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yock's Lovecraftathon: The Moon-Bog

Getting off to a rather mixed start with this one. On the one hand I like the Irish setting. I can't remember reading another Lovecraft story set in Ireland. But I don't like the feudalism overlord-ness of it re grateful peasants happy to see their quasi ruler back. I can't help myself but I already want something bad to happen to that character! That says as much about me as anything else, I'm sure. Sorry. It's also problematic in the context of Ireland breaking away from Britain around this time, the idea of bringing in labourers from the north etc. I'd be interested to know what a southern Irish person who read it in 1926 might have thought, especially if they knew it was written in 1921.   The next bit about the narrator going to visit Denys is clumsily written and repetitive, and needed an edit down. I don't know if Lovecraft was trying to write to reach a number of words here, for publication. But this seems to me very much a case where less would be more appropriate.   I do like the description of the legends of the bog though. That's quite evocative. I'm not so taken with the dream descriptions, which feel a bit too familiar, having read many Lovecraft stories now. But I do like the Greek elements in there. There are a number of Lovecraft stories which are Greek Myth inspired in some elements, rather than, say,  Arabic or New England or English, and this definitely fits into that category.   There is something rather satisfying about Lovecraft's use of groups of mysterious barely seen figures, whether in procession as in "The Festival" or dancing, as here. And even more so if these figures are not acting of their own volition, but possessed. It's a very satisfying image, that always works for me. I'm using something similar in a text game I'm writing at the moment, inspired by one of Lovecraft's Commonplace Book entries.   I don't think I have ever seen any writer before use the word "fulgently", though I am, of course, familiar with the word "effulgent" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as Lovecraft's fondness for it. Oh and my goodness, he also uses "refulgence" in this story. Another first for me, and not necessarily in a good way!   I'm also struck, as I read, that the piping in this is reminiscent of the strange music that Lovecraft uses in other stories like "The Festival". Reuse can be successful, including for me sequences of strange figures as discussed above. But sometimes it's not so good, and just makes me think he's recycling ideas and elements a little bit too much.   I'm also puzzled why the curse struck, and in such a deadly fashion, before the work to drain the bog began properly? Yes the labourers were already in place, but they were idle, waiting for the work to start the next day. I suppose the dreams and images before were warnings, to stop the bog being drained. But if so they weren't very effective, since they don't seem to have affected Denys at all, or if they did he certainly didn't believe in them.   I do rather like the ending. But generally it's not a great story for me, with some problematic elements, and needed editing and more rework.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: The Temple

Oh this one has an intriguing start, with a German WW1 U-boat commander, and location somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. I sort of want to get out a map, or fire up Google Earth, to see exactly where it is.   There's something very appropriate about a submarine as a setting for a Lovecraftian story. The potential for terror in a confined space is increased greatly, and the ways in which people could die numerous and nasty. Though I am rather amused, in a black comedy kind of a way, that going mad, so typically Lovecraftian, is the main issue here. Also as more and more of the crew are killed I can't help but think of a Call of Cthulhu RPG sanity score tumbling, one by one. I sort of wish I knew how many crew a typical U-boat had, so that I could keep score.     Mmm. Delightful isn't he, not, in so many ways. If they weren't in a dire state before they certainly are now! Though to be fair the boat isn't responding to controls, so they're stuffed anyway.   And yes, dolphins as menacing creatures is certainly a novel approach for any story to take.   I find the section underwater overly long though. And I'm struggling to visualise some of the things described, both the black rock thing and the shape of the temple. But it is a nice image, of a submarine drifting at the bottom of the ocean, moving inexorably towards a mysterious lost city.    Thank goodness for my Kindle's built-in dictionary for another archaic word used by Lovecraft: "fane", meaning temple or shrine.   Would a WW1 U-boat really have had a diving suit that could be used safely at that depth though? I know the German sailor wasn't worried about safety so much by this point, but I honestly expected him to leave the submarine and die instantly. Fatal realist me.   But I did like the ending. I was wondering how the message would get out of the submarine, and a message in a bottle - again assuming that the water pressure doesn't crush it - is one solution.   Oh and my edition has a particularly gruesome illustration, which, sorry, I couldn't resist including as an attachment.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: The Festival

I thought I might have read this before, but no, it's new for me.   I really like the imagery of Kingsport in the snow. There's a descriptive passage in there that is one of the most evocative pieces of writing I've ever read by Lovecraft. I'm almost sad to leave that part, and go into the building. I wish I could wander around the town as described and explore it more.   The household with the strange inhabitants is well described too, and there's a nicely growing sense of menace and unease there. Though for me this part goes on too long. I'm clearly still missing the town outside!   The same issue is a problem with the underground sections. I like the walk to the church, and descriptions of the throng of people who leave no footprints. But once things are underground it's less successful for me. And I find the description of the creatures particularly disappointing, though I like the part where the narrator dives into the river.   But I do like the time shift at the end, to a more modern Kingsport, and the idea that it may all have been a vision in the narrator's mind. Obviously I'll side with the no it all happened viewpoint. But it's a nice ending. I'd just like to see some of the earlier sections tightened up a bit, to my taste anyway.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: The Horror at Martin's Beach

