Lovecraft as character in new novel

  1. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2010
    Messages:
    5,080
    REH: Two-Gun Raconteur » Blog Archive » “It Is To Laugh!”

    It doesn't sound like something I'd read. Has anyone read Lupoff's Lovecraft's Book, which was, I think, the first novel with HPL as a character? I started it, or a revision of it, a while ago, but didn't stay with it. I don't remember specifics; it just wasn't holding my interest for some reason.
     
    Sep 18, 2013
    #1
  2. Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

    Joined:
    May 15, 2007
    Messages:
    718
    Well, I wouldn't trust the critical judgement of someone who recommends Mask of Cthulhu -- the collection that contains "The Whippoorwills in the Hills" -- over any book. I haven't started it yet myself, but I have read a passage here and there, and it seems enjoyable enough.

    Yes, I read it years ago -- enjoyable but not very plausible. The best in the genre "Lovecraft as character" is probbaly Peter Cannon's The Lovecraft Chronicles (even Pulptime by the same author, but that one is a bit less realistic as it features Sherlock Holmes as a character).
     
    Sep 19, 2013
    #2
  3. JoanDrake

    JoanDrake Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2008
    Messages:
    1,419
    Lovecraft led a rather short and somewhat depressing life. So, in fact, did Howard. Now this doesn't mean you can't use them as characters but you have to incorporate that fact into their depiction in the story if you want to remain true to them and I can't help but think that would make the story somewhat depressing too.

    OTOH Tim Powers almost specializes in this kind of thing, but his books are very well researched and seem to have less magical influences, though what is there is crucial.

    One character I've thought of treating this way was is T.E. Lawrence. He was lionized after the war and some even thought he could have become P.M. I've often wondered what the present world would be like if he had, sort of like Stirling's Difference Engine, which posits a world where Byron lived a long life and became the Prime Minister.
     
    Sep 19, 2013
    #3
  4. w h pugmire esq

    w h pugmire esq Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2009
    Messages:
    402
    Location:
    I linger within ye shadows of Sesqua Valley, dream
    Lovecraft's life was far happier than it was depressing. He wrote what he wanted to write, lived as he wished he could live within his means, loved his many journeys throughout the country, and lived a happy social life, visiting many friends for weeks or months at a time. His life, fully lived, had many incidents of interest. He was a fascinating creature, and (like Wilde) his life can be interestingly portrayed as fiction, as a foundation for imaginative writing. I loved the original Arkham House edition of Dick Lupoff's novel, publish'd as LOVECRAFT'S BOOK. And I was thrilled with my second reading of S. T. Joshi's excellent novel concerning Lovecraft, THE ASSAULTS OF CHAOS.
     
    Sep 19, 2013
    #4
  5. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    13,883
    I have to side with Wilum here. I would call HPL's life anything but depressing, save for isolated periods (particularly 1904-14, or -- and even here I'd use the term with strong reservations -- his "New York exile" of 1924-26). He certainly had his hard times, but he was so fascinated with so many things, and had such "mental greed" (to use E. Hoffman Price's phrase), that anything which uses what we know of him accurately is certainly not going to be depressing. If anything, it is likely to be quite lively, full of sparkling wit, humor, and a very generous spirit... the very things which earned him the lifelong friendship of nearly everyone he met or corresponded with.

    Even Bob Howard's life can't really be called "depressing". He, too, had his problems, but he also greatly enjoyed much of life, and had a lively, often bawdy, sense of humor and a relish for the absurdities of existence. Even his suicide, it can well be argued, was not due to a fit of depression -- as it has long been depicted -- but rather the following through on a decision made many years before, in a reasoned, logical manner. Tragic, yes, in that we lost a writer of considerable talent; but "depressing" is, I think, quite a different matter.

    As for STJ's novel... I'm always wary of books which utilize real people, even when written by an authority on said individual(s). But I've run across enough positive comment to make me think this one may be one of the rare exceptions, so I'll give it a go....
     
