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Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: treycelement (IP Logged)
Date: 2 November, 2011 06:23AM
Dexterward stamped zer little hooves and announced:

*** Hmmmm. Looks like we have a troll visitor from "Sociopath World." Please don't feed, it will only encourage him! ***

Well, sociopathy SELLS... but I've sometimes wondered whether I oughta be BUYIN' so enthusiastically. P'r'aps I should be pious, humorless, self-righteous and conformist instead. The Dextral Path, as it were. The humorlessness would have its downside, a-course. It'd mean I couldn't find it so amusing to be assailed for sociopathic 'prescriptivism' and 'nitpicking' on a site devoted to Clark Ashton Smith...

Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: treycelement (IP Logged)
Date: 2 November, 2011 06:23AM
GC wrote:

*** Treycelement makes some valid points about style: in writing my essays, I gave no thought to style whatsoever. None. (A fact which caused me considerable anxiety.) ***

I would LIKE to read the essay, because it seems to have interesting things in it, but I really canNOT cope with the prose. I'd guess you are a member of the non-neuro-normative community, as it WERE. You're obviously intelligent, but just as obviously you have no WESthetic sense...

*** I had only one aim: convey information, without error or contradiction. Treycelement made some good points, however, about redundancies in the text. At least he did not find any obvious errors, however -as per my intention. ***

Well, peeping thru my fingers at the BODY of the essay, I seen ole Ziggy Fraud getting a namecheck or two. Finding errors in Fraudeanism is a BIT like beating 'Heads I win, tails you lose.'

*** I will add that I in no way consider tautologies a liability. Indeed, according to Ayn Rand, A=A is a reification of reality, and the whole basis of her moral/rationalistic system. ***

Yup, no surprise to see you're a devotee of Shelob. Rand appeals to the non-neuro-normative. To sociopaths too, in fact. I can't STAND her, m'self. But I'm not religious, AISB:

The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult

Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: treycelement (IP Logged)
Date: 2 November, 2011 06:30AM
Priscian gnat-packed:

*** treycelement, short version: "I haven't read anything but your first paragraph, but here's some bullshit nitpicking on it anyway." ***

Do you know the phrase leonem ex ungue? I didn't need or want to read 'anything but the first paragraph.' I find it literally PAINFUL to read prose like that. Must be that sociopathic sensitivity of mine. Here's another sociopath on the topic of literary style:

I simply can’t write other than in a painstaking manner, with extra drafts and voluminous revisions and verbal polishing...

Here's GC:

*** ...in writing my essays, I gave no thought to style whatsoever. None. ***

Spot any 'contradiction' between those two views? I don't demand that GC adopt the sociopath's literary habits, but I think he'd be a much better writer if he did. On the other hand, if the sociopath had had GC's literary habits, I wouldn't be here. I hope you and GC wouldn't be, neither.

*** 1) Contradiction is a type of incongruity, and the opening moves from the more general "incongruity" to the more specific "contradiction" without any confusion. ***

No, incongruity (weaker) is a type of contradiction (stronger). Look up hyponymn and hypernym.

*** 2) It's appropriate to note right away the concurrency of Lovecraft's materialism and his interest in weird fiction, since the essay builds on that fact. It could be a contradiction also e.g. if strong materialism followed strong fantastication or vice versa. The essay tries to explain how the two existed simultaneously in Lovecraft. ***

By Tsathoggua's left bollock, I despair! Look, it's not 'appropriate' to 'NOTE' it because the 'concurrency' is implicit in the 'incongruity.' Do I note (at need) the existence of Tsathoggua's 'concurrent right bollock,' or will a simple reference to His 'right bollock' do?

*** 3) This is a stylistic matter that doesn't affect sense or jar the reader out of the essay's flow unless that reader is a prescriptive tool. ***

To quote another prescriptive tool:

Personally, I can find no fault with the style of his later tales, except that there is, in places, a slight trend toward verbosity and repetitional statement...

So merely a SLIGHT trend to verbosity and repetition is a fault, for this prescriptive tool! I don't like to think what he might have said about the essay above. More from the same source:

Always go over your stories. Close and rigorous scrutiny will often reveal some flaw, and a flaw, no matter how small, spoils the story.

No matter how small?!

