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Re: Grandpa on Coast to Coast
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 21 October, 2012 01:37PM
It is quite a good selection of pieces both by those who knew him and those who did not know him personally, but who have studied him and his work. It is by no means complete even when it comes to the former, but it does give a hefty portion.

Houellebecq's little book was mentioned earlier... that is one I feel rather ambivalent about. There are factual errors there, and a handful of instances where he supposedly quotes from Lovecraft letters things which do not at all sound like Lovecraft, and certainly don't sound like anything I've read in his published letters, but there is the possibility that they are from letters I've not seen, or may be him misremembering something. My strong suspicion, however, is that in these instances he is simply fabricating something to support his thesis; again, something which irritates me no end.

On the other hand, the book itself, as a personal view or reading of Lovecraft, does have its interest, because by and large it can be supported by much in the work itself, and it is an interesting read. I disagree with a fair chunk of it, but I wouldn't put it in the same category as others I've read; that is, where the writer had a bee in his bonnet and created tbings out of whole cloth to support his claims.

I have lately been rereading H. P. Lovecraft: Four Decades of Criticism, the book which first introduced me to contemporary Lovecraft criticism; and while there are certainly flaws in the book (some of the pieces are fairly ephemeral, or of very minor interest, for example) it nonetheless contains quite a few excellent pieces (two very good ones by Leiber; St. Armand's stimulating "Facts in the Case of H. P. Lovecraft";* Shea's examination of the literary works which influenced HPL; Paul Buhle's "Dystopia as Utopia: Howard Phillips Lovecraft and the Unknown Content of American Horror Literature"; etc.). And even where you have someone such as Edmund Wilson, who wrote a scathing review of Lovecraft's tales, the approach is at least more intelligent, and his negative comments are also interlaced with places where he acknowledges strengths. He also found Lovecraft the man to be much more interesting, and writes of this aspect with some perspecuity. In other words, while he does make some factual errors, and his response was generally adverse, he did put in the time to read the materials before writing about them; and however much one may disagree with him, in this at least he shows more conscientiousness than many another who has tackled the subject.

I cannot help but feel (perhaps wrongly) that such books as Curran's (and to some extent Houellebecq's) are nothing more than an attempt to cash in on the popularity of such a figure, without doing any of the work necessary to present a respectable job. I've seen the same thing done with examinations of the Gothic (both in literature and societal aspects) and horror literature (or film) in increasing numbers of recent years; and it is saddening that it is generally these sensationalistic -- even tabloidish -- approaches which catch the public's eye. But then, as I said before, we're still seeing regurgitations of Griswold's fabrications about Poe, even today; so why should we be surprised to see such nonsense emerging about one who has increasingly been touted as the most significant writer in the field since Poe's day, or even perhaps more significant in the development of this particular literary genre?


St. Armand also has some very dubious assertions, but any of his work on HPL that I've seen, including his Master's thesis, makes for fascinating and challenging reading.

Re: Grandpa on Coast to Coast
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 21 October, 2012 01:58PM
jdworth Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Houellebecq's little book was mentioned earlier...
> that is one I feel rather ambivalent about. There
> are factual errors there, and a handful of
> instances where he supposedly quotes from
> Lovecraft letters things which do not at all sound
> like Lovecraft, and certainly don't sound like
> anything I've read in his published letters, but
> there is the possibility that they are from
> letters I've not seen, or may be him
> misremembering something.

For one thing, the book is translated from the French (unless you read the original, of course). For another, Houellebecq may only have read Lovecraft in French translation. Hence there are possibly two levels of garbling going on there.

Re: Grandpa on Coast to Coast
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 21 October, 2012 02:14PM
Jojo Lapin X Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> For one thing, the book is translated from the
> French (unless you read the original, of course).
> For another, Houellebecq may only have read
> Lovecraft in French translation. Hence there are
> possibly two levels of garbling going on there.

That can't account for everything, however. For example, Houellebecq has someone named Wilmarth saying something about "proto-Akkadean" in one of his "quotes" -- and Lovecraft never uses the word "proto-Akkadean" anywhere. Even accounting for a garbled translation, the equivalent of the quote is nowhere to be found.

Re: Grandpa on Coast to Coast
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 21 October, 2012 02:18PM
Well, like I said, I did not like the book. It enraged me.

Re: Grandpa on Coast to Coast
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 26 October, 2012 08:25PM
@jdworth: It was wonderful to see your "Sources of Anxiety in Lovecraft's 'Polaris'" in ye just-publish'd LOVECRAFT ANNUAL No. 6. It is this kind of intelligent, knowledgeable, fascinating study that intensifies my understanding and appreciation of H. P. Lovecraft's Works. Such studies are like a ray of illumination compared to the sordid dung-coloured miasma that one finds in books such as A HAUNTED MIND.

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

Re: Grandpa on Coast to Coast
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 27 October, 2012 12:16AM
Thank you, Wilum. I very much appreciate the kind words. I'm glad that particular piece has seen print, as it is a personal favorite, just as that odd little story has a special appeal to me. One can analyze such from a number of different angles, but can never reduce it to mensurable dimensions. Like a dream itself, it always manages to be just out of reach....

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