Letters to Alfred Galpin (Hippocampus Press, 2003): Annotations, Comments, Corrections
My most interesting discovery was a letter to Galpin that contained paragraphs incorporated into "The Festival" (see under page 133). Besides that, there is my typical fussiness about typos, busybody suggestions, speculations, questions, etc.
p. 5 Unfortunately, the table of contents does not give a list of the individual letters and their page numbers.
p. 49 "I am sick of hearing fools & superficial criticks prate about 'Hamlet's madness.' It is really a distressing glimpse of absolute truth." I wonder if this could be applied to Lovecraft's deranged protagonists (e.g., discovering Dagon, Cthulhu).
p. 48 There should be an explanation for the blank in the following (the pair of brackets is the editor's): "But perchance the and [drawing of a post]"
p. 48 "no [on] his notice"
p. 51 Another blank in HPL's Germanized dialect: ".iss allowed in der office"
p. 53 Word(s) omitted? ".it has been a pair about one whom relatively little"
p. 63 I suspect there are letters missing. Letter 6 is 30 September, 1919, and this, letter 7, is 11 December. It begins, "Before quitting the subject of Loveman and horror stories," which must have been in a previous Gallomo letter.
p. 75 "I give not a river-regular" If this is an expression I cannot verify it from any source, and if it is a misprint, I don't know the correct wording.
p. 77 "W. r. m."--is this an abbreviation for a phrase?
p. 82 After some background on "The Tomb" and "Dagon," HPL discusses "Psychopompos: A Tale in Rhyme." (In The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H.P. Lovecraft, S.T. dates this letter to "January? 1920" but in the Galpin correspondence has re-dated it to April 1920.) What is curious is that he says of its composition that he was "as yet unable to cast off my beloved heroicks altogether, even in fiction" (my italics). Of course, the form of "Psychopompos" is heroic couplets and not fiction; I suppose "fiction" is used as a synonym for "narrative" (whether prose or poetry).
p. 94 Typo: "neat-looing"=neat-looking. A few lines away is ".the colossal (almost scareful) expanse." I wonder if "scareful" was a word created for this usage, or could this be a misprint or editorial misinterpretation for some other word?
p. 96 Typo? in "its songful stagness" as related to a walk with friends. A replacement word "staginess" doesn't appear quite right, but I can come up with nothing better. I'm reluctant to accept "stagness" as a neologism for males only (the state of being stag), but it could be.
p. 98 "Who would not be odd, if he might thereby re-enter the sealed door of his youth?" This seems a foreshadowing of "The Silver Key."
p. 98 In the next line (after above) another neologism appears in "I'd better turn off the wosh"--perhaps a play on "wish."
p. 100-101 "Next day I read some of my new hideous yarns aloud at the hillside camp, and received one good suggestion from the audience regarding the improvement of 'The Outsider'. Not that I hadn't thought of the point before, but I was not sure." I wonder if he made the change.
p. 101 Typo: ". an[d] after a detour."
p. 102 HPL talks about doing a female impersonation, laced in a hoop-skirt, with bonnet and parasol. This was to please some acquaintances who "seem partial to the Julian Entinge [sic] stuff." I find that Julian Eltinge (1881-1941) was a stage and screen actor as well as a female impersonator. HPL also states that "in my acting days I went in for the heavy villainous stuff." Does this mean that at some time he had engaged in amateur theatrics, or was he simply being flippant?
O, to have had a photo of this. How many speculations would have been launched. The biographer would have linked it to the very young Lovecraft's statement of "I'm a little girl," while the fodder for the psychologist would be fecund. The literary critic might cast his mind forward twelve years to the writing of "The Thing on the Doorstep," where the villainous Ephraim Waite impersonates, so to speak, his daughter Asenath. The idea of HPL as an actor might lead to the use of aliens masquerading as humans, say Wilbur Whateley or "Henry Akeley."
p. 101 HPL's early impressions of his wife-to-be are amusing, e.g., "a human dynamo and phonograph combined." There is both ridicule and admiration in several of his observations.
p. 108 ".a real snowbird or hop-hound." The first is slang for a cocaine user, but the second term appears to be a nonce word, whose meaning is a serious beer drinker. Or perhaps he was thinking of the established slang "hophead" (drug addict) and mis-remembered it.
p. 120-21 HPL speaks of turning into poetry a prose translation by Galpin of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal. The French title reminds me of another collection of poems, Fungi from Yuggoth, which in title and format, I suppose, might bear an influence from the former.
