Horror In The Museum

Discussion in 'H P Lovecraft' started by ravenus, Mar 16, 2009.

  1.  
    ravenus

    ravenus Heretic

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    Just picked this up recently, but not started reading this yet. It's supposed to be a collection of stories that HPL either ghost-wrote or collaborated on. If any one has read this, especially people like JD or Gollum or Lobolover, I'd be glad to hear your views on this.
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Well.... for one thing, it depends on which edition it is, as the earlier Arkham House edition (and the pb's deriving from it) are based on seriously flawed texts, in some cases with large chunks missing. The more recent (post-1985, iirc) edition (and the tpb deriving from that) has the authoritative texts and more stories (though one, "Four O'Clock", by his wife Sonia, is missing from this one, as the degree of Lovecraft's involvement is generally thought to be quite negligible -- something with which I'm not sure I agree). So the more recent editions would definitely be preferable.

    As to the stories in the volume -- a mixed bag. A small number are simply forgettable; one or two are quite awful ("Ashes", for instance, and "The Last Test", which has some very good stuff to it, but is horrendously overlong and, frankly, boring -- even HPL complained that he nearly blew a fuse when revising the thing). Others, however, are true gems, such as "The Mound", "The Night Ocean", "The Curse of Yig", and the pieces he did for Hazel Heald, as well as several others. I even have quite a fondness for the first two ("The Crawling Chaos" and "The Green Meadow"), though I will agree that they aren't necessarily good stories -- they are more in the line of impressionistic mood pieces, and very effective as such, I think (though still, at times, seriously flawed).

    Below is a link which (if you're not certain) can help determine which edition it is you have:

    The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Let me know if you have any further questions....
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    Lobolover

    Lobolover New Member

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    Well what do you know, im mention as an expart?

    Speaking of these, did the writers he wrote for actualy write anything or anything worth mentioning on their own? Im looking at you Hazel Heaald and Zelia Bishop (strange names, may I ad) .
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    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    I have a Wordsworth anthology titled The Loved Dead with many of these same collaborative and ghost-written stories, and I have to say that very few of the stories impressed me. A lot of them drew on the Mythos but didn't seem to add anything to it, and the writing was far from Lovecraft's best.

    My favorites are "Medusa's Coil", "Out of the Aeons," "Two Black Bottles," and "The Diary of Alonzo Typer" -- for me, these stories were worth the price of the book, although I'd already read "Two Black Bottles" -- but with some of the others it seemed to me that he was going through the motions in a rather perfunctory way.

    I have mixed feelings about "The Loved Dead" (the short story) -- which was considered so shocking when it was first published that it generated considerable controversy -- it's certainly gruesome enough, but for me the effect was somewhat diluted because the story went on too long. There are only so many times that a character can do the same thing before the shock value is diminished and all you have left is the "ick" factor and a touch of boredom.
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    Lobolover

    Lobolover New Member

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    How about the Houdini story, "Under the pyramids", I found that impresive at the time .
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    Nesacat

    Nesacat The Cat

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    I read this relatively recently and e-mailed JD to talk about it. Like he says, it's a mixed bag of stories with different styles and rhythms. Sometimes you can clearly see the Old Gent and other times you cannot at all. Here are some thoughts ... (Here be some spoilers)

    I like the Crawling Chaos as it goes along; how he describes how everything comes to an end until finally there are only the pale mournful planets searching for their sister.

    I think The Last Test is the one I liked least of all. It felt as if it rambled and could have been shorter. Much shorter. I like the nucleus and what he's trying to say; just not the length. And the romance jarred as well.

    The Curse of Yig is a keeper. I like how the doctor very calmly tells the whole story and you are sure it must be that way and not as you thought until he tells you who the snake creature is. Nicely done and I've always liked serpent tales.

    The Mound needs several readings. You start paying attention to the details then because you know the frame already. Very well done and such a terrible way to end. It does stick in your mind the ending and all he wanted to do was go home. Not cause any damage or anything. Just go home. And he and she paid a terrible price.

    Am very fond Medusa's Coil. I've always liked the legends about the gorgons and this is particularly well done. I wonder if Neil Gaiman got the idea for Grendel's mother's braid in Beowulf from here. It's terribly similar.

    I liked The Man of Stone too. It's a simpler tale. Not so much cosmic horror as the horror of human emotions. I like the voices of the people in the tale and the way how they speak tells you about them. Sometimes what we manage to do ourselves is so much worse than anything out there and simple though this tale it; it shows that better than a Jack the Ripper tale.

