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Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Call of Cthulhu pt. 2


There lay Great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults and sending out at last, after cycles incalculable, the thoughts that spread fear into dreams of the sensitive and called imperiously to the faithful to come on a pilgrimage of liberation and restoration. All this Johansen did not suspect, but God knows he soon saw enough!”

Welcome back to another Blind Read! I was planning on concluding the illustrious “The Call of Cthulhu” this week, but it turns out I had waaaay to much to say, so we’re going to push the conclusion to next week!

Last week we finished with a few thoughts about Cthulhu himself (itself? herself? theirself?), and the beginning of Detective Legrasse’s story. Remember how he went into the swamps of Louisiana and found a bunch of cultists effecting a ritual around a ring of fire and in the center of that ring was a monolith with a statue of Cthulhu on it’s apex? Well there was a tussle as the police broke up the ritual, “Wild blows were struck, shots were fired, and escapes were made…”

In the end the police captured “forty-seven sullen prisoners” and “The image on the monolith (the idol of Cthulhu)…was carefully removed and carried back by Legrasse.

Initially the police thought this gathering was just a particularly nefarious voodoo cult. They let their prejudice guide them in their approach because, “Most were seamen, and a sprinkling of negroes and mulattoes, largely West Indians or Brava Portuguese from the Cape Verde Islands, gave a colouring of voodooism to the heterogeneous cult. But before many questions were asked, it became manifest that somethign far deeper and older than negro fetichism (sp) was involved.

The police did everything they could to get more information out of the worshippers beyond that they prayed to “The Great Old Ones who lived ages before there were any men,” and that “This was a cult,” who “...had always existed and always would exist… until the time when the great priest Cthulhu, from his dark house in the mighty city of R’lyeh under the waters, should rise and bring the earth again beneath his sway.”

The cultists said they were innocent of any killing. All those missing people, all the dead bodies that led the police to execute the raid were denied. The cultists said the ritual “…killing had been done by Black Winged Ones which had come to them from their immemorial meeting-place in the haunted wood.”

This strikes me as incredibly atmospheric. The thought of the old Spanish Moss trees, hanging down over the swampy foggy ground where hidden dark winged aeon old creatures lurk, just tickles my imagination in the best possible way. The description of the raid is short, but the set up is effective enough and then as we continually look back at the events surrounding the raid, it gives you a more and more grotesque point of view of what they actually walked into.

They finally get one of the cultists, “Old Castro,” to give them a bit more information. “There had been aeons when other things ruled on the earth, and They had had great cities. The remains of Them… were still to be found as Cyclopean stones on islands in the Pacific” (this is important later in the story), and “there were arts which could revive Them when the stars had come round again to the right positions in the cycle of eternity.” because “They had, indeed, come themselves from the stars, and brought their images with them.

That is an interesting statement. “Brought their images with them.” Castro tells us that the Great Old Ones “had shape… but that shape was not made of matter.” Then he gives us the most important and interesting line of the story:

When the stars were right, They could plunge from world to world through the sky; but when the stars were wrong, They could not live.

Shortly there afterward we get “the much discussed couplet” from the Necronomicon:

That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.

Lets put all this together. We are told that Cthulhu and the other Great Old Ones are dead and trapped in their great city of R’lyeh under the Pacific Ocean somewhere, because at some point on ancient history the city sunk. How can They be asleep but dead and have form but no matter?

The Great Old ones are immortal so we know that even though we are told Cthulhu is dead under the ocean, He is also immortal thus he cannot die. We also know that They are from the stars and made from the stars. So then we go back to what Old Castro told us, “They brought their images with them.”

The Great Old Ones came from the stars with form, but those forms were just shells, just fantastic images of what they projected themselves as. What we think of as Cthulhu, dead and sleeping under the ocean is in actuality just a shell. Cthulhu and the Other Great Old Ones ascended back to the stars at some point, and because they are formless (and maybe just concepts?) they left their shells to remain on Earth for the time when they need or want to come back. So that’s why Cthulhu can be both dead and sleeping at the same time. It is just the shell and He can be awoken through a ritual when the stars align, giving Him a causeway to earth.

When reading through Lovecraft the couplet is in many stories, and is something which always confused me. This story made it terribly obvious. Cthulhu is immortal, thus eternal, thus he cannot die; “That is not dead which can eternal lie,” ok that makes sense, but then what does the second part mean? “And with strange aeons even death may die.” Oh. Given time and multiple universes (and dream worlds) even death, the ultimate absolute can die. Cthulhu and the other Great Old Ones, are more powerful than what we understand as the ultimate absolute.

Cultists for these types of beings never really made sense to me before. There is certain subset of the anarchists who want to set the world on fire, but Castro describes the resurrection of The Great Old Ones this way:

The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.

So I can see how there might be a very small amount of people who could believe that this is the way to go. But the volume of people? That ceremony that Legrasse broke up was hundreds of cultists. They all want to burn the world?

Then while digesting this story and the infamous couplet brought me to a realization. Yes, there are people that want to burn the world, but there are a far higher population which are terrified of death. If the return of the Great Old Ones means that the followers will be granted eternity, than there probably is a huge amount of the population who would be willing to take part, damn the consequences. Death is supposed to be the absolute, but what if it didn’t have to be?

Beyond this the couplet brings up what Lovecraftian horror really means. Cosmic horror is a difficult concept to wrap your mind around and it’s specifically built that way. The couplet gives us a glimpse into what this really means; where we truly stand in the world. I remember showing my wife the reboot of the show “Cosmos” narrated by Neil Degrasse Tyson. When they showed the earth in comparison to the galaxy and then in contrast with the universe, she made me turn it off because it gave her the willies. It was too much for her to understand that our entire world means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. This is the same concept with cosmic horror except more theologically. Death is where we all head, but there are things so far beyond that. Things that are “miles tall” that cannot die. Things which have lived billions of years and will live for billions more.

It’s no wonder Lovecraft was agoraphobic, if he just sat around thinking about these concepts all day.

Join me next week for the conclusion of “The Call of Cthulhu!”

Post Script:

Just a few more thoughts if you’ll indulge me. While reading about the section on the raid I had a conceptual thought about Lovecraft in general. In the story Lovecraft uses a thematic approach that describes the action in a single line, then when recalling the events Legrasse goes into much greater detail. After reading as much Lovecraft as I have, I can say that he did this because he’s not great at writing action, however his strength is in the feel of the piece. Legrasse is able to go far more into detail and flush out his feelings at the time and his disgust with the cultists, but during the raid all he could muster was direct and emotionless fact.

Our human brains work this way. When we look back on a time frame or an event, it almost always comes out more emotional that it was during the event. If it was traumatic, the events are colored much darker when you recall them. If it was inconsequential or happy, the events usually are colored much brighter and happier while recalling them. This is known in psychology terms as the reminiscence bump.

