The Limbonaut 49
New Critical Essays on H.P. Lovecraft (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) edited by David Simmons has six essays under "Lovecraft and His Fiction" and another six under "Lovecraft and His Influence".
*** To find the full text of theses online at Open Access Theses and Dissertations, search for the term "lovecraft". Some examples are:
*** Defending HPL as a writer, Daniel McCarthy provides a close and intelligent reading (alliteration, assonance, etc.) of the final paragraph of "The Call of Cthulhu" in the short "Literary Appreciation of the Lovecraft Kind". *** Lord Dunsany, H.P. Lovecraft, and Ray Bradbury: Spectral Journeys (Scarecrow Press, 2013) by William F. Touponce tackles how these writers relate to modernity and one another. *** What to Do When You Meet Cthulhu : A Guide to Surviving the Cthulhu Mythos (Elder Signs Press, 2010) by Rachel Gray and William Jones is a light-hearted gambol through Lovecraft's creation.
Seeing Cthulhu may drive one to madness, but it can now drive one to drink (literally), for there is now a Chicago beer named Cthulhu, product of the Goose Island Clybourn brewpub.
If you cannot get enough about The Image Maker (aka The Image Maker of Thebes), this site has a collection of articles and reviews.
Inscape, the Maryland chamber ensemble, played Joseph Hallman's "Imagined Landscapes," six miniatures inspired by HPL. *** In Portland, Oregon another chamber group Classical Revolution has a "Decomposer's Night" where they play to the reading of "The Hound".
"Appendix 2: First Books by Collectible Authors" in Turning Paper to Gold (Betterway Publications, 1988) by Joseph Raymond LeFontaine lists The Materialist Today (Privately printed, 1926). Frank Belknap Long is there with A Man from Genoa and Other Poems.
To get an idea what Rhode Island was like in the year of his demise, see the Federal Writers' Project of Rhode Island, A Guide to the Smallest State (Houghton Mifflin, 1937). *** In 1992, two years after his centennial, he was inducted in the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.
During October in Altadena, California the horror story adaptation series WICKED LIT will have the world premiere of "The Lurking Fear" and Arthur Conan Doyle's "The New Catacomb" plus a revival of Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".
The Complete Works of Samuel Johnson (Delphi Classics, 2013) includes "A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson".
The estate of the late Glenn Lord (formerly in the EOD) has donated over 15,000 pages of manuscripts and other material by Robert E. Howard to the Harry Ransom Center, the humanities library and museum at the University of Texas (Austin).
Skulls in the Stars praises a work by the late Basil Cooper. "The Great White Space is a wonderful novel of cosmic horror, very much reminiscent of Lovecraft's classic At the Mountains of Madness... It is one of the best Lovecraft stories I've read which wasn't written by Lovecraft himself!"
I have at hand Complete Catalogue of the Library of John Quinn, Sold by Auction in Five Parts, with Printed Prices (1924). Providing light on the tastes of one collector, its 12096 entries contain both familiar and a ton of unfamiliar authors; I am mentioning only those who might interest the Lovecraftian. The majority of the following works are first editions, and the collection may have as much to do with the physical books as it does the authors who wrote them. William Beckford is represented by 2 works; Ambrose Bierce 14; Algernon Blackwood 29; Aleister Crowley 66; de la Mare 36; Dunsany 35; Louise Imogen Guiney 22; Hodgson 1 (the first edition of The House on the Borderland); M. R. James is missing; Poe 24; George Sterling 4. The page long introduction for Arthur Machen (21) says in part, "He is a novelist of the soul. He writes of a strange borderland, lying somewhere between dreams and death, peopled with shades, adumbrations. For him Pan is not dead..." (p. 575).
The Realm of Israfel: My 2013 NecronomiCon
Three times I had visited the marvellous city, and now I was to go on my fourth.
