Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Shadow Over Innsmouth pt.1
This series is a blind read of H.P. Lovecraft’s works. The idea is that I will read through the entirety of his published works and probably move onto a few successors (which will absolutely include August Derleth). That being said, I have only rudimentary knowledge of the Gothic and cosmic world of Lovecraft. Because of this There will be some pretty crazy theories coming through this blog, but it’s something I love to do, so if you have a better theory, or a clashing theory, please respond!
The Shadow Over Innsmouth is cut into 5 parts, so I’m going to dedicate a blog post for each section. The first is merely the set up; our narrator is planning a trip in New England and wants to find cheaper transportation so a ticket agent tells him that he can take a bus through Innsmouth, a port town that is nearly deserted. This first portion is basically about our narrator getting information about this strange little shady town, but he comes across a few interesting nuggets. The first comes from the ticket agent. Though he is an unreliable source, he tells the narrator that the people of Innsmouth are strange. That they come from a lineage of a sea Captain, Obed Marsh. Apparently Obed’s son married a strange girl, “a South Sea Islander” of strange physiognomy. Then the son of these two is Old Man Marsh, who married a girl from nearby Ipswitch.
The people of Innsmouth have an oddly fish-like appearance. they seem to be mostly bald with narrow heads, flat noses and bulgy eyes that never seem to shut, their necks are shriveled and creased up (gills), and their skin has a rough, or scabby look and feel to them. This is probably stemming from the “South Sea Islander” mother of Old Man Marsh.
What is strange about this is an intermarriage theme, which is held over from “Arthur Jermyn”, though in this story is seems to be fish related (we’ll get to that later), rather than ape related. I am still unsure of where the ape beasts come from, (I.E. what god they are related to), but it is apparent that the fish theme comes from Dagon.
So The Old Captain goes out to an island, just off the mainland, where no one else has seemed to go, but there are rumors that he has made contracts with devils out on that small island. If we go back to the short story “Dagon”, we will remember a seaman who crashed on an island with a strange monolith, and on that monolith were drawings of fish-men worshiping some sort of creature under the sea. He makes contact with them an nearly goes insane. Could it be that this is a similar island, that worshipers of Dagon have formed? Are these the devils that Obed Marsh has been communicating with?
It seems so. As the story progresses, we find that a person from Innsmouth made thier way to state street and pawned a tiara, then he died shortly thereafter (intentionally? Or by curse?). Our Narrator was shown this tiara by a curator who had it under a case. There are strange reliefs on the tiara, similar to the images we saw on the monolith in the story “Dagon”.
I’m particularly interested in the lineage of these peoples. Are they gradually being changed? It is said that the town only has about 400 people now (at the time of the telling of the story) and that it was far bigger before that. It doesn’t seem possible that the entire town was populated by the inter-species breeding of the Marshes. Could their dealings with Dagon be transforming the townsfolk? Or have other piscatorial denizens come to the town through Marsh’s worshiping and interbred with other townsfolk? We might find more clues in part 2…
What do you think?
Join me tomorrow for “The Shadow over Innsmouth” part 2!
Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Outsider
What a beautiful, haunting story. This innocuous story, may very well be the most important of all the stories I have read thus far. It is the story of a person (probably a man) who has lived thier entire life in a castle. There are trees outside that cover all light, and he is too terrified to go far away. There is one tower in the castle that goes beyond the canopy of the trees, so one day he climbs the tower, and finds that he is in yet another building, yet this one is at ground level.
The ground level is the first shock of this story, but the more I dig into it, the narrator does not tell of thier childhood. It seems as though they just attained consciousness in the lower castle. Around them were bones and corpses of other humans, but this fact does not bother the narrator. In addition, the narrator understands (English?) language, but cannot speak it. The reason is given that there is no one to speak to.
