These two are merely vignettes, minute glimpses into the world that Lovecraft was in the process of creating; the strange and the cosmic.
“Memory” is a look forward and “What the Moon Brings” is a naval gaze of the apocalypse. Both are no more than 2 pages a piece, but both are full of meaning.
In Memory we are shown a shambles of a world. Ruins that are over run and the only inhabitants are apes. Two gods are having a discussion, and where one cant remember the past, asks the other “Daemon” about the beings who built the original ruins. The Daemon says that he is Memory and what he remembers is that they were insignificant and their deeds were forgotten as soon as they were preformed. They built the ruins and their name was Man.
The meaning behind the vignette is that, far in the future, the deeds and actions of humans are forgotten and the only thing that remains is earth. The gods themselves look over everything, but they forget as well, which makes them insignificant as well. The ultimate god, the ultimate truth is the earth. The land holds the longest memory and will outlive and outlast all.
What the Moon Brings flows into a similar vein. The narrator tells of their own death. He (due to Lovecraft’s sexism and racism, I assume that every narrator is a white man) describes what he can see from the light of the moon. The moon (a otherworldly being in and of itself that is the origin of many of Lovecraft’s creatures) shows the death of civilization through the reflection of the lake. He can also see creatures in the water. He decides at the end to go and join them, because he knows that the moon will continue to come and continue to bring the visions of what is coming. In his despair he walks into the waters and either drowns himself or lets the creatures have him.
It is intimated that he is the last of the population and is giving in to despair, as he gazes at the reflection of the “dead, dripping city”. The book I’m reading through (Del Rey 1971 ISBN: 0345331052) should have put them in reverse order, because What the Moon Brings, shows the decline and fall of civilization and Memory shows the aftermath.
What the Moon Brings is much less deep, but by far the creepiest of the stories thus far, because it is more direct (with the exception of The Tomb). Both a lot of fun, but I still feel as though these stories are merely setting up the mythos that are coming.
I’m going to start this one with a little rant. This is a blurb about this story from the back of the book: A crazed murderer blames his crime on beings from another dimension. Wild ravings from an insane man turn to prophecy when the Truth is revealed.
This is the problem with most writing. It isn’t the writing itself, but it’s marketing. The only thing about the above sentence that is true is the fact that the man (Joe Slater) is a murderer. Nothing else is true, and it begs the question if the person who wrote the blurb actually read the story. If they had, then it is a much greater crime to purposefully mislead the reader to try and get more sales, by outright fabricating the plot.
Slater never blames his crimes on beings of another dimension (in fact there are never beings, in plural, but ever only one being who “did him great wrong”). Then the author of the blurb deigns to use the buzz word “prophesy”. There is no prophesy. The ravings of the mad Joe Slater are heard by the narrator and the narrator has an interest in dreams, so to see what Joe is seeing, he hooks them both up with a skullcap to see what he is seeing. Which he does. That’s it.
Ok sorry. Now to the nitty gritty of the story.
This is one of Lovecraft’s earliest stories and supposedly has no correlation to the later works. I see quite a bit here that would lead to that however. Again we have these strange green northern lights. Again we have madness derived from exposure to a cosmic deity. Again we have the unreliable narrator. Again we have the remote local. And to top it all off we have Lovecraft’s trademark superiority complex (He names the madman’s neighbor Peter Slader, where the madman’s name is Joe Slater. He mentions many times that they are all backwoods yokels who have no knowledge and intimates that they inbreed. Only to verify that claim by naming the characters of the mountains with such close names as to subliminally castigate them).
Where this shows as an early work is that he actually shows his god. The narrator goes “Beyond the walls of sleep”, and into the cosmic realm that drove the simple Slater mad. the Narrator himself (though it is never discussed what he actually does, or how he acts) is offered a leave of absence, because he is “working too hard” after the experience he gained from Slater’s mind.
But perhaps the most provocative aspect of the story, is why the cosmic deity would come down and inhabit a backwards “white trash” (Yes. Lovecraft actually wrote the words “White Trash” in 1919) yokel, who doesn’t have any brains. Maybe because the idea was to make a transformation?
“His gross body could not undergo the needed adjustments between ethereal life and planet life.”
Meaning he was not intelligent enough to understand how to make the transition. But the narrator can ascend and we are left feeling slightly off kilter, as if this were not a choice, but now that the cosmic deity has found an appropriate zygote he will being his proliferation.
