Rookie Questions about Lovecraft

  1. TTBRAHWTMG

    TTBRAHWTMG I am only an egg

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2007
    Messages:
    420
    I’ve just picked up my first Lovecraft book, a “Best of” full of short stories. So far I’ve read: The Rats in the Walls; The Picture in the House; The Outsider; and Pickman’s Model. I really like how effectively he sets the mood, and I'm particularly enjoying his ability to make you see things as he writes. I felt like I was making that climb in the Outsider, like I was walking in Old Boston in Pickman’s Model…and the way he described Pickman’s paintings and drawings made them appear in front of me.

    That is part of the reason I've only read four so far. I don't read much horror, and he makes it so vivid that I only read one short story between each other book that I read. I need a "horror break" after each of them to shake the mood.

    One of the first things I’ve noticed is how he uses language and dialect to help set the mood. Is this something he had a particular interest in? Did he study linguistics, or was this just from his own imagination? For instance, in The Picture in the House, was the idiomatic dialogue accurate to old New England, or did he just make me feel like it was? Can I expect Lovecraft to utilize this tool regularly?

    I am looking forward to reading more. The back of the book highlights 5 titles and I haven’t hit any of those yet, so I’m sure the best is still ahead!
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2007
    Apr 18, 2007
    #1
  2. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    13,883
    First, I have a question. There are several "best of" volumes out there with HPL, and the Blood-Chilling Tales of Horror thing from Del Rey has one serious flaw -- about 2 pages of text are missing from what may be Lovecraft's very best story, "The Colour out of Space" (or at least, they were in all the printings I've seen). So that one should be read from another edition, preferably the Penguin tpb or the Arkham House hb. "The Shadow out of Time" should be read in the Penguin, as it was published since the finding of HPL's original manuscript, which involved alterations in the text, which had originally been the Astounding Stories edited version.

    Now... as to the dialect: While HPL didn't study linguistics formally, he was very, very much an amateur student, and though his skills with other languages were somewhat limited (albeit light-years better than mine, for instance), he was intensely aware of etymology and the sound of words... how they worked in relation to each other when read aloud. He also considered himself a poet for the early part of his career, so brought a lot of the poet's consciousness of the importance of each word and its relationship to all the other words to his prose writing; as S. T. Joshi once put it, he combined the essay techniques of the eighteenth century with those of the prose-poems of the later Decadents and Romantics. It's a rather unique and very effective combination.

    On that dialect ... he uses dialect similar to that in several tales. He caught quite a bit of flack for it over the years, as it was considered very artificial; but the fact is, Lovecraft used a deliberately archaic dialect to reinforce that disjuncture with time that is so much a part of his stories, to reinforce that feeling of things (whether it be actual things, such as some of his extraterrestrial entities, or particular places or people) that either exist outside their proper time, or have lived far, far beyond their proper span (such as the rustic in "The Picture in the House", for instance). The dialect itself is strongly influenced by James Russell Lowell's Biglow Papers, which captured a New England dialect that was already, in Lowell's day, nearly extinct.

    On that part of Old Boston where Pickman's studio was -- that was a real place, which Lovecraft discovered in one of his trips to Boston, browsing for antiquities. He was terribly dismayed shortly thereafter, when he attempted to take a friend there, to find that all those old houses had been razed to the ground. A lot of his sites are based on actual places -- certainly the burial grounds mentioned in that tale are quite genuine, and his descriptions are accurate. And on "The Outsider"... that's an odd one, as it makes no sense logically, yet it very rich in interpretation. One strong possibility is that it was intended (in part, at least) as a tribute to John Keats (note the quotation from Keats' The Eve of St. Agnes, used as an epigram for the tale), written for the centenary of his death -- Keats was a particular favorite of HPL's -- and the tale itself, it has been speculated, may be the dream of the Baron from the poem.

    As for "The Rats in the Walls" -- that one has a very rich historical background, and the use of the Gaelic in it has an amusing history, as well... if you're interested, I'll pm you on that one, as it's rather convoluted.

    Glad you're enjoying them. If you've liked these, you're almost certain to like most of his work....
     
    Apr 18, 2007
    #2
  3. TTBRAHWTMG

    TTBRAHWTMG I am only an egg

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2007
    Messages:
    420
    Thanks for the tips JD...that indeed is the title of the collection...I'll keep your words in mind, but I found Lovecraft was pretty tough to find around out there. Couldn't find ANY in the new book store, and they only had the above, and one other in the Used store I was at. Is "The Colour out of Space" butchered enough that I should skip it until I can find another version? Maybe I will have to switch off the instant gratification mode when book shopping and just order some and wait patiently.
    The Rats in the Walls was my very first one...and boy did it have me doing homework...I found I was forced to read on: Colonial New England, Roman settlement of Britain, Picts, Phrygia, Midas, on and on. I even spent hours trying to trace down and translate his rant at the end there. Quite frankly, after reading that I was worried that each of his short stories might require 100x more background reading time than the stories themselves took. Thankfully, the next few didn't require as much...although I had to do a bit of reading on Old Boston when Lovecraft sucked me so effectively back into that era, and consequently even more into the founding father's and even free masonry, etc. I do get sent on tangents, don't I? Anyway, the short answer is yes, please PM me, I am always interested in chasing the loose ends when I read.
     