Once the narrator gets above ground they wander for a while and see a church and another castle which looks much like the one he’s been living in underground. He smiles, because there is a party going on in the castle. He goes to join them, and when he gets there the entire party is terrified at his appearance (it is fairly obvious at the time, but it is solidified at the end of the story…the last shock), and they run away. The narrator thinks there is a presence in the room and looks around, eventually seeing a horrid creature. He tries to scream out in English, but all that comes out is “a ghastly ululation”, instead of any kind of human scream. The narrator also says this is the first and last thing he ever uttered. The narrator is looking in a mirror. He then leaves the castle and goes wandering through the night, calmed by the fact that he’s a monster, a creature of the night, so he will prowl like one.
First off. He has no childhood. He comes to memory as a being that can think and read. He also thinks that he’s a human, or that he once was. This means that he has undergone a transformation, and when he is woken, he is a creature. The fact that he’s interred underground could mean that his transformation was an affect of the Great Old Ones. maybe he was one of the previous narrators of one of the other stories, and he and his fellows were trapped in this tomb (they are the other corpses and skeletons), and for some reason he was transformed.
He has to go through great strides to get out of the underground castle, which could mean it was a castle build to honor the cthonians. There were efforts put into place to keep him in, inferring that he could be dangerous.
There seems to be a correlation between this story and “Arthur Jermyn” and “The Lurking Fear”. Arthur Jermyn has a man procreating with an ape like creature, and the Lurking Fear has an ape like creature (actually multiple ape like creatures), and in fact the narrator of the Outsider is described as ape like at one point. Could the White Ape from Arthur Jermyn actually be a woman who was transformed by the Great Old Ones? Are the Ape like creatures in all of Lovecraft, actually people who have been transformed and submit to their new proclivities? Because of how this story is framed, I think that’s the case, it is not creatures from another plane (at least these ape like creatures), or the moon, but in fact humans who have been influences by the madness of the Elder Gods, or the Great Old Ones and have been transformed into beasts.
What do you think?
Join me next week for a blind read through of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”. Because of the length of the story, i will be doing it one section at a time, so this story will consist of five blind reads, and possibly a sixth to sum the experience.
Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Unnamable
This story gives great perspective on Lovecraft himself, and we get a sneak peek at the illustrious Randolph Carter.
What was so great about this story was getting to see what Lovecraft really felt about the construction of his stories. Carter, who is apparently a writer as well, has a long conversation with a friend of his about how to tell a story. His friend persists that there is no scientific was that anything in the scientific world could be unnamable. Any kind of creature would have to be contained within some sub-classification or genus, but then suddenly, at the end of the story, a creature of some sort comes out of an old house they have been sitting next to and attacks them. Manton, the friend has a mental break down because what he saw he cannot classify.
What gives the story a bit more depth is that it seems as though the subtext was that Manton stayed at the place where the story unfolds and saw something horrible when he was younger (which is probably the same creature he sees at the end of the story). The point is that he has spent his life trying to categorize to deny the horrible, un-categorizable thing he saw as a child.
Carter also seems to serve as a duplicate for Lovecraft himself. There is a theme that streams through Carter’s descriptions, which stream through all of the Lovecraft that I’ve read thus far.
This was a really great story on the essence of horror tales, and about the writing process in general.
What do you think?
Join me next Tuesday for a blind read of “The Outsider”
Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Hound
What a beautifully dark and Gothic tale this was. Gorgeous in scope and so much more than a Poe tale. We follow along a couple of grave robbers who search the world for the best loot from their exhumations. Until they come across a seemingly great score in Holland. They take a medallion and are chased around the world by the specter of some supernatural hound.
The first thing that hits you with this story is the language. It is probably the most beautifully told stories I’ve read from Lovecraft yet. He takes his time and delicately lays the foundations slowly, unveiling the booty the grave robbers have purloined. Then he describes the need for further exploration. The desire and greed for more. Then once the medallion is revealed, we go on a roller coaster of horror, with danger in every step.
Particularly of interest to me was the fact that we get such a glimpse of the Necronomicon. We get a description of what the book looks like and a bit of it’s terrible contents, and what is more compelling is that these two gallants were using the Necronomicon to search out new items.
