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HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Raven10 (IP Logged)
Date: 25 February, 2006 01:37PM
Hi! I was wondering whether or not you share my view that Clark Ashton Smith's writing style and use of english, was actually better than in Lovecraft's writing? Even so, I still have a high opinion of Lovecraft's stories too. Looking forward to your replies.

Julian L Hawksworth

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Glyptodont (IP Logged)
Date: 2 October, 2006 01:06PM
I can only say this -- Lovecraft's style takes some getting used to.

It is very dense, very ridden with Latin-root words, and uses lengthy sentences with complex structure.

Lovecraft was something of an antiquarian in many ways, and that extended to his style. In fact, his style may owe something to that of Poe, who was his favorite author.

Lovecraft also used many archaic words, such as "anent" meaning "concerning." Plus archaic spellings, or British usages. For those who love Lovecraft's writing, it's all part of the charm.

Once a person gets used to Lovecraft's style, it sails along pretty well. Unfortunately, many a reader has doubtless gotten a few pages into his writing and put the book aside.

I have read some Smith and I would say he uses the language with great skill, but in a more modern way.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: garymorris (IP Logged)
Date: 2 October, 2006 09:21PM
I've read most of both over the years and feel CAS is a far better writer by any measure you want to apply. Smith's short stories have the dazzling rhythm and color of poetry (no surprise), and his imagination just never stops. There's also the wonderful sardonic tone in some of them (Arthur Jean Cox has argued that HPL's use of italics shows he's actually putting us on, but the stories seem essentially humorless to me). Lovecraft was a smooth enough writer but for me CAS is in another league.

The letters are the only exception: CAS's, judging from the Arkham collection, lack the breadth and power of HPL's quite amazing ones. No criticism of Smith intended; he apparently wasn't driven in this direction the way Lovecraft was. The latter's letters are an astounding achievement, and his shining glory to my mind; I can read and re-read these forever, it seems, for his rich sensibility, vivid style, wit, and deep knowledge of so many fields. As the years go by, I find his stories and novellas (and the mediocre poetry), with a few exceptions, less intriguing. Ultimately CAS "delivers" in a way that HPL, who too often seems to be avoiding the horrors he creates, does not.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: walrus (IP Logged)
Date: 4 October, 2006 11:55AM
garymorris Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> (Arthur
> Jean Cox has argued that HPL's use of italics
> shows he's actually putting us on, but the stories
> seem essentially humorless to me).

HPL's opinion was that humour has no place in horror.

Juha-Matti Rajala

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Gavin Callaghan (IP Logged)
Date: 4 October, 2006 07:11PM
garymorris Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> (Arthur
> Jean Cox has argued that HPL's use of italics
> shows he's actually putting us on, but the stories
> seem essentially humorless to me).

According (I think) to Robert H. Barlow, HPL's voice would often become very theatrical and melodramatic when he read aloud the conclusions of his stories. The stories in themselves are fairly humorless, of course ---save for unintended humor, like his description of the "penguins" in Mountains of Madness as being "grotesque"; (only HPL could find penguins grotesque....), as well as some of the parodies HPL wrote in collaboration with Barlow.

I think that CAS is the better writer as compared with HPL, though ---more range, better style, a more sexual edge--- but in the end I like HPL more ---simply because I myself am very morbid and so appreciate HPL's morbid depravity.........



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 4 Oct 06 | 07:12PM by Gavin Callaghan.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Stan (IP Logged)
Date: 16 October, 2006 08:35PM
Quote:
Gavin Callaghan
The stories in themselves are fairly humorless, of course ---save for unintended humor, like his description of the "penguins" in Mountains of Madness as being "grotesque"; (only HPL could find penguins grotesque....)