I’ve been reading Lovecraft now for nearly two years. I do a critique and analysis on a story every week (or, as in this case, over multiple weeks). I saw a thread on Twitter asking people what their favorite Lovecraft story was and I couldn’t come up with one. I thought back on nearly every story with fond memories, even though I know for a fact that I didn’t always like the stories that much while I was reading them. That’s the reminiscence bump.

Lovecraft is a master of atmosphere, despite his terrible action sequences and dialog. But atmosphere is what you truly remember when thinking back on a story. How the story made you feel. Individual action sequences and dialog are no longer aren’t what stick in long term memory, so what bubbles to the surface is the atmosphere you experienced while reading. When I think back on Lovecraft’s works I feel almost universal love. That’s a really strange thing to say, because about six months into this project it felt like a slog and I remember feeling bored, but now I cant remember which story I was bored with because I liked them all so much!

The more you read Lovecraft the more you like it. He’s insidious in that way. At first the language is a bit of a barrier, but once it starts to flow, your mind creates and atmosphere and experience greater than you read on the page.


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Pt. 2

“All that can be told of their discoveries is what Eleazar Smith jotted down in a none to coherent diary, and what other diarists and letter-writers have timidly repeated from the statements which they finally made – and according to which the farm was only the outer shell of some vast and revolting menace, of a scope and depth too profound and intangible for more than shadowy comprehension.”

Welcome back for another Blind Read! This week we tackle chapter two “An Antecedent and a Horror,” of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (apparently I’ve read too much Robert Louis Stevenson because I consistently want to call this “The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” in reference to “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”).

We take a bit of a hard right turn in this chapter after learning about Ward in the previous one; it makes sense however because of the title of the chapter. We know that we’re learning of Joseph Curwen, the antecedent (and ancestor) of Charles Dexter Ward in this long chapter from the first line: “Joseph Curwen, as revealed by the rambling legends embodied in what Ward heard and unearthed, was a very astonishing, enigmatic, and obscurely horrid individual.”

There is evidence to suggest that Curwen practiced witchcraft in Salem at the height of that age and fled directly before the hunt began to weed out the witches. This flight led him directly to Providence, “-that universal haven of the odd, the free, and the dissenting-“. I kind of love that Lovecraft has a statement about Providence in here because the narrative is decidedly opposite; the people of Providence revolt against the odd and the dissenting. It is, however, obvious how much Lovecraft adored Providence , and this statement is more from his perspective, the author, rather than the narrators perspective. This is why his writing and his livelihood flourished here… because he felt accepted.

Anyway, back to the text. Curwen moves to Providence and we already know something is odd about him. He’s an antiquarian, just like Ward, but he also dabbles in drugs and acids and strange metals, and he is preternaturally old, but doesn’t look it: “At length, over fifty years had passed since the strangers advent, and without producing more than five years’ apparent change in his face and physique.”

This makes the people of Providence weary of him, but to make matters worse, he contacts a local apothecary and also a local literary and scientific fanatic hermit, John Merritt, to bring him books from all over the world. Lovecraft spends nearly a page of text naming the works, from historical to literary to religious, until “upon taking down a fine volume conspicuously labelled as the Qanoon-e-Islam, he found it was in truth the forbidden Necronomicon of the mad Arad Abdul Alhazred…”

Merritt sees a passage which sheds a little light on some of the things that the Necronomicon can actually do: “The essential Saltes of Animals may be so prepared and preserved, that an ingenious Man may have the whole Ark of Noah in his own Studie, and raise the fine Shape of an Animal out of it’s Ashes at his Pleasure; and by the lyke Mothod from the essential Saltes of humane Dust, a Philosopher may, without any criminal Necromancy, call up the Shape of any dead Ancestour from the Dust whereinto his Bodie has been incinerated.”

So here we find what Curwen is striving for (though the motive is still absent). He is just trying to understand life and gain what knowledge his ancestors had. He is a pre-eminant scholar, but even though he’s dabbling in these strange and forbidden arts, there is zero evidence that he’s done any harm to any living being (other than livestock and being a slave owner. The slave owner thing is completely unforgivable, but in terms of the time period this story is taking place in, it was a commonplace practice, so he’d be no different from the townsfolk in terms of morality).

Despite the knowledge of his “dark arts” he joins the church and tries to become a contributing member of society. He might be trying to get people to relax about his strange dealings, or he could be trying to ingratiate himself to certain members of society to gain favor…

A few years later we find Curwen looking to marry. He finds his ideal wife… the daughter of a ship-Captain, Dutee Tillinghast. The text itself shows no real nefariousness, but Lovecraft does spend a bit of time describing how old Curwen is and how submerged into witchcraft he is, before suddenly switching the narrative and talking about how he got Tillinghast to agree to marry off his daughter, Eliza (Not Peggy). This sudden switch from his witchcraft to his courting is curious. Is it to indicate that Curwen magically charms Tillinghast to give away his daughter? Or does Curwen just pay enough of a bride price to satisfy Captain Tillinghast? In either case this infuriates Eliza’s young gentleman sailor caller, Ezra Weeden, because he wanted to marry Eliza. Little does Curwen know it, but his choice of bride becomes his undoing.

Ezra, angry at being shunned, “…began a systemic study of the man and his doings…” certain that the old wizard was up to something. Certain that his lovely Eliza could not choose Curwen under her own volition, despite the fact that Curwen set Eliza up at a separate house and gave her everything she wanted or needed and didn’t spend too much time with her, or intrude upon her. Truly we don’t know, because there is nothing in the narrative to tell differently, but Eliza never seemed unhappy or in danger at any time from Curwen. Still, there is no storm worse than a lover scorned.

Ezra continues to watch and notices strange cargo going to Curwen’s farmhouse. “The cargo consisted almost wholly of boxes and cases, of which a large proportion were oblong and heavy and disturbingly suggestive of coffins.” Of course we infer what they are and so does Ezra. The issue is he’s a sailor and he’s often gone with his ship, so he hires Eleazar Smith to watch while he’s gone (The young man from the opening quote).

Eleazar finds prisoners in an extensive tunnel system under Curwen’s farmhouse. These prisoners are of a horrid physiognomy, and we can only infer that they are the resurrected ancestors that Curwen has been importing in those strange coffins. We know from Merritt and his glace at the notated portion of the Necronomicon that Curwen is bringing these ancestors back to life “from their Salte” to grill them for information:

“Once, for example, an alternately raging and sullen figure was questioned in French about the Black Prince’s massacre at Limoges in 1370…”

Weeden and Smith gather many important town figures. They want to get the law involved. Once they do, the group decides to confiscate some of Curwen’s mail. They find all sorts of crazy evidence, but one line stands out as important and foreshadowing: “doe not call up Any that you can not put downe…”

This is all the evidence the group needs. They form a mob to raze the farm house and all that dwell within it. Bringing a Frankensteinian vibe, they storm the farmhouse. There is an incredible battle where many of the men are killed or maimed and Curwen eventually dies. During the middle of the fight there was a blast in the farmhouse. “This blast had been followed by a repetition of the great shaft of light from the stone building,” namely Curwen summoning creatures to aid in the fight. The narrator doesn’t go into detail, but talks of fire creatures and strange smells that stick on the men in the raid.

