Horror In The Museum

  1. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    13,883
    Lobo: I don't think you have any conception of how pervasive such views were at the time. No, none such would be likely to send him such a letter; both because it was so pervasive, and stereotypes were taken for granted by nearly the whole of society, and because Lovecraft himself was during his lifetime, a rather obscure writer. He did correspond for a brief time with William Stanley Braithwaite, the noted poet and editor (who was black), but I don't believe those letters have ever been published. I do know that his reaction when he found out Braithwaite was black was enough to start the paper smoking -- and this was some years before corresponding with him (the correspondence dates to 1930, his fulmination about Braithwaite in a letter to Rheinhart Kleiner from 1918).

    I don't know of any black writers in his region -- in fact, there weren't that many writers of note in his region at the time, for that matter -- but nonetheless there was the "Harlem Renaissance", which produced a considerable number of writers, artists, musicians, and the like, several of which remain notable to this day (such as Langston Hughes, Nella Larson, Zora Neale Hurston, Alic Dunbar Nelson, Jean Toomer, and the wonderful Paul Robeson, who had a voice like no other....)

    As for what led him to such feelings -- well, that has never (to my knowledge) been answered completely; but the majority of whites in America at the time -- even the majority of extremely liberal people -- felt blacks were inferior at the least, often saw them as almost subhuman, or further down the evolutionary ladder (a common misconception of evolution at the time). See some of the things written even by H. G. Wells and the like on the subject -- and Wells was a decided humanitarian progressive! There is also the fact that Lovecraft came from Old American stock, which placed considerable importance on class distinctions, as well as observing a very strict color line. Then again, he did read The Color Line: A Brief in Behalf of the Unborn, by Professor William Benjamin Smith, at an early age (early enough to have written a vitriolic poem in support of its theme in 1905), not to mention Thomas Dixon's The Clansman (both the novel and the play) and The Leopard's Spots. Dixon's Clansman was the basis for the film Birth of a Nation; and if you want to get an idea how pervasive such views were, try watching that one, and realizing that it was not only extremely popular but seen as a great piece of art in its time. (It still remains an amazing technical achievement, and does have some excellent performances; but the racist element in it makes it nearly unwatchable these days.) These are just a few of the elements which went toward his views on the matter....
     
    Mar 22, 2009
    #41
  2. pablo

    pablo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2008
    Messages:
    114
    When news of the Barnes & Noble tome broke, wasn't there also whispering talk of a complimentary volume of revisions and other miscellanea which in supplement with B&N's The Fiction would leave us with HPL's complete oeuvre (most complete with the addition of the complete poetry with The Ancient Track)?
     
    Mar 23, 2009
    #42
  3. Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

    Joined:
    May 15, 2007
    Messages:
    718
    That was probably from me. I haven't heard anymore about this project for quite some time, and AFAIK it's still on the idea stage. It doesn't have a publisher confirmed, anyway, although a name was mentioned in connection with it.
    In other words -- don't hold your breath.
     
    Mar 23, 2009
    #43
  4. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    13,883
    Speaking of which... even though it's a very minor item, I'd like to see a new edition, with the inclusion of "An American to the British Flag", which was unavailable at the time, but which has since resurfaced....
     
    Mar 24, 2009
    #44
  5. pablo

    pablo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2008
    Messages:
    114
    I'm not at home and can't check, and do not remember offhand, but according to this it is included.
     
    Mar 24, 2009
    #45
  6. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    13,883
    Well... the title is included, but all this edition has is a note, "[Text unavailable.]" However, according to what others who are more connected to what has been going on in Lovecraft studies have said, the text has since surfaced and been published in an amateur journal; hence my statement that I'd like to see a new edition including the text of the piece....

    And, so that we don't stay completely off-track with the thread... of those who have read these tales, which ones stood out for you, and would you care to share any thoughts on any -- whether good or bad....?
     
    Mar 24, 2009
    #46
  7. Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2003
    Messages:
    4,044
    Location:
    Bangalore, India
    That sounds like my cue...(Please be warned that spoilers follow)

    Well, I have only read the Primary Revisions in the Del Rey edition thus far, and am now taking a break to re-read some of the masterly visions rendered purely by Lovecraft. Here are my impressions of these tales:

    Like Mr. Worthington, I am rather fond of The Green Meadow and The Crawling Chaosfor all their limitations. They are pure dream-wine (one of my favourite beverages) and in the latter story I feel I can detect an echo of William Hope Hodgson.

    I did not like The Last Test very much; it is a mad scientist story dressed up in a few Mythos robes. It also suffered from the deflating onslaught of Asiatic Observer Effect: many Tibetan refugees live in my country (there is a Tibetan settlement not too far from the city where I live, and several Tibetans live or visit my city) and it is very hard for me to think of ‘Thibetans’ as intrinsically sinister in any way. I dislike the mass media as much as anyone else, but the characterization applied to them here struck me as somewhat shrill and over-emphasised – but then again, thinking back to my days as student of Journalism I seem to recall that this was the golden age of Yellow Journalism. The Electric Executioner is better; again a mad scientist story in which the supernatural elements are embellishments, but woven in rather more convincingly, so as to lend a larger dimension of horror to the mad inventor’s ambitions. Not a great story though, because its essential plot kernel is not really Lovecraftian, in my opinion.