As I waited in the Kansas City gate area I reflected on people placing their luggage on chairs beside them. I've seen occasions where all the seats have been occupied in this way, forcing some passengers to sit on the floor or stand; it's the same spirit where Titanic passengers in half-empty lifeboats allowed others in the water to drown or freeze. I boarded the plane for a mid-morning flight to Chicago, then Providence, where I'd arrive before 5. After everyone settled in on the plane came an announcement of a problem with an inner door. It required maintenance people, and the passengers had to de-plane. Departure times began to change. In my case this proved less happy, since Providence was a bit of a backwater destination, and had few convenient flights. For my re-routing the earliest I could now arrive was 9:45 p. m., via Cleveland. As I flew into its airport, where I would spend 5 hours, I saw here and there on prodigious Lake Erie triangular sails, like the fins of great white sharks. Later, coming into Providence, I looked down from the plane at the full moon reflected in scattered fragments of water, perhaps something of the ocean.
The next day, Wednesday, I walked about this pocket city to get my sea legs. I eventually crossed the Providence River to follow it as far as I could, then up the College Hill area, which is mis-named. It should be College HILL, in 18 point font, with raisins on it. I passed, unpremeditated, the Lovecraftian-sounding Planet Street. Elsewhere was a courtyard area that had a restaurant with an oyster bar. At an angle to it was a School of Public Health. Draw your own conclusions. I stopped at a convenience store for a coke, and sat outside, near a man, also seated. As people went into the store they said, almost without exception, "Hello, John." It's the sort of thing I would expect in a small town, where everybody knows everybody.
I paid my respects to the Brown University campus, pulled by the Marcus Aurelius statue. Continuing, I went along Benefit Street, toured the Roger Williams National Memorial visitor center, and this time located 10 Barnes. (In my account of my 2007 Providence visit, I told that I forgot the number of the street, so I didn't see the house.) I also visited Roger Williams Park and his relocated house (formerly associated with Samuel Mumford).
The John Hay was closed for repairs. I stopped at the Athenaeum and enjoyed what amounted to a consolation exhibit. It was very fine, with original manuscripts, Weird Tales, etc., and my only complaint was that I wanted more, more. Perhaps there wouldn't have been that much more at the John Hay. I recall that there had been a modest room with exhibit cases for the centennial celebration. I picked up for free a copy of H. P. Lovecraft: The Making of a Literary Reputation, 1937-1971 (Books at Brown) by August Derleth, perhaps the last work he wrote on him.
Wednesday evening Henry Beckwith's talk about HPL drew maybe 80 people, and that surprised me; yet as incomprehensible is to have 1200 attendees at the con. He spoke softly, or perhaps my hearing is hard. At the talk and its aftermath HPL was a Procrustean target, stretched and shortened to fit in with certain modern views, or his image restored as if he were an historic building. Anyway, during the q-and-a an audience member said Lovecraft would have been better off had, in addition to his mother, his aunts had died.
I'll answer through a story that I'll call "The Hit List". Suppose there was a future business that allowed customers to travel into the past, but they had to fill out forms that required justifying their purpose. The company might send back a rejection that follows:
"Dear Mr. W--
Thank you for your communication of 21 August 2050. Unfortunately, we here at Time on Your Hands cannot honor your request. Although we have received numerous applications that involve meeting the writer H. P. Lovecraft, yours is one of two whose wish is to go back in order to commit murder. You mention his aunts stood in his way from developing as a human being and writer. Besides the fact of you intending a crime--even if it is in the past--your wish that they should die is hardly moral. Their lives, and their longevity, was as sweet to them and to those that loved them as yours is to you. Suggesting that their lives are inconvenient or somehow lack the value of their nephew's is a call of ruthless subjectivity and selfishness.
Even if we granted your request and you accomplished their deaths, there is no guarantee that it would benefit him as a writer, which seems to be your primary goal. The aunts formed a familial, emotional, and even practical anchor, and without it Lovecraft may have given up creative writing or gone into a deep depression or--who knows? Is such a gamble worth it?
Your intention to assassinate the aunts is in itself enough to deny you our services. Your ambitions have not stopped there. You ramble on about Lovecraft needing more time to write, and you have offered as a further "solution" the reduction of his correspondence through the planned assassination of Frank Belknap Long, James Ferdinand Morton, Rheinhart Kleiner, and others, climatically including liquidation of "all members of the Amateur Press Association."
On such grounds your application is denied. If it is any compensation, and to show that we play no favorites, we have also had to turn down, as I have said, a similar request. In that case, it was for the death of a single individual. Ironically, the victim was H. P. Lovecraft and was to be at a time before he began his writing career.
