Monday, August 20, 2012
Howard Phillips Lovecraft
In last Friday's post I noted the birthday of two famous Americans born on August 17th: Davy Crockett and Mae West*. Today, as it happens, is the birthday of yet another interesting American: author Howard Phillips ("H.P.") Lovecraft, born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1890.
Lovecraft was - stylistically - a pretty abysmal writer. His prose can be difficult to read without a dictionary handy, but if you're willing to grit your mental teeth and press on, you'll find that he is a master of blood-chilling tales of horror and the supernatural, many of which have been made into inferior Hollywood films that don't come close to capturing the essence of the original stories.
My personal favorite Lovecraft story is the short novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, a tale that combines black magic, twisted science, reincarnation, revenge, and utterly incomprehensible mystical incantations, such as ...
H'ee - l'geb
Two of my other Lovecraft favorites are the short stories "The Outsider," an horrifying tale with a brilliant twist at the end, and "Pickman's Model," about an artist who uses a somewhat ... um ... unusual model for his bizarre paintings.
Lovecraft was not especially popular during his lifetime, but enjoyed increased popularity after his stories*** were compiled and published by his friends through the Arkham House publishing company. There's an annual convention of his admirers called NecronomiCon Providence, and Lovecraft's work has inspired dozens of other authors ranging from Joyce Carol Oates to Stephen King.
If the spectacle of a dysfunctional and useless Congress, the rise of screaming political partisanship, and the blatant sale of your government to the highest contributor hasn't frightened you enough, turn to H.P. Lovecraft. He'll scare the socks off you, but at least you can close the book and escape from the horror.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.
* I forgot to mention it at the time, but a life vest is sometimes called a "Mae West." It doesn't require a whole lot of imagination to see why.
** This is similar to the language often used by Republicans to explain why their theory of "trickle-down economics" makes sense.
*** Contrary to popular belief, the titular mountains of Lovecraft's short novel At the Mountains of Madness are not a reference to Capitol Hill.