Right at the end of the chapter there is a passage that leads me to believe that Curwen was actually killed by creatures he called up rather than the attackers:

“I say to you againe, doe not call up any that you can not put downe; by the Which I meane, Any that can in Turne call up somewhat against you, whereby your Powerfullest Devices may not be of use. Ask the Lesser, lest the Greater shall not wish to Answer, and shall commande more than you.”

Curwen called up a power that was just a little to strong for himself and in turn it killed him. I do, however, wonder what the scent is and why it’s mentioned. I wonder what the firey creatures are. I wonder how this correlates to Ward’s transition. Again, there isn’t any indication in the text… yet, but I’m sure we’ll soon find out!

What really intrigues me about this chapter has to do with fear and anger. The whole downfall of Curwen was spawned by a young man’s jealousy, because Ezra went a little far in trying to prove Curwen was evil. Without a doubt Curwen was doing some terrible things, however he was not doing them to the living, so there is a bit of a moral question here. Does that merit death?

The through line is that Curwen came from Salem. The witch trials were all about fear. Innocent people died because people were so afraid of what they didn’t understand that they committed atrocious acts against others. The same here. The mob was formed because they stole Curwen’s mail and didn’t understand what they were reading. Rather than just reaching out to Curwen, or even arresting him, they decided that because they didn’t understand what was going on, they were just going to eliminate him. We come to realize that though Curwen is monstrous, the real monsters were the people of Providence, feeding off that fear. All because a young man felt cheated.

One last note for this chapter which I absolutely loved, and I believe it’s more a reflection on the novel as a whole, is that Lovecraft is writing it as though we ourselves are antiquarians looking back at Ward. Throughout the book thus far, we have been given snippets of text from books, articles, and letters that the characters are looking at. Thus it’s as though we as readers are doing the research to understand what happened to Ward. This is a wonderful Juxtaposition of Ward looking back on Curwen, and in turn Curwen looking back at his ancestors. It is a brilliant structural organization because it brings the reader more into the story. It makes the reader empathize with both Ward and Curwen as we delve deeper and unfold more layers of the mystery. We ourselves have become the antiquarians…

Join me next week for chapter 3, “A Search and an Evocation”!

Postscript:

I would feel remiss if I didn’t add in this portion about racism. I have argued with people over the past year and a half as I’ve read through Lovecraft’s works, saying that he was merely xenophobic and agoraphobic and not just outright racist. This story has unequivocally proven me wrong.

In previous stories he rails against the culture of others. I have seen that nearly across the board, and where it’s jarring, it’s also fleeting so I’m able to gloss over it. There is a passage in this chapter (I will not repeat it. Look it up yourself if you’re curious) that is abhorrent. It speaks about appearance, not culture. I can no longer in any way defend what I’m reading. I almost stopped the project all together when I came across that passage. I still may, but I do believe that there is enough time and understanding that has passed since the authorship of these works that I can be impartial. What I mean by this is that with recent art like “Lovecraft Country” coming to HBO (and the book, though I haven’t read it), Lovecraft’s legacy can be about his creation, not the hatred he himself had. I feel it’s OK to continue on because others of races and creeds are benefiting from his creations. That being said the passage rocked me a bit, and left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m hoping the rest of this novel will be free of such prejudice.


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Strange High House in the Mist

Welcome back to another Blind Read! By the looks of things, I will have made it through all of Lovecraft by the end of the year. SO…If you have an author that you’d like to discuss, or have trouble reading let me know! Maybe they can be the next author covered in this series.

At length, being avid for new strange things and held back by neither the Kingsporter’s fear nor the summer boarder’s usual indolence, Olney made a very terrible resolve.”

This story is a connector of the Dreamlands stories. In it we have a house perched on top of a tall cliff, with the only doorway leading out to the abyss of the cliff. Inside the house we have a protector. Someone who spends eternity guarding the world from the other gods and the incursion of the Dreamlands into our reality. We are enabled to see this house because our intrepid adventurer, whom out of curiosity and a lust for life, finds a way up to “The Causeway” and meets this caretaker.

We start the story describing the harbor town of Kingsport. Right from the very first paragraph we are given knowledge that the people of Kingsport know there are strange dealings around them. The feel of the town is one of mysticism. The fantastic nostalgia for a simpler time. A time when older gods ruled the world and people only wanted for basic survival. There was no rat race, but a desire for simplicity and knowledge. This is the core of Lovecraft, both person and writings. He believed in simplicity, and loathed materialism. You can see this starkly in his portrayals of cities like New York, as he yearns to stay in his protected, almost mythical, section of New England.

Thomas Olney, our main character, is new to Kingsport and he hears stories about the house from sailors and an old bearded man in town. He can occasionally catch glimpses of it as well through the thick mists that circle the craggy cliff it sits upon. His curiosity overwhelms him and he decides that the’s going to take the trip up to it. It is a dangerous and arduous journey, but eventually he gets there and finds that the only ingress to the house are the closed windows, and a door that opens out over the cliff. He hears someone approach and hears the door creak open, so he hides beneath the sill of a window, only to be pulled into the house. The man who pulled him into the house is young and bearded and he is reminiscent of the grouchy old man in the village who seems to know about this house.

The bearded man tells stories to Olney; “…and heard how the kings of Atlantis fought with slippery blasphemies that wriggled out of rifts in the oceans floor, and how the pillared and weedy temple of Poseidonis is still glimpsed at midnight by lost ships…”

This is both a reference to R’lyeh, the city where Cthulhu is buried in slumber, and Dagon, one of the pantheon of lesser gods and linked with Poseidon. In other stories there is mention that the god like men of Atlantis fought off the Elder Gods, Cthulhu being one of them. Where they couldn’t defeat them, they buried R’lyeh, the lost city, and trapped Cthulhu within the earth. Dagon is the fish god, and still calls creatures from the sea in a slow effort to gain back control. See The Shadow over Innsmouth.

Olney is also told of older things: “Years of the Titans were recalled, but the host grew timid when he spoke of the dim first age of chaos before the gods or even the Elder Ones were born, and when the other gods came to dance on the peak of Hatheg-Kla in the stony desert near Ulthar, beyond the River Skai.”

