleth) is to say that the author was too uninspired to bring something of his own, and simply imitated, followed rather than lead. *** Has anybody composed a list of Lovecraft writings--stories, poetry, essays (perhaps even letters)--by year, and in order of composition? This might reveal some interesting relationships between them. *** So far as the alien things (e.g., "Dunwich") that "can [only] exist in our three-dimensions except temporarily"--this idea appears to have begun with "From Beyond" and matured from there.
Kennett: Having made a resolution to no longer attend cons, I read about Readercon and am tempted to break it. *** I appreciate Don Rosa for his Uncle Scrooge work. However, Carl Barks will remain first in my sentimental heart.
John N.: Thanks for the reprint of the Skywald publication. I have the original somewhere, but haven't read it in decades.
Don and Mollie: I do not think that Scrooge's "crime" was his love of making money but his lack of generosity with the money that he made; Dickens was not arguing against economic prosperity. Thanks for the reprint of your many versions of A Christmas Carol. I was particularly interested in learning about the early ones-1930's and before--and less interested in the parodies. I have one that you can add to your list, from YouTube. Borrowing from the Dickens work Et Plagieringseventyr [A Plagiarism Carol] is produced by a Norse library and is about the dangers of plagiarism (I'm not making this up).
Scott: I try to be judicious in my use of url's, since they do intrude a certain amount of clutter in the text. Usually I omit them when the site adds nothing to my summary or I gathered my information from a subscription database and so could not create a free link. In the former case I try to supply enough data so that the source can be found through a Google (or Bing, etc.) search. However, if you are curious about any bit of information I've gathered, you could contact me and I'll see about getting you to the source. *** You state that apparently Dashiell Hammett made his Creeps by Night selection from nominated stories by others. I wonder how common this is? Could the same be true for Boris Karloff's And the Darkness Falls and the many Alfred Hitchcock anthologies; in the latter I wonder if Hitchcock had anything to do with selections? In each of these cases the celebrity of the editor is more important than his qualifications.
*** That John W. Campbell had any correspondence with Clark Ashton Smith seems outré, for they seem to come from two very alien worlds. *** I recommend that when you abbreviate in the text--LW, RA--you either the first time spell out the title, or explain what the abbreviation stands for at the end of the text, as in the Notes.
Danny: I can think of three features that mark a literature as "great." First, it has an unlimited profundity that encourages you to re-read it. After each re-reading you never feel that you have yet fully appreciated and understood it, that there is always more to gain from other perusals. Second, both a significant number and succeeding generations of people feel strongly about the work and would agree in denominating it "great." And third, it deeply moves you.
Henrik: I agree about the fallacy of Lovecraft's statement that "all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large." This is only true for certain stories and not for others, especially those written before "The Call of Cthulhu," which takes in a lot. Even all the post "Cthulhu" may not fit with this remark--think of the fantasy "The Strange High House in the Mist." Some stories better fit than others, such as "The Colour out of Space" ("'it come from some place whar things ain't as they is here'").
Juha-Matti: Multiple bravos for your publication that identifies and examines Lovecraft's lost stories. Like a paleontologist you have taken odds and ends--scattered in the commonplace book, in letters, etc.--and put them in a cohesive skeleton. Your inferences are logical and plausible. However, I nonetheless have some meddlesome suggestions. You should watch out for the occasional typo ("became to a sudden end," p. 6). You refer to "his earlier surviving fictional work" (p. 6) without giving its title (i.e., "The Beast in the Cave) until later. *** The unwritten story of Romans in North America fighting Indians sounds as if one time HPL had a Robert E. Howard phase. A list of lost stories collected at the end would have been handy.
*** Note non-English usage "Dr. Eben Spencer, clothing [i.e., dressing] in his room." *** There could be a clue to the theme of the proposed The House of the Worm (spoken about in February 1924) from "The Festival" (written in October 1923), with its "For it is of old rumour that the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from his charnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws." The proximity in time could mean that HPL was mulling over such an idea. The word "house" might refer to family or dynasty, as the House of Usher or of Windsor. Conversely, it could be argued that I am taking the word "worm" too literally. My speculation is neither provable or unprovable.
