Author Topic: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)  (Read 6268 times)

BlodwynPig

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Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #61 on: July 04, 2018, 04:23:09 PM »
I've never personally met anyone from an ethnic minority who was half a mile long and had tentacles. I've seen it suggested that Lovecraft's fear of the ocean shapes a lot of his ideas - the Herzog documentary on deep sea exploration has a lot of Lovecraftian beasts in it.

Works of art can be complicated. That doesn't refute what I've said though, does it?

Twed

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Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #63 on: July 04, 2018, 09:59:37 PM »
On the Creation of n**gers

I fail to see how this work of his is relevant to his work.

Howj Begg

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Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #64 on: July 04, 2018, 10:14:38 PM »
Yeah, what Twed sed.

Hey I'm not suited for this thread because after reading Lovecraft in my teens I decided he wasn't a very good writer. I don't see much irony in Lovecraft, unlike in Poe for instance, who is as ready to satirise as to shock. Lovecraft's ideas are exciting, but he cannot write for shit imo, and destroys all tension, suspense and horror that he tries to inimate exists. Pickman's Model, which is one of his better ones:

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There was something very disturbing about the nauseous sketches and half-finished monstrosities that leered round from every side of the room, and when Pickman suddenly unveiled a huge canvas on the side away from the light I could not for my life keep back a loud scream—the second I had emitted that night. It echoed and echoed through the dim vaultings of that ancient and nitrous cellar, and I had to choke back a flood of reaction that threatened to burst out as hysterical laughter. Merciful Creator! Eliot, but I don't know how much was real and how much was feverish fancy. It doesn't seem to me that earth can hold a dream like that!

It was a colossal and nameless blasphemy with glaring red eyes, and it held in bony claws a thing that had been a man, gnawing at the head as a child nibbles at a stick of candy. Its position was a kind of crouch, and as one looked one felt that at any moment it might drop its present prey and seek a juicier morsel. But damn it all, it wasn't even the fiendish subject that made it such an immortal fountain-head of all panic—not that, nor the dog face with its pointed ears, bloodshot eyes, flat nose, and drooling lips. It wasn't the scaly claws nor the mould-caked body nor the half-hooved feet—none of these, though any one of them might well have driven an excitable man to madness.

It was the technique, Eliot—the cursed, the impious, the unnatural technique! As I am a living being, I never elsewhere saw the actual breath of life so fused into a canvas. The monster was there—it glared and gnawed and gnawed and glared—and I knew that only a suspension of Nature's laws could ever let a man paint a thing like that without a model—without some glimpse of the nether world which no mortal unsold to the Fiend has ever had.

I think the narrator isn't the only one tempted to break into hysterical laughter. 

Btw, what was that again?

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not that, nor the dog face with its pointed ears, bloodshot eyes, flat nose, and drooling lips.

Hmm. Maybe, just maybe. It may be noted that this is a "dog face" on a humanoid body, not a dog.

I think it's indisputable that that HPL's racism is exhibited in his characterisation of Cthulu's worshippers, who are mad, atavistic, heiratic  savages, a danger to (white) civillization, everything HPL was subconsciously warning his readers against. I think enough of this idea of Africans and exotic foriegners was common to his time, the difference being that they didn't write these persistingly influential works, so we do have to confront this. HPL wasn't unique in his beliefs and antedeluvian racism, but he gave voice to them in his own warped, strange way, and his work is ripe for re-appropriation by racists. Enough can - and has - been salvaged from his mythos to inform subsequent culture, but he's probably less worth reading than much of what came after. I'm not the best person to ask what though!

I can however recommend a better writer who was doing similar things with ideas of cosmic horror from the 1930s onwards, and was in fact influenced by Lovecraft, but also found him ridiculous: Borges. The Circular Ruins is better than all the words HPL ever wrote put together:

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The end of his meditations came suddenly, but it had been foretold by certain signs: first (after a long drought), a distant cloud, as light as a bird, upon a mountaintop; then, toward the South, the sky the pinkish color of a leopard's gums; then the clouds of smoke that rusted the iron of the nights; then, at last, the panicked flight of the animals—for that which had occurred hundreds of years ago was being repeated now. The ruins of the sanctuary of the god of Fire were destroyed by fire. In the birdless dawn, the sorcerer watched the concentric holocaust close in upon the walls. For a moment he thought of taking refuge in the water, but then he realized that death would be a crown upon his age and absolve him from his labors. He walked into the tatters of flame, but they did not bite his flesh—they caressed him, bathed him without heat and without combustion. With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he realized that he, too, was but appearance, that another man was dreaming him.