In this connotation, "grotesque" means "ludicrous from incongruity; comically absurd," which, if you've ever seen a penguin, is fairly apt. This meaning would have been more predominant in Lovecraft's time; it is only relatively recently that grotesque has come to mean "gross" or "ugly." I say this not to be pedantic, but to defend HPL's word usage. He may have often used archaic or obscure words, and indulged in a kind of "it's eldritch because I say it is" adjective-itis, but I don't think he ever improperly used a word.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: rutledge_442 (IP Logged)
Date: 18 October, 2006 04:52PM
I have not read enough of Smith's works to form an opinion, but i will admit that i have to read the same passage a few times in Lovecraft's stories before i understand it.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 19 October, 2006 10:54AM
Dear Rutledge and others, particularly the younger readers -

plowing through CAS' work, even if you need the Hernia Edition of Webster's is a rewarding experience -- your vocabulary will increase markedly -- in general observation however, since Latin and Greek vanished from the school curriculum, wide vocabularies require much more work to acquire. After all, we see the word "impact" used as a verb constantly (the failure of the bond issue impacted the city council - indicating they all need an enema -- probably true since such groups are often full of it); and the word Homophobia is completely misused since it can only mean "fear of boredom" -
I recommend a shortcut for those who might avail themselves of it on a site that is very entertaining and useful: lexfiles.com.
When there check the "basics" link and go to "the fourteen words".
Mastery of this list of words' prefixes and roots will allow you to decode over 140,000 words in English.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: SeventhSon (IP Logged)
Date: 24 April, 2015 04:42PM
I like Lovecraft but I do think his style is far from perfect, first he does so much useless adjective excess, that I was often bored reading his work even for the first time. His Dunsany's imitations show his limitations as a "poet". On the other hand, I could learn CAS's best stuff by heart, as the best of a Poe or Shakespeare, it's amazing, it has it all, music, images, etc. Not many people can appreciate good poetry, or such kind of prose these days, so no surprise he is underrated, but he's definitely a better writer, one of the best of his century.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 23 May, 2015 11:37AM
In other words, if this cheap essay writing service had been available in the '30s, Lovecraft and Smith would be on the best-seller list today? I have to question the utility of an essay writing service advocated by someone who "will admit that I have to read the same passage a few times in Lovecraft's stories before i understand it".

I would hate to see any writer's work interpreted under those circumstances:

"John Keats wrote 'The Eve of St. Agnes', that tragic tale of 'silver, snarling trumpets' and a Beadsman's death, nearly 200 years ago in 1819 . . ."

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 25 May, 2015 12:32AM
It seems to me that most of what we have above (though not all) comes down more to personal preference or (in some cases) personal limitations of a particular reader rather than a seasoned judgment on the relative merits of either writer. There is certainly nothing wrong with such preference, but I question it as a critical assessment in the wider sense. Each writer, though certainly influenced by poetry to a great degree, was attempting something different from the other, and I think each succeeded extremely well. Lovecraft more and more saw himself as a prose realist in the main when it came to his approach, whilst Smith was much more interested in stretching the possibilities of language and its ability to convey imagery and sensual experience. Lovecraft wasn't simply an antiquarian (and Poe was only one of many of his older influences, albeit a particularly important one; another, almost equally important, was Samuel Johnson, and yet another was Richard Steele, whose work, despite his preference for Addison's style, actually seems to have had a greater affinity to Lovecraft's own writing -- compare the papers of each for The Spectator, for example), he was a man whose outlook was deeply imbrued by the Georgian writers, particularly the essayists and poets; and this, naturally, has its reflection in his prose style as well; which, as has been pointed out, is an odd blending of the classical essay form and prose-poetic techniques (his various uses of certain cadences in the writing, as well as a sonorous word-choice to provide what has been called by many a sort of "incantatory effect"; his reliance on such things as chiasmus, assonance, etc. to provide a certain mood or emotive cue to the reader, as well the modulation from one such technique to another to aid in building a complex synthesis of several moods. Try reading Lovecraft aloud (sans the sort of scenery-chewing perfervid tone I find in far too many audio renditions of his work), and you may find a refreshing view of how powerful his prose can be.