Ah, a collaboration with his wife. I wonder how much of it was by HPL and how much by Sonia.   There are passages that are typical Lovecraft, some of the horrors described. But the way the story gets on with things, and is full of plot, is very atypical for him, so I'm guessing those aspects were mainly done by Sonia. The writing is rather clumsy here, and needed a polish. It's also very unusual for a Lovecraft story to start at the end of the story with a survivor, and then look back. It's far more normal to move inexorably forward.   The images are really disturbing in this story. Again not typical Lovecraft, because he would usually leave things undescribed rather than described. The exact nature of the horror at the end isn't fully explained. Was it an adult monster, or what? And how were the people effectively glued to the rope? But it's really effective. In a horrible kind of a way.   Checking Wikipedia I see the article there also mentions the 1961 B-movie Gorgo as similar in some respects. I've been meaning to watch that for ages. But knowing some things about it already I don't think it would be nearly as horrific as this short story!   And in a cheerier vein I really like this related sketch by Jason Thompson.
 

yock's Lovecraftathon: What The Moon Brings

Pushing ahead quickly onto this very short piece.   It's all about atmosphere, and I'm not sure the writing fully works. There are clunky sections for me, and bits which seem to have strange phrasing. For example Lovecraft writes "strange oceans that are not in the world", whereas, rightly or wrongly, I'd rather expect his take on that to end "of this world". I know the meanings are different, but it was a slightly jarring moment for me on first reading.   I do like the idea of the terror of a moonlit landscape though, especially one that is transformed, not just in subtle ways, but also stretches without daytime limits. It reminds me of my terror as a child in the 1980s watching the BBC TV adaptation of the novel Moondial. A very scary experience, and this story captures a similar feeling.   I don't know if it's intentional, but the description of spires revealed among the sea water sounds like the story of English Dunwich. I'm presuming Lovecraft knew of Suffolk's Dunwich, and that was the source for his place name. But I'm also now wondering if its legends could have inspired the "dead, dripping city" here too.   The ending is a bit poor for me, but generally I rather enjoyed the story. Even with very arcane language throughout, even more so than Lovecraft often uses, it was successful in building an evocative atmosphere, and satisfyingly disturbing. And all done in a small amount of words. Good stuff.
 

yock's Lovecraftathon: Hypnos

I'm finding the opening paragraph hard to read. It's quintessentially densely-written Lovecraft, but I do rather prefer a more straightforward form of writing, which he does use some time. I thought things were improving in the railway station, but it's still floridly written.   Much of the early section is strangely reminiscent of his story "The Tree", not just with the idea of a sculptor, but also much of the imagery and descriptive allusions. I see that the two stories were written two years apart. Also another story set in England, in Kent and London. The characters don't feel very English though.   I'm afraid that from "Of our studies it is impossible to speak ..." I started skipping big chunks. Yes I know that Lovecraft was a huge fan of the indescribable, but there's only so much writing about it I can take. I want plot! At the very least more characterisation would be nice. And while I know he's expounding a world view in this section, I just don't find it compelling or interesting, hence skipping hefty portions.   I rather like the idea of drug-induced voyages of the mind though. But I'm finding the narrator's motivations a constant struggle. This friend sounds dangerous, someone who he stumbled across at the railway station, and took up with for no particularly rational reason. Just why?! Also he doesn't know his name?   And then there's more indescribable stuff, and specifically "perceptions of the the most maddeningly untransmissable sort". Aarrggh! Yes maddening.   I do like the narrator waking in the tower room though, and then fainting from the horror of his friend's screams. That's plot, action! I am also bemused by the spelling "phrensy" that I've never seen before.   And there's more plot from this point onwards, which I approve of. I like the rapid ageing, and also the terror in the sky in the vicinity of Corona Borealis.   I'm unsure what happens at the end. Was there really a friend or was it all a hallucination? Or an aspect of Hypnos before the statue appears? But I did rather like that bit. It's just a shame the story took so long to get going.
 

