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Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World" - LEISURE TIME OF THE NARRATORS
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 13 September, 2020 06:31PM
Yes, I imagine that's true, Cathbad, but I would put the emphasis not on the authors' wishes but on yours and mine! We might well 'fess up and admit we relish that notion of personal liberty, financial independence, etc. that would let us roam as we please, with a home base that's cosy, well-furnished with books, etc. in an interesting old neighborhood. It's fun to set out with Holmes on a foggy night, with a revolver in one's pocket -- knowing that in a few hours we'll probably be back in Baker Street.

Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World" - LEISURE TIME OF THE NARRATORS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 13 September, 2020 07:13PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish, I'd hoped the essay on "Lovecraft's
> Comfortable World" would spur discussion --
> responses such as yours.
>
> But it's not that I was saying the stories
> necessarily suffer from a literary defect in
> having main characters who have the personal
> liberty and financial independence to come and go
> as they please, etc.

No, I understand that, Dale; in thinking about what you were saying, it also came to me that not only might the portrayal of mundane daily activities be purposefully avoided, as a conscious way to provide the reader vicarious "cosiness", but that in point of fact there isn't much time in a short story to add much about these daily activities, either.

Not a criticism so much as me clumsily trying to open a new line of consideration.

> My main point there is just
> that I think the appeal of a situation like that
> is a part, probably an important part, of many
> readers' enjoyment of the stories without their
> realizing it. They think they are enjoying cosmic
> horror -- and maybe they are, but they are also,
> quite likely, enjoying an escape from quotidian
> obligations.


Yes, and now I'm also going to jump to a very distantly related example of *the opposite* intent in an author.

B. Traven wrote a novel, La Carreta, that's all about the misersble routine existence of a Mexican cart driver. This is THE OPPOSITE of joining an adventure with Holmes and Watson, as you so aptly observe.

>
> Lovecraft rose above himself in "The Colour Out of
> Space" in his writing style, in his evocation of
> pathos, etc. He does so also in this story in
> that the narrator is (as I recall) a surveyor. He
> has a reason for being on the scene other than
> gentlemanly curiosity.

Yes, and now that I've read Ligotti, I can see what "uncomfortable horror" might be like, by comparison. (Still unsure whether Ligotti is writing horror any more than de Sade was writing horror. There's a consciously sickening element to both, it seems to me.)

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World" - LEISURE TIME OF THE NARRATORS
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 14 September, 2020 01:07PM
Any other comments on "Lovecraft's Comfortable World"?

Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World" - LEISURE TIME OF THE NARRATORS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 14 September, 2020 01:17PM
I've got a few more point-by-point questions/comments/observations, Dale.

I'll try to get another one up today.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World"
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 14 September, 2020 02:21PM
This discussion can easily slip into hot-headed political territory. I want to avoid that, because it doesn't lead anywhere, nothing is gained by it. There is no one here to convince politically.

But I can say this much. Lovecraft may not have been humorous in his stories (he was in his letters, and real life), but he had a great sense of beauty, especially of the landscape and architecture. The comfort in Lovecraft, I attach to his sense of home — caring for traditions, for his historical, geographical, genealogical, and cultural roots — and the stability this means. Lovecraft was partly a conservative. People who are liberals, who welcome constant change and upheaval, are generally not attracted to the comfort in Lovecraft.

Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 14 September, 2020 02:47PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This discussion can easily slip into hot-headed
> political territory. I want to avoid that, because
> it doesn't lead anywhere, nothing is gained by it.
> There is no one here to convince politically.

Right, but I know this and intend to resist it.

I've spent time on groups that are nominally focused on a given topic, but over the years have drifted into politics, or worse.

There was long ago a group, sci.archaeology, that was based largely on arguing over disagreements over the importance and validity of certain sites ad artifacts, but gradually drifted to politics and degenerated to ad hominem attacks as de rigueur behavior.

This offers none of the mental stimulation and comaraderie that I find here, and I'll leave if it gets that way, for no other reason that it would be extremely sad to witness ED's demise.

>
> But I can say this much. Lovecraft may not have
> been humorous in his stories (he was in his
> letters, and real life), but he had a great sense
> of beauty, especially of the landscape and
> architecture. The comfort in Lovecraft, I attach
> to his sense of home — caring for traditions,
> for his historical, geographical, genealogical,
> and cultural roots — and the stability this
> means. Lovecraft was partly a conservative. People
> who are liberals, who welcome constant change and
> upheaval, are generally not attracted to the
> comfort in Lovecraft.

Yep. I see personality types as falling into two major ideological tendencies: traditionalists and progressives. Traditionalists would like things to remain the same, and in instances of change within their lifetimes, would like to see a retreat from any such changes. This is not really workable when taken to that extreme.

Conversely, progressives tend to like change, and there are some who like the *idea* of change more than the actual result of the change, I suspect.

The former will like HPL, etc.