*** 4) Yeah, it's not coordinated by the book, but the second "in his interest" is meant to aid the reader, and it certainly incurs no confusion. If you're trying to help out, only a douchebag would construe "If you don't understand what I mean, you should find out" as helping. ***

You're obviously a racist. People who don't care about clarity and consistency don't care about non-native speakers and learners of English. One should be no more -- and no less -- 'difficult' than the subject demands. Ceteris paribus. Here's that prescriptive tool again:

As to my own employment of an ornate style, using many words of classic origin and exotic color, I can only say that it is designed to produce effects of language and rhythm which could not possibly be achieved by a vocabulary restricted to what is known as "basic English". As Strachey points out, a style composed largely of words of Anglo-Saxon origin tends to a spondaic rhythm, "which by some mysterious law, reproduces the atmosphere of ordinary life." An atmosphere of remoteness, vastness, mystery and exoticism is more naturally evoked by a style with an admixture of Latinity, lending itself to more varied and sonorous rhythms, as well as to subtler shades, tints and nuances of meaning, all of which, of course, are wasted or worse than wasted on the average reader, even if presumably literate.

That prescriptivist tiptoed into the Garden of English with secateurs and skilfully snipped an orchid here, a raceme there, a fern-spray yonder, gathering the rarest and most delicate of Flora's children to create a uniquely subtle and sensuous beauty for his readers.....

GC, on t'other hand, crashes into the Garden of English with a freakin' bulldozer and a dozen sticks-a-dynamite. YOU might like the mound of dirt, rocks 'n' mangled-vegetation that results -- sociopaths like me prefer skill and secateurs.

Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: Gavin Callaghan (IP Logged)
Date: 3 November, 2011 06:08PM
treycelement Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Yup, no surprise to see you're a devotee of
> Shelob. Rand appeals to the non-neuro-normative.
> To sociopaths too, in fact. I can't STAND her,
> m'self.


I have yet to come across an opponent of Rand’s who is able counter her views without either name-calling or emotive, non-rational arguments. So in that sense, Treycelement (TE) can consider himself or herself quite typical.

treycelement Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult


I did not follow TE’s link, above, but assume it refers to Rothbard’s 1987 booklet, The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult, which I already own and have read, in addition to Jeff Walker’s The Ayn Rand Cult (1999). There is a difference, of course, between actually countering Rand’s views, and simply assailing the activities of her followers. It would be the same thing, for example, if I were to judge CAS based upon the postings of TE, here. One does not reflect upon the other.

Whereas CAS is ornate, TE is precious. Where CAS gives hints, TE is vague. Where CAS makes suggestions, TE makes things more obscure. While CAS can sometimes be described as sharp or biting, TE merely seems aggressive or arrogant. While CAS can be seen as stately and dignified, TE comes across mainly as overwrought and pedantic. And whereas CAS writes in a rhythmic, finely-textured prose designed to convey information to the reader, TE writes in a style akin to that of Ezra Pound in the asylum, full of abbreviations, distracting colloquialisms and neologisms, lapses into foreign languages, and cryptic allusions which confuse, rather than convey, his or her meaning. When girls go wild, everybody wins; when scholars go wild, it isn’t half so cute.

I truly doubt CAS would be so dear to me, if TE were to be my sole example of his literary mode or style.

treycelement Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I can't STAND her, m'self. But I'm not religious, [...]


One could very easily make a religion of irreligion. Make a few dogmatic anti-religious comments here and there. Extol CAS as a “genius”, and make him into a literary deity. Play the minority card, in echo of religious persecution [“I'm a member of a minority myself in the concurrent Lovecraft/weird fiction community”]. And in lieu of the devil, dress up Tautologies in a devil’s horns and tail, and toss scholarly imprecations toward them whenever you encounter them. A religion of one can still be a religion.

Next step: application for tax-exempt status.

treycelement Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

>“…I find it literally PAINFUL to read prose like that”;
>“…but I really canNOT cope with the prose.”


Sounds almost like an absinthe addict who took a swig of carrot juice by mistake.

Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: K_A_Opperman (IP Logged)
Date: 3 November, 2011 06:46PM
Quote:
Gavin Callaghan
Whereas CAS is ornate, TE is precious. Where CAS gives hints, TE is vague. Where CAS makes suggestions, TE makes things more obscure. While CAS can sometimes be described as sharp or biting, TE merely seems aggressive or arrogant. While CAS can be seen as stately and dignified, TE comes across mainly as overwrought and pedantic. And whereas CAS writes in a rhythmic, finely-textured prose designed to convey information to the reader, TE writes in a style akin to that of Ezra Pound in the asylum, full of abbreviations, distracting colloquialisms and neologisms, lapses into foreign languages, and cryptic allusions which confuse, rather than convey, his or her meaning. When girls go wild, everybody wins; when scholars go wild, it isn’t half so cute.
I truly doubt CAS would be so dear to me, if TE were to be my sole example of his literary mode or style.

