Author Topic: Lovecraft and Presence  (Read 1908 times)

Hey, Punk!

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Lovecraft and Presence
« on: November 14, 2018, 09:02:02 PM »
After reading Mark Fisher's The Weird and The Eerie, I think I've had a reintepretation of Mr Lovecraft. His emphasis on the 'cosmic' never really hits you as he claims he attempts to, rather than a fear of insignificance in a lonely cosmos, there is a fear of overwhelming presences. The Old Gods are almost always vast beings who are gelatinous, moist and byzantine in appearance. Lovecraft was ultimately a classicist and a self-styled Augustan, the idea that he was one of the last Victorians is erroneous, as he loathed Victorian Gothic architecture for its visual complexity. The way he utilises surrealism, and seems to draw from cubism and futurism in his descriptions is to disgust. These messy and modern forms of art are to be contrasted with the cleanliness of Providence Architecture and the prose and poetry of the Augustans.


In most of his stories, his protagonists are rational well-bred gentlemen who have their sanity shattered by unnutterable presences, rather than the spectres of gothic stories, these beings are too much, there is too much to describe. When one thinks of Lovecraft, one never really thinks of space, but of the backwaters and immigrant and working class infested cities. New York is described in He as a 'sprawling body imperfectly embalmed and infested with queer animate things which have nothing to do with it as it was in life.' In many ways, this New York is a deceased Old God with the modern citizens of it cast as insects using its corpse as they will.

« Last Edit: November 14, 2018, 09:14:16 PM by Hey, Punk! »

Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2018, 09:47:46 PM »
I think '20's and 30's weird fiction' is a less snappy but more accurate term for him and all of those bundled under the 'cosmic horror' banner. I don't know enough history about him, did he actually coin the term?

Hey, Punk!

  • Dead styles in the imaginary museum.
Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2018, 10:08:36 PM »
I think '20's and 30's weird fiction' is a less snappy but more accurate term for him and all of those bundled under the 'cosmic horror' banner. I don't know enough history about him, did he actually coin the term?

I don't think he coined the term, but he developed the ideas behind it. I just don't think he understood the effect of his fiction, which is a rather arrogant claim, but after years of rereading his stories, I would never have thought of cosmic horror without the critical thought surrounding it.

Pingers

  • With the ill behaviour
Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2018, 12:33:33 AM »
I'm probably being dense but I don't think I have grasped the essence of what you are saying here. Throw me a bone to gnaw on will you?

Hey, Punk!

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Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2018, 12:49:09 AM »
I'm probably being dense but I don't think I have grasped the essence of what you are saying here. Throw me a bone to gnaw on will you?

I suppose that the clearest I could put it is that the world is too much with him, there is a general fear of objects (other beings included), a fear of the world. I think there is a clear connection between his radically right-wing elitist viewpoint and a love for aesthetic simplicity, although in a way Lovecraft performed an aesthetic that revolted him. The other is always difficult to understand, dealt with in detail yet a clear image is never produced. People joked about Lovecraft's habit of calling something undescribable and then proceeding to describe it in detail, yet his descriptions do not produce any kind of picture. Much like certain kinds of abstract art, it is heavily complex yet seems incomprehensible.

I'm trying to get out of the habit of being too scared to share my opinions on books, if anyone disagrees with me, feel free to call me an idiot.


Mister Six

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Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2018, 03:20:38 AM »
Please share your opinions - if they're anything like this one, they're fascinating and compelling.

Pingers

  • With the ill behaviour
Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2018, 09:25:08 AM »
I suppose that the clearest I could put it is that the world is too much with him, there is a general fear of objects (other beings included), a fear of the world. I think there is a clear connection between his radically right-wing elitist viewpoint and a love for aesthetic simplicity, although in a way Lovecraft performed an aesthetic that revolted him. The other is always difficult to understand, dealt with in detail yet a clear image is never produced. People joked about Lovecraft's habit of calling something undescribable and then proceeding to describe it in detail, yet his descriptions do not produce any kind of picture. Much like certain kinds of abstract art, it is heavily complex yet seems incomprehensible.

I'm trying to get out of the habit of being too scared to share my opinions on books, if anyone disagrees with me, feel free to call me an idiot.

Certainly he comes across as anti-modern in his writing. The antiquarian and Antiquarian are generally described more sympathetically than the modern, for example the description of old Providence in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and the frequent choice of scholars, both professional and amateur, as protagonists. He also appears quite anti-urban, e.g. The Horror at Red Hook, although The Dunwich Horror isn't exactly pro-rural either.