Smith, on the other hand, was indeed in many ways more modern in his use of language; at least as far as utilizing poetic technique in his prose; but he, too, tended to use a great number of archaic, arcane, and even recondite words or phrases which few modern readers are likely to have encountered -- even rather widely-read ones. This is by no means an adverse criticism; at his best, Smith's prose works (his poetry is damn near in a class by itself) are scintillating examples of language pushed almost to its limits, an assault on the citadels of sense which can overwhelm and (as with William Blake) even make the reader almost intoxicated on the experience... a sort of Dionysian rather than Apollonian (HPL's favored dichotomy) approach.

In a way, it has always struck me as odd that Lovecraft had such a low opinion of Le Fanu given that there are (at least, so it seems to me) certain similarities in approach with their prose styles. While each in many ways is very direct about what would appear to be the horrors or wonders they are attempting to evoke, the actual strengths in their writing often lie in a rather more oblique approach to these matters, an approach which allows for a more cloudy, associative effect upon the reader's perceptions and apprehensions, one which, indeed, grows with each rereading and even by later pondering on certain phrases or words and the spreading ripples of their implications. Smith, it seems to me, does this as well, though from a different angle, thus achieving an effect which, while closely related, is nonetheless different, with different strengths.

In the end, though, I would say that both Smith and Lovecraft were, by dint of honing their particular use of language, almost perfectly suited for what each was attempting (and not infrequently succeeding) to do.

On the idea of Lovecraft's use of humor in his tales -- I would say it is definitely there, though seldom overt. He didn't care for overt use of humor, feeling it diluted the emotional response he was seeking to evoke; but carefully ironic use of language was certainly a part of his style -- again, in part the result of his early absorption of the Augustan writers (though, again, Poe was by no means averse to such usage himself). Hence, he didn't at all mind a bit of dry wit or a sly pun, so long as it did not break the mood. (The example of the penguins may -- I stress the may, though it would be perfectly in accord with his practice elsewhere -- be such a case, as it not only carries the connotation given above, but comes, as Lovecraft well knew, from a term meaning literally "of a cave". It may also be a link to the Gothic influence, as the grotesque, in both these senses, was a very prominent part of that movement -- see, particularly, the early works of Ann Radcliffe, such as The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne. Such a multilayered pun was the sort of thing he relished; and, if it could be used in such a way as to enhance the weirdness, by way of incongruity, he was aiming for, all the better.)

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 1 June, 2015 02:19PM
For me it is a matter of preference, I guess. I think HPL is a far better writer in every way: prose style, ideas, imaginative range, atmosphere, characters. I am compell'd to return to Lovecraft again and again, and his weird fiction never fails to captivate me. CAS is now an author I adore, but it wasn't an easy or instant admiration, because so much of what I read at first simply didn't interest me. That admiration came with maturity, after my first stage of writing my own stuff.

"I'm a little girl."
--H. P. Lovecraft, Esq.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: SeventhSon (IP Logged)
Date: 20 June, 2015 05:49PM
If it is a matter of preference, then HPL is not a "far better writer".

Well, I already said what I think about it.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 20 August, 2016 10:50AM
Raven10 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Hi! I was wondering whether or not you share my
> view that Clark Ashton Smith's writing style and
> use of english, was actually better than in
> Lovecraft's writing? Even so, I still have a high
> opinion of Lovecraft's stories too. Looking
> forward to your replies.

Yes, I would say Smith's prose style is more strikingly original and more versatile than Lovecraft's, but not to a great degree. Smith's style invokes his themes in a smoother and occasionally more compelling manner, and his best tales--"The Dark Eidolon", "The Double Shadow", "Xeethra", "The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis", "The City of the Singing Flame", are a bit more diverse in their settings. Aside from the consideration of length, they stand on equal ground with HPL's best-- the 2 "Shadow" novellas, "The Colour out of Space", "Cthulhu" and the Antarctic novel. Criticism of either author's style is of negligible value; one can pick at an over-use of simile in some passages just as one can fault Lovecraft's excesses with adjectives. What is primarily interesting to me is that Smith was the better all-around creative artist, a claim that can hardly be denied after reading his prose poems and verse.
"There is nothing more unpoetic than the life of the average American"
-- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

jkh

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2016 10:07AM
Excellent points!