There is a lot to unpack there, but basically we have the establishment of what Lovecraft himself called “Yog-Sothothery”, later to be coined “The Cthulhu Mythos” by August Derleth, one of Lovecraft’s closest friends and writing partners. The other gods were first; terrible creatures and malevolent in nature. The Elder Ones came later. Creatures like Azathoth. Then later, came the deep ones like Cthulhu. The River Skai also has importance in the Dreamcycle as we see in the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and other stories.

Shortly after describing this, something comes to the door of the house. The bearded man hurries and locks the door, then goes around the house and shutters all the windows. It’s a suspenseful scene as he tells Olney to get low and be quiet. “And the bearded man made enigmatical gestures of prayer…“. The bearded man is setting wards against shadows that are gathering in the room, “For there are strange objects in the great abyss, and the seeker of dreams must take care not to stir up or meet the wrong ones.”

All of this information, plus numerous mentions of dreams and dream seekers, leads me to believe that this house is a way point. This house, in between Kingsport and Arkham, is an thin place that connects the dream world to the real world. The keeper, the bearded man, must be careful not to let these ancient horrors through the world. He gives the information to Olney, just like he gave it to The Terrible Old Man (Lovecraft even capitalized this honorarium in the story) so many years before. They get just enough information to be afraid of the house, and potentially keep others away. Olney never goes back, and in fact he loses some of his natural curiosity because of the shock of the experience, and eventually moves away. But still that Strange High House in the Mist stays and guards against the others from transcending into our world.

What do you think?


The Power of Imagination

In a time of such division.  A time where people across the world are scared of terrorists.  A time where people don’t trust and fear their leaders.  A time when we seem to be moving apart from one another instead of moving closer to each other.  A time where fear is perceived to be more prevalent than love.

There is hope.

We as a people go through waves and there are always troughs as much as there are peaks.  You can see it in the way the cultural perspective has shifted.

The popular things now are reality TV, minimalistic music based around repetitive beats and repetitive lyrics, poorly written books meant to shock or entice.

We have weaved ourselves into a trough of apathy and complacency, where we let others tell us what to do or think and our entertainment is not there to entertain, but to anesthetize.

But out of the malaise comes art of quality.

Small at first.  A book here.  A movie there.  A song.  A painting.  A TV show.

Something that comes along that makes us think again.  That makes us wonder.  That makes us hope.

They come from the strangest places.  Disney’s Wall-E.  Bad Robot’s Star Trek.  Netflix’s Stranger Things.

You might be thinking what does this have to do with where the country is?  What does this have do with us as a people?

It’s about the power of Imagination (with a big I).  We as a species have separate processing systems in our brain.  One processes logic and the other processes creativity.  The creative part of your brain controls your emotions.  It follows that when you feel fear or hopelessness you have an absence of creativity.

The more imagination we develop, the more we will be able to process, the less we’ll fear; the more we will hope and dream.

Art leads the world.  Star Trek had one of the first interracial couples (and many of the first inter species couples). Star Wars ended the gritty anti hero hate that was brewed during the Cold War.

We went through such a boon in the 90’s that we couldn’t help but slip back.  The Cold War came to and end, Apartheid ended, the global economy was growing more than ever in history.

So we relaxed.  We let our imaginations grow cobwebs.  But the more you see unique new shows.  The more unique new art you see.  The more intricate the lyrics of the music you listen too.  The better the writing of the books you read…

Know that the more and more good or great art you see and intake, the more and more the culture is shifting.  Our hope comes from our imagination, so lets be more childlike.  Lets go on adventures.  Lets fight more dragons.  Lets have more tea parties.  Lets Imagine.


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Horror at Red Hook

But at this time it was all horribly real, and nothing can ever efface the memory of those nighted crypts, those titan arcades, and those half-formed shapes of hell that strode gigantically in silence holding half-eaten things whose still surviving portions screamed for mercy or laughed with madness.”

Wow, what a wild ride this story was. This was probably the scariest and most classic horror of any H.P. Lovecraft that I’ve read up to date.

As the story begins we are introduced to detective Thomas F. Malone who is on extended medical leave for trauma. The first portion of the story describes how he’s living and dealing with this trauma, of which we are still ignorant.

The second portion of the story covers Red Hook. We get a call back to HE, as there is a similar tenement structure our narrator experienced there. This story also takes place in New York, which is absolutely unique for Lovecraft. It does not hold the same atmosphere as much of his work, but from the start of this story the tone has a much darker and sinister feel. The basis in New York gives Lovecraft the ability to explore different themes than the usual fantasy/cosmic horror that he frames in New England.

The third portion of the story is the introduction to Malone’s quarry, Robert Suydam. “Suydam was a lettered recluse of an ancient Dutch family,” and he purchased a space in the run down, twisting alleyways of Red Hook. After a strange trip to Europe, Suydam began to deteriorate. His personal hygiene took a hit, he lost friends, and “When he spoke it was to babble of unlimited powers almost within his grasp, and to repeat with knowing leers such mystical words or names as ‘Sephiroth’, ‘Ashmodai’ and Samael’.” And there it is. We have three demons from the Kabbalah and Christian religions. The text has gone beyond the normal Lovecraft, no longer in the world of the cosmic horror. We are no longer in the dreamlands (though there is a little bit of dream stuff to come), we have now crossed over into religious horror. To me this raised my hackles. I find this subject matter far more terrifying that anything I have yet come by within Lovecraft’s oeuvre.

The fourth section of the story delves into the police work. Trying to uncover just what strange dealings that Suydam has been up to. They raid his home, which is empty, and they come across blasphemous art work and things that Malone simply “did not like”. They also found an inscription:

O friend and companion of night, thou who rejoices in the baying of dogs and spilt blood, who wanderest in the midst of shades among the tombs, who longest for blood and bringest terror to mortals, Gorgo, Mormo, thousand-faced moon, look favourably on our sacrifices!

I had no idea what this meant. Though obviously a atmospheric quote, I believed it had deeper meaning. Lovecraft infuses lots of Greek mythology and heritage within his work. There is a certain amount of admiration he obviously felt for the culture and the artwork. He loves the idea of marble structures and busts and even includes some of that iconography in this story as well. So when I came across this quote, it was no surprise to me that it was about Hecate, the Greek Goddess of the underworld, ghosts, and magic. This story was not going to deal with cosmic horror, it was going to deal with something closer to home. It was about Hell.

The next short section of the story tells of a journey Suydam takes across the sea, where he dies. He instructs that his body be conveyed to the bearer of the note provided.

Then we move into the Horror. Malone goes to Red Hook and investigates, noticing a melee. He goes to allay the fight and finds strange sounds and smells while all the participants of the battle flee. Malone suspects something nefarious behind a large door, so he takes a stool and breaks the door open, “whence poured a howling tumult of ice-cold wind with all the stenches of the bottomless pit, and whence reached a sucking force not of earth or heaven, which, coiling sentiently about the paralysed detective, dragged him through the aperture and down unmeasured spaces filled with whispers and wails, and gusts of mocking laughter.