yock's Lovecraftathon: Celephais

It's been too long since one of these reviews. Apologies folks! Hoping to get back into the swing of things with a more regular schedule. And first up is this one, again from the Eldritch Tales collection.   I really like Lovecraft's Dreamlands stories, though I know they're not to everyone's tastes. For me they are a wonderful mix of the exotic east, very evocative descriptions of places and peoples, and hints of magic.   It's interesting to me that this story's narrator lives in London, I presume the English one, and not e.g. in Ontario or elsewhere. The description of the narrator's writings being mocked and retreating into dreams does sound almost autobiographical, and at the very least something that Lovecraft himself could probably relate to. I almost wondered if it was late in Lovecraft's career, but no, I see it was written in 1920.   I really like the imagery of the dreamer walking through childhood memories, retracing steps from his old home, through the surrounding landscape, until he drops, rather dramatically, into the dreamworld proper.   Things drift a bit much for me when the narrator goes on the galley. Maybe it's because I enjoy reading about Celephais so much, and don't want to leave it. I'm rather like a dreamer myself at that point, unhappy about being pulled in a direction other than the one I want to go! Though I do like his repeated attempts to get back to the city, and the descriptions of the other landscapes he dreams about instead. Lovecraft can be very, very good at building up a sense of place, with a deft and compact turn of phrase.   The ending is strange though. I guess there could be various readings of it. I interpret it as the narrator dying, and in his final moments being carried away in his mind to his dreamworld. Though whether this was for a perpetual time as the story says, Heaven like, or if it was an illusion isn't clear. And then there's the bit with the tramp, and the brewer, and Innsmouth of all places. I thought the story was set in the UK! That very last bit jars for me, and I think doesn't work. Though I do rather like the story up until that point.
 

yock's Lovecraftathon: The Tomb

Pushing ahead with one more story review before the end of this month it's nice to get to a longer piece again. I like short stories, but often they are just too short for me, too slight, or too thin an idea padded out. This one looks like a good length, though whether it uses that length well I'll find out shortly as I read.   Again first person narration, so typical of Lovecraft. I like the way the narrator raises the issue of a questionable narrator right at the very start. That seems very meta.   And again the narrator seems very reminiscent of Lovecraft himself, in his account of his lonely childhood, spent in dusty old books and the like.   I'm not making many notes as I read most of the story. It's quite gripping, though little happens for a long time. I'm not surprised at the narrator having a genealogical link with the family in the tomb, though how direct this is remains to be seen.   In some ways this feels like a precursor to the story of Charles Dexter Ward, with the combination of genealogical connections uncovered, and a young protaganist adopting an archaic way of speaking.   I do like the vision of the mansion and its guests brought back to life though. It's very evocative.   And again I make few notes, right up to the end. I really enjoyed that. It's well written, nicely developed, not too predictable, and a good ending. Great stuff.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: The Tree

Pushing on in the hope of a better experience I reach "The Tree", which seems to be set in Greece, long ago.   The opening descriptive passage is evocative, but also rather clumsily written for me. I find it a hard read in places, and the text doesn't flow as it should do. But things improve after then for me, as the story moves on to recount the story of sculptors Musides and Kalos. Though I am finding them a little hard to visualise, and distinguish between. I wish Lovecraft had described them physically, maybe one dark haired, one fair. As it is the only obvious distinction between them early on to the reader is their differing choices of places to go to.   Could the statue really take so long to sculpt though i.e. the time before Kalos's death and a further three years afterwards? I know the proposed statue is described as "of great size", and the sculptor is carving it without the help of his slaves. But it still seems somewhat incredible.   Thank goodness for my iPad Kindle app's built in lookup facility for "proxenoi". Though to be fair this term would be more familiar, probably, to readers a century ago, when classical education was more widespread.   I'm not entirely sure what happened at the end. Was Musides captured by the tree, or does it represent Kalos, or both of them? But I still think it's a rather nice story. Very different from Lovecraft's usual settings.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: The Terrible Old Man

From the beginning this story feels reminiscent of "The Street", and not in a good way. Although the three criminals are referred to as "Messrs" and "gentlemen", which is somewhat respectful, their names clearly suggest immigrant families, even before this is made clear later, and the association with them of crime is uncomfortable to this modern reader. I'm also guessing I'm supposed to side with the "Terrible Old Man", but I'm not exactly feeling that sentiment at the moment.   I do like that it's set in Kingsport though - an area I'd like to read more about, and don't feel is nearly as well developed in Lovecraft's fiction as other locations such as Arkham and, of course, Providence. Though even this setting is scant here. I'm also intrigued by the seemingly sentient lead bottles and pendulums inside them. But the writing seems to be often laboured, and repetitive, and I'm thinking this story could be told in a much shorter version, even though it's already very short. Or not told at all.   The ending is predictable, and I found it disappointing. After a repetitive and padded build it didn't deliver the goods for me, and the story just died away. I do not recommend this story, on almost any grounds.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: The Crawling Chaos