Well said, Gavin. I can perfectly understand what you're saying--which is paramount in effective scholarly writing; and what's more, you've made a valid point--in a perfectly dignified, unhostile, uncondescending way, in proper English, which causes me no pain whatever to read, though I also enjoy CAS's ornate style, and tend to write in one myself. TE, I think, places an undue amount of importance on his own tastes and opinions. If he finds your prose 'painful to read,' it is his own eyes that are at falt--and anyway, that is his problem alone, and does not help you whatsoever--which is supposed to be the point of this topic.

Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 3 November, 2011 11:56PM
Gavin Callaghan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Sounds almost like an absinthe addict who took a
> swig of carrot juice by mistake.


While I have no wish to embroil myself in the current aspect of the discussion, I must admit that this line darned near caused me to spray my tea all over my laptop.... You really should warn people before you do that, Gavin....

Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: Absquatch (IP Logged)
Date: 4 November, 2011 10:03AM
Quote:
I have yet to come across an opponent of Rand’s who is able counter her views without either name-calling or emotive, non-rational arguments.

I suspect that that says more about the limits of Gavin's reading than it does about the opponents of Rand. If he cares to expand his horizons, then here's a whole list to explore. I'll wager that it contains at least one critique that fails to fit the above assertion.


Quote:
I must admit that this line darned near caused me to spray my tea all over my laptop.... You really should warn people before you do that, Gavin....

No need for any warning. Just prepare yourself to have that reaction every time Gavin posts on the subject of Lovecraft. I know I do.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 4 Nov 11 | 10:52AM by Absquatch.

Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: Absquatch (IP Logged)
Date: 4 November, 2011 11:13AM
Finally, amid all this flurry of enthusiasm for literary criticism and other pattern-seeking (actually pattern-making) activities, let's not forget the wise words of Clark Ashton Smith, himself:

"Explanations are neither necessary, desirable, nor possible."

Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 6 November, 2011 12:04AM
Absquatch Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Finally, amid all this flurry of enthusiasm for
> literary criticism and other pattern-seeking
> (actually pattern-making) activities, let's not
> forget the wise words of Clark Ashton Smith,
> himself:
>
> "Explanations are neither necessary, desirable,
> nor possible."


I am not at all sure how much weight to put into that epigram of Smith's, as he was not above making such a quip to suit a mood, rather than because it was a consistent belief. Certainly, he himself did some bits of literary criticism in his time, and highly regarded the opinions of various others (Bierce, Sterling, at least some of Poe's criticism).

Be that as it may... I suppose it largely depends on whether one takes it that something such as Gavin's essay is an attempt to "explain" or to offer a different perspective and/or some interesting insights into an author's literary corpus. I tend toward the latter view and, as such, I find such things very often of great interest; especially if (as Gavin notes) he takes a different set of approaches through the series of essays, thus making the whole an attempt to look at varying facets of a set of works.

Returning to the remark by Smith: "explanations" (whether genuine attempts to explain or something more of the nature I describe above) may not be necessary, but they can often be both interesting and useful and, therefore, desirable. Whether a true "explanation" of any art is possible or not remains an open question. At the present, I would incline toward the negative, but the more we learn about how the human brain works, the more likely it becomes that, eventually, this will no longer be the case. Not certain, by any means; but, I think, likely. Whether this is a good or a bad thing, of course, remains to be seen.

As for whether such is "pattern-seeking" or "pattern-making"... I suppose there is a degree of both, really; and the more such is based on a careful correlation of the finished fictional (or poetic) output of a writer and their own expressed thoughts, opinions, etc., coupled with biographical information... and always with a fair degree of caution about making assertions rather than offering such conclusions as probabilities based on the evidence at hand... the more of the former and the less of the latter there tends to be....

However, each to his own, and for those who have no liking for such, so be it. Obviously I;m in the opposite camp, and hope to continue seeing such things now and again, whether on HPL, CAS, or any of the other writers who fell within the latter's fields of interest....

Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: Absquatch (IP Logged)
Date: 6 November, 2011 08:25AM
Quote:
I am not at all sure how much weight to put into that epigram of Smith's, as he was not above making such a quip to suit a mood, rather than because it was a consistent belief.

The statement seems quite consistent to me with CAS's frequently expressed mysterianism, for lack of a better term, and I see no reason to doubt its seriousness. I have no reason to doubt, as well, that CAS would cringe at such treatments of his friend Lovecraft as we see here--CAS's loathing of Freudian analysis is well known, for instance, and not open to debate.

