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!
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!
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”
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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”.
Sorry for the radio silence the past few months, but I’ve been head-down, grinding away at my Chapter Book Series “Elsie Jones Adventures”. To break up the monotony and stave off burn out, I’ve decided to take on a new project. Once a week (or so) I’m going to read through a H.P. Lovecraft story and give some insight and critical analysis. This is purely meant to be a fun project and I’d love for feedback or discussion surrounding it.
I’ve read very little Lovecraft, but I love the idea behind his stories and have even incorporated some into my own fiction. So, each story I will read and discuss will be brand new to me, which is why I’d love some discussion surrounding my thoughts. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! Anyway, here it goes…
The Other Gods
This story seems to be told by an observer who goes to a village named Ulthar. This observer is obviously interested in the religions of this village, which is said to be based upon Earth’s Gods (which probably pertain to the Elder Gods, which were the benevolent Gods who have since left earth to return to the cosmos). Earth’s Gods had lived high upon a mountain peak called Hatheg-Kla, but as humans expanded thier knowledge of the world, Earth’s Gods recede to Kadath (which I believe is the Dreamworlds, but I’m sure we’ll get more information through future reading). This gives way to the Other Gods (Probably intending to mean the Ancient ones, or the malevolent gods) to take position on the peak of Hatheg-Kla.
The story holds two of the supposed staples of Lovecraftian stories. The lust for knowledge to understand the world and the fact that the cosmos are much larger and stranger than any human mind can possibly understand.
We follow the story of Barzai the Wise (Lovecraft’s choice of nomenclature calls back, purposefully, to ancient times. Babylonian and Arabian where all religions started. Whereas he himself was atheist, he somehow tapped into the idea that there was a reason that these locations were where religion started, but it seems that his idea was that the genesis of religion was based in Cosmic Deities, instead of the more terrestrial tied that we as a species associate with), and his apprentice Atal, as they climb to the peak of Hatheg-Kla. The climb becomes impossibly difficult, but the desire for knowledge is too strong in Barzai, and he reaches the strange peak to gaze upon the Earth Gods, only to be fooled and absconded by the Other Gods. To be tormented and become mad in the Presence of the Ancient Ones. Atal, could not make the journey, so he makes it back to Ulthar to tell the story, which is then related to the narrator, through the filter of the villagers.
It’s a great beginning to the mythos of Lovecraft I think, because it introduces all the themes we’d expect, and gives a glimpse into the burgeoning cannon that would become the Cthulhu Mythos.
There’s a ton in just a few pages, and it even introduces one of Lovecraft’s famous documents that many people for years (some still do) thought were real; the Pnakotic Mnuscripts. “…which were too ancient to be read.”