This ending is completely earned, because the story has not breached the emotional walls that HPL is constantly doing. If there's one racist writer of the fantastic you should bother with, it's Borges:

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In Sydney he made the acquaintance of a man named Ebenezer Bogle, a Negro servant. Bogle, though not handsome, had that reposeful and monumental air, that look of well-engineered solidity, often possessed by a black man of a certain age, a certain corporeal substance, a certain authority. Bogle had another quality, as well—though some textbooks in anthropology deny the attribute to his race: he was possessed of genius. (We shall see the proof of that soon enough.) He was a temperate, decent man, the ancient African appetites in him corrected by the customs and excesses of Calvinism. Aside from the visitations from his god (which we shall describe below), he was normal in every way; his only eccentricity was a deep-seated and shamefaced fear that made him hesitate at street corners and at crossings, survey east, west, north, and south, and try to outguess the violent vehicle that he was certain would end his days.
- The Improbable Impostor Tom Castro





BlodwynPig

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Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #65 on: July 04, 2018, 11:05:43 PM »
you've lifed the veil Howj and I'm blinded by the impotency of imagination.

I'll always enjoy reading him. But I agree that there are better writers, William Hope Hodgson for example, and Mearle Prout's "The House of the Worm" which featured in the Gaiman anthology "A Mountain Walked". Don't know if they were racist.

Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #66 on: July 05, 2018, 12:56:10 AM »
slightly unfair to compare other writers to Borges though as Borges is leagues ahead of everyone else

BlodwynPig

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Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #67 on: July 05, 2018, 12:57:56 AM »
slightly unfair to compare other writers to Borges though as Borges is leagues ahead of everyone else

isn't the latter part of the sentence what you are warning against in the first part of the sentence?

Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #68 on: July 05, 2018, 01:01:58 AM »
foiled again

BlodwynPig

  • Throwing two dogs at a goblin
Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #69 on: July 05, 2018, 01:02:56 AM »
foiled again

what I want to know, how many leagues? 20,000? R'lyeh deep?

Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #70 on: July 05, 2018, 01:12:10 AM »
it's a number with 1.8 million digits

Howj Begg

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Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #71 on: July 05, 2018, 02:39:02 PM »
slightly unfair to compare other writers to Borges though as Borges is leagues ahead of everyone else

tru. But I thought it was germane to compare a writer who uses some similar themes, but is much more worth anyone's time.

I don't want to stop anyone reading Lovecraft though, if that's their bag, and I certainly don't think they should stop specifically because of his racism. Just take into account that you're reading a dude who was very racist (even for his time) and whose work is undeniably informed by his racism, like Shakespeare is, in a very different context.

Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #72 on: July 06, 2018, 05:26:30 PM »
Abysmal grandiose thread title but well done on the OP which actually has some content in stark contrast to your usual pithy variations on 'Discuss.' As ever, your obsession with political and critical hot-takes evokes a man with no grasp of his own integrity.

Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #73 on: July 06, 2018, 05:48:08 PM »
That said, a riveting read.

Mark Steels Stockbroker

  • Lost in the former West
Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #74 on: July 06, 2018, 08:07:27 PM »
As ever, your obsession with political and critical hot-takes evokes a man with no grasp of his own integrity.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I can't make it out.

I thought a grandiose title was an appropriate way to evoke the spirit of Lovecraft.

Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #75 on: July 06, 2018, 10:22:57 PM »
Fair enough. RRR.