The requester was a literary critic.
What to Do in the Evening
Later I dined at a restaurant that served various species of bread and "extra virgin" olive oil to mop it with. How can that be, any more than something can be "extra pregnant"? I photograph my food at such places. Beyond reminding me of what I ordered and how it was displayed, this is evidence if I get sick and have to call the doctor. One characteristic of most Providence restaurants is omission of showing a menu in front. It cannot be that difficult to display.
It was dark when I walked to my hotel via Burnside Park. An artist had done something extraordinary with the lengthy iron black-bar fence bordering it. Each bar had a bit of white marks on it, but when you looked at the bars from an angle, lights reflected on them, and an epic historical scene came out. It was similar to a book with fore edge painting.
Providence Puts out Big Welcome to NecronomiCon!
Each day I walked about the city's downtown, where several stores had displays and signs designed to make the con goers at home (Yuggoth?). The biggest eye-catcher was a bevy of exhibit windows with bigger than life-size beings produced by the performance company Big Nazo. Rather than Lovecraftian, they resembled delinquents from Where the Wild Things Are.
Of the people I saw, I wondered how many might be around due to the conference. My ships-that-pass-in-the-night syndrome led me to see many as possible Lovecraft fans--but due to circumstances I'll never find out.
Abbott and Costello
In continuing to understand Providence and its history, Thursday morn I did more walking, at least to the shopping center, which is near the capitol, a true "stately" building. I took a trolley tour that showed me, with valuable commentary, downtown, Federal Hill, College Hill, and Narragansett Bay. The day became overcast, and at noon I returned to my hotel to find out about the forecast. The desk told me that rain was expected around three, enough for me to briefly stop at my room for a rain jacket. Fifteen minutes from the hotel, and the rain began, and quickly became an extravert. I took the opportunity to go inside the Providence Art Club, which was hosting a Lovecraft exhibit. I was pleased especially to find a whimsical Dunsany/Lovecraft map by Jason Thompson. It was in black and white, but there's a color one online that I use for wallpaper. I plunged back into the weather and sought the shelter of fortuitous trees. My plan was to find Lovecraft Memorial Square by following Angell Street. Unfortunately, I didn't know the cross street, and the rain confused matters. By the time I got to the 400 block my new plan was to find his childhood home, but I couldn't recollect its number; what a plague these address numbers are. Eventually I backtracked to Hope Street, but didn't follow it beyond Barnes, and so to his stomping ground.
Along Thayer--a street with various businesses that borders the east edge of Brown University--I thought of adapting "Who's on First". Costello: "What's the name of this street?" Abbott: "Thayer". Costello: "No, the street I'm on". Abbott: "Thayer". Costello: "I mean here". Abbott: "Thayer". And so on.
I did more Ulysses-ing. The day before and the days ahead I was, to borrow Elizabeth Bowen's phrase, attempting to walk Providence into my head.
In 1984 I spent two months in Europe, Israel, and Egypt on a tour with chiefly college students. There were a few outliers such as myself and, as I came to discover by the time we made it to Israel, a nun. In my impertinently respectful way I asked Teresa if she looked forward to visiting the scenes touching Christ's life. She replied that what satisfied her was knowing that this was the land that he walked and that shaped his reflections. Without impiety, I find that this is true to the part of Providence that HPL knew. There's a glamour attached to his homes and haunts. Living witnesses remain in the guise of trees that were of an age that Lovecraft saw and perhaps took shade under.
"Hello, I'm Roger Luckhurst"
At the Thursday scholarship reception at the Rockefeller Library I considered introducing myself to S. T. with these words, but did not (my alternative was "Put 'er there, S. T."). Then to the monumental First Baptist Church for various comments, including his, which opened no new insights on HPL, but served its function for an audience less het up about him. The Bach Toccata and Fugue in D minor--the same one played in Fantasia--opened the event with enviable bravura by the organist, setting the tone about as good as good can be. Later, during one talk, the organ interrupted the proceedings with "Yes, We Have No Bananas". The player, Gigi, had a name so worthy it is said twice. There was also a solo sung that reminded me of sad Jewish music.
The church was very warm, perhaps as a warning to sinners about what to expect in the afterlife. That is enough to make someone turn atheist. Or at least not wear a suit in church.