p. 125 HPL states of eighteenth-century houses, "The odour of them is alone sufficient to awake dark speculations--I found it most pronounc'd in the antient Ward house in Haverhill." Cf. "young Ward would venture down into this maelstrom of tottering houses, broken transoms, tumbling steps, twisted balustrades, swarthy faces, and nameless odours" (from The Case of Charles Dexter Ward). "Odour" occurs twenty-one times in the novel.
p. 128 HPL tours Salem in February 1923 where he sees "an extensive undulating tract cover'd with snow." It is odd to think of him gadding about in cold weather, considering his weakness.
p. 133 His atmospheric description of a visit to "Gallows-Hill" in Salem has parallels with "The Festival," which he would write in the fall of the same year. Examples: both have a hill where witches were hung; the phrase in the letter "up.up.up" vs. "The Festival's" "up, up, up"; "a terrible procession of black-cowled things" vs. "the throng of cowled, cloaked figures"; etc. *** HPL makes an unconscious pun "I hung around Gallows Hill." This time the location is not hyphenated--a typo?
p. 134 He talks with artist Sarah Symonds (1870-1965), whose bas-relief plaques he purchases. Plaques by her may still be found online.
p. 142 In 1923 he speaks of "a typical Puritan abode" where people dwelled "250 and more years ago-close to the soil and all its hideous whisperings; warp'd in mentality by isolation and unnatural thoughts." In 1919 he had already expressed some of the same attitudes in "The Picture in the House," writing of Puritan houses that "two hundred years and more they have leaned or squatted," the inhabitants reflecting "isolation, morbid self-repression, and struggle for life with relentless Nature." Compare the letter's "There is eldritch fascination--horrible bury'd evil--in these archaick farmhouses" with the story's "What interested me was the uniform air of archaism as displayed in every visible detail" of one of "the ancient, lonely farmhouses."
p. 145 Of an admirable and underappreciated son of a friend, HPL writes, "He is a true 12 o'clock feller in a 9 o'clock town," a reference to a 1917 song, "I'm a 12 O'Clock Fellow In a 9 O'Clock Town." The singer of the song does say "feller" rather than fellow, and the song can also be found online by both variants of its title.
p. 146 Newburyport "is today locally known as 'The City of the Living Dead.'" Ironically, in 1980 would appear the Lucio Fulci-directed zombie flick City of the Living Dead, set in Dunwich.
p. 146 ".speeding past the shanties (shantih shantih shantih) of fishermen." is a pun that would appear in the same year in his parody, "Waste Paper."
p. 147-150 HPL spends several scornful pages on the eccentric Timothy Dexter. Could the latter have lent his name to The Case of Charles Dexter Ward?
p. 153 In 1923 he wrote, "Instead of rattling to the South Station [of Boston] on the elevated, I chose the subway, (I am exceedingly fond of all things dark and subterranean.)," which flies in the face of the narrator's statement "If I don't like that damned subway, it's my own business," in "Pickman's Model."
p. 158 Typo in the repetition of the last line from the previous page at the top of this one. *** Here is another name to add to the list of HPL's correspondence, the late Alfred L. Hutchinson ("I hardly knew him myself, & doubt if I ever exchanged five letters with him").
p. 178 ".Spinoza; a lecture upon whom I last December describ'd to you." This was written in March 1933, and the December letter is missing; so too is this reference to Spinoza in the "Index."
p. 179 HPL quotes T.S. Eliot's famous self-description of a "royalist in politics, classicist in literature, & Anglo-Catholick [HPL's spelling] in religion." While this may have originally appeared in Eliot's 1929 For Lancelot Andrewes (as put in S.T.'s endnote), I suspect that HPL picked it up second-hand, e.g., Scribner's Magazine uses the quote in a 1931 issue, as did other publications prior to the Lovecraft allusion. *** He attended an Eliot reading, and I must give his witty observation (p. 189); the poet "appear'd to hold his surprisingly vast audience in that state of tense awe which only a combination of reputation & incomprehension can produce."
p. 187 ".my back is visible in the group [photogr]aph taken for the press--a copy of which I enclose." (In this instance, brackets are the editors'.) If the photo got published, I wonder where. It was taken at a "Musick Festival" on 11 June, 1933.
p. 190 There are times when HPL's remarks serve as social documents, as when he is thankful that his train ride from Quebec now shows "the absence of the swinish beer-guzzlers who used to frequent Canadian trains in the days of intensive prohibition." *** HPL mentions a church fire at Valleyfield, Quebec. A few paragraphs about this appeared in the New York Times for 22 September 1933.