    And yes I do like The Horror in the Museum. Again this is also because I've always been terribly fascinated by wax museums and how awfully lifelike some of the exhibits are. And why not turn the real thing into a piece of art; especially if people are laughing at you and not having faith in your beliefs. Here is one way to show them. And in the end he does gain some kind of immortality ... even if it is not as he would have wished. He'll be there for always with the creature he found. And there is a lost city under the ice and a throne of ivory. Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish a movie would be made with cyclopean ruins.

    Winged Death is just plain nasty. To plan so carefully to cause so much damage. And then to be trapped in the fly. Very cruel but a very good tale. I'll never look at one of those huge flies the same way again at all. We have many legends here about souls and animals but never a fly. Moths yes and the huge monitor lizards and even cats but never flies. But the tale came close enough to home to be felt.

    Out of the Aeons I liked. There's a Pickman here and de Marigny here. Every time I read one of these I am never sure how I feel about the fact that no matter how terrible; some things just never die out. Someone, somewhere will keep it alive through the ages and more and more people will become a part of it. Quiet it may be and hidden but never dead. And there's the rest of us who are fascinated despite the horror and revulsion. It's never enough to leave things alone. We still have to delve and drag out into the light, things best left to the dark. Maybe that's why these stories endure. Because there'll always be an overriding curiosity and desire to know. Above and beyond any sense of self preservation.

    The Horror in the Burying Ground was sad. Like the Man of Stone. But much sadder. The poor woman. To be free and trapped at the same time and to have been driven to that point. I guess in this sense humanity has not changed. The tools may be different but people are still being pinned in corners like this and they still finally turn around and bite back to the despair of all.

    The Diary of Alonzo Typer has the house. Reminded me of the Witch House. Not exactly the same. This man was also doomed by his blood but he was also curious to know what would happen. And there's the mixed blood here too only it's serpents here unlike Innsmouth. I like his descriptions of the people in the portraits. Just so would a serpent look. They are always almost hypnotically beautiful.

    The rest are secondary revisions:

    There's always a good reason not harm the young of anything even if the child seems to be a giant. The parent in The Horror at Martin's Beach exacted a terrible revenge ... there trickled upon my ears from some abysmal sunken waste the faint and sinister echoes of a laugh. But then again I don't even know if it would be possible to make any kind of apology in this sort of case. Where would you even begin?

    Ashes ... there's this fascination here with destroying the human body in odd ways. First there was The Stone Man and now these Ashes. I think the worst thing for me is the pleasure of the inventors in what they have done. I mean in Ashes he was so pleased. He wanted a witness. He thought it was going to be alright to just kill someone in the furtherance of science. I guess we are still walking this route.

    I don't know which is more terrible in Deaf, Dumb, and Blind .... what he started seeing or how he felt at the end. There was such a sudden shift. It's made me very, very curious. This one story I wish had continued. I was already very fascinated when he started hearing and seeing and then there was that shift ... maybe it's so terrible it passes over the border into splendour and beauty..

    Till A' the Seas was frightening. I wonder if that is how it will end. Slowly with the heat. So very slowly until all we ever did was forgotten and lost. All the art and literature and music; in the fight to just survive and everything gets smaller and smaller. It does make sense though. After all it started that way and grew bigger. Maybe in the end it all reverses and we finish as we began. As nothing in a vast universe that will continue nevertheless.

    The Night Ocean is one of my favourites definitely. It's a gentle tale and a quiet one but it manages to show very clearly the vast mystery of the ocean. But it also manages to convey how fascinating the ocean is at the same time. I cannot swim but am fascinated by the ocean. I spend a lot of time sitting on the shore watching. Or on the rocks in storms or out in boats wondering what's below. There's such depth and vastness. You never know. It's the most alluring thing. The ocean is never still. Always changing, changing. Always saying something, making you listen, listen and come in further and further. So different from anything on land even the deepest forests.
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    GOLLUM

    GOLLUM Moderator Staff Member

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    Whoa excellent summary Cat!

    I've also got the Del Rey edition of this but yet had the time to read it, working like a ferret at my day job...GRRR.

    Cheers....
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    Nesacat

    Nesacat The Cat

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    Thanks GOLLUM ... always a pleasure though you need to thank JD for this. I'd sent this along to him when I first read the book since he's given me a lovely copy.