By circumstance, when mentioning specific Smith titles, you named two of my favorites--they are absolutely powerful and inspired, in my opinion--The Double Shadow, and The Dark Eidolon--while for Lovecraft's work, the "Antarctic novel", which is probably At the Mountains of Madness, is also at or near the peak of Lovecraft's work.

My opinions, only...

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2016 09:56PM
On the topic of characters I must disagree. He had his narrator but developed characters very sparsely. Smith, on the other hand, created a great deal of depth for even minor characters, like Zotulla's favorite courtesan, Obexa. A really good example of this is that we know that she's from Uccastrog--and if you've read the other Zothique stories, you understand what this means.

We know that when young, she had a lover whom she betrayed to his death, for amusement, apparently.

And we know that when she was escorted to Namirrah's banquet, under circumstances of extreme duress, upon first seeing Namirrah, the first thing she wondered, to paraphrase Smith was "what he was like in his congress with women...".

That's a lot to know about a minor character. I see nothing that compares to this in Lovecraft.

Similarly, the characters in The Witchcraft of Ulua are all well-formed and individual, even to the king and his queen, to a lesser degree, very minor characters, again.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 31 October, 2016 04:01PM
About the many faces of H. P. Lovecraft:

Reputation says that Clark Ashton Smith was quite a ladies man. What about Lovecraft?

What did Lovecraft and his wife Sonia do for fun in New York, during their marriage? After all, women hate dull and scrimping men. And I am sure Lovecraft tried his best to please her. Did they visit the jazz clubs, boogie-woogie, and have a few drinks?

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Ancient History (IP Logged)
Date: 31 October, 2016 06:07PM
Lovecraft was a teetotal, but his letters suggest that they entertained at their apartment and went to plays.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Zabdamar (IP Logged)
Date: 27 March, 2017 09:54PM
It goes without saying that both men had the deepest admiration for one another, and would probably baulk at such a comparison; but as an avid fan of both authors I will offer my two cents.

I understand that stylistic proclivities will govern most peoples thinking, however I'm of the opinion that CAS was a superior writer to HPL in almost all areas, and furthermore, I propose that were the question put before HPL he would state the same (I base this conjecture from reading the correspondence between the two, and the fact that HPL achieved little success in his own lifetime, whilst CAS was a lauded poet who had received critical acclaim from the likes of Sterling and Bierce amongst others).

In terms of prose, descriptiveness, vocabulary, pacing, and imagination, CAS was the clear superior writer, and I doubt that few would contend that HPL could come close to him as a poet. Joshi places CAS amongst the great poets that have come out of the USA, and his contemporaries compared him to Keats and Byron...heady company indeed.

CAS' stories are ageless, someone unfamiliar with his work could read one of his shorts and believe it to be a contemporary piece, whereas HPL's work is clearly dated, and many modern readers will be put off for purely stylistic reasons.

Some will contend that HPL was superior in the arena of horror, but I dispute this claim as well, and am of the opinion that the 'Dweller in the Gulf' is a more curdling, horrific tale than anything in the Lovecraft Canon, and that creatures like the entity in 'The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan' and the snouted fiend from 'The Abominations of Yondo' are more sinister and terrifying than anything conjured by Lovecraft. Smith had the remarkable ability to describe these fantastical, alien creatures in a way that made them seem utterly and completely real. It is this 'tangibility' that makes some of his work so horrifying, and being able to blend believability with such fantastique is a talent that I think Smith alone holds.

Ultimately, aside from Smith's finer writing chops, I think the defining characteristic that elevates him above Lovecraft is this: Smith was a true mystic, a true fantasist who believed in (was intimate with?) the supernatural scape, whereas Lovecraft was a stone-cold materialist, a skeptic who had a talent for writing fantasy/horror stories. There is a vast gulf between those two positions, Smith was in effect, reporting back on mystical visions and hidden things that he had glimpsed, whist Lovecraft was just 'making things up', and had no inherent belief in the veracity of his own horror or fantasy.