This story plays off the classic unreliable narrator that Lovecraft is so famous for. More of a vignette than an actual story, our narrator tells of a city he sees only from the light of the “Pole Star”, shortly after the green mist of the Northern Lights shone on the ground. The narrator tells of how there are creatures who have come into the land, “Nightmares” as he calls them, and they threaten the existence of the Lomarians (the narrator never says that he is a Lomarian, but he lives among them and his best of friends “Alos” is the captain of the guard). Till one night the narrator is in a tower and the Pole Star speaks to him and lulls him to sleep while the danger of these creatures looms near.
This seems to me (though I have not read any of them yet) that this is the introduction to the Dreamlands, though it is toted as a normal “Horror” story. You have the Cosmic horror elements that were in previous stories (The Green mist of the Northern Lights as was present in The Doom that came to Sarnath), and you have the dreamlike state where the narrator doesn’t know the difference between reality and dream.
What is provocative about this story is that it seems to me as though it is a modern day narrator who is dreaming that he is part of this Lomarian society in ancient times (We know this because the Lomarian’s live in the frozen north, and the narrator speaks of the swamps outside his window in the gloom of the north star). He gets so sucked into the world, that it seems real to him and he even becomes friends with a personage from the time.
Elements of The Tomb are also present because the narrator is reading an ancient tome called the “Pnakotic manuscripts”, which probably means that there is some possession happening. The Narrator reads the manuscripts and gets his consciousness transposed into the real Lomarian who fell asleep at the watch as the gods’ minions destroyed the society. This is why the creatures mock him by telling him that it is not a dream.
Another interesting item of this story is that it takes place in the frozen north. I always thought Lovecraft took place in Mayan temples of the jungles, but it is turning out to be mainly in the north. The eponymous “Polar Star” is the North Star, and in the first paragraph the narrator talks about the strange green glow of the Northern Lights.
This is supposedly the first story written by Lovecraft, and it flows perfectly into his predilection for madness. The story follows Jervas Dudley, the quintessential unreliable narrator, in his descent into madness.
Jervas states at the beginning of the story that he loves reading ancient tomes; books that no one else ever reads, who’s subject matter is strange and malignant. He has no social life and he derives much of what he understands about life from these convoluted books.
Then one day he happens upon a tomb. It is in the location of his neighbor’s (The Hydes) burned down house. He begins spending much of his time there, hiding out and sleeping in front of the partially ajar, padlocked tomb.
One day a voice from the tomb tells him to go to his attic, where he finds a key to the padlock and enters the tomb. He spends much of his time there, but at the same time, his father becomes concerned for his mental well being, so he sends a “spy” to watch over him. Listening in on the conversation, Jervas is confused to hear the spy tell his father that he spends all his time sleeping outside of the tomb, not inside as he knows to be true. He also develops a fear of lightning and storms, which is what destroyed the Hyde’s mansion in the first place.
Then while in the tomb he attends a party held by the Hyde’s and everyone seems so realistic and the mansion is back to its former glory, that is until Jervas’ Father and the spy grab him. In the struggle lightning started to flash and it exposed a box on the ground with the initials J.H. and inside was a statue of a young man with an uncanny resemblance to Jervas.
The story ends with one of the servants, supposedly going into the tomb and finding a coffin with the name Jervas on it.
This can be read in two different ways. The first is that the narrator, who is confined to a madhouse, has pushed his brain into thinking about the strange dealings of the netherworld by reading all those tomes instead of interacting with others. Then his half sleep for weeks on end in front of the tomb, his mind played games with him and he imagined everything.
It is easy to correlate that the Hyde’s were his ancestors, and once the mansion was destroyed the family built a new one close by. It stands to reason that during that time there was a young man by the name of Jervas Hyde (J.H.) who’s coffin the servant found at the end of the story. Because of this Jervas Dudley thinks everything is about him, because he has no other basis in reality.
The other way to read it (and the one I quite prefer) is that Jervas found something in the attic, that began to possess him. It made him desire to be with his ancestors, and the spirit of Jervas Hyde had somehow begun to merge with Jervas Dudley. They began to see and experience the same things. One could even conjecture that Jervas’ father knew this was happening, and that is why he was relegated to the asylum.
In either case, it was a fun read, though much shallower than the other Lovecraft I’ve read to date. This was supposedly in his straight horror days, which people say is uninspired, but it has a beautiful reminiscence to Poe and tales like “The Fall of the House of Usher”.