*** The unused plot that HPL outlines--a brainy miniature twin separated from a man with an undeveloped brain and carried by him in a satchel--was somewhat the premise of the unrelated 1982 movie Basket Case. To quote imdb.com "A young man carrying a big basket that contains his deformed Siamese-twin brother seeks vengeance on the doctors who separated them against their will." *** Rightly or wrongly, I question the reliability of Muriel Eddy. For example, was Hazel Heald's wish to be romantically involved with HPL a fact, or was it an inference by Mrs. Eddy? *** HPL's "S. of Arkham is cylindrical tower" was probably written no earlier than 1926, when "The Call of Cthulhu" was authored, apparently the first time the Old Ones were named; for the note mentions them and gives their identity as "shapeless & gigantic amphibia." Since in At the Mountains of Madness--written in 1931--their description was very different, it seems plausible that the note was written between 1926 and 1931.
*** The opening of the fragment of "The Book" that you quote: "My memories are very confused. My identity, too, is bewilderingly cloudy" has touches of "The Outsider." *** However accurate your reconstruction of "The Survivor" is, I opine that it is lopsided. The seventeenth and eighteenth century events form the back story, and I suspect that most of the tale would be about the modern day actions of the person who lives in the strange house and visits the graveyard. Like "The Shunned House" there would be the history to unravel, of discovering the effects of the past on the present.
I attended a disappointing talk by Otto Penzler, editor of The Best American Noir of the Century. I had hoped to gain an appreciation or understanding of this sub-genre, but he failed to go into this, despite the billing of the talk. Yet I began to wonder, was there any Lovecraft that could be described as noir? Based on my movie-watching and Raymond Chandler reading, I would define the conventions of noir as a femme fatale who dominates and brings about the destruction of the male protagonist within a detective or mystery framework. A criminal underground suffuses the milieu of the characters.
The Lovecraft story that comes closest to this is "The Thing on the Doorstep." It has a strong-willed "woman" (Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde) who inveigles the weak "hero" into doing Things a Man Was Not Meant to Know. The criminal underground is swapped for an occult/supernatural one. The "hero" (Edward Derby) seems to get the upper hand but she (Asenath) gets back at him and threatens the narrator, who "may be the next."
Of Hitchcock and Anthologies
Anthologies act as transitional operators, especially those that are aimed at young adults. They can be the first introduction to a writer. Alfred Hitchcock's Ghostly Gallery (Random House, 1962), for example, introduced me to a who's who of writers: Algernon Blackwood ("The Valley of the Beasts"); F. Marion Crawford ("The Upper Berth"); Henry Kuttner ("Housing Problem," the most delightful fantasy I've ever read); and Lord Dunsany ("In a Dim Room"). Another story in the collection, H. G. Wells' "The Truth about Pyecraft," had an illustration of an obese floating man, as though he were part of a Macy's Day parade. When I first began reading Lovecraft I tried to visualize what he looked like. The similarity of the name to Pyecraft led me to think that the illustration might convey a truth about Lovecraft! I was later disabused (and taken aback) thanks to a small portrait in Twentieth-Century Authors.
I later read Alfred Hitchcock's Monster Museum (Random House, 1965), which included Joseph Payne Brennan (with the memorable "Slime"); Paul Ernst (who I retain a fondness for, in part because of "The Microscopic Giants"); Will F. Jenkins' (aka Murray Leinster) "Doomsday Deferred"; Manly Wade Wellman ("The Desrick on Yandro"); and Ray Bradbury ("Homecoming"). I suppose that by this time I had heard of some of these authors, though most of the stories were first readings for me. Interestingly, the latter volume had more stories from the pulps, and perhaps this is why it is a better collection.