p. 194 "Petit-Belnape" is the first usage I've seen of a nickname for Frank Belknap Long.
p. 196-7 S.T. guesses that "a ghost-writing job for a goof who wanted to be publicly eloquent" is a hidden reference to Sonia. Yet it is an odd way of disguising her--he could have easily used a neutral term, such as "someone."
p. 220 Visiting Long in very late December 1935 or early January 1936 HPL attended a dinner of the American Fiction Guild "& saw a good many of the cheap magazine hacks whose names are familiar to the reading proletariat." By this time L. Ron Hubbard may still have been president of the New York chapter, and apparently Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett were members. Could HPL have met any of them, and considered them hacks?
p. 221 The Hayden Planetarium he finds "attracting a publick interest in astronomy which did not exist when I was young," which is perhaps a poignant observation; or perhaps he was far enough removed from the mainstream that the interest seemed not to exist; or maybe he is accurate.
p. 233, etc. "Works of Alfred Galpin" is a collection of his essays, poems, and fiction. Unfortunately, the works are not accompanied by year and place of publication, though there is a bibliography at the end. Presumably, the order of the writing is chronological.
p. 235 Galpin's poem "Selenaio-Phantasma" counter-points "Nemesis," borrowing the same rhyme scheme and some of the vocabulary. It is worth a read.
"The Monsters of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, as Drawn by Children" comes with illustrations.
Scooby Doo characters have an episode where they discover professor H.P. Hatecraft has been abducted by one of his creations. Another professor, based on Harlan Ellison, is skeptical, and there is also someone named Howard E. Roberts.
Comic Books/Graphic Novels
Bob Howard: Plumber of the Unknown by Rafael Nieves and Dan Dougherty doesn't take itself too seriously, despite its Lovecraftian horror. *** Greg Hinkle's Parasomnia is inspired by "The Terrible Old Man." Part one is available for a look see. *** At the Mountains of Madness (SelfMadeHero, 2010) has been illustrated by Ian Culbard. *** At the West Hollywood Book Fair artists Steve Niles, Mike Mignola, and Hans Rodionoff talked about his influence on horror comic books (via SF Signal). *** The Italian produced Lovecraft: Black & White (Dagon Press) is edited by Umberto Sisia and has black and whites by comic book illustrators. *** Parody covers by Murray Groat feature Tintin encountering Herbert West, R'lyeh, and other Lovecraftian terrors.
Appreciations in Jeff VanderMeer's Monstrous Creatures collection includes "My Love-Hate Relationship with Clark Ashton-Smith" and "Lovecraft Art: The Link Between Tentacles and Cosmic SF." *** Jim Moon looks at the continuity found in The Fungi from Yuggoth. *** ProQuest's Literature Online, a database of full text journals, now includes Fantasy Commentator. *** The Cosmology of H. P. Lovecraft by Marcia G. Kutrieh appeared in Qatar University Library's Bulletin of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences 1985, No. 8, pages 37-49.
What the well-dressed Lovecraftian wears.
For the Howard P. Lovecraft Collection, Brown University Library has under "Finding Aids & Manuscripts Online" a big list of writings and particularly letters, with occasional annotations.
See the trailer for Die Farbe, the German-language adaptation of "The Colour out of Space," ironically in black-and-white. *** SF Signal asks "Which Horror Novel Would Make a Great Film?" and in the answers from a number of writers, HPL features prominently. *** Among Dead Pictures's latest reviews are The Call of Cthulhu (2005) and Burn, Witch, Burn (1962). *** A while ago I panned the documentary The Strange Case of Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1998). A totally different matter is the excellent Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown (2008), which is available free for viewing.
The Metal Register (apparently no longer extant) reviewed the band Vale of Pnath.
"Teratonymy: The Weird and Monstrous Names of HP Lovecraft" (Names: A Journal of Onomastics, September 2010, p. 127-138) by Christopher L. Robinson begins its abstract, "Lovecraft's teratonyms are monstrous inventions that estrange the sound patterns of English and obscure the kinds of meaning traditionally associated with literary onomastics."
The Library of Wales series came out in 2010 with Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan and The Hill of Dreams.
Vintage Classics is giving The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Tales a 3-D cover, along with works by Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Pierre Boulle (Planet of the Apes).
BBC Radio 7 carried an abridged reading by Richard Coyle of AtMoM. It is available as an audiobook.