I think this outlook is sometimes at odds with the cosmic horror aspect. My reading of the basis of the cosmic horror in his writing is that there is a natural order that is assumed to be overall good and right, but as his characters discover, this is just a veneer and lurking just below the surface is chaos and alienness which are to be feared and resisted. So he definitely isn't nihilist, otherwise he would come across as ambivalent about the potential for humanity to be wiped from existence at any moment, but I think he is picky about what he would want to see preserved. On the other hand, he seems to be saying that for all humanity's invention and innovation, we're nothing compared to the ancient beings who lurk beyond the threshold, so that is consistent with his anti-modernism.

There's also something contradictory about his use of setting. Generally speaking, the weird and alien entities that feature in his work are likely to exist away from urban centres (see At The Mountains of Madness, The Whisperer in Darkness, The Dunwich Horror, etc.) So by that measure, the bigger towns and cities become, the more the beings of the Mythos are pushed aside. I'm not sure this is intentional though, I think he was just captivated by the idea of there having been something before humans came along, and us living alongside them unwittingly.

Do keep posting - this bit of the forum is a bit quiet, which is a shame, and it's always good to have new things to think about when re-reading Lovecraft.

Small Man Big Horse

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Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2018, 05:00:12 PM »
I'd never read any Lovecraft and I've no idea why, he seems like my cup of tea, but after reading Alan Moore's Providence I decided to finally rectify this. Being cheap I've only been looking in charity shops (which I visit a fair amount) and haven't found a single copy of any of his work, and my local library hasn't got any in stock either. Which is weird, I thought he was still pretty popular, and so my search continues.

BlodwynPig

  • R.I.P. The Waxwork René
Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2018, 05:56:32 PM »
I'd never read any Lovecraft and I've no idea why, he seems like my cup of tea, but after reading Alan Moore's Providence I decided to finally rectify this. Being cheap I've only been looking in charity shops (which I visit a fair amount) and haven't found a single copy of any of his work, and my local library hasn't got any in stock either. Which is weird, I thought he was still pretty popular, and so my search continues.

I can send you my various books at Christmas.

daf

  • Is this for posh knob 'eads?
Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2018, 06:03:51 PM »
Necronomicon & Eldritch Tales collect 99% of his stuff with no duplication.

Necronomicon is a sort of the 'greatest hits', so that's be the one to get out of the two of they, for a toe dipping.

Pingers

  • With the ill behaviour
Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2018, 06:49:22 PM »
His stuff is out of copyright so it's all freely available here although reading it on your phone or tablet doesn't really feel right, in terms of atmosphere.

Small Man Big Horse

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Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2018, 08:17:53 PM »
Necronomicon & Eldritch Tales collect 99% of his stuff with no duplication.

Necronomicon is a sort of the 'greatest hits', so that's be the one to get out of the two of they, for a toe dipping.

Thanks for that, I shall make heavy hints to my other half that I'd Necronomicon for xmas.

His stuff is out of copyright so it's all freely available here although reading it on your phone or tablet doesn't really feel right, in terms of atmosphere.

Unfortunately I don't have a tablet and can't get on with reading books on my phone, but thanks for the info anyway.

Pingers

  • With the ill behaviour
Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2018, 08:46:48 PM »
Thanks for that, I shall make heavy hints to my other half that I'd Necronomicon for xmas.

[SMBH's other half misunderstands and gets him The Necronomicon. He is found months later in a previously unknown-of attic room that he has covered with strange writings in his own blood. He then disappears on journey across aeons and discovers what the pyramids were really built for]

daf

  • Is this for posh knob 'eads?
Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2018, 09:27:28 PM »
Just remembered - my "99% of all his stuff" meant to include this : Horror in the Museum.
It contains collaborations / revisions / ghost-written stories - that are an interesting addition and well worth a look.