Aside from the "Bananas" melody, another reference to Lovecraft ended the event. A speaker showed the baptismal font that was, as Lovecraft wrote in a letter, anomalously behind the altar.
After the talks, it was off to the Athenaeum for the bust unveiling for the lucky who had tickets. I was not one since I learned about their necessity too late. That'll be the last time I miss a Lovecraft bust unveiling. Unlike the memorial at the John Hay, I was not a contributor to the bust. Nor did I give money to the marker at Swan Point in 1977. That Lovecraft lacked a marker seemed to me to present a symbolic truth about his Providential anonymity during his life.
The closed John Hay has a construction barrier raised round the grounds, including the skirt area, so I couldn't hunker down to get a glimpse of the memorial; I made the attempt several days. Sometimes a temporary "gate" was open for the workmen, and I looked in, but I wasn't sure where it was, and it may have been moved or covered with a large box, which I did see.
Friday: The Conference Takes Off!
Friday began at 8 o'clock with emerging scholarship talks. A speaker told of "The Colour out of Space" and its relation to an episode in American history of the "radium girls" who suffered from radiation poisoning as a result of painting watch dials. From there I attended back-to-back and even overlapping panels. It was a devil's choice, for I normally would have gone to every event, but these were parallel rather than contiguous. The worst I can say about the panels throughout the three days is that much was familiar; however, a new spin or fresh perceptions could be offered, and it is pleasant to see people who are, if possible, even more fanatical or obsessed with HPL, as well as being splendidly articulate. One of the rooms in which the panelists spoke had windows backlighting them, giving some faces a blurry, a sloppy halo.
During the lunch hour lull I ambled around the area. I noticed a public bus displaying the statement "Out of Service." Gee, wouldn't it be a dilemma if Rhode Island had a town with the name Out of Service?
My Friday ended with attending a dramatization of At the Mountains of Madness. Nary a chair was empty in the room, with people standing against the wall or seated on the floor. Early in the production a faux newsreel about Antarctic exploration supported the actors.
I didn't attend the costume dance, which encouraged people to dress as in Lovecraft's era. An excellent idea--but thoroughly betrayed by (I presume) the playing of contemporary music. What better creates the illusion of another time than music from that period? Paging Erich Zann and friends.
Since I've concluded (see previous issue) that the proper pronunciation of "Dunwich" is without the "w" sound I listened with a high and mighty smugness to various panelists during the three days pronounce the "w". After I returned home I played a number of recorded sessions, and in one of 'em, "HPL's Providence and Arkham", Faye Ringel got it right. Later in the program S. T. discussed the pronunciation and briefly used the version lacking the "w" before relapsing into "Dunwich", which he used on other panels.
I saw all the current EOD members on at least one panel apiece: Scott, Ken, Alex, Derrick, and S. T., who appeared on an Herculean number.
Many of the panels were on the 17th floor, which made for coveted elevator waits. I noticed that numerous people time and again went to the 18th. My curiosity at last had to be sated, so I went there to see about the popularity. 'Twas a number of dealers up there. So that was where they lived.
It wasn't until the con was nearly over, Sunday afternoon that I discovered that I had missed a significant number of hucksters. They were in rooms on the second floor, but to my mind in a semi-hidden area; some might say that if it had been a snake... The tables, even as the vendors were beginning to pack up, still had too many people for me to comfortably browse the interesting print items
Saturday: The Survivor
Out of the box Saturday morning I was a presenter along with others on the Emerging Scholarship symposium. To make another reference to the Titanic, I imagine that as we waited to begin we could sympathize with the apprehensive passengers. I counted a dozen people composing the audience before the event and, no, I didn't find a noticeable reduction in anticipation of my offering. After the talks were over, Ken came briefly up to introduce himself. It had been 23 years since the last time I had seen him on panels at the Lovecraft centennial conference. It will not be another 23 years before I see him again.