BlodwynPig

  • Throwing two dogs at a goblin
Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #76 on: July 06, 2018, 10:41:28 PM »

Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #77 on: July 07, 2018, 03:55:42 AM »
Here's an interview with the author of the Zero book, Graham Harman:
http://dar.aucegypt.edu/bitstream/handle/10526/3612/PliInterview.pdf?sequence=1
I've excerpted the most Lovecraft-relevant bit below, though the whole thing is worth a look. Note that even if you think the following is insufficiently rigorous, or that academic philosophers shouldn't be bothering themselves with silly pulp authors, or that there is something horribly mannered about his 'flirtation with insanity', it's not really accurate to lump this style of thinking in with postmodernist relativism and all that- his interest in Lovecraft comes from wanting to assert absolutely that there is a reality entirely independent of human minds and human culture.  (I even think there's quite a crossover between some of Harman's opinions in the interview as a whole and some of arch-antipostmodernist Chomsky's opinions on the unknowablity of some aspects of reality in recent papers like "The mysteries of the universe: How well hidden?, and that Galen Strawson's writings on panpsychism , though much more vigorous, have something in common with Harman's attititude- not challenging the naturalist worldview as much as thinking through it's weirder implications )
___________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________
Graham Harman:

"Lovecraft's general theme is the utter insignificance of humanity, dwarfed by a nearly unfathomable cosmic history. We are surrounded invisibly by loathsome creatures- dragons with octopus-heads, fungi in the shape of crabs, frozen. Antarctic plant/jellyfish creatures that thaw out and kill everyone in sight. These creatures have existed and will continue to exist millions of years longer than humans, and are vastly superior in intelligence. We are like insects to them. They crush us whenever we stand in their way, or if they simply happen to feel like killing us. Once in awhile they brainwash humans into spies, or impregnate some woman with a repugnant half-breed child. Humans lose their central role, just as ought to be happening in philosophy. As Brassier once put it, "we are bit players." Humans are a tiny, frail species among millions of others and our planet is one blue speck among billions of other possibly life-bearing specks. In Lovecraft's world, the human cogito is not very high on the pecking order. If you're faced with fungoid lobsters who want to remove the brain from your skull and take you to Pluto in a metal cannister, Holderlin's hymns to the Greeks start to seem a bit parochial.
What I also love is Lovecraft's destruction of common sense, the bane of all philosophy. The most pointless Vermont town houses strange minerals that draw the creatures of Yuggoth to our planet, where they harass a fanner and an academic who try to study them. A decadent seaport town is home to demi-frog priests wearing sickly tiaras... The irony of Kant's Copernican Revolution is that for all the supposed mystery of the things in themselves, the world of phenomena was stripped of nearly all mystery, governed by a small number of perfectly deduced and itemised categories. Lovecraft puts the human and the non-human back on the same plane, in the most violent fashion. His monsters are not even supernatural, but perfectly material. After Kant we at least thought we knew the experienced world, but Lovecraft shows that we didn't! The most deviant monsters in Lovecraft's pantheon are still made of electrons, as Michel Houllebecq has observed. This not only destroys supernatural gullibility, it also takes our safe, respectable science and turns it into a window onto possible horror. Lutheran church services exist in the same universe as the unspeakable thing that bubbles and blasphemes mindlessly at the center of all creation.
So, Lovecraft ends human-centered pathos and makes us just one object among many. He also suggests that horror, not wonder, is the true Grundstinnnung of philosophy. To stand at a distance and wonder about things can be a fairly safe exercise, and always earns pious praise from observers. But this is not what Lovecraft's narrators do. Instead, they observe the gradual decomposition of common sense, and in so doing lose their sanity altogether. In a sense, philosophy ought to be an all-out flirtation with insanity. It is already quite abnormal to think of the world, in pre-Socratic fashion, as made of water, or atoms, or a duel of love and hate. The further you travel in philosophy, the fewer allies you will have, and the more your visions will start to seem like private paranoid episodes. Unless your philosophy unlocks some new squid-like or fungoid monster, then you do not yet sufficiently realise that the world is a very weird place. "


Howj Begg

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Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #78 on: July 08, 2018, 07:12:47 PM »
That's pretty much the only thing I've read in this thread which makes me want to read Lovecraft! Again thoguh, as I said, HPL's ideas, great.