Cthulhu has made it to the animated comedy series South Park (via CthulhuWho1 blog). *** An anime television series called Haiyoru! Nyaruani: Remember My Mr. Lovecraft deals with "Nyaruko, a formless Cthulhu deity who can take on the shape of a seemingly ordinary silver-haired girl."
Minneapolis' Hardcover Theater offers "Weird Tales for Halloween," made up of W. F. Harvey's "The Beast with Five Fingers," Edward Lucas White's "Lukundoo," and "The Dunwich Horror." Steve Schroer wrote the adaptations. *** Altadena California's Mountain View Mortuary & Cemetery is the appropriate setting for a dramatization of "The Unnameable," offered along with Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" and Dickens' "The Chimes." Jeff G. Rack handled the Lovecraft tale.
*** San Francisco Theater Pub hosted an H. P. Lovecraft Festival, which had at different dates "The Shunned House," "The Dunwich Horror," and three shorts. *** Tokyo International Players presented Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as set in the world of Lovecraft. In addition to the usual Shakespeare roles, characters included Howard, Phillip, Mr. Marsh, Shoggoth, Brown Jenkin, and the Witch Keziah.
*** In New York a one-man show by Mike Daisey, Barring the Unforeseen, relates of an illegal séance at a Brooklyn room where HPL lost his mind (according to the story). *** In Toronto macabre fan and puppeteer Eric Woolfe adapted stories by Algernon Blackwood, E.T.A. Hoffmann, and HPL into Madhouse Variations, which involves Ephraim Waite seeking the Necronomicon. *** Selections from the lives of Donald and Howard Wandrei are dramatized in Unspeakable Things at the Red Eye Theater, Minneapolis. A member of the company discusses them.
The Gothic in Contemporary Interactive Fictions (Swedish title: Gotiken i Interaktiv Fiktion Idag) (Ph.D.; Umeå University, 2010) is by Van Leavenworth. One of its parts looks at "Anchorhead, a work loosely based on H. P. Lovecraft's terror fiction."
The 127 page French language thesis Mythologie de Lovecraft: Contexte, Prétexte, Texte (M.A.; Université Laval, 2008) by Louis-Pierre Smith Lacroix is available online. From the English language abstract: "This mythology of H. P. Lovecraft examines the artificial myths inside his texts by comparing them to the modem myths in the context where he wrote according to his mythopoetic pretext."
A paper about the influence of insulin on platelets, Der Einfluss des Insulins auf die Thrombozyten und auf die Wechselwirkung Zwischen den Blutplättchen und dem Endothel (Bayerischen Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, 2008) by Steffen Rauchfuß has an epigraph from "Herbert West--Reanimator."
A Morfologia do Horror: Construção e Percepção na Obra Lovecraftiana (Masters; Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Instituto de Estudos da Linguagem, 2006) is a Portuguese work by Alcebiades Diniz Miguel that analyzes the fiction.
An epigraph from "The White Ship" begins Spreading-rate Dependent Mid-ocean Ridge Processes Expressed in Western Atlantic Lithosphere (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2006) by Sangmyung David Kim.
The Portuguese Traduzindo Horrores com H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) : Aspectos Afetivos e Relação Tradutoria (2005) is by Dulce Fabiana Mota Lima, who states "The study describes my own relationship, as a translator, to the North American author H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), one of the most representative creations of the horror genre in literature."
'A Dark Poem' : Lovecraft And His Puritans (M.A., 2005) by Geoffrey Reiter is for sale.
Dealing with proton scattering, Anregungsfunktionen der Polarisationsobservablen ANN, ASS und ASL der elastischen ~p~p-Streuung (Universität Hamburg, 2004) by Kjeld Oleg Eyser leads with the sentence "The oldest and strongest emotion [etc.]"
Da Literatura Fantástica (Teorias e Contos) (Universidade de São Paulo, 2003), by Marcio Cicero de Sa, begins with "a reading of the attempts of definition of [weird] literature through the study of H. P. Lovecraft and Peter Penzoldt."
In Le Pas Sage: A Mathesis (Angeometry & Djinnialogy of the Short Story) (M.A.; The University of Western Ontario, 1997) D.A. Mellamphy states that the name "Cthulhu" comes "from the Arabic khoothwl or khtoothwlan of the Qur'an's al'furqaan, Sura XXV:xxix, wherein the word is used to designate the 'betrayal' of the Shaitan (Satan: Iblis)" (p. 67).