I would like to flatter myself to think that I'm a moderate traditionalist. Maybe so, maybe not; that's for others to judge.

Now that's about as close to politics as I'd like to get... :^(

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World" - THE ENDING OF THE CALL OF CTHULU
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 14 September, 2020 03:31PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Any other comments on "Lovecraft's Comfortable
> World"?


OK, here's a simple one that we agree on, and I'd like to extend it orthogonally to follow a very minor, but to me, interesting thing HPL does. There are two (at least) ways to look at it and I'd like to engage your opinion (and others!) as to one which seems most likely.

This response is to your specific observation on "The Call of Cthulu", where you note:

Quote:
DN

Lovecraft builds up the suspense in “The Call of Cthulhu,” only to dissipate it rather catastrophically by having the second mate Johansen run down the malevolent entity with his boat. We are told that Cthulhu pops like a seaweed bladder – a simile that is liable to remind those readers whose childhoods included seaside rambles, of long-ago vacations.

Such unintentionally funny bits would bother me as major defects if they were inserted into a tale by Blackwood, Machen, or M. R. James, but I relish them in Lovecraft.

This particular incident is one of the very weakest plot manipulations I've seen in HPL because what happens is so contrary to everything anyone who has read the Mythos has come to expect from Cthulu, a very potent interdimensional entity whose interests seem inimical to those of humanity.

I mean, I had always viewed him more along the lines of the creatures in the Cloverfield film trilogy, not like something you might encounter in a funhouse in a cheap carnival.

By simply turning the boat around in desperation and bull-rushing the Scourge of the Cosmos, he very quickly resolves the biggest conflict in the plot.

It's also sort of a funny image of Cthulu as he swims in pursuit, just before he loses the head-butting session to the Alert, Johannesen's boat...

Quote:
HPL

Then, bolder than the storied Cyclops, great Cthulhu slid greasily into the water and began to pursue with vast wave-raising strokes of cosmic potency.

I sorta get the picture of Johnny Weismueller in a sort of rubber monster suit in a 1950s Japanese movie.

And...

Quote:
Briden looked back and went mad, laughing shrilly as he kept on laughing at intervals

...I was damned close to copying Briden's behavior, up to that point.


It's hard not to burst out laughing aloud. At the very least, it was the definition of "anticlimactic".


OK, Here's the divergence...

It's where Cthulu first emerges from the aperture...

Quote:
HPL

The Thing cannot be described—there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order. A mountain walked or stumbled. God! What wonder that across the earth a great architect went mad, and poor Wilcox raved with fever in that telepathic instant? The Thing of the idols, the green, sticky spawn of the stars, had awaked to claim his own. The stars were right again, and what an age-old cult had failed to do by design, a band of innocent sailors had done by accident. After vigintillions of years great Cthulhu was loose again, and ravening for delight.

Three men were swept up by the flabby claws before anybody turned.

Right away the use of "flabby claws" caught my attention, and if HPL purposely used it in the way I suspect, which is to throw together two words that are never seen to exist in common usage, with "flabby" modifying "claws"--which in the normal world is patently inappropriate if not impossible, it emphasizes and heightens the sheer alien-ness of the very material of Cthulu's corporeal existence.

I think he did this purposefully and effectively.

But it also occurs to me that one might use the term "claws" generically, metaphorically, to mean those appendages that might be used in lieu of claws (as we know them), for catching and grasping, and so were never really intended to be taken literally as earthly "claws". In this case "claws" is a stand-in for "tentacles" or something along those lines.

He certainly could have done either, by I'd much prefer to think that he chose the former, because it's a subtle and near unique touch.

But I'd like to hear the views of others on this minor point.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World" - THE ENDING OF THE CALL OF CTHULU
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 15 September, 2020 11:38AM
"Flabby claws," in context, combines danger with disgust.

I think Lovecraft used "flabby" at least once or twice in other stories, with similar intent.

Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World" - THE ENDING OF THE CALL OF CTHULU
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 15 September, 2020 12:21PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "Flabby claws," in context, combines danger with
> disgust.
>
> I think Lovecraft used "flabby" at least once or
> twice in other stories, with similar intent.


Right. That would work. If I recall, only a few lines prior he referred to Cthulu using the terms "green" and "sticky", and in this context it's pretty loathsome. However, these are conventionally used descriptors, and send an unmixed message. I think it's important to note that there's a difference between using two descriptors, one indicating disgust and another indicating danger--that are complimentary, and not conflicting.

For example, you could use something as simple as "filthy claws" or "unclean claws", or even "squalid claws", which are complimentary (or at least not conflicting) and raise no eyebrows. You've combined disgust with danger, and that's the end of it.

By adding the conflicting element, he's bringing more to the description--something that patently cannot be, and yet *is*.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 17 September, 2020 11:13AM
Hi, Dale.

It looks as if we're ready to move on thru my annotations, if you are interested.