That being said, I have to think there is some meaning behind the name St. John, the narrators companion. He is one of the main drivers of the story as he is the one who actually takes the medallion and is the first in the Hound’s catastrophic path.
Another interesting aspect of this story is the Hound itself. We find out at the end of the story that when the narrator exhumes the grave again, that the skeleton that was originally buried in, he finds the medallion back around the skeletons neck, but now the skeleton has grown fangs and has a strange phosphorescent glow from its eyes. There is also hair and skin attached to the bones. Was this a grave of a priest to some great dog god?
Then we have the Jade connection. I can only assume that the phosphorescent glow was a green glow, which hearkens back to “The Doom that came to Sarnath”, and the strange green glow that was sent down from the moon. Did they awaken a moon god?
Then there is the Necronomicon to consider (not to mention it’s supposed immolation. Could this really be the end of the Necronomicon? I wonder where in the chronology this story fits in). This was written by the infamous mad Arab Alhazred, who was purportedly a demonologist. Could the demons be connected to the Great Old Ones? Is this a separate deific scale to worry about in the Lovecraftian ethos?
What do you think?
Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Moon-Bog
Here is another connecting thread, assuming that Lovecraft meant to have his stories in the same world (which I tend to think he did).
The story follows our nameless narrator as he treads to Ireland to join his friend at his new estate in Kilderry. Denys Berry wants to drain a bog next to his mansion (dare I say castle? Our narrator does stay in a tower, and this would feed into a much more gothic scene.), but the locals are worried about something, and they leave when he mentions his plans. Eventually we have some very strange happenings, and virtually everyone dies, with the exception of our narrator.
There are a few interesting connectors in this story. The narrator makes mention of Grecian architecture buried in the bog. Again we have this marbleized Greek architecture which has now shown up in many tales. Does this have a connection? Were the Greeks and Romans influenced by the Great Old Ones? Were in fact (in the Lovecraft world) the Greek and Roman gods the Cthulhu pantheon? Was that how they had so much power and stretched their influence all the way up to the Germanic tribes of the British Isles?
The second connector is the moon. I haven’t seen the moon referenced for a while yet, however it is present here and is a determining factor (it’s even in the title!). In past stories the moon was a location for some kind of deity that sent creatures down to earth (Think The Doom that came to Sarnath). Could it be that the titular bog is actually a placeholder for the moon? The action all happens under the moon light, and is gone in the light of day. The only think we’re missing is the mysterious green light, that floats down from the moon, but that could be because of the Grecian influence. The only time the green light flows down was in the North Americas which were beyond the Grecian influence. Hopefully we’ll get some light (see what I did there?) shown on this in future stories.
What do you think?
Join me next Tuesday for a Blind Read of “The Hound”
Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Temple
Sorry for being late with this installment of the Blind Reads. I’m back on schedule so you can expect another one coming tomorrow!
This story, at first glance, seems like a fairly innocuous and straight forward horror story (for as much as Lovecraft has straightforward stories, that is). In fact there is a Twilight Zone episode (aired in 1963, this was, for me, the scariest of the Twilight Zone episodes. Check it out here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5rouxl
The basic premise is that a German u-boat takes down a British ship, then submerge. When they come back up, they find that (supposedly) one of the crewmen is dead and clenched onto the submarine. When they extricate him from the metal railing, they find that he has a marble statue, which they take. Then while they are throwing the body over the edge, a few of the sailors swear that the dead body opens his eyes. Then, another sailor swears that he swam away instead of just sinking.
The crew goes on and they all start to see and hear things that makes them go a little crazy. The submarine eventually has problems and sinks, seemingly surrounded by dolphins. Those dolphins follow them down to depths not known for dolphins, and as they sink the crew starts a mutiny. Eventually it is just the narrator and one other, and the other holds onto the marble statue and eventually goes crazy. He tells our narrator that he wants them to join him. The last of the crew leaves the submarine, far too low beneath the waters to live and kills himself. We think. Then as the submarine slides deeper into the waters, there is an Atlantean civilization there, complete with a temple that has the same face as the marble statue.