A Genre for Our Times: The Menippean Satires of Russell Hoban and Murakami Haruki (Ph.D.; The University of British Columbia, 1997) by Susan Rosa Fisher shows that Hoban's novel The Medusa Frequency shares affiliations with "The Call of Cthulhu."
In Der Traum in der phantastischen Literatur (Heidelberg, 1997) by Erik Hauser one of the works examined is The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
And in Attributions of Inferential Error, Epistemic Virtues, and Models of Minimal Rationality (M.A.; Concordia University [Montreal], 1996) Sean Allen-Hermanson uses an example from The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath where "Randolph Carter's sense of ethical obligation runs up against the physical limitations imposed by the situation" of moonbeasts killing former allies (p. 11).
Le Récit Concentrationnaire: Une Investigation Théorique (Ph.D.; Université ce Montréal, 1996) by Éric Lozowy contains several allusions to HPL.
Fantastique et Événement: Étude Comparée des Oeuvres de Jules Verne et de Howard P. Lovecraft (Annales littéraires de l'Université de Franche-Comté, 1995) by Florent Montaclair appears to have been commercially published.
The Weird Writings of HP Lovecraft (Girasol Collectables, 2010) includes the texts of various fiction, poems, and letters to the editor as well as publication histories and supplemental material.
In accepting his 2009 Howie, the late Dan O'Bannon talks about HPL in this video. *** Michel Houellebecq tells Paris Review: "one thing definitely influenced me in The Call of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft: his use of different points of view. Having a diary entry, then a scientist's log, followed by the testimony of the local idiot. You can see that influence in The Elementary Particles." Re "local idiot"--maybe he's thinking of Wilbur Whateley. *** The title of the young adult Australian novel, Strange Objects (Heinemann, 1990) by Gary Crew, is taken from "The Strange High House in the Mist." *** According to a letter to Chris Perridas' blog H. P. Lovecraft and His Legacy, cryptozoologist Nick Redfern quoted from The Lurker at the Threshold for each chapter of his book There's Something in the Woods (Anomalist Books, 2008).
C. M. Kornbluth
I've read C. M. Kornbluth: The Life and Works of a Science Fiction Visionary (McFarland, 2010) by Mark Rich, and it is Hugo material. Some of the facts might be interesting to Lovecraftians.
A photo includes Frank Belknap Long and Manly Wade Wellman (p. 40). Among the attendees of the Fifth Science Fiction Convention (1939) was Kenneth Sterling (p. 45). *** In a 1941 letter to Stirring Science Stories a twenty-one-year-old Isaac Asimov wrote (p. 84) about science and fantasy stories, "As far as the fantasy is concerned, I favor a minimum of shudder-shudder-Necronomicon-nameless horrors-horrible evil-mad Arab-weird rites of Ktlbgpq, etc. Give us instead light fantasy and screwball yarns.
"The world is sufficiently horrible today for escape to be found in screwiness rather than horror. Weird rites and nameless horrors don't cut any ice in comparison to the darn named horrors of a London bombardment."
*** The shadow of Hugo the Rat: in 1934 Donald A. Wollheim along with other writers received no payment from Hugo Gernsback, so they hired a lawyer (p. 86). *** Robert A.W. Lowndes received but a single compliment for his work from Kornbluth, who called the Lovecraftian "The Leapers" "absorbing" (p. 103).
I thought of this tale upon reading about the new artificial reef composed of 400 human statues, which is in the Caribbean off the coast of Grenada. Creator Jason deCaires Taylor has named the project La Evolución Silenciosa (Silent Evolution). There are a number of evocative photos at his site.
Not without irony, the New York Times gave much more obituary space to some of Lovecraft's correspondents than to him. For examples:
"Rheinhart Kleiner, A Trade Writer, 56"
The obituary (p. 23) in the New York Times (13 May 1949) identifies him as an "author of books and of articles for trade magazines" who died in Clifton, N.J. Former residences were New York and Chester, N.J. "Mr. Kleiner was well known as a writer in his field in England and Australia as well as this country. He recently received wide acclaim for his most recent book Burrowings of an Old Book Worm. He was a member of The Fossils and an executive of the National Amateur Press Association."
"J. F. MORTON DIES; Museum Curator; Head of Paterson Institution; Was Bibliophile and Also a Collector of Minerals; WROTE ON THE SINGLE TAX; Supporter of Henry George; Was Champion of Negro Rights--Author of Poems"
According to the 8 October 1941 issue (p. 23) the 70-year-old Morton was a "nationally known bibliophile," etc. He "had also written many poems."