I have these subtopic area annotations left. Below each, I'll list whether in my notes I agree/disagree/expand with your stated stance--although my "disagreement" is more along the lines of "not sure; have further questions":

CONCRETENESS OF DESCRIPTIONS OF “MONSTROSITIES”

expand


USE OF DIALECT/PHONETIC RENDERINGS OF SOUNDS (ALIEN/HUMAN EXCLAMATIONS)

agree


COSMIC INSIGNIFICANCE

disagree



STATE OF MIND OF HPL NARRATORS

expand


LACK DEEP HUMAN ATTACHMENTS

agree


If you are still interested, which of the above would you like for me to put out there next?

Or, if you like, we can move on to new topics.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World"
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 17 September, 2020 10:15PM
Sawfish, I'd be interested in your discussion of any of these topics that you'd like to take up, and it's OK if you would druther not, too.

Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 18 September, 2020 02:01PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish, I'd be interested in your discussion of
> any of these topics that you'd like to take up,
> and it's OK if you would druther not, too.

Hi, Dale.

I'm thinking that I'm kinda beating this one to death, so I'd like to move on. I will sum up how I felt about the article, the effect it had on my thinking, and then I'd like to ask you some specific stuff about Machen, if you are willing. If so, I will start a new thread.

Prior to reading the article I had never really given any thought to the idea that HPL provided many readers with a comfortable place to go for a while. It had never occurred to me to think of it that way.

So, at first glance my response was uncommitted skepticism--but that's what I do with everything, trying to let the evidence that supports a proposition lead me to a conclusion, rather than the other way around.

But reading thru your supporting points for your thesis, I found that I agreed that *all* of them were valid, and they combined to make HPL's narrative ambience very much like Doyle, in Holmes stories, etc.

I had in mind points of departure that really did not bear on your thesis, but more along the lines of raising additional--and thinly related--areas of interest, to me, and that's where I was going with those annotations.

Now, seeing this ("comfortable space") for the first time, I applied it to some of the other authors I enjoy reading when I want to "take a vacation". This would include M. R. James, le Fanu, Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett, George MacDonnald Fraser, with his Flashman series, etc.

These all provide the same comfortable ambience.

Then, by coincidence, Knygatin introduced me to Thomas Ligotti, and he is not an author of this type, so in seeing him as a concrete counter-example, it strengthened my agreement with your main thesis.

Let me know if you are interested in helping me to begin to understand and perhaps attach to Machen. I have been unable to truly make a connection, and am unsure why.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World"
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 19 September, 2020 02:05PM
Whoa -- I see I somehow overlooked several messages here! Apologies if I seemed aloof.

But, first, I'd be delighted to participate in a thread on Arthur Machen, Sawfish, if you would like to start one.

Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World"
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 19 September, 2020 02:22PM
Knygatin wrote on 14 Sept., "Lovecraft may not have been humorous in his stories (he was in his letters, and real life), but he had a great sense of beauty, especially of the landscape and architecture. The comfort in Lovecraft, I attach to his sense of home — caring for traditions, for his historical, geographical, genealogical, and cultural roots — and the stability this means."

This seems to me concise and insightful. I don't think I said anything specifically about Lovecraft's love of beauty in landscape and architecture in the "Comfortable World" essay, which was long enough, but maybe I should have, if I'd thought to do so!

For some reason I think of some lines from the Led Zeppelin song --

“There's a feeling I get when I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who standing looking.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.”

That's actually a bit awkward ("I have seen...the voices"), but perhaps sunset-gazers will respond.

Because here's the thing: isn't it true that, when Lovecraft writes about the beautiful, he generally is not writing about something beautiful that he wants to possess? He's not writing about beautiful objects he could put on a shelf, or a beautiful woman he could marry or have erotic relations with.

Rather, he writes of beautiful things that he would like to "go to." The sunset draws him emotionally, psychologically ... I might say spiritually. He wants to be united to something of which the sunset is a sensory emblem. However, his materialist commitments scotch that; oh no ya don't, he might say, uh uh, not having it, I don't believe it... and so he writes a horror story.

Again, he responds lovingly to the sight of architecture that is always old. He seems never, that I remember, to perceive beauty in new architecture. So part of his response to the architecture that he does love is that it is redolent of the old, the bygone. Now I think it would be easy to relate this, too, to a spiritual desire, to a desire to go into a wider, better place than that of the common world. This too, for me as a religious person, it is easy to see as evidence of a religious type of desire in Lovecraft.

Lovecraft is resolutely anti-religious, but he manifestly does draw comfort from experiences of the beautiful that, it seems to me at least, probably relate to the spiritual or (overused word) the "mystical."

Re: "Lovecraft's Comfortable World"
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 19 September, 2020 02:27PM
Sawfish mentions finding "comfort" in HPL, Doyle, MRJ, Hammett, Chandler...

Would you say that there's an attraction, with all of these, that comes out of an evocation of bygone places? There is for me. (G. M. Fraser I've not read.)

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