After attending every panel I could fit in Friday and Saturday morning, in the afternoon of this pleasant, sunny day, I decided to take one of the HPL walking tours, partly for exercise, partly for a change of pace--though I was torn about missing the sessions. I had already walked several times on College Hill and on Thursday taken a trolley tour of Providence, but how can you get too much of Lovecraft? Daniel (Papers Falling from an Attic Window) Harms ably led the tour. He began by asking the group of about 21 which of Lovecraft's five stories had a Providence setting. Nobody knew all, including yours truly ("The Call of Cthulhu" and "From Beyond" were my bafflers). Then through the town and up and down College Hill. Puff, puff, puffing the doughty group was not to be disappointed. Some things I had knowingly visited earlier, but now I learned more about them. He pointed out the ground room at 10 Barnes where HPL had written so many classic stories, and rattled them off.
When it was over, time and proximity allowed me to catch several movies, including screenwriter/director Dan O'Bannon's raw version of The Resurrected, which lacked several special effects and some sound.
Some of the panelists' quotes I remembered were: Jason Eckhardt calling Edward Gorey "King of cross-hatching" and referring to Arkham House having "squatter's rights" when it came to "ownership" of Lovecraft's work. Dennis Paoli found HPL "undomesticable" and said being faithful to his writing when he applied it to the screen was "tortuous"... Peter Cannon related an episode of Frank Belknap Long reading that distasteful book review by U. K. Le Guin and writing on it "bitch"... One panelist as much as avowed that since both of Lovecraft's parents were mentally unstable, he chose the subject that he did. This is a bogus formula. Scads of healthy parents have mentally afflicted children and parents like his raise typical, normal sons and daughters... Someone said that Ambrose Bierce had many ideas in his stories that were developed by others, such as "The Damned Thing" where "colours that we cannot see'" re-appears in "The Colour out of Space".
The last panel of the conference ran out of steam. It began several minutes late--unlike the punctual others--and quit ten minutes early. Likewise there was some badinage early in it that seemed to trivialize this event. Panelists are on a job interview, with the audience the prospective employer.
At the final session Niels-Viggo Hobbs, director of the festival, was asked what he liked most about NecronomiCon, and said it wasn't the people, whom he denounced as the most--no, that wasn't what he said--it was the reverse; of everyone behind the scenes that made the festival a success, he said that they worked their asses off. Since I saw nobody without this part, I must have missed quite a sight. He pointed out that a name tag was supposed to have been given to each attendee, but the box the tags were in was lost in hotel limbo. Considering names, I wish there had been posted, either on paper or online, a list of all who attended, preferably with their city or town and country of origin. And had there been sheets to sign up for "dine-arounds", that would have socialized things even more.
This wrap-up session would've been enlivened had there been a bit of kvetching. As it was, I felt as though I was one of the characters in Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life", and I don't allude to the mean widdle kid. Although there was talk of a 2015 return, I don't know how this one could be topped in scope or quantity. For good or bad, a sequel must repeat some of what occurred at this shindig. NecronomiCon still had life in it, for movies were yet to be played at 5:30, and that is where I finished.
Farewell to the Dreamlands
The Monday shuttle that transported me to the airport first stopped in several places, including College Hill. It was just a bit off-kilter riding on streets that I had only walked. And on the vehicle's route leaving the Hill was H. P. Lovecraft Square.
Perhaps it was in my 1990 account that I mentioned the "magical" affect of being in Lovecraft's native city. While retaining the sense of the magical, spiritual, or whatever, I started to see the city in a more mundane way, where people live--and lived--their lives. Even though "Our flowers are merely-flowers" it had been enough to dwell for a time where Israfel had.
"HPL's Providence and Arkham" was one of the most interesting panel discussions that I missed from the 2013 NecronomiCon, but I caught it online at Tentaclii. Will Murray argued that HPL named Kingsport for Kingsport, Tennessee, in part because of the printing press there. Now I hope I have not mis-represented his brief remarks, but I will point out that the Kingsport Press, according to the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture "was initially established in 1922." tennesseeencyclopedia.net A reference to the town first appeared in "The Terrible Old Man", written in 1920. Still, the name could have derived from the home of the press in Kingsport, Tennessee.
Another candidate is Kingsport, Nova Scotia. I can think of reasons that favor either town, but will refrain from offering them, just to keep these remarks brief.