(with Winifred Virginia Jackson - based on her dream, text written by Lovecraft)   Pushing straight on, this is a relatively short story, but at the start I'm finding it a really hard read. The text doesn't flow for me, and I need to work hard to read each sentence. To be fair it is describing an opium dream, but I feel that should be more dreamlike, and transporting, rather than hard work to wade through.   But things do improve as the opium dreamer opens their eyes in the dream. The room where they find themselves, full of furnishings and with many windows, is vividly described, and I can picture it as I read.   I do have a problem with the implication in this part, and earlier in the story too, that all opium takers follow a similar route in their dreams, and could potentially reach the same dream destinations, including this one. I just find that really implausible. Probably just me, but each reference to it takes me further out of the story, and means I don't buy in to its central thesis, but rather look from outside, sceptically.   But I do like the vision of a house on a precipice of land, with tumbling cliffs on either side, and the waves attacking. It reminds me of some of Lovecraft's writings of Kingsport. I guess I like sea stories. Oh and did Lovecraft know about coastal erosion? I think he knew the history of English Dunwich, for example.   Why bother to lock the door on fleeing though? It's a nice detail, but seems like a totally useless activity for someone for whom time is of the essence, before the sea gobbles the land underneath their feet. Yes I know it's the dreams of an opium taker, so rationality goes out the window. Ditto for the thought that a certain book would be found back in the dream cottage, if they just turn round and go back there.   The ending is strange. I'm not quite sure what happened there. I guess the Earth is destroyed, and the Moon. The Sun is described as dying, but I don't think it went nova or anything. Bit puzzled. I'd have found it simpler to follow if the narrator on looking back - reminiscent of Lot's wife in the bible - had just fallen back to the dying Earth. So yes, I'm not entirely sure what happened. But I think overall I enjoyed it.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: Facts concerning the late Arthur Jermyn and his family

I know very little about this story in advance, except that it has a lot of genealogical content in it. I'm expecting dodgy ancestral lines to show up too. I do know that Lovecraft had problematic family history, in terms of mental health, so it will be interesting to see where this story goes with things.   I'm curious about the collection of Wade Jermyn, but wonder how much more extreme it was than other collectors of the time. There was often a tendency for collectors then to collect trophies and specimens that would be abhorred nowadays, and I find it hard to believe that Wade was significantly worse than others in his day. But I do find it plausible that his ravings alarmed others, indeed they're very reminiscent of other Lovecraft stories.   I do like the account of the family history, but then I'm a genealogist, and never object to a story that inspires me to start drawing up a family tree.   The story rambles on too much for me though. The second portion goes on far too long, and needed judicious editing. And it's far too obvious to the reader who was what in the story of the ape goddess.   But worst of all I find the underlying idea of a degenerate line descended from Africa troubling at best, and racist at worst. It disturbs me in ways that are not a good measure of it as a story, and I wouldn't want to reread it. Having said that, the African chief Mwanu is presented with sensitivity and respect. But I still find the story distasteful overall. Even the passing idea of a European being required to find things precisely, when the Africans couldn't pinpoint it, combines with other elements to be objectionable. Just no.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

Reading two Hugo Award shortlisted Lovecraftian stories

I’m currently judging shortlisted items for the Hugo Awards presented at the World Science Fiction convention each year, and in 2017 to be held in Helsinki, Finland. Note that "scifi" reference there is a bit misleading: the awards cover fantasy and horror too, and are not just pure scifi.   In this year’s awards the Novel category does lean heavily towards traditional scifi. But in the Novella category, for slightly shorter works, there’s a strong leaning towards fantasy and horror, and two of the six shortlisted novellas are Lovecraftian.   The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson is obviously inspired by a Lovecraft original. In this new version the traveller is a Dreamlands inhabitant trying to travel to our world. Much of this journey is a mirror of Lovecaft’s original story, including travelling through forests with strange beasts, and underground journeys with ghouls etc. I did enjoy this book a lot, especially its different perspective starting from within the Dreamlands. But I did find the ending disappointing.   The other Lovecraftian shortlisted novella is The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, which reworks Lovecraft's very problematic The Horror at Red Hook. This version is told largely from the perspective of an African American character. In doing so it strays true to the racism of the period, but provides a quite different take on it from Lovecraft's original, and an extremely refreshing one. It's also a very exciting read - far more so for me than the original story it's based on. It's action packed, and a real page turner. Though I found the second half of the novel less successful, it was still very good overall.   Both these novellas are in my top three favourites in the ballot this year, and it will be interesting to see how they place when the results of the Hugo Awards are announced on 11th August.   Meanwhile I'm pushing on to judge other categories, like Novelette and Short Story. I don't know if I'll encounter anything more Lovecraftian though.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: Ex Oblivione