Anthologies also provide stories by a variety of authors. Through a sampling they can lead the reader to more of that author who otherwise might remain unknown. Persons such as myself came to HPL that way. Others jumped into Lovecraft-only collections, perhaps drawn by the evocative titles (Cry Horror!, The Dunwich Horror and Others, &c) or maybe the covers.
Other conditions lead to HPL and others. I still remember the thrill, if only by seemingly ironic juxtaposition, in first seeing the unfamiliar word "Lovecraft" next to "The Rats in the Walls" in Famous Monsters of Filmland. Maybe the first-time reader bumped into HPL in a horror or fantasy section of a bookstore, or perhaps he sought out his writing as a result of playing games, watching a movie, a recommendation of a friend, or comments of a reviewer. A collection may have been discovered in a relative's attic, a library, a bookstore, or abandoned in a public place.
Some Notes from My Re-Read of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
Although the title suggests a clinical study, I don't think that this premise is kept. *** ".the exposure of nameless rites at the strange little fishing village of Kingsport." This refers to "The Festival." How often does HPL link one story to another? I do not mean simply the mention of an invention such as Cthulhu, but a link to a real story. Offhand the only other that I can think of is Pickman in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. *** An example of Lovecraft playing with words or a coincidence? The quote in the text--not the epigraph--about "The essential Saltes of Animals" is followed in the next paragraph by "Sailors are superstitious folk; and the seasoned salts." Since the reader is told in a few sentences that from Curwen's farm "few of the sailors had ever been seen to return" is this a matter of salts reduced to Saltes? *** The "giant, muscular body, stark naked" seen plunging along the road has a similarity to the corpse milieu of "Herbert West--Reanimator." In some ways the novel is a re-write of "West." Lovecraft would re-write stories that were semi-good until he found the gold in them.
*** In the novel appears a Bible quotation (from Job): "If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, until my change come." How often did he evoke the Bible? As he combined witchcraft with physics in "The Dreams in the Witch House," he brings the Bible into an occult-themed work. His was the strategy of inclusivity rather than exclusivity.
*** The introduction of the black cat Nig calls to mind the more notoriously named cat of "The Rats in the Walls." It is interesting how Lovecraft would ring variations on facts from his existence (e.g., the name of his cat from childhood). *** As Ward grows to resemble the painting of his ancestor Joseph Curwen he ironically calls to mind Dorian Gray. In this case he grows to resemble the painting, whereas Dorian Gray's painted character changes, while he is ageless.
*** "The day was Good Friday." Beyond the irony of this--the Resurrection of Christ vs. the resurrection of Joseph Curwen--HPL used recognized days for verisimilitude. So, "The Rats in the Walls" mixed events at Exham Priory with the death of President Harding. *** The discovery in the long cases of "a very hideous and shameful thing" calls to mind "Holmes, Lowell and Longfellow Lie Buried in Mount Auburn" in "Pickman's Model" written within a year before. Again, Lovecraft is re-working or ringing changes on a theme. What the "shameful thing" might be is later suggested through a reference to "B. F." and Philadelphia; that would be the remains of Benjamin Franklin, buried in Christ Church (and alluded to in Ward).
*** On Curwen's/Ward's chest "was a great black mole or cicatrice." I do not grasp how one can be mistaken for the other, a cicatrice being scar tissue, which in this instance would also be "black." *** Simon Orne lives in Prague since (based on my online source) in the sixteenth century the city bore the name of "Magic Prague," being the center of science, astrology, and alchemy, thanks largely to the interests of Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, who made his court there. John Necronomicon Dee and Edward Kelley experimented here, and an Alchemists' Alley exists to this day. Prague is also the scene of The Golem (reviewed in Supernatural Horror in Literature). *** Edw. H. writes "Hadd a Squad of 20 Militia up to talk about what the Country Folk say. Must digg deeper and have less Hearde." I was confused by this, until I at last figured out that "less Hearde" means less noise made by digging deeper.