CAS was a genius, any who doubt that claim should read his juvenilia, which is utterly remarkable for someone so young. He was self-taught in Latin, French and Spanish to a level required not only for translatory work, but also for writing poetry...remarkable! He had an eidetic memory, and had committed the contents of an unabridged dictionary to memory. I agree with George Haas when he wrote that CAS' tremendous vocabulary is "without parallel in literature...and that I know of no other writer living or dead, who has had at his command such an incredible, comprehensive vocabulary and the ability to use it so effectively."

Comparing CAS and HPL reminds me a little of the old comparisons between Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton (bear with me here!). Both men were superlative guitarists, but I think Jack Bruce summarised it best when he said "Eric was just a guitar player, but Jimi was a force of nature" and I think the same sentiment applies to CAS and HPL. HPL was a master of his craft, and his work far excels most that have come before and after, but at the end of the day he was just a writer. CAS was a genius, a true mystic in every sense of the word. The fact that this mysticism was combined with transcendent writing ability is something that has never happened before and is unlikely to happen again.

CAS, the acme of fantasy.



Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 27 Mar 17 | 10:09PM by Zabdamar.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 3 April, 2017 11:22AM
Smith's best fiction often seems relatively unflawed compared to Lovecraft, whose use of first-person narration carried attendant risks. There is a tendency to explain to excess, manifested in repetitive phrasing. Also an overuse of namedropping, as in [i]At the Mountains of Madness [i] when the biologist messages the narrator's party saying that he knows they will understand the impression made upon him because they are familiar with Clark Ashton Smith and the Necronomicon. We ask ourselves, are these really scientists or just members of the Lovecraft Circle? "The Whisperer in Darkness" should have been written in the third-person, possibly as a full-length novel. As it is, few objective critics can take seriously the pretense that Akeley's letters are committed to Wilmarth's memory verbatim after he had destroyed them all prior to visiting Wilmarth. The gullibility of the narrator has been widely observed, and the name-dropping already mentioned recurs of course. The fabric of realism is torn & frayed in Lovecraft, to say the least. A less salient example is the repeated sentence toward the closing of "The Colour out of Space"-- the phrases "deep skyey voids" and "an odd timidity" are portentous at the beginning of the story but rather pointless at the end.
Smith's fantasies are less grounded in realism or what might be called the rhetoric of horror (Zabdamar notes this), yet they sustain reader-involvement more creditably due to his masterful control of narrative distance. Conceptually and stylistically, they have exerted a uniformly positive influence on the development of fantastic fiction, excepting Lin Carter but including Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, Tanith Lee, and Harlan Ellison. The same can't be unreservedly said of Lovecraft's work; witness the endless piles of egocentric garbage composed by his admirers, for some of whose efforts outlandish claims to literary excellence are made. Smith is indeed the better author. He appeals more forcefully to what Dr. Johnson called "the common sense of readers uncorrupted with literary prejudices," taken to be the chief "criterion of literary fame" (S.C. Roberts, "The Cult of Sherlock").