Malone is sucked into Hell. He experiences some truly horrific scenes, perfect for any fan of this type of fiction, and much more evocative than anything I’ve experienced from Lovecraft. We see Suydam giving himself over to a demon, finally getting what he was after, and becoming one with hell.

The final section explains how the mysterious group brought Suydam’s body back to that experience and how Malone could hear that same refrain from some “hag” speaking to young children about Hecate. The knowledge of the fate of Suydam and that whatever devious magic caused it is still alive and well in Red Hook is what truly throws Malone over the edge.

When I think of Lovecraft I don’t generally think “disturbing”, but I have to say that this one was up there. That penultimate chapter covering Malone’s experiences in Hell were truly unsettling.

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; Celephais, and The Silver Key

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars.” – Walt Whitman

“If youth knew, if age could.” – Sigmund Freud

“Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty.  Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”

Ah the origin story.  The tales where we uncover the history of the characters we follow, and find out what makes them tick; why they are the way they are.  Here we have the dreamlands.  What brings King Kuranes and Randolph Carter to the dreamlands?  What made King Kuranes a king??

Welcome back to another blind read!  Sorry for the limited blogs, but I’ve been extremely busy with writing and vacations (hey!  Vacations are work too!).  To make up for my truancy, I’ll be covering two short stories this week.  Celephais and The Silver Key.  But first, a brief synopsis:

Celephais:  Kuranes creates the city of Celephais while being a child dreamer.  Then as he grows old, he goes to the dreamlands and becomes a King over the city that he created (keeping it simple, but this is pretty much it!)

The Silver Key:  Randolph Carter used to dream all the time as a child.  He would travel constantly, but as the story begins Carter is 30 and has been unable to get to the dreams that he once had.  That is until he meets a man at Miskatonic University (there is a brief description of the events of “The Statement of Randolph Carter” [ Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Statement of Randolph Carter ]) which opens his eyes to the world that he once knew.  He starts to dream again and has a dream about his grandfather who tells him to go back to his childhood home, and look for a box in the attic.  He goes and finds a box with arabesque designs.  When he opens it he finds a parchment with symbols reminiscent to what he saw in the Necronomicon, and inside of the parchment is the eponymous key.  His dreams become more vivid and more reminiscent to what they once were.  He goes to the place of his childhood, and there he goes into a crevice, holding the key.  He then enters a dream state.  The story ends how Carter, beginning at the age of ten, when he found the crevice, knew glimpses of the future that he could not possibly know.  We also find that a narrator has been telling us this story, a narrator who is a king of a city that he hopes to see Carter in one day.

So there you have it!  The origin stories of Kuranes and Carter!  Celephais seems more like a fragment from “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath”, than an actual story, just a little more illumination of Kuranes, whereas The Silver Key seems much more like a full story, not to mention, it looks like it’s continued on in the next story of the book “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”, even though that’s a collaboration.

There are some major links between these two stories, that both seem to link with Lovecraft’s personal life and ideals, and to the evolving dreamlands.  Take youth for example.  There is a romanticizing of what it means to be young in both of these stories.  The innocence, the ignorance.  It reminds me of all those horror stories back in the eighties (yes I know they continue on now, but that’s because it’s a trope.  I would be interested in researching this and finding out where it actually stems from), where the child could see or interact with the supernatural element, but the parent could not.  Seemingly because of the lost innocence, and lost open mindedness.  The stories deal with this in two different ways:

Celephais is a lamentation of the innocence.  Kuranes moves forward with his life, but regrets his decisions, and thus in “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” he reverts Celephais to a version of Cornwall, so that he may re-live his past experiences.

The Silver Key is an effort to spurn the vagaries of everyday life and get back the mystical nature of youth.  In fact Carter actually goes back in time and becomes himself as a 10 year old, to re-establish those experiences and memories.

This seems allegorical to Lovecraft himself (There is even a portion of “The Silver Key” where the narrator tells us that writing helps get back the mystery, through opening of one’s mind).  Both of these stories show that at some point, there was belief in wonder, belief in the mystical, that came from Lovecraft’s youth.  But then, like with many of us, life happens.  You grow up.  You have responsibilities that take away time and energy from the mysteries of life, making it easy to become bitter, hardened, or ignorant of the fantasy that can be apparent in life. I really felt as though Lovecraft was saying in these two stories that writing saved his life.  He was getting bogged down with the stresses of everyday life, bills, housing, love and intimacy, but when he was able to sneak away into the worlds that he created he no longer feared about these mundane issues.  He freed his mind in his fantastic worlds, just like Kuranes and Carter did in their dreaming.

Another interesting factor is drugs.  There is a finite stigma against all drugs, but there is a certain amount of research that proves that in controlled environments that drugs can be helpful.  For example LSD, and marijuana (or Hashish in Kuranes’ case).  In modern medicine, these drugs are used as a better alternative for treating things like PTSD and anxiety disorders, and at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, they would be far more prevalent if Big Pharma didn’t get their hands into government pockets and stymie their progression.  In Lovecraft there is countless mentions of drugs helping dreamers get back to their “dream state”, of characters opening their eyes to the actual world that is around them, instead of believing and trusting in the veil.  I think this subject is probably better suited for an entire post later on, but I think it very worth noting here, because of the content of these stories and the stigma of drugs.  Is it considered juvenile?  Irresponsible, to take these drugs to try and open up your consciousness?  Is it ignoring your responsibilities or reverting, to try and recover youth?  Or is there in fact a veil, that needs to be punctured, and we must attempt this in any way possible?

What do you think?

Join me next time for a blind read of “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”!


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Statement of Randolph Carter

Ignorance is the foundation for Evil.  Ignorance, not in derogatory terms, but in it’s definition; a lack of knowledge, is the cause of the greatest of all issues.

Welcome back to another Blind Read!  Today we’re tackling an introduction to Randolph Carter, in the short vignette, and we’re covering the nature of evil, and how in Lovecraft, it always seems as though a willed ignorance is the cause of much of the horror.

The Statement of Randolph Carter has our titular character telling officials of what happened to his friend Harley Warren.

It seems as though Mr. Warren delved into strange occult books.  He was fascinated with something, and kept digging deeper and deeper.  He searched the world for the book that would tell him what he was looking for, and eventually he found it.  Carter says that many of the books he is looking at are in Arabic, proving that he is looking for some ancient knowledge, but that the book that holds the secrets are in a language that Carter doesn’t understand.