    Sep 20, 2013
    #5
  6. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2010
    Messages:
    5,080
    I remember now -- the Lupoff book that I started but didn't finish was called Marblehead or something like that.
     
    Sep 20, 2013
    #6
  7. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    13,883
    Yep. The full text, if memory serves (I've not read it, but am recalling something I read elsewhere) of what Arkham House published as Lovecraft's Book. Lupoff is, to me, a hit-or-miss writer; some of his work is darned near brilliant; other things leave me cold. I'd like to read this version, just to see....
     
    Sep 21, 2013
    #7
  8. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2010
    Messages:
    5,080
    I too tend to shy away from the use of real people, particularly other than "celebrities," in fiction. (I liked what Tolstoy did with Napoleon, but then Tolstoy was a great writer indeed.)

    Thus, for me, the imaginary Inklings meeting, in Humphrey Carpenter's book on the group, was probably the least valuable chapter. Didn't Peter Ackroyd narrate "encounters" with Dickens in his huge biography of the author? I read it several years ago, but don't recall being much pleased or displeased by those passages. Perhaps they were kept brief. That could make a difference.

    In general I think I'd prefer the "thinly disguised" portrayal of a real person under a fictional name and with, perhaps, his or her own characteristics, so that the reader doesn't feel obliged to check the story against the biographical facts.

    The historian John Lukacs has an essay on this sort of thing, with sharp things to say about E. L. Doctorow, a bygone bestselling author.
     
    Sep 21, 2013
    #8
  9. the Jester

    the Jester Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2013
    Messages:
    28
    Interesting- I'm not familiar with any of the novels featuring HPL that are mentioned upthread, but I do follow a webcomic featuring him and many other characters that a fan of his might recognize, called Lovecraft is Missing. Y'all might want to check it out.
     
    Sep 21, 2013
    #9
  10. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    13,883
    Some actual personages are relatively easy to use, of course. This may be because we know little about them, and therefore what we do makes them easy to adapt for fictional purposes. On the other hand, there are those who lead unusually linear lives with few complexities -- rare, but it happens.

    The problem is, adapting the complexities of a genuinely individual person to the needs of art, which is (at its best) a selective representation of life, means you have to pick and choose aspects of that person's character; something which by its very nature limits showing them as they really were. Given that HPL is reputedly one of the most prolifically self-represented people in history, with something over 20,000 letters (not to mention his other writings, which also represent him in one aspect or another) still extant, the complexities involved are enormous. He was a distinctly multi-faceted human being who went through a number surprising changes in life, while nonetheless retaining a "core personality" which itself was quite subtle and varied in texture.

    Add to that the fact that there is so much about Lovecraft out there that is simplistic myth (which makes him easier to pigeonhole -- something which simply cannot be done with the real person; anyone who tries is in for a miserable failure), and the dangers in attempting to present him in any more than a very limited manner are obvious. It can be done -- witness Out of Mind, which manages to do a very creditable job in under an hour's worth of film -- but one has to really do their research, and there's a lot of it to do. I would even suggest that, in this case, it is necessary to also read a fair amount of the scholarly work on Lovecraft and his writings, as these provide tremendously valuable insights into his character as well... and the amount of critical analysis* on him is simply jaw-dropping.

    Still, if you have someone pull it off, the result is almost guaranteed to be well worth one's while. Again, it is largely a matter of writers who actually do the work rather than simply grabbing hold of a popular figure as a gimmick, the latter being a sure way to screw things up royally.

    *A great deal of which is actually quite good; very thought-provoking and often well-written; though there is also, given the mountains of such work out there, a considerable amount which is exactly the opposite, and which shows a lack of ability staggering to behold. One must be cautious and already bring a fairly good knowledge of the man to bear in reading this work.
     
    Sep 22, 2013
    #10
Loading...

Share This Page