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Phallic trees?
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 18 September, 2008 10:28AM
Not that I'm a great fan of CAS's art but ever since I've read ST Joshi's HP Lovecraft: A Life I've been wanting to see his illustration to a HP Lovecraft story (not sure which one off hand) he did for Weird Tales (I think - sorry for the vagueness). According to Joshi, CAS made the fantastic scenery look, at least slightly, like genitalia. No doubt mildly poking fun at his friend’s infamous prudeness. Does anyone here know of this picture or, better yet, have a scan of it? I can’t see any obvious phallic trees, etc... in the gallery here, but then maybe I, like HP, am too innocent to notice such things...

Re: Phallic trees?
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 18 September, 2008 10:48AM
The English Assassin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Not that I'm a great fan of CAS's art but ever
> since I've read ST Joshi's HP Lovecraft: A Life
> I've been wanting to see his illustration to a HP
> Lovecraft story (not sure which one off hand) he
> did for Weird Tales (I think - sorry for the
> vagueness). According to Joshi, CAS made the
> fantastic scenery look, at least slightly, like
> genitalia. No doubt mildly poking fun at his
> friend’s infamous prudeness. Does anyone here
> know of this picture or, better yet, have a scan
> of it? I can’t see any obvious phallic trees,
> etc... in the gallery here, but then maybe I, like
> HP, am too innocent to notice such things...

I may be misremembering, but I believe that was for "The Lurking Fear". I've not looked at the gallery in quite a while, so I don't know if those are there, but I do recall some of them being included in one of the earlier Arkham House volumes; The Dark Brotherhood, if I remember correctly....

Re: Phallic trees?
Posted by: sverba (IP Logged)
Date: 18 September, 2008 11:29AM
I pulled up my copy of Dark Brotherhood. There are two CAS illustrations but they are not the ones Joshi references. I do however remember seeing a CAS illustration once that does indeed look very suggestive. It struck me so at the time in fact.

Steve

Re: Phallic trees?
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 18 September, 2008 02:51PM
The illustrations were included in the Necronomicon Press edition of The Lurking Fear. Haven't seen them myself (but about six months ago a used-book dealer here in Gothenburg had a copy of the booklet! Aarrrgggghhhh!).

Yrs
Martin

Re: Phallic trees?
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 18 September, 2008 03:21PM
sverba Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I pulled up my copy of Dark Brotherhood. There are
> two CAS illustrations but they are not the ones
> Joshi references. I do however remember seeing a
> CAS illustration once that does indeed look very
> suggestive. It struck me so at the time in fact.
>
> Steve

I may be misremembering on this, then; unless it was one of the other two illustrations. At any rate, in other of Smith's art, there's a distinct tendency toward the idea....

Re: Phallic trees?
Posted by: sverba (IP Logged)
Date: 18 September, 2008 03:38PM
I have a 284kb jpg of the Dark Brotherhood CAS illustrations but don't see how to share it here.

Anyhow, not very erotic. Just weird.

Re: Phallic trees?
Posted by: Gavin Callaghan (IP Logged)
Date: 18 September, 2008 07:38PM
The "legendary" CAS illus. for HPL's "The Lurking Fear"... I saw a copy of the Necro. Press rep. of this in the Cornell Library, and I have to say, if one hasn't seen these drawings, one isn't missing much! They're basically like stick-figures. HPL was effusive in his praise, but that was just HPL's characteristic generosity/hyperbole, I think. There's another thread on the same topic of these illus. somewhere else on Eldritch Dark, and that was the consensus about them there, too, as I recall.

The best drawings for this story can actually be found in Joe Sinnott's masterful, although loose (Lovecraft is uncredited) adaptation, "The Last of Mr. Mordeaux", published by pre-Marvel Atlas in the 1950's. It was reprinted by Marvel in the seventies in Tomb of Darkness #16. Joe Sinnott is still alive, and lives in Saugerties, NY.

>>"but then maybe I, like HP, am too innocent to notice such things..."

In the essay I'm working on (Dark Arcadia: From Arcadia to Arkham), I deal with HPL's knowledge of such things, and I come to a similar conclusion to that of Robert Waugh in "The Subway and the Shoggoth", who suggests that HPL wasn't innocent as he appeared, simply reticent. I go much further than Waugh, however, and suggest that Lovecraft wasn't merely knowledgable, but actively engaging in an anti-Hellenic polemic which was the complete inverse of Samuel Loveman's Hellenism; in fact, HPL's Cthulhu Fiction was a caricature/satire of it (so goes my theory). Lovecraft's veiled critique of Loveman's interest in such things as phallic symbolism (Lovecraft talks about Loveman having done enough "delving along these lines", ie, into "phallic symbolism"; Lovecraft refers to Loveman's "The Hermaphrodite", which he edited for the press, as "The Herm Book" -a "herm" being a hermaphroditic phallic symbol much in use by the Decadents [Beardsley, Fred Holland Day], and earlier used by the ancient Hellenes as a Bacchanalian symbol, etc.) will reach its apogee in his story "The Haunter of the Dark", in which the staring-eyed monster lives in a phallic black steeple/tower.



Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 18 Sep 08 | 07:58PM by Gavin Callaghan.

Re: Phallic trees?
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 18 September, 2008 10:41PM
Not sure that I entirely agree with all your points, Gavin, but it sounds a very interesting piece. Would you mind letting me know when it sees publication? Thanks....