This is obviously a massive abridgment, but I wanted to get a few ideas out. The first is that of the marble statue. I have now read about marble and it’s use as channeling some otherworldly being in a few of these stories. It does not seem coincidental that the statue that corresponds to this buried temple is made of marble. The second is the city itself. We have a possible Atlantis in the world of Lovecraft, and because of the marble connection, this ties into the story, “The Tree”. Atlantis is an ancient city buried under the water, which would go along with the idea of the Great Old Ones being buried in the earth. This was probably a civilization that worshiped the Great Old Ones, and for some reason it was buried. Probably the same time that Cthulhu was put to rest in the earth.
Lastly we have these strange dolphins. I normally would have thought this just a strange story addition, but because of just reading “Arthur Jermyn” I think there may be more to this. Could these strange dolphins who don’t seem bothered by the intense pressure of being that deep in the ocean, actually be the denizens of this Atlantis? It seems to be so, because they seem to follow, during the story, but I would purport that they actually led U-29 to the city.
There is one more things that I cant quite figure, however. At the beginning of the story, there is a script that says that this manuscript was found on the coast of the Yucatan. There has to be meaning to this, because in every other story I’ve read Lovecraft just jumps into the story. There is no explanation for the reason behind the story. I have to think there is some significance to the Yucatan. Does anyone have any insight?
Join me tomorrow for a Blind read of The Moon-Bog!
Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Lurking Fear
Here, we jump into a story that at first glace seems to be traditional horror fare from Lovecraft. We have our monster hunter/ ghost hunter narrator (who is made to be unreliable because of his ambiguous motives. He is surrounded by death, and every person he recruits to help him dies, or mysteriously dispersal, but yet he soldiers on, for reasons unknown) who is seeking out his “Lurking Fear” whom he thinks is using an the old Martense Mansion as it’s diabolical abode.
He hires some muscle, whom he has been with before on different cases. And they go to the Mansion. While sleeping there, they disappear. Then he hires another man, and while they look out into the forest, the helper stands at the window and is unresponsive. When our narrator shakes him, thinking him asleep, he discovers that something ate his face off whilst he looked out the window.
Then our narrator is convinced that the perpetrator is the ghost of one of the previous residents of the Mansion, Jan Martense, whom supposedly died by lightning strike. Our narrator finds nothing during his exhumation except for ashes. But he does find a passageway, some deep tunnel that he sees a horrible paw of some unknown creature.
During this time there is another storm and a shack is burned to the ground. The squatters who lived there tell our narrator that a creature burned up in the shack and it had one victim. Searching the ashes, our narrator finds the squatter victim, and what looks like a human skull. Curious.
He goes back to the Mansion, and during another Thunder storm, he finds a tunnel, at the base of the chimney, and while he is standing there, hundreds and thousands of these creatures come out, some with tentacles, or just what look like tentacles. He shoots one as they exit and finds that they have the same genetic mis-colored eyes of the Martense’s.
Seems like a normal monster story, but then when we dig deeper we find that it is indeed a cosmic horror story.
The first an most obvious connection is the tentacles. This is a Lovecraftican trope, and though I haven’t seen it too much in his stories, the image of Cthulhu is enough.
The second is the fact that the monsters are Cthonic (meaning dwelling underground. Funny how that and Cthulhu are so similar, no?). The Elder Gods are buried in the earth and they await being awakened, so it bears to reason that their followers would dwell under the ground.
The final connection is in the lightning and thunder. Something that connects the heavens to the earth. The Outer Gods and the Elder Gods communicating…Or even coming to earth?
What makes all this so interesting is that, in the story, the creatures don’t begin to appear until Jan Martense is supposedly struck down by lightning. Could this be a ritual that the Martense clan had found? Did their ritual call down the lightning and thunder and transform their brood?
Provocative and fun stuff.
Join me on Thursday for a Blind Read Through of “Dagon” and let me know what you think!
Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; Imprisoned with the Pharaohs
This was the last story in the Del Rey edition of The Doom That Came to Sarnath, and it was a surprising one. There is a disclaimer on the first page that this story was written in conjunction with Harry Houdini, and what makes that so intriguing is that now we finally have a face for a narrator.
The story begins innocuously enough, with Houdini and his wife exploring Cairo, but progressively getting more and more bored with the watering down of the Egyptian culture in the tourism culture (this story takes place in 1910…it’s good to know that things don’t change). They find a new guide, a man named Abdul Reis el Drogman, and immediately his moniker, and thus his plausibility is called into question. “Reis” is apparently a name for someone in power. “Drogman” is apparently a “clumsy modification” of the name for the leader of the tourist parties “Dragoman”. He also looks suspiciously like a Pharaoh (This in and of itself is suspicious. How does one look like a Pharaoh? This is just Lovecraft’s clumsy, whimsical, and adorable foreshadowing).
They go around town and go on a few adventures, then they make mention that they don’t trust magic. That that has been cast down as evil. So a group of Arabs tie Houdini up (presumably to see if he can escape) and throw him down into a tomb.
Thus far this has been the longest of the stories that I’ve gone through the blind read. Throughout this story, nothing untoward had happened, and even when they throw him down the tomb, there are some strange happenings, but Houdini is in and out of consciousness, so there is a little call to unreliable narrator. Then Lovecraft comes in full force, and we see more of the creatures that Lovecraft is so known for in the last few pages. We also see one huge deity, of which we only see one single paw.
This goes along with the whole cannon of Lovecraft, I’m not sure exactly where this deity fits in yet, but it is a Cthonic creature, which follows with the established world.
This story also gives a certain credence to Lovecrafts mythos, because now it is the famous Harry Houdini who is experiencing the cosmic horror, even though the very last line, denies such experiences, by telling the audience that it was only a dream. Oddly enough this is the one story that I truly believe the narrator experienced it, specifically because he presupposes that it was a dream.
Join me again next Tuesday as I start doing a Blind Read of The Lurking Fear, also by Del Rey. We’ll jump right into the story “The Lurking Fear”
Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; In the Walls of Eryx
This was such a spectacular escape from the classic Lovecraftian stories. This is a Science Fiction/Horror story, that deals all together with the concepts of despair, fear and claustrophobia. This is also the first story in which the narrator actually dies in the story. There is very little to connect with the cannon in the narrative, but it is totally worth it. The only possible connection would be the main residents of Venus (where the story takes place), which are reptilian creatures with tentacles. These could be a form of a descendant of one of the Elder Gods.
The story follows our narrator, Kenton Stanfield, as he is on a quest to find a crystal on the surface of Venus. He travels through a jungle and eventually gets through it, and in a big open marsh he sees a body with the crystal he is looking for. When he approaches the body he finds an invisible wall. Eventually he finds his way past the wall and gets the crystal from the body, only to find that it wasn’t a wall at all, but an invisible labyrinth.
The rest of the story is a psychological profile in fear, and a brilliant one at that. If you have no interest in Lovecraft, this is the story for you to read, and if you love Lovecraft, then you must devour it!
Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Quest of Iranon
Quite an interesting and lore building story. From the preface to the story it seems as though Lovecraft was very proud of the language of this story, but what goes far beyond the language is the depth of character and world building.
The story follows a young man named Iranon who is looking for the city of his youth. He tells everyone he meets that he is a Prince of Aira, and he is trying to find that city once more. He travels around and sees all of the world, and even though he is young, he experiences much, that is until the twist at the end.
I would portend that Iranon is actually the narrator of most of Lovecraft’s stories. He tells of Sarnath, he tells of ancient cities in Egypt (the nameless city), and other strange locals. He strangely doesn’t remember when these visits happened or much about them, just that he has been there.
Then at the end of the story we find out that he is much, much older than we initially thought (in fact much older than he himself thinks), and that there is a certain amount of madness in his personality.