But What About Weird Tales?
"The steady rise in the popularity of the thriller had paralleled the slow decline of ghost and horror tales during the late 1920s" (p. 119 in Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900 [Palgrave Macmillan, 2008] by Clive Bloom).
Both C. L. Moore (24 January) and William Crawford (10 September) were born one-hundred years ago this year.
I am going to look at Lovecraft's use of the term "grippe." On 20 June 1936 he wrote to Alfred Galpin (Letters to Alfred Galpin, p. 222) of "an attack of grippe which had me flat for a week," and then "my aunt came down with a grippe attack infinitely worse than mine," this actually being breast cancer. Before his death he would write of suffering from the grippe, the interpretation being that he was mistaking this for cancer.
In popular usage "grippe" was another term for influenza. However, it would seem that HPL used it not to designate a runny nose or sore throat, but an indisposition striking the stomach or intestines. According to an entry in the magisterial The English Dialect Dictionary (Henry Frowde, 1962; v. 2, p. 732), one definition of the word was "a sharp pain, esp. in the bowels."
Or perhaps he was using it in a generic way, as an ailment. If he used it like that, he was not being deceptive when he spoke of his aunt's condition. Nor would he have been making a mis-diagnosis about the "grippe" that was ending his life.
As I mentioned last ish, this venerated tv series has emerged onto DVD. The blog A Thriller a Day by Peter Enfantino and John Scoleri review each episode, plus there are extras, such as an interview with Stefan Dziemianowicz. When an episode was adapted from Weird Tales or another magazine, the appropriate cover is featured, though typically the artist is not mentioned.
I've been watching the second season episode. Now that they are no longer fresh in my mind, here are my opinions, with spoilers, about select episodes (all the episodes would've benefitted by being shorter, hence tighter). "What Beckoning Ghost" belongs to that annoying genre of faux supernatural-tales that appear fantastic, but wind up with mundane explanations, in this case because of criminal imposture. I don't understand the attraction of such stories, which appear less believable when the truth is revealed than they would if the fantasy premise were valid. How many times in real life are people driven mad through supernatural hocus-pocus so that greedy relations can obtain their money?
*** "The Premature Burial," the single Poe adaptation, was pretty good. *** Robert Bloch's "The Weird Tailor" (Weird Tales, 1950) had the premise of, so to speak, clothes make the dummy. A man wants certain fabrics sewn into a suit, which will be placed on his dead son in order to bring him back; the clothes eventually find themselves on a tailor's dummy or mannequin, who comes to life to save a life. The mannequin is so obviously played throughout by an actor, there is no surprise when it starts to move at the story's climax. There is one wonderful line, a touch of Lovecraft, which is thrown away in the middle of the drama, rather than used to clinch a scene. This is where George Macready, playing the father, reveals that the fabric came from off the earth. If only it could have been italicized. I was pleased to find the drama referencing Bloch's version of the Necronomicon, De Vermis Mysteriis.
*** Based on a Henry Kuttner story, "Masquerade" tells of a couple arriving at a spooky house. Banter ensues. In general, I am annoyed by humorous supernatural stories, and this was a long joke with a short punchline. Sporting "sophisticated" irreverence, the story seemed a natural for Unknown, though it appeared in Weird Tales (1942).
*** "The Return of Andrew Bentley" was one of the few Thriller's I saw when they were new, and it is my favorite. Maybe the second scariest episode, it introduced me to certain Lovecraft themes, such as the occult tome, which gave me the shivers. Based on a 1933 Weird Tales short by August Derleth and Mark Schorer, the teleplay was by Richard Matheson, and from what I've read the mix was not satisfactory. Matheson likes to keep tabs on the familiar workaday world, where a fantastic premise intrudes; while in Lovecraft's world all things are infused with the fantastic.
*** "The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk" (by Margaret St. Clair, Weird Tales, 1950) shows its hand almost immediately as an update of the Circe myth. It seems more about the battle of the sexes, with the males being even more stupid than the sorceress, who unfortunately does not receive her comeuppance. *** "Portrait Without a Face" is another faux supernatural story, with a portrait gradually and inexplicably being filled in to reveal the murderer (who kills with a crossbow (!)). The non-ghost person who actually does the painting would have to work at superhuman speed and have the ability to pick locks.