I suggest a third candidate. The name's source is from Owen Wister's Lady Baltimore (1906). Its real-world setting is, Julian Mason observes, "Charleston, South Carolina, called Kings Port in the novel." Assuming he read the work by Wister who had already been living for years in Rhode Island, where he would die in 1938, Lovecraft's first interest in Charleston could have been kindled through the novel. The following by Mason is telling, based on what we know about Lovecraft:
"Though Wister did not believe in living in the past, he did find in the principles, standards, manners, and charm of old Charleston society much that was worth keeping alive for the present; and his primary purpose in writing Lady Baltimore was to do that. In his book on [Theodore] Roosevelt, he called the Charleston he had hoped to capture and preserve in the novel 'an oasis in our great American desert of mongrel din and haste'" (Mason, 170).
The appeal must have had something of Berkeley Square for him. Along with the two actual Kingsports, "Kings Port" remains an intriguing contender for the name-origin of the fictional locale.
 Julian Mason, "Owen Wister" in Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 9, 170. For those who are interested there are several favorable reviews in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, vol. 21:376-79, 384, 404-05
 Originally from Pennsylvania, Wister for decades had his home in Saunderstown, less than 30 miles from Providence.
40th Anniversary Comments
Graeme (A [Speculative] Listing of EOD Titles by Member): Big thanks. This can be consulted by future researchers and current members to give some historical context to the organization.
Ken (EOD Letter): What a knowledgeable review of Unutterable Horror. So far as libraries go, it has got into 30, according to WorldCat. Of the Big Four, I read M. R. James the most, partly because he was more prolific than Machen, whose horror is the most potent of them. With the exception of "The Willows" and maybe a few others, Blackwood doesn't have much appeal for me. Dunsany I don't think of as a supernatural horror author. Such a work is most valuable for its inclusiveness, shining a light on authors that people like me haven't heard of. The evaluations give a body a starting place to chew on and disagree with.
*** Derleth's contribution to Lovecraft's literary longevity has been a mixed blessing, but the good very much outweighs the bad. I have no valid idea how Lovecraft would have fared if Derleth had not made the decisions he made; but surely the latter's drive is very much responsible for transcripts of letters that otherwise would be lost. There are a few libraries that own A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos. *** There's so much to be said for feedback from members, but you can't force feedback (so to speak). *** David Haden's frequently updated site Tentaclii has lots of fine material, much of it uncovering material about the world of HPL and the people he knew. I've visited it far too seldom in the past. *** If you get the cd British Writers: Historic Recordings of British Writers Walking About Their Lives and Their Art (British Library Sound Archive, 2008) you'll hear a few minutes of Arthur Machen's voice; among other writers speaking are Doyle, Blackwood, and Tolkien.
Philip (Xothic Sathlattae): The collection of Arkham monologues reminds me of Edgar Lee Masters' fine Spoon River Anthology. If you haven't read it, you might give it a try.
Charles and Margaret (Tartarus): Thanks for the useful primer about the mechanics of poetry. I didn't get the line from "Life": "I'd started out at twenty-four what may"--could it be "I'd started out at twenty-four that May"?
Kennett (Lovecraftian Ramblings): Readercon's neglect of HPL is a disincentive to attendance.
T. L. (Redux): What evidence do you have that land bridges inspired the idea of the rising and sinking of land masses? For examples, was this concept in the popular science literature of the time, and so HPL could pick it up? Was it a convention in imaginative fiction? Is there any corroboration of this cause and effect in his letters, essays, or indeed his fiction? What about alternative theories, such as volcanic activity or other cataclysms?
Scott (Continuity): I've never heard the term "R-word" (presumably "retard" or "retarded") and had to look it up. I don't understand what it has to do with HPL or Providence. *** Hooray for you in adopting two kittens. Every cat I see I want to adopt, however impractical. But I am no cat hoarder, and have a single male, who might not be thrilled with a coerced companion.
David (Cthulsz): Instead of brute typing for transcription, have you considered dictation software (e.g. Dragon)? Scanning I did not think allowed for editing. *** When it comes to moving an item from (say) Word to Google docs or a wiki (or vice-versa) the gods of re-formatting are all evil gods.
Thanks for reading the 5,319 words of The Limbonaut (no 49), put online 22 November 2013. Its print version is issue 78 of The Criticaster, which appeared in the Esoteric Order of Dagon mailing 164 for Hallowe'en. Written by Steve Walker in Georgia font, sizes 9 & 12.