Then we couple that with the fact that we very nearly never hear a narrators name, they just tell the story. The narrators of the stories we see all are unreliable, which partners with the madness of Iranon.
The world of Lovecraft just keeps getting better and better.
Join me next Tuesday for “The Crawling Chaos” blind read through.
Blind Read Through; H.P. Lovecraft: The Festival
Welcome back! We’re getting into it today! Thus far through the blind reads I have read a number of stories which were written before the Cthulhu Mythos truly began. I have enjoyed these stories for their literary merit, and for the genesis of Lovecraft as a writer. Then we get the The Festival and we finally get to the feel and nomenclature that I associate with Lovecraft. This is the first mention of The Necronomicon, the first mention of Miskatonic University, and the first mention of Arkham that I have come across in the readings.
Our story begins with the narrator heading back to “the ancient sea town where my people dwelt…” It is a horribly beautiful description, that portrays a town built centuries before and is somehow still standing. He is heading back there for a Yuletide celebration, as he got a message summoning him back to join his family for this celebration.
He heads through town to find his ancestors home and knocks on the door. He is met by an old man who’s face is so soft and un-moving that it looks like a wax mask instead of skin, and there is an old woman off spinning in the corner. The old man doesn’t speak, but tells our narrator to sit and wait for him (he writes it down on a tablet, I assume he doesn’t speak because the wax mask wouldn’t move and he doesn’t want to break the illusion yet). The narrator sits down and sees a number of books on the table in front of him, one of which is The Necronomicon. He picks it up and reads a bit while the old woman continues to spin in the corner. Eventually the old man comes back, dons a robe and beckons our narrator to follow him. They head out through the snow, in a congregation of hooded figures, until they get to an old church. They head down a trap door in the church to a tomb underneath. There is a flame that gives off no heat and a strange oily, putrid stream that flows through the tomb. The old man gets up and raises The Necronomicon, says a few words and horrible creatures come out of the flame. They are fetid and rotting and have wings. The group gets on and flies out of the church. The old man beckons our narrator to get on one, and gives him a watch that had been buried with his grandfather in the 1600’s. The narrator freaks out and jumps in the fetid stream. He wakes in the hospital and finds out that the town he was in has not existed for quite some time, and everything has been updated. He is then sent to Arkham for psychological surveillance.
We are led to believe that the old man is in fact his great-great-great-great grandfather, and that the narrator actually has ties to the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred who wrote The Necronomicon.
Though less literary than a number of his other stories; this straight forward horror tale is indicative of everything I’ve come to love about Lovecraft’s legacy. I’ts been amazingly fun to read through it, and I loved this one. Absolutely my favorite thus far in the cannon.
Next week there will be no Blind read through, because of a vacation, but join me September 7th for The Nameless City.
Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; From Beyond
This one was fun. Obviously, it was very heavily influenced by Poe (Tell Tale Heart comes to mind), but wonderfully unique and unutterably Lovecraftian. This was, thus far int he blind read through’s, the least literary. What the story has going for it is it’s horror, because it is by far the most horrific and terror filled story I’ve read by him.
Our narrator tells us of a friend of his, Crawford Tillinghast, who has gone a little off the reservation. Tillinghast invites our narrator to his house one evening and relates the story of what he has been working on.
He has recognized that the pineal gland can be altered to view the world for what it really is. To see beyond what we perceive. He creates a device he calls a resonance wave machine and turns it on. The whine creates a wave that gives the pineal gland an altered sense and the narrator begins to see jellyfish like creatures that surround him. We find out that Tillinghast had servants and the narrator thought they were dismissed, but we find out here that in fact one of the servants turned the light on when the Resonance Wave was turned on and creatures from beyond dissolved them. That is the plot of Tillinghast. He invited our narrator because he thinks the narrator held him back from his potential.
We find out that one of the horrible creatures that has the ability to dissolve is right behind the narrator and he shoots the Resonance Wave. The machine explodes, the creatures disappear and Tillinghast dies of apoplexy.