*** "You know G. in Philada. better than I." Either this refers to a cohort, i.e., Mr. G. B. (Rev. George Burroughs) or to one of the famous bodies that had been removed. *** Cf. "if man it were" with "if he was a man," another echo from "Pickman's Model." *** Is this another pun, this one about the authenticity of Ward's handwriting? "The oddity was the slight amount in Charles's normal writing . On the other hand, there were literally reams of symbols and formulae, historical notes and philosophical comment, in a crabbed penmanship." On the other hand?
*** The "vast open space" underground with "circle of pillars grouped like the monoliths of Stonehenge" and empty cells calls to mind Exham Priory "contemporary with Stonehenge" and under it "a savage circle of monoliths" along with "stone cells." *** That Dr. Willett ".repeated the Lord's Prayer to himself, eventually trailing off into a mnemonic hodge-podge like the modernistic Waste Land of Mr. T. S. Eliot" shows how HPL could organically combine his judgment about this poem as a functional part of Ward. *** One of my favorite quotes in the Lovecraft canon is: "Could it be possible that here lay the mortal relics of half the titan thinkers of all the ages; snatched by supreme ghouls from crypts where the world thought them safe, and subject to the beck and call of madmen who sought to drain their knowledge for some still wilder end."
*** Here's another bit of ironic phrasing, which concerns Dr. Willett in the underground lair: "There was nothing alive here to harm him." *** Fragments from Curwen's notes seem repurposed for Wilbur Whateley's diary. Curwen: "Sawe olde V. saye ye Sabaoth and learnt yee Way." Whateley: "Today learned the Aklo for the Sabaoth."
Curwen: "Rais'd Yog-Sothoth thrice and was ye nexte Day deliver'd." Whateley: "Yog-Sothoth knows the gate."
Curwen: "F. soughte to wipe out all know'g howe to raise Those from Outside." Whateley: "They from outside will help."
*** Willett has memorized the script "Y'ai 'ng'ngah, Yog-Sothoth" and sees another that begins "Aye, engengah, Yogge-Sothotha." The narrative then states, "Ground as the later text was into his consciousness." But surely it was the former text? HPL has either mis-communicated or I have mis-understood something (which would not be without precedent). *** The device of having Willett unconsciously recite phrases that resurrect a spirit is a clumsy contrivance and perhaps the weakest plot item. Compare this with what "a band of innocent sailors had done by accident" in "The Call of Cthulhu." Both the doctor and the sailors had unintentionally released something, but the device is not forced in the later instance.
*** "I say to you againe, doe not call up" is a phrase echoing Jesus' "I say to you, do not resist him who is evil." with the phrase "I say to you" frequently uttered by him in the Gospels. *** The blockage of the well by concrete seems another mis-step by HPL, the spirit taking on the role of a mason deus ex machina, conveniently obstructing evidence of Dr. Willett's experiences. (I'm reminded of an Uncle Scrooge comic book story where a mine is spookily walled up.) Later the spirit presumably (and magically?) destroys Orne and Hutchinson, so there is more covering up of evidence as well as showing evil getting its comeuppance, which is somewhat trite. *** The visit to the John Hay Library, where a palaeographic key is sought (though the writing is not in cipher), may be vaguely reminiscent of the not yet written "Dunwich Horror." *** The fainting of Charles (i.e., Curwen) upon hearing "stones are all changed now in nine grounds out of ten" and reading the script is, so to speak, out of character. Curwen is ruthless and (one gathers) fearless, having lived a long time with the knowledge that many would like to see him dead (re-dead?).
*** Why does Dr. Willett burn Charles' corpse and not tell the father? I suppose that the corpse is burned to avoid it being resurrected--though it seems that it should be dissolved in acid. Not telling the father is somewhat difficult to explain. Maybe it is a combination of protecting him from the shock of Charles' demise as well as from the knowledge of an imposter, and what that implies. Still, the burning of the body--which seems unlikely, since the heat to turn bones to ash would probably be hotter than a common fireplace could manage--and the keeping of the father in the dark seems cumbersome. *** Some of us must chuckle that Willett lives at 10 Barnes. A similar in-joke would also be used in "The Haunter of the Dark," 620 E. Knapp Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin being the actual address of Robert Bloch, model for Robert Blake.