    Apr 18, 2007
    #3
  4. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    13,883
    My advice, then, is to get the Penguin editions, as they are annotated by S. T. Joshi, the leading Lovecraftian scholar (he's also one of the leading scholars of both the weird tale in general, and on several of the writers who influenced Lovecraft, such as Blackwood, Machen, and Dunsany). He also gives some helpful lists of reading sources you may find helpful -- sometimes in the notes themselves, sometimes at the introductory paragraphs to each set of notes.

    I'll send along some comments on "Rats" shortly, then. Meanwhile, the Penguin edition is comprised of three books:

    The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories
    The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories
    The Dreams in the Witch House and other Weird Stories

    You may be able to find them online at a reduced price, or check in the literature section of bookstores, as that's how they're being marketed in many places -- not as horror or fantasy/sf.
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #4
  5. mogora

    mogora Shapeless Protoplasm

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Messages:
    84
    JD, perhaps you could send your comments to the thread? I'd like to see them too.

    TTBRAHWTMG, I'm too am glad you're enjoying Lovecraft and would be interested in your reactions to such tales as 'Call of Cthulhu' and 'Shadow Over Innsmouth' when you get to them.
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #5
  6. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    13,883
    Hmmm. It's quite lengthy, which is why I was reluctant to put the whole thing here. However, I don't suppose it would hurt... those not interested can skip the whole thing, after all.

    Incidentally, TT... yes, I'd strongly suggest skipping "The Colour out of Space" until you have a better edition of that story, as that particular one is, as I've said, something of a long prose-poem, where every word counts... and it is a substantial chunk of text missing, which makes the actual reading a bit confusing, as well as leaving out some of the action.
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #6
  7. HardScienceFan

    HardScienceFan 'what to eat' fan

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Messages:
    1,912
    Location:
    sometimes the Answer is right under your nose how
    Lovecraft reading group,anyone?
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #7
  8. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    13,883
    Eeep! Et tu, Brute?:eek:
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #8
  9. HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood The secret ingredient is crime

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2006
    Messages:
    5,356
    Location:
    The Cloud
    I think I'd be inclined to join in with that, if I can slot it in around my university work :D (don't have much time to read when at university, but as the stories are only short...:D)
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #9
  10. mogora

    mogora Shapeless Protoplasm

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Messages:
    84
    Sounds like a good idea to me.
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #10
  11. HardScienceFan

    HardScienceFan 'what to eat' fan

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Messages:
    1,912
    Location:
    sometimes the Answer is right under your nose how
    Nice short one:The Dreams in the Witch House?
    So as not too take up too much of anyone's time?:)
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #11
  12. Nesacat

    Nesacat The Cat

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2006
    Messages:
    3,337
    Location:
    Curiosity was framed. Ignorance killed the cat.
    Mogora ... love that avatar.

    And is does sound like a good idea.
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #12
  13. mogora

    mogora Shapeless Protoplasm

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Messages:
    84
    Thanks Nesacat - it seemed appropriate :)

    So, when do we start reading?
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #13
  14. HardScienceFan

    HardScienceFan 'what to eat' fan

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Messages:
    1,912
    Location:
    sometimes the Answer is right under your nose how
    My version is in the HP Lovecraft Omnibus(Panther,dunno what year,probably
    early eighties)
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #14
  15. HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood The secret ingredient is crime

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2006
    Messages:
    5,356
    Location:
    The Cloud
    I have the The Thing on the Doorstep and the Call of Cthulhu anthologies in Exeter, which I won't be able to reach until Sunday, but after then I'm good to read any of the stories from them! If The Dreams in the Witch House is the first story to read then I'll have to go and track it down...*dons tracking hat*

    EDIT: Ha, I'm better at tracking than I thought...I've found it! :D
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #15
  16. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    13,883
    Question, then. If we do go for "The Dreams in the Witch House"... who provides the Paris Green?:D
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #16
  17. HardScienceFan

    HardScienceFan 'what to eat' fan

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Messages:
    1,912
    Location:
    sometimes the Answer is right under your nose how
    Lost me there JD,probably an in joke?:)
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #17
  18. Nesacat

    Nesacat The Cat

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2006
    Messages:
    3,337
    Location:
    Curiosity was framed. Ignorance killed the cat.
    how about if we bring cheese and the Green Fairy instead. The rodent is sort of crucial to the Witch House.
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #18
  19. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    13,883
    Ah. Paris Green is a poison, often used for eliminating rodents... but it isn't used that much anymore (may not even be made any longer, for that matter). I was thinking of Brown Jenkin....:rolleyes:

    And, yes, Cat... this is true... Hmmm. A feline defending Brown Jenkin... curiouser and curiouser....;)
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #19
  20. HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood The secret ingredient is crime

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2006
    Messages:
    5,356
    Location:
    The Cloud
    *Ahem* So, are we starting a new thread for the reading group, or going to continue diverting this one? :D:p
     
    Apr 19, 2007
    #20
Loading...

Share This Page