Some duplication with 'Eldritch Tales', but 17 of the 24 stories - (marked in black) - are only in this collection :
Quote
"The Green Meadow" with Elizabeth Berkely
"The Crawling Chaos" with Elizabeth Berkely
"The Last Test" by Adolphe de Castro
"The Electric Executioner" by Adolphe de Castro

"The Curse of Yig" by Zealia Bishop
"The Mound" by Zealia Bishop
"Medusa's Coil" by Zealia Bishop
"The Man of Stone" by Hazel Heald
"The Horror in the Museum" by Hazel Heald
"Winged Death" by Hazel Heald
"Out of the Aeons" by Hazel Heald
"The Horror in the Burying-Ground" by Hazel Heald
"The Diary of Alonzo Typer" by William Lumley
"The Horror at Martin’s Beach" by Sonia H. Greene
"Ashes" by C. M. Eddy, Jr.
"The Ghost-Eater" by C. M. Eddy, Jr.
"The Loved Dead" by C. M. Eddy, Jr.
"Deaf, Dumb, and Blind" by C. M. Eddy, Jr.
"Two Black Bottles" by Wilfred Blanch Talman
"The Trap" by Henry S. Whitehead

"The Tree on the Hill" by Duane W. Rimel
"The Disinterment" by Duane W. Rimel
"'Till A’ the Seas" by R. H. Barlow
"The Night Ocean" by R. H. Barlow

There's a few books with this same title - but I know this one from Arkham Press contains those stories.

With those three you now have 99% of his stuff - now for the elusive 1% . .

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
In the Walls of Eryx (1936) -
This one is found in Dagon and Other Macabre Tales - though the rest of the stories are duplicated in the other books I mentioned (it is a nice collection though)

the rest are pretty much fragments or Juvenilia - I've no idea which collections (if any) these might appear in - but you can sample them here :
The Little Glass Bottle (1997)
The Secret Cave (1898)
The Mystery of the Grave-Yard (1898)
The Mysterious Ship (1902)
Old Bugs (1919)
The Battle that Ended the Century (1934)
Collapsing Cosmoses (1935)
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I THINK that's the lot!
« Last Edit: November 15, 2018, 10:16:57 PM by daf »

BlodwynPig

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Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2018, 12:25:32 AM »
Thanks for that, I shall make heavy hints to my other half that I'd Necronomicon for xmas.



I'll send you the copy for free... what is wrong with you people!


BlodwynPig

  • R.I.P. The Waxwork René
Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #15 on: November 16, 2018, 12:27:25 AM »
Just remembered - my "99% of all his stuff" meant to include this : Horror in the Museum.
It contains collaborations / revisions / ghost-written stories - that are an interesting addition and well worth a look.

Some duplication with 'Eldritch Tales', but 17 of the 24 stories - (marked in black) - are only in this collection :
There's a few books with this same title - but I know this one from Arkham Press contains those stories.

With those three you now have 99% of his stuff - now for the elusive 1% . .

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
In the Walls of Eryx (1936) -
This one is found in Dagon and Other Macabre Tales - though the rest of the stories are duplicated in the other books I mentioned (it is a nice collection though)

the rest are pretty much fragments or Juvenilia - I've no idea which collections (if any) these might appear in - but you can sample them here :
The Little Glass Bottle (1997)
The Secret Cave (1898)
The Mystery of the Grave-Yard (1898)
The Mysterious Ship (1902)
Old Bugs (1919)
The Battle that Ended the Century (1934)
Collapsing Cosmoses (1935)
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I THINK that's the lot!

Some of those stories are phenomenal - I think the Barlow ones are my favourite.

Small Man Big Horse

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Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #16 on: November 16, 2018, 01:14:08 AM »
I'll send you the copy for free... what is wrong with you people!

Really? If so I'll pm you my address asap and cover you with kisses if we ever meet. Though to be honest I was planning that anyway.

And thanks for the info daf, I'll see how I get on with him first but if I like his stuff then I'll definitely get that too.

Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #17 on: November 16, 2018, 01:33:01 AM »
I like HP of bloody course, but I always thought it was a shame that his fellow Weird Tales alum, Clark Ashton Smith, has kind of been written out of history, when his obsidian Zothique tales of necromancers and Lilithian abhumans and the like at the end of earth's lifespan are so brilliant (and a giant infkuence on Jack Vance, who pretty much lifted them wholesale for his Tales from the Dying Earth).  He was friends with Lovecraft, but as a former poet he really made the lush pulpy purple prose an artform the way HP never could.  Plus, damn were his stories fucking airless, cynical things.

Hey, Punk!

