Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Call of Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft

I think it was the summer between middle school & high school when I read the entire H.P. Lovecraft canon.  I found out about Lovecraft the same way most boys my age did, heavy metal music.  Specifically the cover art from Iron Maiden’s Live After Death (the quote on Eddy’s tombstone “That is not which can eternal lie, yet with strange aeons even death may die”) & a few Metallica songs on Ride the Lightning & Master of Puppets & Obituary using the same art for an album cover as a paperback for a Lovecraft book.  So while the girls getting into horror were reading Steven King & Peter Straub & V.C. Andrews, the guys were reading Lovecraft.  It was a horror so horrible I dare not describe it for fear of your very sanity & at the time I thought it was at least a little cheesy & outdated (this story in particular was over 60 years old at the time) & I moved on to reading David Schow & Clive Barker & the like before abandoning the genre for ten years.

With the exception of a few short favorites like “Pickman’s Model” I haven’t really re-read any of the Lovecraft stuff, though I have often watched the crap movies inspired by it (notable exception of Dagon which is awesome & the Re-Animator series).  But I’ve been reading the letters between Lovecraft & Robert E. Howard because I love REH for personal reasons.  Anyway, because of my respect for REH, I felt I really should checkout some Lovecraft again.  So “The Call of Cthulhu” seemed like a good spot to go to.  It was odd to me how similar he reads to Edgar Allan Poe (though I haven’t read Poe in a while).  I remembered all of his stories being about finding an old manuscript that talks about a horror that the writer dare not describe & while this did indeed have that, it wasn’t as silly as I thought it would be.  It’s all about setting mood & a feeling of dread & I did find it interesting how there are essentially no characters with any development & that characterization isn’t really needed in his work.  Though some of the characters have names & brief descriptions of them, even that much is unnecessary.  It’s interesting because as much as I know people these days look back wanting to do an homage to Lovecraft, it feels like he was already reaching back trying to be an homage to the previous generation’s ghost stories.  I’ve always had a leaning towards the belief that all good writers think they’re derivative hacks, so I say that with an air of admiration rather than condescension.  I can’t say this is an awesome flawless work, but I don’t think it was meant to be more than a fun read in a toss away pulp magazine & given that was it’s aspiration it is phenomenal.  If you haven’t ever read any Lovecraft & only seen the crap movies based on his work, you can read this story (or get an audiobook of it) that takes less time than a movie would & you get to experience the truth of it & then if you’re lucky you can listen to a heavy metal song about it afterward….

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