This is a really short one, so I'm going to push straight on and do it too.   I'm curious about who the narrator is, from the word go. They don't seem to be identified positively, but it's quite a leap into the short story, without fuller introduction, and I rather like this. But if I had to guess I'd assume it was an older person, near the end of their life, who finds comfort in dreams, and in revisiting past memories. Though as they recount their memories I do rather feel I should know who they are from my past reading of Lovecraft stories, especially Dreamlands ones. Blame a rotten memory!   I do like Dreamlands stories, and this recap of memories, albeit short, is very evocative. I also want to know what's through that bronze gate. And dream-sages is a lovely idea.   But I'm not sure I like the ending. I'm not keen on the idea of a "white void of unpeopled and illimitable space", and certainly wouldn't be as happy about going into it as the narrator is. But, still, a rather nice story.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: The Street

Mainly just jotting down notes this time. Crikey he really likes Britain (yes I already knew) - the "Blessed Isles" Intriguing sense of space evolving over time, though as I read I can't help but think of the "Anno" series of city-building computer video games ... I'm also thinking of Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" and incomers bringing their ideologies with them Also nice evocation of cultural improvement of the locality Oh but I really don't like the way it's going with "New kinds of faces appeared in the Street, swarthy, sinister faces with furtive eyes and odd features, whose owners spoke unfamiliar words ..." Mmmm! He's also not very keen on France, I assume: "a dynasty had collapsed, and its degenerate subjects were flocking with dubious intent to the Western Land" And more: "Swarthy and sinister were most of the strangers"

I really dislike the rest of this story, but then given the content it would never be a hit with me. It's a shame, because it started well for me. If he'd kept it as more supernatural / typical Lovecraftian other worldly foes I'd have been happier. As it is it's a rant against immigration, and that would never sit well with me, especially given the context of an American society originally founded by immigrants who subjugated the native inhabitants, and all relatively recently. Ah well, can't win them all.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: Polaris

First thought is wondering about what sort of light pollution levels - or not - Lovecraft had in Providence, and what sort of views he got of the night sky relative to modern-day viewers. I know he has written a lot about his astronomy experiences, and in newspaper articles. But it can be difficult at times to reconstruct the clarity with which people in the past could view the night sky, unlike today's heavily light-polluted era.   And although the narrator clearly isn't Lovecraft, it's hard not to view this astronomical story as a personal one for him, given his enthusiasm for astronomy. I had to look up "Charles' Wain" though, because that's not a name for the Plough (as it is known the UK) or Big Dipper (as in the US) I was familiar with.   And now I'm looking up the latitude of Providence, wondering if it ever saw the aurora borealis. It's 41 degrees north. I live somewhere 56 degrees north, and we rarely see aurora, though in my city today there is much light pollution. Aurora are much more visible further north in Scotland, including in the Orkneys and Shetlands. Researching further I see there was an aurora in New England in 1918. Chris Perridas has written extensively about its links to this story.   Frustratingly though I don't find the story flows that well. The opening section re the astronomy is a bit heavy handed with stars etc, even for astronomically-inclined me. And then the shift to the description of the city is too jarring, and also surprisingly repetitive. This section also has an unusually fantastic bent for Lovecraft, though that's perhaps to be expected for a quasi Dreamlands story. But the series of fantastical names - of places, people and creatures - doesn't pull me into the story, so much as push me away from it.   But I do rather like the ending, where the narrator returns, of a sort, to the real world. Or is it real? I don't always like to see stories structured like this, but it can be an effective way to wrap things up, while still leaving some questions unanswered.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: Nyarlathotep

Now this should be interesting for me. I've played in a Call of Cthulhu RPG game where we met Nyarlathotep. We all survived, but he escaped through time, off to ancient Egypt. Wonder if we will meet him again later in the campaign? Anyway that's for another day, but it is nice for me to read about a Mythos creature I've encountered in game before.   I do like the feeling of the opening. It's very atmospheric, with a well developed sense of brooding horror.   Time wise it's a somewhat strange read this one. The opening in particular feels as though it's set in a different time, even possibly an ancient world. But then it's clearly more modern later with electricity and cinema etc. On the one hand I find this contrast confusing. But it's also a nice nod to the origins of Nyarlathotep in ancient Egypt. So overall I rather like it.   The idea of Nyarlathotep telling his story through projected film shows is really nice. For a modern reader now a century on it combines a feeling of the past with something very modern. I can easily picture the flickering images that the audience is watching. Black and white of course. Or maybe even sepia toned.   After the narrator leaves the film showing there's a very strong sense of change, with the characters encountering the world altered. I particularly like the description of the "hellish moon-glitter of evil snows" - again a great series of images, well developed, that I can easily picture in my mind.   However I'm not so keen on the next bit, the ending, where the horror imagery is ramped up to its climax. It's effective, but in a way too much for me. But it does what it needs to, and it wraps up the story. I just don't like reading it. Then again that's it accomplishing what it needs to do, so I shouldn't complain really.   So a short piece, but a strong one for me, and a vast improvement on the previous story I reviewed.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: Poetry and the Gods