  • Dead styles in the imaginary museum.
Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #18 on: November 18, 2018, 06:26:29 AM »
I suppose I should add that I find the act of reading Lovecraft less and less pleasurable* as the years go by. After reading writers like Kafka and Beckett, Lovecraft seems extremely silly, this is more an attempt to clarify a kernel of interest. I'm sometimes struck by remarkable passages, but his faults do become more glaring to me.

*I use this term broadly.

NoSleep

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Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #19 on: November 18, 2018, 06:46:19 AM »
He's a clunky writer for sure; it's his imagination that keeps you going through the clunkiness.

Pingers

  • With the ill behaviour
Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #20 on: November 18, 2018, 09:49:15 PM »
I suppose I should add that I find the act of reading Lovecraft less and less pleasurable* as the years go by. After reading writers like Kafka and Beckett, Lovecraft seems extremely silly, this is more an attempt to clarify a kernel of interest. I'm sometimes struck by remarkable passages, but his faults do become more glaring to me.

*I use this term broadly.

Lovecraft is one of those writers whose ideas are much better than the execution, but I think in his case the ideas are so good that he has become influential and recognised far beyond his literary ability. It's his mythos as a whole that people buy into and find attractive - the pantheon of Great Old Ones, and the idea that there are far older entities than humans who have walked (or slithered) the earth, trapped flimsily and liable to return as soon as those cultists in the woods have sacrificed that human and chanted certain dire words.

Certainly, the repetitious over-use of particular adjectives grates. At The Mountains of Madness is terrible for this, it's not well-written at all, and yet the story itself is good and it's easy to see why Del Toro would want to film it; it would be a much better film than it is a short story. There are better efforts though; The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and A Whisperer in Darkness are two of my favourites and are better written. Again, that sense of horror just below the surface, adjacent to ordinary life, is very appealing. But really Lovecraft was the catalyst for a whole seam of culture that is built on his work, often of superior quality. I still play the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu (NERD ALERT!), which I find a much more satisfying experience than reading the stories, and many of the other writers referenced by others, such as Clark Ashton Smith have built on his ideas very successfullly.

BlodwynPig

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Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #21 on: November 18, 2018, 11:21:39 PM »
I remember playing Call of Cthulhu RPG when I was a teenager. Has that got Hastur in it?

Pingers

  • With the ill behaviour
Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #22 on: November 19, 2018, 05:59:49 PM »
It's got whatever you want in it. It's really just a form of group storytelling which is why I like it.

Mister Six

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Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #23 on: November 19, 2018, 10:13:20 PM »
Can you "be" Brown Jenkin?

BlodwynPig

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Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #24 on: November 19, 2018, 11:49:48 PM »
It's got whatever you want in it. It's really just a form of group storytelling which is why I like it.

I just have vague memories of the king in yellow and some mad images - a piano and tentacles. Anyway, another moment lost in time...

BlodwynPig

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Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #25 on: November 19, 2018, 11:50:25 PM »
Can you "be" Brown Jenkin?

You called?



"for the last time, I'm not Michael Sodding Portillo"

Small Man Big Horse

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Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #26 on: November 20, 2018, 12:01:51 AM »
A friend who loves Lovecraft is sending me an omnibus of his best work so I shall be checking him out soon. I'm very excited, and shall blame you lot if he disappoints.

Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #27 on: November 28, 2018, 06:58:12 AM »
Bloodborne is the best way to experience what Lovecraft was getting at. Much more affecting than the books, really got under my skin.

Howj Begg

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Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #28 on: November 30, 2018, 02:52:22 AM »
I meant to reply to this a week ago. I think this is a good theory. For me it ties into ~ the emotion of disgust ~ which i studied in uni last year

Disgust has been shown to be connected to racist ideations, and physical sensations connected with feeling sick at the thought of other races, and rats or insects, which the two things are often implicitly linked in the mind of the participant.Other sources of disgust as well: Black people thought of in connection with shit, for example, by old-money whites like Lovecraft.
Disgust is also associated with strong sensations of "presence" as you say, of visualising an offensive object, which also causes intimations of hysterical fear.

Small Man Big Horse

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Re: Lovecraft and Presence
« Reply #29 on: November 30, 2018, 03:20:26 AM »
I can send you my various books at Christmas.

I somehow missed this message amongst the others, but thank you for the very kind offer, but as mentioned elsewhere a friend was kind enough to send me two omnibuses of his work which I started reading tonight, I'm 30 pages in to At The Mountains Of Madness and whilst I can see what some have said about the writing being slightly clunky I'm enjoying it an enormous amount so far.