Quote:
but the more we learn about how the human brain works, the more likely it becomes that, eventually, this will no longer be the case.

CAS:

Quote:
All human thought, all science, all religion, is the holding of a candle to the night of the universe.

CAS fails to share your certainty on this subject, or your privileging of science as the authority to which all other perspectives must bow. So do I.

Quote:
Certainly, he himself did some bits of literary criticism in his time

Not really, unless you count a single book review, or a personal memoir of Sterling, which, to me, is stretching the definition of "literary criticism" a bit far. Likewise, if merely having an opinion about literature or a given work is "literary criticism", then the definition is truly expanded into meaninglessness.

In any case, I am unaware of a single instance where CAS engaged in actual literary criticism, that is, in any sort of extended explication de texte or (reductive) application of theory to explain a given work.

Quote:
I suppose it largely depends on whether one takes it that something such as Gavin's essay is an attempt to "explain" or to offer a different perspective and/or some interesting insights into an author's literary corpus.

As the history of this person's posts on Lovecraft indicate, his entire aim is to whittle Lovecraft down to size by reducing him to the sum of his class prejudices and his emotional difficulties and (alleged) fears. There is nothing the slightest bit "different", "original", or "insightful" about such a critical approach. That Callaghan seems to find it difficult to publish his findings in a respectable medium, or even within the ghetto of the Lovecraft specialist press, suggests I am not the only one who feels this way about his work.

For the rest: Since amateur psychology is encouraged here, I'll add that I have long found Callaghan's obsession with Lovecraft to be bizarre, and even suggestive at times of emotional imbalance. His outpourings appear to be a form of self-therapy. Of course, those who find value in such things are welcome to read them, but I have rarely encountered a critic whose real subject wasn't far more himself, ultimately, than the given author, and I frankly do not find the subject in this instance terribly interesting.

That said, I don't want to paint with too broad a brushstroke. There are exceptions, but most contemporary literary critics seem to me to be passive-aggressive egotists who exist in a parasitic relation to their betters; i.e., those who actually create. Authors and their works are nowadays merely grist in the mill for some personal or ideological agenda. Such blinders are the rule, and perceptions are accordingly selective.

For these reasons, unless I can be sure of added value, I'd rather go to the source, or at a minimum, to fact-based criticism, such as bio-critical studies.

Two final points:

1. What I find most refreshing about CAS's perspective is its epistemological humility. Others would do well to emulate it.

2. We need more genuine poets and artists, and far fewer critics.

Now, signing off, as I really do not think that this subject merits further discussion.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 6 Nov 11 | 08:38AM by Absquatch.

Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 6 November, 2011 09:28AM
A pity about that last, as I think you could contribute some very good comments on such subjects, should you choose to do so.

As for Gavin's approach... when I first began reading his essays (or excerpts from them, as in earlier threads), I felt that way to a great degree; but reading it with more care, I realized that this was NOT really what was going on. True, he takes issue with many of Lovecraft's views or prejudices, but he also makes it quite evident that he finds much to admire in HPL as well. In the present instance, he takes such a Freudian approach (and, as I point out in my own comments, I think this opens him up to certain risks, as the theories of Freud and his followers have been meeting increasing challenge (due in large part to the insights gained by that very science you mention with such dubiety)... but these theories still retain enough viability to be useful tools for examining certain aspects of human motivation, which is what we have here. As I say, I don't see an attempt to "explain" Lovecraft, but rather to view his work through a certain lens in this instance -- Gavin mentions that in other essays he takes varying approaches -- and whether that lens is critical or entirely favorable to Lovecraft is not the point, as long as it is not overly censorious. The views expressed here are, by and large, not of that nature. There is a world of difference between noting psychological and emotional traits which are strongly indicated (if not necessarily proven), and condemning or belittling by use of these traits. Most of what Gavin brings in from the Freudian camp are things which nearly all human beings (according to such theories) share to one degree or another; Lovecraft was simply more interesting because of the degree to which he used this basic material for (as Gavin himself states several times in the essay) the creation of some truly memorable works of fiction, as well as using the writing of the fiction itself to attain a remarkable degree of therapeutic release.

Now to me, that doesn't sound like a harsh criticism at all, but rather an admiring tone of how someone developed a great deal of strength coming from a background which most would have found permanently crippling -- and I don't think most people aware of what HPL was saddled with in his early years would argue with the perspective that it is a wonder he survived in any sort of reasonable mental state at all. That he did so with an admirable degree of humanity, openness, compassion, creativity, integrity, and genuine kindness makes him -- as Gavin (again) makes evident more than once in the essay -- more than a little of an heroic figure.

