... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Friday, February 25, 2011

217: The terrible, hideous, eldtritch torment of reading H.P. Lovecraft

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a novella by H.P. Lovecraft, and like the cyclic unquenchable need to eat and sleep and remain enslaved to all the functions of life and death, I am repeatedly drawn back to turn its dark pages to consume the twisted tale of Mr. Ward’s downfall expressed in baroque and beautiful prose.  For the third time in one halfyear I find the book clasped in my clammy trembling fists; its cheap paper absorbing the terrible stench of death from my pores poring fear sweats.  Why can I not wrench myself from its terrible clutches; from its unlikely expositions and its characters' detailed knowledge of the arcane and the fantastical?  Its eldritch screams awaken my obsession and draw me stumbling and moaning to the darkest corners of the bookshelf, forgotten by all but the mad and the wicked.

Raymond Carver
It’s also the sort of story, and Lovecraft the sort of writer, that is impossible not to want to emulate, with his drawn out, many-pointed sentences, and blizzards of lazy adjectives.  (Why describe something as ‘making me hold my breath and listen to the silence over the whap-whap-whap of my heart’ when you could just say ‘it filled me with an inescapable and eternal dread which even now, all these years later, I still feel when I recall the name grN’afthargk-tang, and that hand, the window, The Hand....’?  Why indeed.)  The need to stretch sentences to breaking point and to torture my own credulity is undeniable, but the influence on creative and contemporary writing is terrible.  I should I know, in my heart of hearts, be reading Amy Hempel and Raymond Carver and emulating their originality of metaphor, their use of themes, and their metaphoric use of matter-of-fact statements to allow the reader to unpack and assemble the emotions, rather than spoon-feeding them fat, thin, lazy, speedily.
But yet again the call of dark magic, sealed vaults, ancient beings, alien forest-dwellers, trans-dimensional brain-stealers, and other unlikely overwritten nonsense, whispers from the back of my mind before rising to a deafening scream behind my eyeballs.  That’s a pointlessly complicated way of saying I enjoy reading some of his stories more than once.  Some of them are short and about nothing; merely a glimmer of an idea or a recollection of a dream.  These ones are not so exciting.  But others are elongated tales of forgotten catacombs and terrible histories that can only be imagined; tantalising tip-toeing explorations of vast worlds, abandoned by black magicians or inhabitants from outer space.

Now that’s out of my system for hopefully a day or two.  I’m sure there is no point in my reading any of it back; it undoubtedly makes no sense at all, but that doesn’t really matter.  I’m not trying to tell a story, just doing a bit of exercise.  My typing fingers will have biceps like bison, and my eyes will be square like L7 from staring at the black on white of Word.  Someone, who will remain nameless has come in and put the telly on and now I can’t concentrate on writing.  Signing off; be back later for more of the same.

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