Another collaboration, with a name I don't recognise, though googling finds some more detail about Anna Helen Crofts e.g. here and here (though for the second beware annoying popups and redirections).   I'm always curious, but usually rather clueless, about the nature of Lovecraft's collaborations, and e.g. who wrote what. I find it interesting that this story has a female protagonist. I can't remember reading any other Lovecraft story that had that. I wonder if this was part of Crofts' input, and how much it was her story more than his. And reading this story, at least the start, it seems to get on with things much more than is the norm for Lovecraft. It's also far more descriptive than his usual style. So again I'm wondering if this was something that she largely wrote, and he reworked or tweaked. I can see that it's also going for a sense of a cosmic horror, but was this Crofts writing in Lovecraft's fashion, or his additions, or what?   Whoever wrote what the story feels clumsy as I initially read. Lovecraft himself is normally not a very flowing writer for me, but at least his writing sticks to a style throughout each tale, even if stories vary. But this one seems to lurch about, from cosmic horror, to melodrama, to clumsily described scenes and dresses. I'm not keen!   Encountering interspersed poetry is a bit of a shock as well, even knowing the title of the story. But the poetry is not too bad, and better written IMHO than the prose text. At least I can read it with some ease, and it does conjure up somewhat evocative images. And not in a clashing fashion as in the prose sections for me. But oh there was no call for literally repeating so much of the poetry text in full in the story. Aarrgghh!   I'm guessing that Lovecraft at least added the word "effulgently". And I'd probably bet money that he added the dictionary-requiring "caduceus" too - thank you to my Kindle's built in dictionary yet again!   The bit with Hermes is nauseatingly twee, and also to a modern reader somewhat loaded and hilarious in places, if you misread it, or add double or triple entendres! That provided some amusement, but it's still way too saccharine. Perhaps it would have read better a century ago to someone with a classical education. I don't know, but for me it's just clawing.   The idea of gods ever sleeping is, of course, so reminiscent of Cthulhu and R'lyeh. But here it's Greek gods e.g. Zeus etc. Right now I'd much prefer to be reading about a gigantic underwater tentacled god-like monster!   I studied Homer in my undergraduate humanities degree, but didn't remember that he was also known as Maeonides, and so had to look that one up to know who the story was talking about.   But I do like how the story picks up the idea of the devastation of World War One, both in place and concept. It feels topical, and contemporary to the time, way more than just about any other Lovecraft I can remember. On the downside it's rather preachy, but it's still a good backdrop for a story. I particularly like this section:
  I have no idea if the poetry for Milton or Keats or indeed Shakespeare's text are authentic in style. They're ok to read though.   But the prediction of a new messenger to come, a great poet, feels frustrating. Who is he?! A century on from the time this was written I have no idea, and it feels like an unfulfilled prediction to this reader, even with the ending of the piece.   I found this a very frustrating story. Things improved for me as it went on, especially the writing style (maybe more Lovecraft input later?), but overall I disliked it hugely. I wouldn't say that it's my least favourite Lovecraft story, but it's not very far off.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: The White Ship

Again jotting down brief thoughts as read. Puzzled by the opening sense of place. A North Point lighthouse could be just about anywhere, though the names sound English, or at least Anglophile. But the variety of boats coming into the port seems improbably varied for any such location. I'd be happier if this was more modestly framed, or at least more humbly expressed. It's hard to imagine the ocean telling the narrator much, even if he does qualify the initial vague opening comments about this with somewhat more precise descriptions of visions etc. Unfortunate repetition of "smoothly and silently" so soon - needed editing / revising. Likewise beckon/beckoned Not sure when reading if the walk to the ship across moonbeams is meant to be literal, or in dreams. It might be better to make things clearer "Effulgent" again! But it is clearly the Dreamlands, and there's some nice writing describing the vistas glimpsed More unfortunate repetition with "green shore" - needed rephrasing Generally I can visualise the places described, but I am struggling somewhat with Sona-Nyl. There is description yes, but it's not so vivid for me as the other places. Or maybe I've just read too many fantastic descriptions by this point. Also again unfortunate repetition, re dwelling there for aeons. I know the narrator has apparently dwelt in Sona-Nyl for aeons (to coin a repeated phrase) but it jars when they write so much of wanting to go to Cathuria. Yes there is a nod to "so men relate" re this knowledge. But it's so earnestly expressed I would like to have known more detail about how they acquired this information. Likewise as the text moves on it's equally frustrating to have the narrator recount so much knowledge about the nature of Cathuria, before they even get there, i.e. before they can have personal experience of the country. It isn't a credible account, and given the length of this section it's frustrating for me to read. And then we're told "none hath ever beheld Cathuria" - aarrgghh!! So where does all this detail come from? In the narrator's mind? Imagination? I do like the ending though, and the switch back to the lighthouse. It's left rather unclear how much was literally as described and how much was in the narrator's mind, which is good. I just wish the rest of the story had been better. I think it tried to cram too many ideas in to the space, and needed to be greatly simplified. And also edited / revised throughout.
 