Again, whether or not CAS would approve of such an examination of his friend is beside the point. However, one should not forget that Lovecraft himself -- albeit reluctantly -- felt that Freud was an important figure, many of whose theories would prove of great value in advancing our understanding of the human mind; nor, if memory serves, was CAS entirely dismissive of him, though he approached him with greater caution than most. (For that matter, so do I.) Much as I admire and respect Smith, I also disagree with him on many points. I think he was probably the most "balanced" of this group of writers, but he, too, had his limitations and strengths, as do we all. So I mean no disrespect to him when I say that I think he was wrong on certain things, just as I doubt most would mean any disrespect should they say the same about me.

On the view of science... I'm afraid you misunderstand my perspective. Simply put, I find that science offers the best course we have (so far) evolved to come to a genuine understanding of how the universe (including ourselves) works. It is also, on the whole, more self-correcting when mistakes are made, because it is itself largely based on self-critical standards. This is not to say that errors don't enter in; that mistakes aren't made. But the very fact that it requires the various disciplines to question themselves and each other, and to accept nothing as proven irrefutably (only with the greatest degree of probability possible with the available evidence), makes it more likely to reach a genuine truth or set of truths than any of the numerous approaches we have so far evolved in that search. Should something come along which proves more accurate, whose findings match with observed reality with greater fidelity... then that will, of course, become a better model. So far, this is not the case. Again, there is a wide difference between appreciating the emotional fulfillment of such mystical feelings and responses to the tremendous universe we live in, and the acceptance of mystical explanations for those responses, or the verity of mystical beliefs. I have yet to come across a scientist since the breaking up of nineteenty-century positivism who would deny the mystery and wonder of the universe; but in my experience the approach of science tends to actually augment an appreciation of that feeling by ridding us of a ridiculously anthropocentric and egotistical view which would posit us as of any major importance (save to ourselves), yet which simultaneously reestablishes us as a part of a truly magnificent and astounding, awe-inspiring whole all the more capable of evoking such a response because there is no purpose, no mind, and no primum mobile behind it. Such a realization is both very humbling and (to use a poeticism) "soul-expanding". Science need not be something approached with a religious, dogmatic approach to provide one with the material for an emotional mystical apprehension of the reality around us.

As for your last point... I would, in the main, agree with you. But, as such writers as Poe, De Quincey, at times HPL, and many others remind us, literary (or, to be broader about the matter, artistic) criticism at its best can itself be a fine art, capable of stirring deep emotions as well as intellectual responses; and I would say that the striving to create criticism capable of doing that is a worthy goal itself, as well.

Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 6 November, 2011 11:12AM
Absquatch Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Not really, unless you count a single book review,
> or a personal memoir of Sterling, which, to me, is
> stretching the definition of "literary criticism"
> a bit far. Likewise, if merely having an opinion
> about literature or a given work is "literary
> criticism", then the definition is truly expanded
> into meaninglessness.
>
> In any case, I am unaware of a single instance
> where CAS engaged in actual literary criticism,
> that is, in any sort of extended explication de
> texte or (reductive) application of theory to
> explain a given work.

On the subject of literary criticism by CAS... there are, of course, different types of such, from the more formal reductive sort you mention -- or Gavin offers here -- to the more informal but nonetheless insightful theoretical criticisms which may be offered in brief essays, passages in letters, and the like. Certainly, of the latter, CAS had more than you mention. Among others, DSF lists the following:

"Atmosphere in Weird Fiction" (Amateur Correspondent, November-December 1937; rep. in Planets and Dimensions)
"A Cosmic Novel", which was a review of Wandrei's The Web of Easter Island (1948; rep. P&D)
"In Appreciation of William Hope Hodgson" (The Phantagraph, March-Apr. 1937, in abridged form; The Reader and Collector, June 1944; rep,. in P&D)
"Nevertheless", a review of a book of poetry of that title by Marianne Moore (Wings, Summer 1945; rep. P&D)
"On Fantasy" (The Fantasy Fan, Nov. 1934; rep. various times, including P&D)
"The Philosophy of the Weird Tale" (The Acolyte, Fall 1944; rep. P&D)
"The Weird Work of M. R. James" (The Fantasy Fan, Feb. 1934; rep. P&D)
"Introduction" to Shadows of Wings, a book of poems by Susan Myra Gregory (dated Dec. 5, 1929; inc. in Strange Shadows)

and there is the introduction he wrote for Lilith Lorraine's Wine of Wonder, but which was not included in the published volume (pub. in Strange Shadows). And, of course, his various offerings in his letters of bits of informal criticism.