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 4 April, 2017 09:12AM
They were equal geniuses, but different in approach. Personally I think Lovecraft was greater. Smith may have been a better writer technically (although I am not so sure; Lovecraft's wrting was perhaps "clumsy", on and off, (I don't see it that way myself), but he was a sorceror with words in his own right, each completed story resulting in a powerful spell.). Technicality does not count for everything. The overall movement is the most important. Smith was also cooler and more detached, except for grim sardonic humour. He was better at painting visuals with words, colorful exotic settings, ... but Lovercraft had a wider wisdom, and understanding of vital meaning, and consequently was a greater authority. Smith was a reincarnated voice from Hyperborea, Zothique, and Xiccarph. But none of his invented creatures can measure themselves with Cthulhu. Lovecraft sweeps the floor here.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 6 April, 2017 02:31PM
I agree that they were equal geniuses. So how does it follow that Lovecraft displays a "wider wisdom," or "greater authority," or "understanding of vital meaning" than Smith? What a ridiculous claim. Lovecraft said that he liked Hitler, but what Germany really needed was a Mussolini. What a pearl of wisdom that was. Smith on the other hand did not believe Socialism could ever work in America and rejected it, unlike HPL. Any form of the supernatural was rejected out of hand as unscientific by Lovecraft; whereas, no such dogmatism was embraced by Smith. By "supernatural" I do not of course refer to religion in any way, but HPL's skills as a debater on that subject are possibly overrated (like the Rainbow Coalition). Repetitious as opposed to convincing on all points. BTW, I meant to say that Akeley lost the Wilmarth correspondence, not "destroyed" it--same difference. As far as what you mean by "the overall movement" of a story being the essential factor, I will concede the point, but there's no getting around my point that the reference to Smith's paintings in "Mountains of Madness" is an out of place literary in-joke compromising the central effect. The paintings of Nicholas Roerich are also mentioned ad nauseum, something like 14 times. Yes, "Cthulhu" is an almost perfect story; too bad Farnsworth Wright foolishly rejected it as its acceptance might have buoyed up Lovecraft's confidence and led him to avoid certain lapses in the seriousness of tone shown in some later works ("The Thing on the Doorstep," "The Shadow Out of Time," "The Haunter of the Dark"), to which I have alluded. Self-parody does nothing to enhance horror. With regard to prose realism, btw, Henry S. Whitehead was superior to both Smith and Lovecraft; he's the only Weird Tales author who is seriously underappreciated.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 7 April, 2017 04:15AM
<<but there's no getting around my point that the reference to Smith's paintings in "Mountains of Madness" is an out of place literary in-joke compromising the central effect.>>

Since it didn't have that effect on me, that is a statement of personal taste, not a statement of fact.

<<The paintings of Nicholas Roerich are also mentioned ad nauseum, something like 14 times.>>

Roerich is mentioned 7 times. I see no problem with that.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 7 April, 2017 12:23PM
I thought Roerich was mentioned 8 or 9 times, if precision matters here. Taste is everything, as Poe said. Or nothing. You even praised "In the Walls of Eryx". Do you like "Out of the Aeons" too? Anyway, I have no "problem" with the cross-referencing or sardonic reflexive bits in the tales I mentioned; they reflect his primary literary influences and are intended to accent his cosmicism. Which is the central effect. Flaws may affect that effect; for example, with only a couple of edits, he could have made the narrator less of a credulous stooge in "The Whisperer in Darkness". In the Antarctic novel, the narrator resorts to similar specious reasoning about the cause of the deaths of Lake's party when it is obvious to the reader what has actually occurred. But in that case HPL had less viable alternatives. The reference to Smith and the Necronomicon, on the other hand, could have been omitted or altered, intensifying, arguably, both the horror at Lake's camp and the controversial ending of the novel. Smith's more balanced approach eschews the deliberate minimalization of potential characterization which Lovecraft, the more idiosyncratic author of the two, preferred to exercise.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 8 April, 2017 12:51AM
Roerich is referenced 6 times, mea culpa, but one of the references comes from Lake, the biologist leading the doomed detachment. So he's just a mouthpiece for the narrator; no individuation or dialogues as in Smith, whose tales also have more colorful descriptive detail and physical movement, generally.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 8 Apr 17 | 12:57AM by Kipling.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 8 April, 2017 11:15AM
I adore "Out of ye Aeons," especially as I judge it to be almoft entirely Lovecraft's text. The tale captivated me when I first read it at a young age, and does not disappoint whenever I return to it. Lovecraft's description of the singular crouching mummy with shrivelled features that actually elicit an emotional response from viewers is brilliant. I have dreamt, more than once, of wandering that hall of mummies, and once wrote an early tale set therein. Shub-Niggurath is distinctly referred as a female entity--a point that is still debated, for I believe that elsewhere she is described as a kind of airy element akin to ye colour out of space. The references to the Black Book form one of my favourite Lovecraftian tropes. I've return'd to ye tale often and it never fails to entertain.