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: Beyond the Wall of Sleep

Apologies for the delay in more reviews. Been quite knocked out neurologically.   To get things moving quickly again, starting with this one, I've just jotted down quick notes as I read. Ah dreams, but will it be Dreamlands? The opening is somewhat overwritten and laborious, even for Lovecraft. And "immundane"? And "terraqueous"? "White trash" - erm, wondering how this story might go down with readers from similar isolated areas? "Matutinal" - thank goodness for Kindle's built in dictionary. Lovecraft really should have just written "morning" Quite an interesting study of madness, but for me not enough - at least so far - of the Dreamlands. To be fair it does what it does pretty well though, linguistic matters aside "Floated through resplendent and prodigious valleys" - getting more Dreamlands now, but still frustratingly remote. Though that is, to be fair, an echo of the narrator's perspective, who yearns for it so much. Too many rhetorical "could it be" instances But I do like the description of the dream world the narrator perceives near the end. That's what I would have liked to read more of, rather than the asylum material. "Effulgently" - of course a Lovecraft trope, but I'm wondering, probably again, if Joss Whedon, who uses it a lot in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is a Lovecraft fan. There's much in the story about the wider world and life beyond Earth. I see it was written in 1919, but don't offhand know how that fits it into Lovecraft's evolving ideas about cosmic horror. It seems more likely to be inspired directly by his astronomy interests to me, and a wish to float among the stars.
 

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: The Picture in the House

I find the opening a bit parochial to be honest. It's rather an overblown claim to make to say that the worst terrors are found in rural New England. Even accounting for knowing of Lovecraftian horrors - as a reader, at a meta level - this doesn't ring true to me, and lifts me out of the story. And yes I know that this comes partly from Lovecraft's upbringing and mindset, and is also a framing mechanism. But I do find it irritating.   The opening before the action is rather a slog to read through. I'd just like him to get on with the story and plot! But I do like the description as the narrator enters the house. It is very evocative, and makes it easy to picture the scene he steps into. Not so good though is that it seems unlikely - and far too much of a coincidence - that the narrator would have heard of the book he stumbles upon, Pigafetta's printed in 1598. Indeed he hadn't just heard of it once, but often. That's pushing credibility, even considering more thoroughly his possible occupation or interests, over and above the stated genealogical research. And the coincidences continue, with the name Ebenezer Holt. Not impossible, but uncomfortably convenient.   It's effectively disturbing though, as the narrator looks at *that* picture. Again the description is a vivid one, and it's easy to share his distaste for what he sees in front of him. And then the horror builds quickly, to a disturbing and somewhat ambiguous ending.   It's definitely a flawed work for me, but there are elements that I like, particularly the imagery conjured up by some of the descriptions as well as the rather visceral sense of horror.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: Memory

Ah a Dreamlands story! In my original Lovecraftathon read through I discovered quite quickly that I generally like these a lot. It's a bit strange, because they are very peculiar, and quite extremely fantastical. And as a reader you often have to work hard to visualise what's being described effectively, especially with all the strange made-up words used. But I like Dreamlands stories as a rule, and usually rate them highly.   I like this one's opening with its eerie moonlit scene. Lovecraft did like his moons. And though I haven't the foggiest idea what a uperas-tree is like, the opening descriptive section is so rich in imagery and evocative that I wish I was in the location described right now. I almost feel I am as I read. That's good writing. Though arguably an example of over-writing is "in sooth they yet serve nobly" - that made my head ache!   It's quite a sombre Dreamlands story, quite oppressive. Usually they are more optimistic, but this one has a sense of menace as well as loss. I like the idea of time and antiquity you get. But I wish there was more to the story and it wasn't so short. But good stuff. I can also see similarities to other HPL pieces, like "The Nameless City", where he develops similar ideas more fully, but perhaps less successfully in my opinion.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: The Beast in the Cave