Now, granted, few (if any) of these are of that more formal sort, but most of them do offer some considered aesthetic theory and, on occasion, analysis. They are seldom simply "off-the-cuff" comments. While he may not have offered the longer, more in-depth analyses of pieces we have become so accustomed to, it is obvious even from the bits he did offer that he did not reject the usefulness of literary criticism or the insights and perspectives it often has to offer. Again, he was opposed to the tendency of many in that field to dogmatism, but not to the genuine benefits thoughtful criticism had to offer to both reader and writer.

On the subject of publication of Gavin's criticism... he has noted that there is interest in publishing such (in fact he has a piece in the latest Lovecraft Annual); the problem is length, especially given that this is a series of articles taking different views of Lovecraft's work, hence the whole would be of unusual length, exceeding (by quite a bit, i would imagine) the rather extensive analysis offered by Robert H. Waugh in The Monster in the Mirror (with certain aspects of which what I have seen of Gavin's work has some interesting affinities). On the other hand, should he secure such publication individually (even in a somewhat abridged form), perhaps the whole could be published at a later point at full length (though I would suggest some revision due to further examination of certain aspects, as well as perhaps some stylistic polishing). From what I've seen, I am not as dubious about the length being -- at least from a reader's viewpoint -- an asset rather than a drawback; but it is likely quite another matter when it comes to cost of production... at least until level of interest is gauged by prior publication of at least some of these pieces.

And to clarify in a point I addressed earlier... I do not mean to imply that criticism -- even of the best -- is on a level with original creation. What we are lacking, I think, is (more or less) original dreamers with their unique visions and what they have to offer. In that I am in full agreement with you. On the other hand, I do feel that genuinely well-done criticism, especially that which itself is written well, with a degree of poetic feeling for the work, has a great deal to offer as literature in itself. Not of the same sort, and obviously not -- or very seldom -- as primary material (even Poe's criticism cannot quite claim that), but nonetheless worthy of consideration as a valid branch of literary endeavor.

Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: Absquatch (IP Logged)
Date: 7 November, 2011 03:47PM
jdworth:

As I mentioned, I really had not intended to comment further on this subject, but it would be churlish to overlook completely your carefully considered and thoughtful rejoinder.

1. Callaghan's Lovecraft criticism. Let's start with a few choice, and highly representative, excerpts (emphasis in capitals is mine):

"That these multiple depictions of squatting look back to the period of Lovecraft’s earlier toilet-training definitely seems possible -SURELY a troublesome period in a household as inhibited and fastidious as Lovecraft’s."

"One immediately thinks here of the marked excremental aspects of Lovecraft’s fiction: the subterranean (anal) vaults explored by his protagonists and inhabited by his monsters, the excremental Shoggoths, the frequent and flatulent blasts of wind and thunder, and the necrophilic behaviors and cannibalistic eating habits of Lovecraft’s creatures- habits which are essentially anal-sadistic in nature. [...] [Shoggoth] gathering unholy speed and driving before it a spiral, re-thickening cloud of the pallid abyss vapor (MM 101) (flatulence?)."

"[W]hile Greene was SEVEN years older, thus reflecting a transference or a continuation of the maternal role."

You might wish to re-read these passages carefully, and then ask yourself again, "Do I really want to defend this?"

That said, I would agree that this latest contribution is less directly disparaging of Lovecraft than Callaghan's past offerings, but that isn't much of an improvement. Wholly apart from the usual endeavor to reduce Lovecraft, and even apart from the barefaced dementia of Callaghan's choice of archaic sources and perspectives, such as Sabine Baring-Gould, and, my personal favorite, the sleazy, limelight-seeking police psychiatrist J. Paul de River, the method is risible: The theories of archaic, highly dubious sources (Freud, Jones) are treated as bearing unimpeachable truth, then incidents and themes from Lovecraft's tales and biography are dutifully cherry-picked to fit the theory, and the only tie holding this farrago of circumstantial nonsense together is Callaghan's particular idée fixe.

jdworth: "As I say, I don't see an attempt to 'explain' Lovecraft, but rather to view his work through a certain lens in this instance."