*** Robert Bloch's "Waxworks" (Weird Tales, 1939) is kind of faux supernatural. Waxwork criminals appear to commit murders, but the real murderer dresses up as them--but why? Also, a woman (witch?) covered in wax has powers from beyond the grave. *** The scariest of all Thrillers, "La Strega" was a re-seeing of an episode I remember from its original showing or as a repeat. Its creepiness has stuck to me through the decades. Jeanette Nolan is superb as the witch who curses the hapless hero, and other than a scene of avant-garde dancers, the atmosphere and shocks don't let up, creating a world of horror. *** "The Storm" is solid on atmosphere, but prosaic when it comes to imagination. A woman is alone in a dark house (the electricity is off) and a murderer is about.
*** "A Wig for Miss DeVore" (Weird Tales, 1943) by Derleth gives powers of glamour to a woman who wears the wig--but "bewear" when she removes it. Not bad, but too repetitious a tale. *** An enjoyable work, "The Hollow Watcher" is a scarecrow who won't stay put, and apparently contains the remains of a murdered man. I'm reminded of the scarecrow in John Metcalfe's "The Feasting Dead." *** "The Incredible Dr. Markesan" originally appeared in Weird Tales, 1934 as "Colonel Markesan" by Derleth and Schorer. One of the best Thrillers, the scene where the re-animated corpses are forced by Markesan (played by Boris Karloff) to recite their offences recalled to me the interrogations by Joseph Curwen of his victims. The closing scene of a living corpse is the stuff of nightmares, hampered (to my mind) by a lapse in story logic--why kill a character, then why re-animate her, and why does she look the grotesque way she does, being only briefly dead?
The blog article "Weird Tales: So What's It All About?" by Peter Enfantino identifies anthologies largely composed of Weird Tales reprints. *** I wonder what was the first movie adaptation taken from Weird Tales? My guess is Fiend Without a Face, based on Amelia Reynolds Long's "Thought-Monster" (1930). The movie has been re-issued by the prestigious Criterion label, and it includes a commentary track.
Douglas: The reprint of the Steve Moore article on Clark Ashton Smith and William Beckford was a mixed blessing. The mix comes from your omission of bibliographical information fixing the origin of the article's publication. That is not scholarly.
Ken: The poem by Thyril L. Ladd was a pleasure, though I think of it as playful rather than sexy. Since Helen Wesson read fantasy paperbacks in the tub, I wonder if one of them was Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (or maybe "The Temple")? *** Suppose at some future time a desperate "critic" decides to prove that Cataloguing Room Messenger Arthur J. Fredlund was later the subject of the poem "The Messenger"? A line of argument could show HPL sublimating his dismay with the lad.
Laurence: Congratulations on submitting your master's thesis about Robert Murray Gilchrist. On to other things: your review of The Thing from the Lake by Eleanor M. Ingram was an enjoyable read. I suspect that out there, in less popular databases, there is information about this fantastic novel.
S.T.: You raise no objection to HPL's view that a white-collar job would've been an answer to his economic problems. I wonder if he could have been able to hold one, such as working in a bank or office. I think he might have stifled from not being able to write save in his free time, his statements to the contrary. He didn't last long as an envelope stuffer or movie ticket seller and didn't succeed as a salesman. Such jobs could have killed his spirit. *** "Under the Pyramids" is a Lovecraftian sounding title, suggesting archaeological mystery and terror; whereas "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" is Houdinian, for the performer was known for his escapes from prisons, shackles, etc. Since Houdini was the draw, I can see why Baird assigned that title. *** Re "The Last Test" and other revisions as "failures"--the raw "test" of a story's worth is, will the editor purchase it. Farnsworth Wright did.
Leigh: Congratulations for being elected president of the Australian Horror Writers Association.
Scott D.B.: Re "if humanity is so insignificant to beings on the powerful level of the Great Old Ones." Why should the Great Old Ones be more significant than man? Both are equal. HPL wrote something along the lines--referring maybe to the theory of relativity--that a man and a fly had been rendered equal. So this would be true for a man and a Great Old One--though don't tell a Great Old One I said so. J *** Part of the fascination with the "black magic" quote is that it seems to neatly explain (and simplify), the background or back story of the Cthuluoid universe to the reader not familiar with the fiction. *** Re "Lovecraft's primary purpose in inventing books like The Necronomicon or artifacts like The Shining Trapezohedron"; one reason, as I said years or decades past, was "merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to a bald and unconvincing narrative" (W.S. Gilbert in The Mikado). A second reason might be these were created as imaginative jeu d'esprits or from creative zest.