Carter helps Warren carry equipment to a site, but when the open the tomb Warren turns to Carter, with confidence, and tells him that he is to stay there.  That Carter’s sensibilities are too soft to experience what is down in the catacombs of the tomb.

Warren heads down and clicks on a phone, so that he can communicate with Carter.  Warren eventually finds what he’s looking for, but realizes that he’s made a mistake.  Whatever it is that he was looking for is far worse, far more powerful, far more demented, than what he anticipated.  He screams and screams for Carter to run, that it’s too late for Warren to save himself, but Carter could get out.

Carter promises to save Warren, but cant bring himself to go down into the tomb.  Eventually he hears a voice that tells carter “You fool.  Warren is dead!”

I’ll get to the idea of ignorance, but first there is something that has been happening in quite a few Lovecraft stories which had been bothering me; in many of the stories, the narrator of the story passes out from fear before they get a glimpse of the true horror that is coming for them.  Why is it that these Elder creatures and beasts are letting these people live?  They come upon them, helpless, but they always let them go to tell their story.  This is useful for Lovecraft to tell his tales, but is there a thematic reason for this benevolence?

I think there may be more to it.  How else could all these old books like The Necronomicon be written?  The knowledge had to have been obtained for the first time somehow.  Could it be that the Elder Gods allowed some man to write down this knowledge?  Or could it be that they want the knowledge to get out?

There is another possibility…do they have a moral code?  I have always assumed that the Elder Gods have a chaotic nature, but do they not attack people that don’t wish to delve into their secrets?  Do they stop their rampage when they find something helpless?  Are they like the Predator?  An alien creature who is a hunter, who never kills when the prey is helpless?  There seems to be some credence to this theory.

So if the Elder Gods are indeed this way, then why would anyone strive to find their secrets?  Is it just curiosity?  Power?  Which brings me to my next point.  It seems like the cause of much of the issues that begin in Lovecraft, happens when ignorance takes over.

These brash adventurers, who with to go after this forbidden knowledge, are in fact ignorant of what the knowledge they seek really means.  In every story these men find these books and seek their knowledge.  What we infer is that these men see that there is hidden power or knowledge and that’s where they stop.  It is their ignorance of what is actually going on that causes their deaths.

So are the Elder Gods actually evil?  Or are they only trying to stop the ignorant from accessing knowledge (like strange angles that will enable you to travel to another dimension), that they are not ready for?

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft Arthur Jermyn

This was a sad and tragic tale of the Jermyn lineage.  We start the story with the knowledge that the titular Arthur commits suicide.  This fact weighs on the reader and becomes the driving force behind the mystery of the story.

Throughout these blind reads, I have come to understand that there is a deep mystery in every one of Lovecraft’s stories.  Something terrible, otherworldly, or macabre lies at the heart of every story and through it’s telling the reader strives to understand this mystery.

This story is fairly straight forward, in that, we are reading to see what would make someone immolate themselves.

In the end, Arthur finds evidence that his great-great-great-grandfather traveled to the Congo and took a humanoid white ape as a concubine and Arthur is the descendant of this ape.

At the beginning of the story, our narrator tells us that everyone should do what Arthur did to himself if they found the same.  Where bestiality is repugnant, there seems to be something more going on here.

The civilization where Wade Jermyn (the ancestor) goes speaks of the White God and the ape-princess, which is obviously Wade and his concubine, but the great civilization was told (to Arthur by Mwanu) to house “hybrid-creatures”.

Could this be a sect of Outer God worshipers?  Or is this a culture built on interbreeding with apes, and Wade got caught up in the fervor of their culture?

My predilection is to think of the prior, because as horrible as it is that Arthur finds that he is descended from an ape, he is not a young man, and must know about his own soul.  I would think that even if it would lead to suicide (if for no other reason than to end the lineage), it might take a little longer.

The housekeepers heard a horrible scream once Arthur opened the box.  We assume as the reader that it must just be the mummified corpse of his great-great-great-grandapema, but at the beginning of the story the narrator tells us that there is an object.  It is possible that Lovecraft is being coy and skirting around that it was a mummy, but there is also the peculiar golden locket which I believe holds the key.

When Arthur opens the box, it takes him a while to scream.  It is readily apparent by the appearance of the mummy that it is his ancestor, but it takes him a while to scream.  I think there must have been something leading to a cosmic horror discovery in the locket.  Maybe that there is something far more sinister that just the white ape in his lineage?

What do you think?

Join me on Halloween for a Blind Read of “The Temple”


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The White Ship

Welcome back to another Blind Read.  This story is an interesting departure from the normal cannon.  I have read a little about Lovecraft’s religious leanings and understand him to basically be an Atheist, so that’s what makes this story so fascinating to me.

The story follows our nameless narrator who watches a lighthouse.  He sees a mysterious White Ship that sails in over the seas and seems to sail calmly, no matter the state of the ocean.  The narrator eventually walks out over the waters and joins the White Ship.  They sail past the horrible land of Xura “The Land of Pleasures un-attained”, and they continue to follow the “bird of heaven” which takes them to the wonderful Sona-Nyl.  This is a land where everything is beautiful and wonderful and everyone is happy.

The narrator driven by curiosity and tells the crew that he want’s to visit a land he heard of in Sona-Nyl.  The Land of Cathuria.  He convinces them to take him there, and as they sail out of Sona-Nyl, they run into a horrible storm and the ship crashes.  The narrator finds himself back at the lighthouse and finds a mysterious dead bird on the shore and for the rest of his time, he never sees the White Ship again.

This story is obviously about humanity and the afterlife.  We have our narrator who has died, and walks upon the waters to join the crew of the White Ship.  They sail past Hell, because that is not where he belongs, but follow the “bird of heaven” to the actual Heaven.  A place where everyone is content and happy and there is no strife.

But there is a curiosity in Human Nature that drives us for understanding.  I think this hits home more in Lovecraft than many people and I think that’s why he wrote the type of stories that he wrote.

The narrator wants to see this other land, so he coerces the crew to take him, and though they know what will happen, they agree.  They sail away from Sona-Nyl and reject it and he is returned to the real world never to see Sona-Nyl again.

Could this be Lovecraft’s veiled attempt at telling his story of the rejection of religion?  you can gather a glimpse of heaven, but it is sallow and thin.  There is more mystery in the world and to ignore it is to live in ignorance.  So Lovecraft is rejecting heaven to gain a darker understanding of our terrestrial world.

What do you think?

Join me Tomorrow for a Blind Read of “Arthur Jermyn”


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; Dagon

Back for another Blind Read.  I am trying to keep honest to the Blind Reads and not do research on the side to gather connections, but if my memory serves me correct, Dagon is one of the lesser gods in the Lovecraft pantheon.  That makes this story very interesting to me because this story could have wide ranging implications for the building of the Mythos (or apparently as Lovecraft called it, Yog-Sothothery.  It was actually August Derleth that coined the phrase Cthulhu Mythos).