"I'm a little girl."
--H. P. Lovecraft, Esq.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 8 Apr 17 | 11:18AM by wilum pugmire.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 9 April, 2017 01:23PM
"Coming then to a wayside shrine of Yuckla, the small and grotesque god of laughter, whose influence was believed to be mainly benignant, they were glad to go no farther on that day, but took shelter in the crumbling shrine for fear of the ghouls and devils, who might dwell in such vicinage to those accursed ruins." ("The Weaver in the Vault")

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 28 April, 2017 10:57AM
walrus Wrote:
> HPL's opinion was that humour has no place in
> horror.

And yet I find "Herbert West" and "The Lurking Fear" to be hilarious.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 16 May, 2017 11:58AM
On a sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph level, CAS is the better writer. He is leaner, meaner, tighter, and more elegant. However, when it comes to comparing the whole to the sum of its parts, HPL tends to make up for lost ground.

I won't necessarily say that HPL pulls ahead, because I have yet to read everything by CAS.

I once read "The Shadow over Innsmouth" aloud to someone, who was snickering at his prose the whole time, but who at the end admitted the story had an impact that sneaks up on you and gets to you in the end.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 16 May 17 | 11:58AM by Platypus.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 16 May, 2017 02:48PM
Well put Platypus. I agree, but could not put it into words as clearly.

I think it is impossible to objectively say that one, on the whole, is a better writer than the other. Nature does not allow itself to be measured that way. Only in the simplistic little games we humans make up, when chasing time or length.
We can compare different aspects of their writing (like Sawfish so wisely does above), and see weaknesses and strengths, but we should refrain from saying than one is a better writer than the other on the whole.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 21 August, 2017 11:39AM
This exchange is really stimulating, and frankly very enjoyable.

I tend to re-read my favorite authors...a lot. Don't laugh, please, but I've probably read all of the major Raymond Chandler novels somewhere between 20-25 times (I used to live in LA and it is like a sort of nostalgic tour of the Hollywood/Sunset/Santa Monica area), with multiple readings of Steven Crane ("Manacled"...YEOW!--what might Crane have achieved had he lived beyond his 20s...), Cormac McCarthy, Hemingway, Nathaniel West, and various others. I probably read Catch-22 between 10-20 times.

Lovecraft and Smith are among this number.

So I'm now re-reading some of Lovecraft's work (currently Shadow Out of Time), and I there's a sort of unique aspect of his work that surfaces repeatedly, though not always. It is linked to the Mythos, but not in the way commonly thought of. He is not like Tolkien in the creation of a complete alternate world within the context of the trilogy, but is concerned at extraordinary depth with the cosmological details of that world. In short, within the context of At the Mountains of Madness, or Shadow Out of Time, or in his ghost-written work for Zealia Bishop (esp. The Mound), he spends an extraordinary amount of time on the details--day-to-day activities as well as broader historical trends, such as wars.

It is less a cultural history than Tolkien's Silmarillion, but more like an account by a cultural anthropologist, like The Golden Bough.

This can be off-putting to many readers, but when one considers the depth of his absorption in the detail of his setting--whether immediate or in the past, thru dreams or other narrative mechanisms (like reading the inscriptions in the dead city in At the Mountains of Madness)--they are beyond doubt impressive, and I, for one, enjoy this level of detail. In supplying this, he perhaps inadvertently supplies us with a compelling rationale for the behavior and the motives of such alien entities as Cthulu--and I'd facetiously share with you my conception of Cthulu, as described in The Call of Cthulu, as Pan on crack cocaine.

We might compare Smith superficially. He, too, creates entire alternate worlds and pantheons, which are fairly consistent (although I doubt he cared as much about a coherent mythology as he did about narrative impact, as in Weaver in the Vault or Isle of the Torturers), but his narrative cosmos is of a much more common variety. I'd compare his conception of the setting of Zothique to J. G. Ballard's idea of Vermillion Sands. This is to say that he does not seem to work obsessively within his setting, but uses it as a canvas for his very strong *human* themes--almost classical: revenge, mortality, etc.

I'd also like to add, in closing, that Smith seems to me to evoke sensuality--mainly visual, but he deal a bit in the other sense--and in this he reminds me of my impressions of Flaubert's Salammbo.

Comments/opinions are of course welcome.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 21 Aug 17 | 12:36PM by Sawfish.



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