Knowing nothing about this story I wondered if it's early, because it seems very over written and heavy in its use of convoluted language. And checking I see that it's extremely early Lovecraft, written in 1904 when he was 14. Crumbs.   Also it's rather a trivial point, but the description at the start of being stuck in a cave reminded me an awful lot of the Colossal Cave early text adventure based on the same cave system. And also Hunt the Wumpus.   The use of the word "nevermore" brings to mind Poe. A big influence on HPL of course.   Some repetition, so not just bad use of language, but needing a strong editing hand.   It's frustrating, because the story idea is a good one. I like the idea of someone being lost in a massive cave system, without light, and hearing some strange inhuman creature approach it. But it's written in such a way that reading it is far too hard work, very like wading through treacle metaphorically speaking.   "effulgence" - reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer   Why should spending a long time in the cave have "bleached" the creature's hair white? Is that even plausible scientifically? I don't know, but it jumped out as strange to me as a reader.   But I do like the ending. It's archetypal Lovecraftian - the unidentified narrator realising a terrible truth that was flagged up to the reader long before, not exactly adequately concealed. But it's nicely done, and not over stretched.   However overall it is a disappointing story. I can see elements of his potential as a storyteller: the story idea is a good one, and the plotting adequate for its needs. But he hasn't learned to use language effectively, in a way that continues to hold a reader's attention, from start to end.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: A reminiscence of Dr Samuel Johnson

Ok this could be interesting. Technically my speciality as a historian is the 18th century. So I'm curious to see how well this piece captures the feeling of then for me. Though I don't know much about Johnson specifically, so shouldn't be quibbling over facts or the accuracy of his depiction.   Very archaic language, nicely capturing the style. Though it's curious of HPL - presumably writing as himself given the 1890 birthdate - pretending to be born in the 17th century.   It's a bit far fetched that someone coming from outside London would make quite so many notable connections so fast, at such a young age. Seems a bit unlikely, and a bit of a tall tale, never mind the time shenanigans.   Nice description of Johnson's appearance and clothing. I haven't the foggiest idea if it would be remotely accurate. I wonder what books Lovecraft might have read to build up this picture, or if it is all in his imagination?   Bit hard to see why the narrator and Johnson would become friends - they seem constantly in a state of disagreement! Though that is somewhat alluded to later in the description of the club.   The literary club and its members and practices seem a bit like wish fulfilment for HPL: the sort of club I guess he would have liked to have been a member of, had he lived in that time and place.   I'm unsure if Adam Smith - presumably the Scots economist - would have been in London for long enough to join the club. He was as far as I know based firmly in Scotland, albeit at different places. The Scottish Enlightenment was a major cultural force, with many key players and contacts in Edinburgh, not London.   Frustratingly though we're given no indication of how the narrator has lived so long. In this respect it feels very much like an unfinished story. It might have been better to have been written as though in the past, rather than by some seemingly unnaturally long lived narrator.   Slight work, difficult for a general reader to judge how plausible its account is. But inoffensive, and somewhat entertaining.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

 

yock's Lovecraftathon: The Alchemist

I'm curious that this was written by Lovecraft at a young age, only 17 or 18. I'm intrigued to see what the writing style is like, and how well it works as a story. As I read I made brief notes, and will reproduce those here.   Promising start, though perhaps a bit heavy handed on the descriptive imagery. As I read the opening paragraphs I feel a bit as though I'm being hit repeatedly on the head by too much that needs visualising.   Thank goodness for my Kindle's built in dictionary that could decipher machicolated ...   Far too long a sentence / too many clauses in "the falling stones of the walls ... all tell a tale of gloomy grandeur" sequence.   The tale of a lonely orphaned child growing up in a castle is very reminiscent of another Lovecraft tale I read before, The Outsider.   One nice thing about this story is that it has a strong sense of place and landscape running through it, with the isolated castle and the ominous wood nearby well described, and adding to the tension.   The family history angle is fun - as always something that appeals to me, a genealogist.   And I *really* like the account of the narrator exploring the castle.   Actually that observation reminds me: this is a first-person narrative, so typical of many Lovecraft stories I read in the other book. It seems a very long time since I read something like that, but it's quintessentially Lovecraftian.   The reveal of the sorceror reminds me, bizarrely, of a Sarah Jane Adventures TV episode! Actually the baddie in that looked very like the sorceror here, again due to unusually long life. And was hidden in a similar way.   Who the sorceror is is too apparent to the reader, and it's frustrating reading the narrator not realising, then having a supposedly big reveal about the identity. This is a problem in other Lovecraft stories, where the reader is several steps ahead of the narrator. But I can at least excuse it here because it's an early piece, and Lovecraft was still learning his craft.   I quite like this story. There are problems with it, that could have been largely ironed out with sufficient redrafting and editing. But it's pretty well formed, and we'll set in an interesting location and chronological backstory. I also liked that for once the narrator defeated the baddie - not something that usually happens in Lovecraft's writings. Oh and there were no more indescribable horrors. He had a good go at describing everything, thankfully.

yockenthwaite

yockenthwaite

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