    I gave my Del Rey edition to a friend (Phek Chin). Have been luring her to the dark side.
  9.  
    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    A few of them (at least, as included in the revised edition) did. Henry S. Whitehead ("The Trap") wrote quite a few very good stories, both in and out of the supernatural field. Like Lovecraft, his style was somewhat old-fashioned for the period, but his stories were very well-crafted and often among the best to deal with his chosen subject matter -- which was frequently the folklore and beliefs of the Virgin Islands, where he served for some years. Robert H. Barlow, who was just a youth when HPL collaborated with him on some tales, also went on to write some memorable pieces on his own, both prose and verse. This is collected together in The Eyes of the God, which also includes his juvenilia. (Barlow also became noted as an anthropologist and expert in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures.) W. B. Talman wrote a piece or two of minor interest, as well.

    I think what makes that story work for me -- with the caveat that it is far from my favorite among Lovecraft's revisions -- is the obviously over-the-top approach, which has always given it a very tongue-in-cheek feel to me. This, and the fact that both it and "The Hound" were HPL's farewell to his "Decadent" period, where he was under the influence of such writers as Huysmans and Baudelaire. Both tales are deliberately overwritten, but I think "The Hound" actually works better, both on that level and as a story on its own. (It also is surrounded with -- and includes -- various nods and subtle in-jokes which add to the enjoyment of it as a spoof not only of the Decadents but of HPL's own stylistic excesses.)

    Teresa: I don't have a copy of the Wordsworth collection; would you mind posting the TOC and any indication of whether the text is from the older Arkham editions (or the original magazine versions, which were sometimes edited even further) or from the more recent texts established by S. T. Joshi....?
  10.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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  11.  
    Lobolover

    Lobolover New Member

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    Think im gonna do The Night Ocean next.
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    Lobolover

    Lobolover New Member

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    The Man of stone is a good, straight forward "strange" story . I like Yig, and even Lovecraft called it "practicaly" his . I also liked Martin's Beach at the time .
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks, Teresa. For some reason, I couldn't call it up on Amazon when I tried earlier today... but then, I've been having some very strange glitches with the system lately....

    As to "The Thing in the Moonlight"... ye gods! That thing shouldn't even be in print any longer, given that it has long been proven to be apocryphal (the work of J. Chapman Miske, using some material from letters by HPL, iirc), not a true work of Lovecraft's at all...

    The Thing in the Moonlight - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/fiction/texts/tm.asp

    Oh, and for anyone who has the patience, just to see how much HPL actually did improve on Adolphe de Castro's originals:

    http://www.archive.org/details/inconfessionalan00danziala

    The stories in question are: "The Automatic Executioner" (pp. 133-153) and "A Sacrifice to Science" (pp. 154-215).
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2009
  14.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Yes, that's what it says in the intro to the anthology, that the story is an embellishment based on Lovecraft's dream, as mentioned in a letter to Wandrei.

    But comparing that section of the letter to Wandrei with the text of the Miske Story, he does stick very close to Lovecraft's description of the dream. Even if it's not an example of Lovecraft's own writing, it certainly contains his own ideas. I think it's interesting and well worth reading on that account.
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Perhaps I should retract my statement and rephrase more clearly: it shouldn't be in print as a piece by Lovecraft; and having it listed on a table of contents in such a book gives a very erroneous impression. I'd agree that it is an interesting little oddity, but I'm very strongly of the opinion that such should be moved to an appendix rather than included with Lovecraft's own works (or those to which he knowingly contributed a significant amount). Ditto with such a piece as "The Lighthouse", a tale begun by Poe and finished by (among others) Robert Bloch....
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    GOLLUM

    GOLLUM Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks JD....:)

    I thought Phek Chin was into speculative fiction in all its wondrous variations No?
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    Nesacat

    Nesacat The Cat

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    GOLLUM ... she started in on it fairly late and with Eddings, moving along to Pratchett, etc when we met. She's never read anything along the lines of Lovecraft and you have to remember that until very recently they were not available here so the only way she could read them was off someone else.

    Now that we have been derailed; we'll get back ...

    Am now reading The Watchers Out Of Time and other tales which Derleth put together after The Old Gent was gone. All I can say so far is that he's trying too hard and it shows.
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    Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

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    But the ridiculous ending! He continues writing WHILE the monster is dragging him to the basement!


    I think you may be missing the entire point with that shift (I assume you refer to the final paragraph of the story). The story indicates that this paragraph wasn't typed by the deaf, dumb and blind man, but by whatever frightened him to death. Remember, the doctor found that the man had been dead for some time, but they heard the final clicks of the typewriter just as they arrived at the house.

    Only about 10% of "the Night Ocean" was written by Lovecraft. The rest is a testimony to Barlow's emerging genius.
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    Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

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    I think it may be safe to say that they aren't the corrected versions.
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    Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

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    Thanks, j.d.! I've never seen these before!
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