*** I hope other EOD'ers don't overdose on Charles Dexter Ward, seeing that both of us had lengthy comments about the novel, even agreeing, as in the unconvincing blockage of the well; your suggestion that HPL should've revised has my second. *** Re the Ward quote "must have it red for three months"--since this phrase was overheard, might not it be "must have it read for three months"? For example, suppose that a spell must come periodically from a grimoire, which must be read out for three months. Mrs. Ward, and so her husband, was led astray by her assumption. Such an interpretation would weaken your vampire thesis. *** You appear to praise the novel's climax. It is too subdued. Joseph Curwen should have a grander, more extravagant exit, say as in "The Dunwich Horror," which had its own problems.
*** The identity of Yog-Sothoth is debatable. It is more than an entity (entities?); it is a condition and power and enabler. In "Dunwich" it is a "gate" as well as a "key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth." *** The dissolution of the Curwen portrait may be literary license, and as such it is acceptable in a way that the closing of the well is not since, I suppose, the latter is not symbolic but a contrivance. An alternative explanation for the portrait--it was ensorcelled and designed to snare Ward. Its mission accomplished, it self-destructed (to remove evidence? to follow the rules of magic?).
*** That Benjamin Franklin was not "a mage, magician or occultist" does not disqualify him as a kind of kidnap victim. Rather, Curwen et al. were after "illustrious bones" and "titan thinkers." Incidentally, Franklin was a mason so his name might evoke occult connections. *** My guess is that "B." refers not to Borellus but "Mr. G. B." (Rev. George Burroughs).
Fred: Re "proof for how 'witch-fire' can mean both 'holy fire' & 'fool's fire' simultaneously." I'll give it a shot. A witch can be considered a holy person (holy as in someone dedicated to the supernatural or divine). A fool can be considered holy--"fools for Christ" is a term coined by Saint Paul (cf Wikipedia). Sir Perceval was considered a "holy fool," and I believe such a designation could be attributed to Prince Myshkin of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Idiot. The idea is that the holy may be so concerned with matters spiritual that they exhibit little common sense; or that they are innocents, so fools (cf. the word "cretin" from "Christian"); or that in giving up worldly possessions they appear as fools to the average person. Semantically, then, "holy" and "fool" can be akin. As a comparison, think of the illumination that is St. Elmo's fire and ignis fatuus (i.e., foolish fire).
Mark: Alas, the majority of the Wandrei letter reprints are so faint as to be unreadable. Is there no way to darken the type?
Wilum: Re the typo "the clock peels its final chime." Yet it sounds original and surrealistically inspired. I imagine a chime as a physical thing being peeled off a clock.
Derrick: Re your observation that in comparison with Poe's, Lovecraft's stories are "largely lacking the humorous element." Having given a presentation about humor in Lovecraft's fiction, I find this rather off the mark. There is satire, parody, and irony in various stories, such as "The Dunwich Horror." *** Thanks for your prodigious generosity in providing the most recent copy of The Lovecraft Annual (no. 4, 2010).
Juha-Matti: The Nostaligia League has made available the text of John Martin Leahy's "In Amundsen's Tent" along with covers of Weird Tales.
Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns
Mentioned in a previous issue, this 2009 compilation by Paul Green has one direct reference to HPL, the RPG book Adios, A-Mi-Go! (Pinnacle Entertainment Group). Otherwise, Robert E. Howard has a few story summaries included, August Derleth makes it with "The Dark Boy," and above all there are many entries for individual C. L. Moore's Northwest Smith stories.
2010 saw the publication of a two-volume biography of a genre author many consider the top in his field and around whom is a cult of ardent admirers. This is an author who had some unorthodox views. It's not the S.T. Joshi unabridged biography of Lovecraft, but William H. Patterson, Jr.'s authorized biography, Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, whose second volume, to be completely truthful, has not yet been published. Of Weird Tales Patterson commented that it "had dominated pulp fantasy since its founding in 1922, publishing mainly eerie little tales in the Algernon Blackwood/Lord Dunsany vein (only usually more creepy and less lit'ry)" (p. 227). This is rather like stating that Astounding Stories published in the Wells/Verne vein, ignoring Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Sturgeon, etc. and the other writers who defined the magazine--except that Lovecraft and Howard are now better known than Blackwood and Dunsany, while the same is still not true when comparing Wells and Verne with the others.
Thanks for reading the 6,594 words of the 67th issue of
The Criticaster (February 2011, mailing 153rd) by Steve Walker. Eventually published online as The Limbonaut (no. 38).
Eventually published online as The Limbonaut (no. 38).