Re: Phallic trees?
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 25 September, 2008 09:42AM
Oh well, I'll have to stick with my filthy imagination then...

But thanks anyway.

Re: Phallic trees?
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 23 October, 2011 01:23PM
I finally found a copy of the Nec. Press reprint of THE LURKING FEAR from 1977. Interestingly, John H. Stanley of John Hay Library lent the library's ORIGINAL COPIES of Home Brew to Necronomicon Press! I find that rather amazing. Many of the illustrations are not impressive, but there are two, on pages 32 and 33, that really stand out and have such a nasty aura about them. The sensuous lines with which the tree trunks are composed reminds me of some things by Aubrey Beardsley, such as him imps in "The Eyes of Herod" or his vignette of Whistler. I'm going to scan these two illustrations and post them on my blog.

I am slowly rereading (when I have time, and that ain't often) de Camp's biography of Lovecraft, which I want to give another chance. I remember liking much of it when it came out in hardcover, and Sprague acknowledged me in the pb edition for some little assistance I offer'd him; and I am curious to see (for I have forgotten) how de Camp handles Lovecraft's sexuality. I was reading something the other day that made me stop and think about how miserable HPL was after Sonia left him alone in New York, and I wonder now if part of his misery was loneliness and sexual longing for his wife, which would make perfect sense. They seem to have married in a whirlwind of passion, and then, abruptly, Lovecraft found himself without his mate.

I am also curious to see if Sprague hints that Grandpa may have had latent homosexual feelings. People have suspected such of Lovecraft from certain aspects in his treatment of male characters, of the one or two places in his fiction where he describes men as being beautiful, of the close male bonds evidenced in his tales. Lovecraft's homophobia was rooted in his abhorrence of effeminate queens like me, but he has nothing but praise for real masculine beauty. I don't think we find any such thing in the weird fiction of Clark Ashton Smith, this praise of male beauty and such, and it would be interesting to see what we can detect of Smith's sexuality from his fiction. I imagine someone here has already investigated this.

"We work in the dark -- we do what we can -- we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art." --Henry James



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 23 Oct 11 | 01:26PM by wilum pugmire.

Re: Phallic trees?
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 23 October, 2011 01:41PM
Why not try reading some of Smith? His works are largely about nothing but sex.

I also find amusing attempts to find homoeroticism in Lovecraft. Not only do his writings strike me as completely asexual, they do not deal with emotions of any kind except awe and fear.

Re: Phallic trees?
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 23 October, 2011 01:45PM
You can, however, detect an aversion to seafood.

Re: Phallic trees?
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 23 October, 2011 01:56PM
Yes, my reading of Smith has been curtailed by writing so many new books, but I am now in massive writer's block so I can Return to ye Sorcerer! Lovecraft's fiction abounds with sexuality of a very perverse kind. Aberrant sex in Lovecraft's weird fiction seems tied to his grotesque racism--breeding Outside. Who is it, can we tell, with whom Lavinia Whateley shags? Is it some psychic emanation of Yog-Sothoth? Or does she, like Lot's daughters, lure her father to bed? Remember that description of the Nameless Offspring at the end of ye tale: "Oh, oh, my Gawd, that haff face--that haff face on top of it...that face with the red eyes an' crinkly albino hair, an' no chin, like the Whateleys...they was a haff-shaped man's face on top of it, an' it looked like Wizard Whateley's, only it was yards an' yards acrost"!

"We work in the dark -- we do what we can -- we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art." --Henry James



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 23 Oct 11 | 01:57PM by wilum pugmire.

Re: Phallic trees?
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 23 October, 2011 02:01PM
Lovecraft was obsessed with heredity, which does have something to do with sex, but the sex part was not his focus.

Re: Phallic trees?
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 23 October, 2011 03:05PM
I would agree that HPL did not focus on the explicit physical aspects of sexuality itself, but various of his descriptions certainly seem to have a strongly sexual element to them, fueled by repulsion; tied to what St. Armand (if memory serves) called his "fear of the viscous". This did tie in with his views on heredity, but to dismiss the sexual aspects themselves -- especially given his generally pejorative terminology when addressing sexual congress in anything more than a very abstract, clinical manner -- is, I think, to miss a major element of Lovecraft's work. He was frankly repulsed by such, and this enters into various elements of his tales.

Wilum: I seriously doubt his missing Sonia sexually, though it is possible. Given that, according to her, he a) never initiated sexual contact; b) was quite willing to break it off once they separated; c) even turned down an offer -- which would have been perfectly legal and moral by the code of even the Victorian age -- of even a kiss when he was visiting her in New York later on, it seems highly unlikely that this was much of a factor. On the other hand, he may, being something of a creature of habit, not to mention genuinely fond of her, have missed her being there; it may have formed something of a void for him for a time, at least until he had time to readjust.

Even STJ has noted that Lovecraft was one of the most asexual beings one is likely to encounter; his "peak" apparently having been in his late teens, after which he seems to have had relatively little interest in the subject... though one can't entirely rule out occasional flare-ups of sexual desire now and again, almost certainly immediately repressed. His appreciation of human beauty may have had these elements to it as well, but I think they were more likely to be overshadowed by his classical aesthetic.

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