The story follows our narrator during WWI, as his ship was taken by a German sea-raider ship.  He escaped them and found his way to a strange, unknown of island in his dinghy.  As he explores the island, he finds a strange monolith with images carved that are humanoid, but fish-like.  They have webbed hands and feet, they have large eyes and large lips, and they are huge, nearly the size of a whale.

As he stands there one of these creatures comes out of the sea and hugs the monolith, then prays to it.

The narrator immediately thinks of Dagon, who is an ancient fish god.

What is provocative about this story is that there have been small connections in the past with figures like Nyarlathotep, which make a connection with our actual world.  The difference, however is that in every previous story I’ve read the characters in the stories are fictional, in a real setting.  This is an actual god that people have worshiped in the past, and here Lovecraft uses the same name and adopts it as his own.  Thus bringing his pantheon into our cultural reality.

There are two different ways to look at the story.  One is that the creature that comes out of the sea is a disciple of Dagon, and the monolith is what it prays to in supplication to Dagon.  This event keeps Dagon as a god, and now we have a race of cthonic creatures, whom live under the sea and live under Dagon’s rule.

The other way to read it (and this is what i believe Lovecraft intended) is that the creature that comes out of the sea IS Dagon.  This is a much more horrific idea.  This means that this creature, which made the narrators mind break (“I think I went mad then”) at the mere sight of it, is actually supplicating to something more than itself.  So this creature which in our real life mythology is considered a god, has a being so much more powerful than it (Cthulhu himself?) that it prays through the form of the monolith.

What do YOU think?

Join me next Tuesday for another blind read of “The White Ship”.


Blind read through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Nameless City

This one is a pure horror story.  This reminds me of the times my friends and I sat around and played the table top game.

The story follows a narrator through Egypt to explore and he comes across the nameless city.  A city whose inhabitants seemed to be some prehistoric creatures that were part man and part reptile.  Our narrator finds a tunnel and happens upon some kind of deeper creature sleeping within the earth.

The absolute best part of horror, is the fear of the unknown.  There are things in the world which we can even fathom and what makes Lovecraft so amazing is that he tunes into this with his Chthonic Deities and their followers.

Best line in the story?  “To convey any idea of these monstrosities is impossible.”

And even though he gives a semblance of a description right after this, it still hits the fear meter.

We are also reintroduced to the Mad Arab who wrote the Necronomicon off the horrible experiences he had in places similar to this.

We are left with the wonderful, famous, Lovecraft line from the Necronomicon:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,

And with strange aeons even death may die.

Lovecraft is also a precursor to all the modern day Urban fantasy, with his first person narrators who are describing these strange happenings, with their own voice.  If you notice every Lovecraft narrator is invariably, Lovecraft.  His discernible prose streams through each narrator’s tome, and what makes it work is the absolute weirdness and uniqueness of the tales.

Join me tomorrow for a blind read through of “The Quest of Iranon”


Blind Read Through; H.P. Lovecraft: The Cats of Ulthar

This fun little ditty was a page out of Poe.  Thus far this was the most linear and straightforward story, and obviously something that Lovecraft knocked out one dreary evening.  Very little appears of his Mythos cycle, or of his cosmic horror, except for a few sentences in the middle of the story.

Ostensibly this story is about the town of Ulthar, who loves cats.  There is one crotchety old couple that will kill any cat that comes near them in the night, but the town folk are too scared of them to approach or do anything about them, so they continue their nefarious deeds.

Then we have a strange caravan with strange drawings come through the town.  The people are odd and are interested in buying odd things, and there is a young boy names Menes, who’s parents died “in the plague” and he has a cat whom he loves and makes him happy in their absence.

That night the cat that Menes loves so much disappears and the towns folk blame the old man and woman in the cabin in the forest.  Menes prays and meditates in a language the people don’t understand, and many of them feel as though there are strange symbols and creatures in the sky and in the trees, but the narrator says that sometimes “…nature is full of such illusions to impress the imaginative.”

All the cats disappear in town the next day and the old couple is blamed, but then the cats come back, full and lethargic.

The mayor checks on the old couple, only to find two skeletons picked clean.

Here is Lovecrafts genius.  In the first paragraph he states that cats are “the soul of antique Aegyptus…” and that they have vast knowledge beyond our understanding.  The boy in the town was named Menes who was a Pharaoh of Egypt around 5000 BCE.  Here we have the link to the fictional Nyarlathotep from millennia ago, and one can assume that this caravan was indeed a troupe following Nyarlathotep, as Menes calls upon his Old Gods power (which looks very similar to how it looked in the story “Nyarlathotep”).

At this point I assume that all of these stories are told within the same headspace, and not necessarily meant to coalesce, however the more I dig and the more I read, the more it seems as though there is connection.

Join me next week for the next blind read through “Hypnos” as we get deeper in the the mythos of Lovecraft.


Blind Read Through; H.P. Lovecraft: Nyarlathotep/Ex Oblivione

I bring you two more vignettes of Lovecraft in this weeks Blind Read through.  These two stories seem to be divergent from the cannon as it has been presented, but give an interesting new facet to how the horror in his stories is presented.

In “Nyarlathotep”, we see what I have to think of as a Outer God.  He is called the crawling chaos in the first sentence of the story, and that comes to full fruition at the end.  Nyarlathotep is seemingly a man who came from Egypt.  He is large and dark and mysterious and is described as looking like a Pharaoh.  He holds shows to garner followers, and these shows are filled with strange and marvelous things, which bring people from far and wide to find out what he is going to do next.  There is a underlying malevolence in everything Nyarlathotep does, then eventually (when the greenish light of the moon comes about) these people are led to a location where it becomes apparent that they are being led to slaughter.  Their souls are being consumed by a a large miasma of creeping energy, and where Lovecraft doesn’t tell us that this is indeed Nyarlathotep, it is heavily inferred.  He has transcended his corporeal form to his godlike “creeping chaos” form and consumes his followers for strength.

The starting point of Egypt is interesting, because everything I’ve read thus far has surrounded the cold north, with it’s northern lights and frozen tundras.  Now we get to see the far reaching grasp of the Outer Gods (or Old God, not really sure which he is yet).  Could they, in Lovecraft’s world, be part of the creation of the Pyramids?  Could they have given humans portions of their terrible knowledge, and secretly build these structures to their benefit?  It’s a provocative concept.  I recognize Nyarlathotep’s name, so I look forward to reading more about him (It?) in later stories, as I’m pretty sure this is it’s first iteration.