Not a whole lot to read into in this one. The interesting thing is that Tillinghast somehow tied the machine to his brain, and that’s why he suffered the stroke, because his pineal gland burst, this leads me to believe that if the narrator had shot Tillinghast instead of the machine the same outcome would have come about.
There seems to be a theme in Lovecraft where the Old and Elder Gods (and all their children) don’t really care about humans. They are so much greater and bigger than we can imagine that it is only when some human summons them that the havoc is wreaked. Even when they do this damage however, it is not of their malevolence (with the exception of Nyarlahotep), they are just going about their own business, but their norm is so far beyond and bizarre to our human sensibilities, that it destroys us.
Join me again tomorrow for another blind read through of The Festival. If you want to read along I’m reading “The Doom that came to Sarnath” by Del Rey.
Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; Hypnos
Welcome back to the creeping revision of H.P. Lovecraft’s work! This week I’m delving into Hypnos and it’s duality meaning.
The basic story is that the classic unreliable narrator meets a man who had a god-like face almost as ‘white as the marble of Pentelicus.’ The man had passed out in a train station, and our narrator went to him and when the man opened his eyes the narrator knew ‘he would be thenceforth my only friend.’ They discuss the universe and everything within it, and the narrator sculpts his friend. Our narrators new friend has a secret desire that he dare not speak of, to rule and go past the barriers of our known world. They experiment in drugs and try to get into the sleep world (which I can only imagine is a precursor, or even the beginnings of the dream-cycle pantheon). Then one one of these trips the friend (unnamed…for now), goes past an impassible barrier in the dream world, and comes back terrified and visibly aged. The two then vow to sleep as little as possible, also with the help of drugs. They age horribly and they pass their time in big groups and go to as many parties as possible, until one night as they are sleeping something strange happens as a light glows over his friends head and our narrator can see the disembodied face that looks as his friend once did before he went through the impassible barrier. The police come and gather the narrator and tell him that he has been alone, that all along he has been alone…that there was no friend. the only evidence is a bust of his friend with the name Hypnos.
There is an emerging theme that I had never known about from hearing about Lovecraft and that is the drugs. There have been many stories thus far eliciting that the narrators are using drugs to help them get past the barriers and see what is beyond. One cant help but think of the drug dreams of Irving Welch, and wonder if these are stories of fever dreams. It would be a provocative theory, though probably an unpopular one, but I would need to read more to see if the thread continues.
The connectors in the story are traced back to Greece. The narrator is a sculptor and he says he spends his free time sculpting his friend, who has a forehead as white as the marble of Pentelicus…a mountain in Athens known for it’s marble. Then at the end we find that the friends name was Hypnos, which was the Greek demi-god of sleep. So we come to a crossroads. The story is either telling us that the narrator finds this marble bust, and through his drug or fever dream, thinks that the bust opens its eyes and becomes his friend. Remember that the friend was found asleep in the train station, a place where it would make sense for a bust to be. Our narrator is lost in the HYPNOtic gaze of the bust, steals it and the drugs bring him through the adventures. The strange light over his friend at the end, is actually light over the bust and the cracking of the narrators reality. Remember that the idea was put there by drugs (one can only guess that it was a hallucinogenic), and he then stayed awake with the help of drugs. Sleep deprivation on top of a psychotic break will only deepen psychosis.
The other option, is that the events of the story are unfolded exactly how they are told, but frankly with the evidence that Lovecraft deposits throughout the story, this is not very likely. In any case, this was probably my favorite story thus far, right up there with The Tomb and The Tree.
Join me on Thursday this week (08/17) for one of Lovecraft’s Poems “Nathicana”. and if you want to read along with me I’m reading the Del Rey edition of “The Doom That Came to Sarnath”. ISBN: 0345331052
Blind Read Through, H.P. Lovecraft: Memory/What the Moon Brings
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.
Blind Read through, H.P. Lovecraft; Beyond the Wall of Sleep
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.
Blind Read Through; H.P. Lovecraft, The Tomb
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”.
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