*** Note the use of the cliché "things man was not meant to know" as "He stumbled on things no mortal ought ever to know." *** Curwen is not only "twofold" but three fold: himself, Charles Dexter Ward, and Dr. Allan, who I suppose could be the mirror opposite of Dr. Willett, with the double "l" in both names suggesting a similarity. Ironically, at the last meeting mention is made of "the doctor's mask-like face." *** "'. provided he has any right to exist at all, and provided he does not destroy what called him out of space'" can be compared with "The Dunwich Horror": "'It was mostly a kind of force that doesn't belong in our part of space. We have no business calling in such things from outside.'" In the latter the twin--another twofold--is defeated by recitation of a formula, as was Curwen. *** The ending is a bit rushed and anti-climactic, an instance of evil being vanquished--"that man of unholy centuries and forbidden secrets never troubled the world again."
There you have it, the story's debits and strengths as I found it on about my 4th reading.
Physics professor Greg Gbur blogs at Skulls in the Stars: Physics, Pulp Fantasy and Horror Fiction, and a Bit of Politics. His favorite pulpsters are Lovecraft and Howard, according to a Charlotte Observer interview. As an example of his writing, an August post shows his appreciation for Manly Wade Wellman and Who Fears the Devil?
From The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead Books, 2007) by Junot Diaz
In this acclaimed novel there are three allusions to HPL. At the Paterson New Jersey public library science fiction and fantasy fan Oscar "was gorging himself on a steady stream of Lovecraft, Wells, Burroughs, Howard, Alexander, Herbert, Asimov, Bova, and Heinlein, and even the Old Ones who were already beginning to fade--E.E. "Doc" Smith, Stapledon, and the guy who wrote all the Doc Savage books" (p. 21). *** A tale about a destroyed grimoire, a possibly supernatural or alien dictator, and a curse "was some New Age Lovecraft shit" (p. 246). *** "The older brothers all seemed to have acquired the Innsmouth 'look'" (p. 264). Diaz brings in the world of Tolkien many more times than that of HPL.
Letter to the Editor
Limbonaut--aka Criticaster--reader David Haden has e-mailed that he has written the book Tales of Lovecraftian Cats, which seems to mix Lovecraftian prequels and sequels with such writers as Rudyard Kipling and Bram Stoker. He also mentions his Journal of the Imaginary and Fantastic, which deals with the history of Lovecraft scholarship and fandom. Never one to let fungi grow under his feet, David also produces TENTACLII: An Occasional Lovecraft Blog, which has over 100 categorized links to people, publishers, events, discussion lists, etc. This is an excellent starting point for those who want to find significant online resources about HPL. (I suppose an alternative title could be Everything You Wanted to Know About Lovecraft [But Were Afraid to Ask]).
In C'aster 37 I said the source for the name of the character "Crawford Tillinghast" might have come from the aviator and inventor Wallace E. Tillinghast of Worcester, Mass. In C'aster 53 I pointed to the Providence native Pardon Tillinghast as another possible influence. Now here is a bit more on that from The Providence Plantations for Two Hundred and Fifty Years (Reid, 1886) by Welcome Arnold Greene: "Gideon Crawford and others were rivalling [sic] Pardon Tillinghast's largest enterprises in the West Indies and other foreign commerce" (p. 49; quoted from "Historic Names of Providence's Waterfront and College Hill" by Charlotte Downey, R.S.M. in Names: A Journal of Onomastics [vol. 37, no. 4; December 1989], p. 325). It seems as if HPL combined the names of two Providence business rivals for "From Beyond."