timebug

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Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #79 on: July 09, 2018, 06:54:40 PM »
I first read HPL over fifty years ago when a workmate
lent me a book of his short stories. I knew nothing at
all about the man, his faults and his (presumed) 'bad
writing style'. All I knew was , the stories were quite
mindblowing (for me) having only previously read the
classics (Mary Shelley,Bram Stoker et al) and a few of
those 'Pan Book of Horror Stories' that proliferated
around that period.
In those pre-internet days it was no simple task to
try and discover 'what else has he written?' in order
to get hold of it. Of course, his output was not really
prolific, compared to many writers that followed him;
I soon tracked down and read everything available.
Racist? Well yes,by our modern standards, but like
Rider Haggard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, even Conan
Doyle, I think he was simply a product of his time, his
background and his (then) education. Rightly or wrongly,
I will always have a soft spot for the man, remembering
the feeling of wonder that his tales engendered in me as
a teenager.
Lovecraft for fantsy/weird tales/sci-fi/horror, and good
old MR James for Ghost stories! Simpler times, but the
love of a good story always brings the readers back for
more. Just my two pennorth, you understand, I try not
to analyse what I enjoy too much, as it often taints the
original pleasure that one derived from the reading.

New Jack

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Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #80 on: July 09, 2018, 07:11:47 PM »
Your haikus need work!

timebug

  • Serges Dad
Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #81 on: July 10, 2018, 02:07:34 PM »
Tell me about it! That's what happens when I write on a small tablet, it only allows so much space per line! On my PC I can use the full width available. Like this. Much more comfortable, but not always available!

BlodwynPig

  • Throwing two dogs at a goblin
Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #82 on: July 10, 2018, 05:06:32 PM »
Tell me about it! That's what happens when I write on a small tablet, it only allows so much space per line! On my PC I can use the full width available. Like this. Much more comfortable, but not always available!

One of HPL’s more futuristic endings

Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #83 on: July 10, 2018, 09:27:45 PM »
hbomberguy has posted another interesting video (trigger warning: he's one of them ESS JAY DUBYAS)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8u8wZ0WvxI

Pingers

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Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #84 on: July 26, 2018, 11:16:43 PM »
Are we talking about his work on here, or just the man? Because I re-read a couple of classic stories recently and it highlighted for me how inconsistent he can be. At the Mountains of Madness is a great story and I can see why Guillermo del Toro is interested, it would potentially make a fantastic film. It's not well-written though; lots of repetition, the same adjectives appear again and again, the language is a bit over-blown and it just feels over-long and lacking in tension. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward on the other hand is a cracking tale, neatly constructed, with a skillfully worked sense of ancient evil reaching into modern times, with a classic Lovecraftian chill from half-revealed horrors found in remote places. In the same volume is The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and Through the Gates of the Silver Key which stand quite apart from the more typical (for want of a better word) stories and can feel a bit like lists of places and names sometimes. The man could definitely write, but quite hit and miss at times.

Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #85 on: July 26, 2018, 11:28:03 PM »
Lovecraft coined the word 'meep', which I find hilarious.

purlieu

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Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #86 on: July 28, 2018, 11:17:31 PM »
hated Jews too and liked Hitler.
It's probably worth mentioning he married a Jewish woman.

I believe his views mellowed with age, especially the more he travelled. He lived an almost hermetic lifestyle for a lot of his young adult life, in a rural area, and his general difficulty being around people and adapting to change suggests that he probably had some neurological differences (he may well have been on the autistic spectrum). In the era he lived, this kind of background and lifestyle was, sadly, a breeding ground for racism - and other forms of elitism - and he definitely held some abhorrent views, particularly in his early adult years.

It's not much of a leap to see some hints of that racism in some of the descriptions in his work, although there's nothing to suggest that any of these were driven by racism, merely his own personal reference points. It definitely makes reading some of his stories that bit less enjoyable, which is a shame, but overall I do still love most of his writing. Dagon remains one of the most chillingly visual pieces of horror I've ever read.

BlodwynPig

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Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #87 on: July 28, 2018, 11:23:09 PM »
Glad he added the n

Default to the negative

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Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #88 on: August 11, 2018, 02:08:47 PM »
Never had much time for him. I did try but I found his work more comical than creepy.  In The Shadow over Innsmouth the narrator is aghast when he sees that the fish-frog men are ‘hopping’ around. Hopping! This detail is stressed a few times because nothing inspires cosmic horror like the sight of something hopping. Truly the most terrifying form of ambulation.

BlodwynPig

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Re: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)
« Reply #89 on: August 11, 2018, 02:18:56 PM »
I think the stuttering impish or flubbery hop is one of the most horrific ambulants