Honestly, this is sophistical, to me. The "lens" through which Callaghan has viewed Lovecraft, as evidenced in this forum, is always the same: A racist, fear-driven, over-privileged New England WASP aristocrat whose writings and perspectives can be reduced to nothing more than than the sum of his alleged phobias and biases. Now, instead of the perspective of self-righteous class warfare, the assault comes via Freudianism. The chords and the tempo may vary, but the song remains the same. I am not worried, though, because attacking Lovecraft with Freud is the equivalent of assaulting a modern army with catapults and halberds.

jdworth: "[Callaghan] also makes it quite evident that he finds much to admire in HPL as well."

"Quite evident"? You and I have a very different lexicon, it seems. Anyway, I freely admit that I have missed that particular needle in the haystack. I would enjoy seeing examples, and, in particular, I would like to see a totting up of the positive references versus the negative ones. I'll wager that the latter will outnumber the former by at least a factor of ten.

jdworth: "There is a world of difference between noting psychological and emotional traits which are strongly indicated (if not necessarily proven)."

There is an even greater world of difference between, on the one hand, proving that these emotional traits exist in Lovecraft--no reputable psychologist would ever analyze a patient in absentia--and that the theory Callaghan invokes to interpret them has even a remote basis in reality, and, on the other, what Callaghan has done in this essay: To assume the validity of his theoretical framework, and then to draw "logical" inferences from his application of them to certain cherry-picked themes, creatures, and incidents in Lovecraft's fiction.

jdworth: "Again, whether or not CAS would approve of such an examination of his friend is beside the point."

It's not beside the point I was trying to make, whose context I'll leave you to re-examine, if you wish.

jdworth: "[N]or, if memory serves, was CAS entirely dismissive of (Freud), though he approached him with greater caution than most."

I beg your pardon, but CAS really was dismissive of Freud. If the multiple pejorative references in the letters and the essays don't convince you, then ask calonlan, if you doubt my word.

As for Callaghan's Lovecraftian publication record, I think it speaks for itself. When he finally publishes something on the subject in a professional forum--ideally, not in the Lovecraft specialist press--then perhaps I'll believe that my view is minoritarian. I'd actually love to see some of his stuff published, so as to enjoy the spectacle of real scholars ripping in to him.

In sum, I stand by my original statements in this thread. The sheer resentment and the leveling impulse that power Callaghan's obsession is, to me, painfully obvious. Those to whom it is not so obvious, or who do not find the resentment and leveling an impediment, are welcome to take from his writing what they will. I will concede that Callaghan has done a good job of writing an analytical case history. The problem is that the case history is of Callaghan himself, and not of Lovecraft.

2. CAS and literary criticism: As I mentioned, if we broaden the term to the point of absurdity, to include opinions, short personal essays, brief book introductions, etc., then you are correct, CAS engaged in literary criticism. My point is that I do not accept that broad a definition.

More specifically, I am trying to compare apples to apples: In other words, the formal, lengthy and (superficially) scholarly study, theory driven and laden with footnotes, such as Callaghan is endeavoring to produce, versus CAS's quite brief personal essays, bits of puffery for friends, and his book review. I don't want to argue about the definition of the term, but, to me, "literary criticism" in the professional sense is what we are describing here, and CAS had little to no truck with it.

3. Science: No, I am afraid I understood you perfectly. When you write, "I find that science offers the best course we have (so far) evolved to come to a genuine understanding of how the universe (including ourselves) works", that is exactly the perspective that I (and CAS) oppose. Those who believe that science provides a "genuine" (whatever that may mean) understanding are welcome to believe that. Again, though, I do not want to argue about this subject. The last time I did so, I was quickly surrounded by hyenas, a fiasco that ended in my having my previous account banned. To suggest among educated people today that science does not offer the final word on a given subject, as I learned the hard way, is the equivalent of advocating for heliocentrism in the 13th Century. You're welcome to disagree with CAS wherever you wish, of course, but I am happy to have him on my side, in this instance.

Now, let us, as usual, agree to disagree for the most part, and turn to more important and interesting things. I, for one, do not want to promote Callaghan, or offer him any more attention than I feel he deserves, which is very little. By that criterion, I have already spent far too much time here.

Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: Absquatch (IP Logged)
Date: 7 November, 2011 10:06PM
One final thought before I go, which I almost forgot to add.

I can't refrain from commenting on Callaghan's ridiculous concluding remarks about Lovecraft's cosmicism. Callaghan is puzzled that a writer who includes so many chthonic elements in his writing can be considered cosmic. No doubt he remembers that I, and perhaps others, gave him a swat on the nose for his ludicrously unbalanced portrayal of Lovecraft, and for his complete failure to deal with Lovecraft's avowed cosmic perspective.

