June 27th, 2005

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"the next one to crack"

The title of my LJ no doubt gives this away, but I am interested in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. (In fact, I have just agreed to work up an article about Lovecraft, and his relationship to J.R.R. Tolkien, for the Winter issue of Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest.) It seems to me that there is renewed mainstream interest in all things Lovecraft, and much of the recent renaissance can be traced in particular to two publications.

1) First, the essay H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life by French novelist Michel Houellebecq is now available in an English translation.

2) Second, and more importantly, the Library of America series has published H.P. Lovecraft: Tales. The Library of America is something of a gatekeeper for the literary canon, and the fact that it has devoted a volume to Lovecraft -- the first such volume given to a speculative fiction writer, if you don't count classic authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, each of whom had some pieces that could be considered "weird fiction" -- is quite significant.

Some key reviews of the Library of America volume include the following:

"Master of Disgust" by Laura Miller at Salon.com

"The Horror, the horror!" H.P. Lovecraft enters the American canon" by Michael Dirda in The Weekly Standard

"H.P. Lovecraft: Unnatural Selection" by Daniel Handler in The New York Times

"The Horror! The Horror!" by Lloyd Rose in The Washington Post

"The Myth Maker" by Michel Houellebecq in The Guardian

Hats off in particular to columnist Michael Dirda, who groks:

As he was dying in 1937 at age forty-six, he may well have felt he had lived in vain. His stories--sixty or seventy works of various lengths and completeness--resided in scattered notebooks and throwaway pulp magazines, uncollected and unlikely to be remembered. But it now seems beyond dispute that H.P. Lovecraft is the most important American writer of weird fiction in the twentieth century--and one of the century's most influential writers of any kind of fiction.... What matters is that he possesses the storyteller's greatest gift, the one Nabokov called shamanstvo: the "enchanter quality."

And let's not forget this memorable quote:

"Lovecraft is a resonating wave. He's rock and roll."
- Neil Gaiman in The Eldritch Influence: The Life, Vision and Phenomenon of H.P. Lovecraft

If anyone can suggest other recent Lovecraft sources to consider, I would be most grateful for the recommendation!

And now, a quote for the day that makes me laugh, about Lovecraft:

"I wouldn't call the Cthulhu Mythos 'deeply tinged with pessimism and melancholy.' It's more like having to endure a family dinner where everyone struggles not to mention a terrible family secret. When someone finally breaks down and begins shouting out this hideous truth, he is dragged off and killed by the rest of the family. They then sit back down to quietly eat, occasionally stealing a glance in your direction to see if you'll be the next one to crack."

- Wendell Wagner, Jr., in The New York Review of Science Fiction
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