12/19/2008 § Leave a comment
I don’t know what it is about Lovecraft I enjoy so much; the run-on sentences or the constant looking up of adjectives as if I were reading an Umberto Eco novel (who I’m positive is a fan). One thing is certain; I love that crazy asexual man–his writings anyway.
Rather than just sing praises in general about the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, every now and again I’ll write about a specific story. Plus, if I just gush about him in general that is super boring.
The story The Outsider is the second offering in the Library of America’s collection of Lovecraft Tales. As is the case with most Lovecraft stories, it is told in the first person. Some of these first person stories are more epistolary than others, but this one is more Rime of the Ancient Mariner; as if some creepy dude, possibly hiding behind a stone that looks eerily like a headstone, says to you from the shadows “Hey, I’m going to transfix you with my gaze while I tell you this F’d up S. But before I do so I’m going to give you a quote from Keats.”
And so we enter the world of Lovecraft.
The story begins with statements about the loneliness of childhood and sets up a dark and dismal environment full of things like a crumbling castle, complete with moat, ancient trees, and of course endless darkness. In the narrator’s loneliness and curiosity, he climbs the highest tower and to his surprise is met with the ground. He ventures towards the noise of an inn full of folks drinking and dancing. When he enters he is met with shrieks and fainting and running away. Then, for the first time, he sees a mirror. And then there is some stuff about Egypt and nepenthe and other awesome things. And I’m left in bed with a smile on my face because it’s so good.
Then of course I read it to Gemma.
Rereading this post and remembering how I was shocked by the end of this story I am slightly embarrassed. I should have seen it coming. I should have seen all of the endings coming. I admit I did not. My theory, at least the theory for myself, is that Lovecraft is one of the few writers who can command my full attention to the immediate moment. The words and phrases and dated language (even out of date for the early twentieth century) leaves no room for prediction and speculation. Every next sentence is a surprise. A present you did not ask for and did not even know you wanted.
In any event. Go read all his stories. And remember, “Most daemoniacal of all shocks is that of the abysmally unexpected and grotesquely unbelievable.”