    The Curse Of Yig, The Mound and Medusa’s Coil are all high points of this collection; The Mound is an absolute masterpiece, traversing unthinkable depths of horrific wonder, and building to a nightmarish ending that is not terribly crippled by the rather melodramatic device of resorting to italic text in the end. It seems this story is also the basis for The Queen Of K’n-Yanby Asamatsu Ken, a modern work of Mythos fiction that is on my soon-to-be-read list. I would rate this story among Lovecraft’s very finest with no reservations. The Curse Of Yig is not quite as epic, but is still a finely-tuned narrative that builds to a pair of climatic moments – the night of Halloween and the revelation of the identity of the strange creature glimpsed in the beginning – that make for a satisfyingly shudder-inducing high. Medusa’s Coil is very fine for the most part, with a vivid portrait of a decaying mansion, a strange triangle of something that is not necessarily love so much as fascination (surely a somewhat unique instance of this sort of element in Lovecraft’s works) and it builds to a climax that is truly eerie despite the somewhat farcical deflation induced by the breathless revelation of the woman’s race.

    The Man Of Stone, The Winged Death and The Horror In The Museum are all somewhat less effective, in my opinion. The Man Of Stone is certainly a horrific in the sense of the strange cabin-dweller’s jealous vengeance, but the means employed feel like little more than a supernatural fillip on a narrative that could have been a strong tale of purely mundane horror (his imprisonment of his wife in the attic, his experiments with poison, etc) and worked pretty well as such. Or perhaps, given my propensity for physical inertia, petrifaction does not really seem like a very scary prospect to me. The Winged Death entwines a basically weird conception with a mad-doctor vengeance tale quite well, although the narrative feels a bit overlong and tedious and the man being terrorized by a fly, whether or not possessed by a human spirit, presented a somewhat farcical image. The Horror On The Museum was ridiculously over the top –perhaps purposely so.

    Out Of The Aeons is a far more effective piece, once again. The constant references to the scurrilous doings of the press are again somewhat grating, but the central conception here is truly horrific and the supernatural element is intrinsic to it. As if to compensate for the success of this story, The Horror In The Burial Ground reverts to the farcical with a small-town embalmer’s attempt to mete out a living death to his adversary backfiring. The two back-to-back funerals were such an absurd touch that I have to assume there is some element of self-parody intended here.

    Fortunately, the Primary Revisions section ends strongly with The Diary Of Alonzo Typer. It is a flawed piece, no doubt, with its excessive vagueness of plot, lack of any unique concept, being mainly a riff on the tainted-blood theme, and its ridiculous ‘oh no! the monster is dragging me away as I write these very words’-style ending, but for all that it has nuances of real weirdness and a wonderful atmosphere of the dark numinous.
     
    Dec 16, 2009
    #47
  8. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    13,883
    JP -- you may be interested in taking a look at this:

    Internet Archive: Free Download: In the confessional and The following

    This is the original book by Adolphe Danziger de Castro which included the two tales Lovecraft revised. (There was apparently a third, but nothing is known about that, so far as I've been able to find out.)

    There is also an issue of Crypt of Cthulhu (Vol. 2, No. 2; whole #10, titled Ashes and Others) which included several of the originals of tales Lovecraft revised or touched up/added to, such as these two and the "The Diary of Alonzo Typer". You might see if you can find a reasonably priced copy. I can't agree with you on the latter, at least not entirely, but I can see where you're coming from. I just think it is more seriously flawed than you seem to. That said, it has had its fans, and there are some very fine moments in there.

    You mention echoes of Hodgson in "The Crawling Chaos". Where I saw such was "The Green Meadow", even to some of the phrasing... which is a very interesting case of parallelism, as Lovecraft did not read Hodgson until 1934, at which time he added his notes on him to his treatise. By that time, of course, these tales had already been written -- 15 and 16 years before, as a matter of fact. I'll dig out my comparison of passages between "The Green Meadow" and Hodgson's "The Voice in the Night", and send them to you, should you be interested.

    Yes, from my understanding from his letters and the like, "The Horror in the Museum" itself was intended as parody, or at least largely tongue-in-cheek (like "Herbert West" and "The Hound"). Oh, and the entire petrification thing in all four of the Hazel Heald stories seems to have been her contribution. Joshi also relates, in his biography of Lovecraft, that another story about a fly leaving messages in such fashion was published in the magazines before "Winged Death", which dismayed Lovecraft no end, as he had sought to be original with this idea.

    I'm curious as to what you'll think when you hit some of the later revisions in the second section -- or, for that matter, "Deaf, Dumb, and Blind", which I feel is the best of the C. M. Eddy revisions. Still heavily flawed, but with some darned fine atmosphere; and that final portion always manages to evoke a chill for me, I will admit. Still, I'd be very interested in your thoughts when you get around to it....
     