No one has ever claimed that Lovecraft was a "pure" cosmic author (whatever that may be), or that his concerns and themes are exclusively cosmic. The claims are merely the following:

1. That any analysis of Lovecraft which completely omits the highly important cosmic dimension of his thought and writing is woefully incomplete; and,

2. Any analysis, such as Callaghan's, which pretends that these elements of Lovecraft's thought and character do not even exist, or are, at best, unimportant is either incompetent or intellectually dishonest.

Now signing off here, I promise!

Re: HPL & Nightmares -my essay
Posted by: treycelement (IP Logged)
Date: 9 November, 2011 06:43AM
GC wrote:

*** I have yet to come across an opponent of Rand’s who is able counter her views without either name-calling or emotive, non-rational arguments. So in that sense, Treycelement (TE) can consider himself or herself quite typical. ***

Shelob isn't worth more'n name-calling and emotive, non-rational argument. Fraud is a much more important figure, but I'm not gonna waste time refuting his charlatanism either.

*** I did not follow TE’s link, above, but assume it refers to Rothbard’s 1987 booklet, The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult, which I already own and have read, in addition to Jeff Walker’s The Ayn Rand Cult (1999). There is a difference, of course, between actually countering Rand’s views, and simply assailing the activities of her followers. It would be the same thing, for example, if I were to judge CAS based upon the postings of TE, here. One does not reflect upon the other. ***

The same thing? Your grasp of analogy is entirely worthy of your idol. a) CAS, not being a megalomaniac, never sought to direct anyone's life and behavior; b) even if he had, my sociopathic trampling on CASean principles takes place many decades after his passing. Shelob was alive and had eyes in her head (lots of 'em) while her followers were at work. If their 'activities' been so at odds with her Philosophy, I suggest she'd've overcome that innate diffidence of hers and issued a mild rebuke or two...

If you DO want 'the same thing,' compare your defense of Rand with a Hot-4-Trot's defense of Lenin against the 'aberrations' of Stalin et al.

*** Whereas CAS is ornate, TE is precious. Where CAS gives hints, TE is vague. Where CAS makes suggestions, TE makes things more obscure. While CAS can sometimes be described as sharp or biting, TE merely seems aggressive or arrogant. While CAS can be seen as stately and dignified, TE comes across mainly as overwrought and pedantic. And whereas CAS writes in a rhythmic, finely-textured prose designed to convey information to the reader, TE writes in a style akin to that of Ezra Pound in the asylum, full of abbreviations, distracting colloquialisms and neologisms, lapses into foreign languages, and cryptic allusions which confuse, rather than convey, his or her meaning. ***

MUYYY bueno -- Tio Trey mucho like the comparison with Onkel Ezra! Your powers of analogy get better when you're out of Shelob's shadow. But saying CAS's prose was 'designed to convey information to the reader' seems-2-me a wee bit non-neuro-normative...

*** I truly doubt CAS would be so dear to me, if TE were to be my sole example of his literary mode or style. ***

Indeed. If Tio Trey were the SOLE example, you wouldn't be aware of CAS's existence. (Not that Tio Trey is an example of anything but his beautiful self.)

*** One could very easily make a religion of irreligion. Make a few dogmatic anti-religious comments here and there. Extol CAS as a “genius”, and make him into a literary deity. ***

I've always been careful NOT to extol him as a genius. Nietzsche was a genius. Beethoven was a genius. CAS had genius. There's a BIG difference. The closest approach to 'a genius' in Weird fiction seems-2-me HPL, not CAS. One reason I prefer CAS to HPL.

*** Play the minority card, in echo of religious persecution [“I'm a member of a minority myself in the concurrent Lovecraft/weird fiction community”]. ***

I played the minority card 'coz I know how The Pious like to group-think.

*** And in lieu of the devil, dress up Tautologies in a devil’s horns and tail, and toss scholarly imprecations toward them whenever you encounter them. A religion of one can still be a religion. ***

And a religion of many can still be a religion of one -- th'ole Obe reeled in CAStrati like Radovarl by appealing to their narcissism. Egotheism keeps MY narcissism safe behind a firewall, so it can't be hacked by people like Rand, Fraud and Obe.

*** >“…I find it literally PAINFUL to read prose like that”;
>“…but I really canNOT cope with the prose.”

Sounds almost like an absinthe addict who took a swig of carrot juice by mistake. ***

That Shelobian shadow's back. Carrot juice is NOT what it was like.



“The true independent is he who dwells detached and remote from the little herds as well as from the big herd. Affiliating with no group or cabal of mice or monkeys, he is of course universally suspect.” — The Black Book of Gore Vidal.

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