In “Ex Oblivione”, we catch a decidedly different and much more Poe-like side of Lovecraft.  We come across a narrator who is at the end of his life (I’m assuming disease is a factor here, partially because the narrator is cavalier about his Opiate use), and he hears something call to him, so he goes to see what it possibly is.  He takes his opiates (more than likely Opium or Laudanum, as I’m not sure if Heroin was around yet), and goes into a dream world within the horrible twisted, swampy grove he rests in.  In this dream world he finds a city and within the city he finds a papyrus that tells him to take a drug and that will help him transcend his existence to another world.  He takes this drug and happily leave behind the “daemon world”.

There are elements in this story that correlate to others, and even Nyarlathotep, but to me this is about a man who is in terrible pain from a disease and he begins to take Opiates for the pain.  The Opiates do what opiates do, and eventually alter his perception.  He thinks that he is transcending, but in reality he is overdosing, and riding the wave of drug to his imaginary Oblivion.  Though this is a blind read and I haven’t read other than these stories of Lovecraft, nearly every story that involves the horrors of his Mythos, that Green hazy light is present, floating or permeating from the moon.  It is conspicuously absent form this story, ;leading me to believe that this is a horror story about a tortured soul.

I’ll return with a blind read of “The Cats of Ulthar”, one of his supposedly literary fantasy stories (by his own description).


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, Polaris

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.


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”.


Blind Read Through; H.P. Lovecraft, The Doom That Came to Sarnath

This was the first story from the “Dunsany” period and probably the first iteration of his eventual shift into the Cosmic Horror genre.  Published in 1919 (full of mis-spellings and embellishments), this story tells of the city of Sarnath in the land of Mnar.  Sarnath was built next to a river, near the Ancient City of Ib.  The city of Ib, as we find out from the extremely old and archaic writings on brick walls of another ancient city and parchments, is housed by strange beings, who are green and have a green halo, and bulging eyes and flabby lips.  These beings are mute and supposedly descended through this green mist (which occasionally also surrounds the moon) from the moon to create the city of Ib next to the still green lake.

The primitive warriors of Sarnath decide that they hate the minions of Ib because they are disturbing looking and worship Bokrug, a water lizard.  They kill all the creatures of Ib and push them into the lake.  They destroy the city of Ib, and keep only the green statue of Bokrug.  Soon the high priest of Sarnath (Taran-Ish) dies, with an expression of great horror and writes on the sea-green stone idol of Bokrug the word…DOOM.

The city moves on and goes through decades of prosperity, mining out precious stones and living richly, until one day, during a ceremony commemorating the destruction of Ib, a mist floats down from the moon to the still lake, and green creatures come forth and destroy Sarnath.

Lovecraft is obviously describing Inuit’s when he talks about Sarnath and it’s peoples.  The land of Mnar, has some Norse inclinations as well.  The reason I say this is because the green haze must indicate the Northern Lights, which seem to emanate from the heavens and descend upon earth.  Then at the end of the story Aryan men go to view the ruins of Sarnath (showing Lovecraft’s prejudices, since they were the only people on earth with enough courage to view the ruins), indicating that it is a different location than Europe.

The story attempts to pull its horror from the fear of religion and the bible once again, and I’ll be curious to see if that is indicative of all the Dunsany stories, or if it’s a theme throughout.  The Ultimate story is a combination of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Babel themes, mixed in with a little Old Testament, good old, God fearing idol worship.  The people of Sarnath are being punished for their worship of a false god and their love and lust of the material, and then the Ancient Ones come back for retribution with their strange descendants, the creatures of Ib.

Because this is a blind read through and I haven’t read any Lovecraft before I dont know if Bokrug is part of the mythos cycle of Gods, but I would probably argue that it should be at least a lesser god.

For purposes of categorization, Bokrug will be a lesser god, based in Greenland area.  We’ll see if that has any bearing on the future stories.


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Tree

I finished this story and my first response was…What was that?  This story is from his Dunsanian period, which I assumed to mean part of a otherworldly mien.  This extremely innocuous, and seemingly disparate narrative focuses on two artists who are commissioned to create a marble sculpture of Tyche, the Grecian Goddess who governed prosperity and fortune of a city.  One of the sculptors, Kalos, dies and asks to be buried with two olive branches by his head.  The other sculptor, Musides, is his best friend and complies.  Musides continues working on the sculpture, and eventually finishes as a tree grows from the grave site of Kalos.  The tree looks like a man. When the Grecians come to get the sculpture and give accolades to Musides, they find the house destroyed, the tree’s roots grown into the house and no sign of the sculpture or Musides.  The narrator tells us that in the boughs of the olive grove one can still hear whispers that say “I know, I know.”

That’s the story.  In it’s entirety.  It took me about an hour of rumination to come up with what it truly means.

In the first paragraph the narrator tells us that the grove is thought of as belonging to Pan, the Greek god of mischief.  Which would make sense since strange happenings go on there.  Then at the end of the paragraph, he tells us that he hears a different story.  This is where the Dunsany influence comes in, and why the story is truly Lovecraftian.

Kalos is said to speak to the creatures of the forest, in his Olive grove, and when he dies he asks for two olive branches to be put by his head.  Lovecraft was atheistic, but religion seeped into his writings because he thought that was the ultimate horror.  So the two olive branches indicate knowledge of the Gods and creation of a church. The creation of the Church was the tree that looked like a man, and the olive branches next to his head meant that Kalos was given the knowledge of the Gods as the branches grew through his head.  However it was thought that the god of the grove was Pan, but we are told that was not correct.  Kalos was given sight of the Great Old Ones.

Musides goes to finish his creation there, but in reality he comes to the realization of Kalos, because of the whispering of the tree.  The Great Old Ones are upset with his creation of a “graven image of another deity” in Tyche, so they destroy the house.

The whispering of “I know, I know” is not a comfort of one spirit of a friend to another, as I originally thought (I mean come on, this is Lovecraft, after all), but of knowledge.  Kalos is whispering to the world of the horrible knowledge of the Elder Gods he gained by communion in the olive grove.  The tree is Kalos ascended with that knowledge and he whispers in torment in his jail that is a tree in the shape of a man.

“I know, I know”


The Drifter

Today in honor of finishing one of my books which is based upon poetry, I’m submitting some poetry of my own.  I wrote this one a few years ago, but I never published it here. Enjoy!

Driftwood finds it’s way to sand, how is it that it’s so hard for me to find land?

and this state of constant wonder, leads me divided; torn asunder

in this horrid devil’s playground in my head…

My fingers tell the story, of the broken trumped up glory

when my mind refused to listen, drowned out by broken pistons

the silence beating louder than my heart…

 

The darkened frozen night glows, and the turgid sky just bellows

of my time examining seams, on the boulevard of broken dreams

as words flow down as kindling for my hearth…

 

But those wounds of empty pages, who speak louder than the ages

as the clock runs down to zero, I’m not a battered, broken hero,

just a man who wont give up until he wins…