    Dec 16, 2009
    #48
  9. Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2003
    Messages:
    4,044
    Location:
    Bangalore, India
    I recently re-read The House On The Borderland, and Lovecraft's conception of the end of the world in The Crawling Chaos was partially reminiscent of Hodsgon's treatment of the same theme in the former, as the narrator watches the world dying and being submerged. Interesting that this is a parallelism rather than an influence.

    I'd be interested in your comparison of The Green Meadow and The Voice In The Night...my email ID is jayaprakash at g mail dot com.
     
    Dec 16, 2009
    #49
  10. Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2003
    Messages:
    4,044
    Location:
    Bangalore, India
    Thanks for that. I'd heard of this book and was curious to read it.

    I've just read Danziger/De Castro's own The Automatic Executioner and it makes an interesting comparison with The Electric Executioner. Lovecraft preserves most of the incidents and plot of the original, but refines the prose considerably, gives a better rationale to the narrator's attempts to forestall his travelling companion and certainly whips together a better ending than 'It is the projected consciousness, or your Astral Body that experienced all this'. The overlay of 'Yog-Sothothery' is little more than window dressing in one sense, but it shows how powerful Lovecraft's conception of the 'mythos' was, adding a great sense of depth and menace to a standard mad-scientist motivation.

    In all, it seems as if Lovecraft would be an invaluable adviser to any aspiring writer.
     
    Dec 16, 2009
    #50
  11. Fried Egg

    Fried Egg Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Messages:
    3,482
    Just to clarify then; the Wordsworth collection of these tales is not worth the paper they're printed on and should be avoided? That's a real shame if true because...it's so affordable!
     
    Dec 16, 2009
    #51
  12. Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2003
    Messages:
    4,044
    Location:
    Bangalore, India
    Indeed; Del Rey have gone to the trouble of making a not much more expensive but definitive set of texts available on the mass market, and I would go with their collection.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2009
    Dec 16, 2009
    #52
  13. Fried Egg

    Fried Egg Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Messages:
    3,482
    Well, over three times more expenseive is not what I would call "not much more expensive" but I guess the real reason why I'm hesitant (because afterall, I shelled out for the definitive texts with the three Penguin collections) is that I am of the impression that these are not among his best works. Is it really worth it? For under £3 you can't go wrong.
     
    Dec 16, 2009
    #53
  14. Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2003
    Messages:
    4,044
    Location:
    Bangalore, India
    Well, I did pick up this book on sale, but I would have bought it at full price too. However if the Wordsworth edition contains The Mound, go for it.
     
    Dec 16, 2009
    #54
  15. Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2003
    Messages:
    4,044
    Location:
    Bangalore, India
    Hmm, but it seems even that would depend on whether it has the later version of The Mound rather than the expurgated version put out by Derleth. It's such a marvellous story, with such a great build-up of detail, I can't imagine the damage that would have been done by excising entire pages.

    I'd lend you my copy if you had the decency to live in the same city. :)
     
    Dec 16, 2009
    #55
  16. Fried Egg

    Fried Egg Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Messages:
    3,482
    It doesn't seem like anyone here actually knows whether the Wordsworth edition contains the revised text or not...I wonder how I could find out...
     
    Dec 16, 2009
    #56
  17. Fried Egg

    Fried Egg Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Messages:
    3,482
    Actually, I notice that Wordsworth have withdrawn "The Loved Dead" collection and are replacing it with "The Horror at the Museum" (released in January) for which it states: The majority of the stories in this edition appeared previously in ‘The Loved Dead’

    On Amazon, there is a publisher's note added to the product description of "The Loved Dead" which reads as follows: This collection has been withdrawn, as it inadvertently, but incorrectly, attributed the story 'The Loved Dead' to H.P.Lovecraft, rather than the true author C.M.Eddy. A revised collection is in the course of preparation.
     
    Dec 16, 2009
    #57
  18. Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

    Joined:
    May 15, 2007
    Messages:
    718
    That's quite interesting -- Eddy of course wrote the story, but HPL revised it. I didn't know that the Wordsworth book attributed it to HPL. Quite clumsy.
     
    Dec 16, 2009
    #58
  19. Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

    Joined:
    May 15, 2007
    Messages:
    718
    It probably doesn't They didn't bother with the corrected texts for the first volume, so I don't see why they would do it for the second.
     
    Dec 16, 2009
    #59
  20. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    13,883
    As I recall, having looked through it once upon a time, it is the version included in the original edition of The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions -- in other words, the expurgated, at times rewritten, Derlethian version. And I would agree: it is better to get the full texts on these, because it often makes a considerable difference. For example, in comparing "Medusa's Coil", I came up with close to three full pages worth of rewriting, bad editing or misconstrual of the original text, and excisions from Lovecraft's original -- and that is by no means the worst.

    Three pages, that is, if condensed into solid text. As it stands, it is about 15 pages worth of (handwritten) comparisons....
     
    Dec 16, 2009
    #60
Loading...

Share This Page