At London's Southwark Playhouse an anthology play, Terror 2010: Death and Resurrection, included William Ewart's adaptation Reanimator. I saw it. The last of four playlets, a projection on a screen introduced it by title and adapter, but alas no mention of HPL, though he was in the printed program and the poster. All players used a generic American accent, though none adopted a New England one. The production opened with West's assistant, Dr. "Phillips," quoting words from the first paragraph of the story, and later there were references to Providence, Arkham, and Miskatonic University. Of the playlets, this was by far the longest and the most entertaining. Scenes from the story included the boxing bout--with Kid O'Brien being the victim rather than his opponent--and an extensive one about a visiting business man. Most of it was played for macabre laughs, as expected, and some scenes lasted no more than thirty seconds. The ending takes place in the trenches of World War I, where West receives his comeuppance from three corpses, dressed as soldiers. The concluding scene--Phillips at home and administered to by his wife--suggests the experience has shaken his sanity.
I am chagrinned to report that in the Winter 2003 'aster I may have incorrectly stated that the writer Robie Macauley (1919-1996) was a correspondent. Actually, it was his father George W. Macauley, of whom the son wrote, "he had a few literary interests--one of them being a lifelong friendship (largely by correspondence) with H. P. Lovecraft, the writer of weird tales" (p. 896, World Authors 1950-1970 [H.W. Wilson, 1975]). Robie Macauley did not state that he was a correspondent. However, the Moshassuck Press reprinted The Ideal Amateur Paper: A Symposium (1998), listing as its participants Ralph W. Babcock, Ernest A. Edkins, Howard P. Lovecraft, and Robie M. Macauley. If Macauley and HPL were acquainted with each other, maybe they did correspond.
Last issue I mentioned the coming publication of a book about Forrest J Ackerman. It has been preceded by another, House of Ackerman: A Photographic Tour of the Legendary Ackermansion (Midnight Marquee Press, 2010) by Al Astrella and James Greene.
Whisper and Whisperer
Before her success with Little Women Louisa May Alcott produced penny dreadfuls. Some have been collected in A Whisper in the Dark: Twelve Thrilling Tales (Barnes & Noble Books, 1996; edited by Stefan Dziemianowicz). The title is echoed in Joseph Bruchac's young adult Whisper in the Dark (HarperCollins, 2005), which has for its protagonist Maddy, a Narragansett living in Providence who is a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, Anne Rice, and H.P. Lovecraft. While I doubt if the title "The Whisperer in Darkness" can trace its pedigree to the Alcott story, I wondered if the Bruchac novel could have purposely echoed the Lovecraft tale. I wrote the author, and this is in part his reply.
"Yes, in several ways my little novel for young adult readers makes reference to H.P. Lovecraft.
by its setting in Lovecraft's, Providence and its title (which is meant as a
nod to the old master), but also by my main character being a Lovecraft fan,
talking about him, visiting his
grave ( I AM PROVIDENCE), walking past places that appear in his stories. (As I've done more than once on my own pilgrimages to Providence.)
"And, of course, secret underground passages.
"I started reading HPL when I was seven years old (and Louisa May Alcott about then, too, but in no way does my title tie in to her work, whether her gorier tales or her girlier ones). I still reread his work.
"In short, half a century after first reading him, I'm still a fan."
A side issue that we discussed was HPL's racism. I had come across the extraordinary fact--thanks to a conference presentation by Faye Ringel--concerning HPL and eugenics in 1920's Vermont (see Crit'er 53 ), and before I passed this on to him did an online search to verify my memory. I struck by chance the title "Eugenics in Vermont and the Hidden Lives of the Abenaki," particularly appropriate because Joe had stated his ancestry included this Indian tribe. However, it turned out that he was well acquainted with Vermont's foray into eugenics; of his more than 70 works one (Hidden Roots) encompasses the subject. So much for my news!
Maybe the British sea-story author Ernest Laurie-Long had Lord Dunsany in mind when he wrote The Ghost of the Dunsany (Ward Lock, 1941), the cover showing a ship amid towering ice mountains.
"Anything which is rational is always difficult for the lay mind. But the thing which is irrational any one can understand."--G. K. Chesterton. (Can this partly explain the popularity of Lovecraft's fiction?)
Thanks for reading the 7,608 words of the 66th issue of The Criticaster (Hallowe'en 2010, mailing 152nd) by Steve Walker.