The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:15 pm

Okay, for the benefit of Snowy, I'm going to articulate my thoughts on UTP:

Spoiler
Firstly, I had never read this story before, even during the height of my HPL obsession (2004-2008)

I've actually still never "read" it, as on this occassion I listened to it via audio-narration on YouTube.

Why did I do that, do you ask? Because I have always found this particular tale quite laboriously written, and though I've made several attempts to read it, I have never succeeded. I think it's because the protagonist is not really HPL's own -- he is Harry Houdini, a man I am singularly not interested in -- which makes it harder to relate to.

I have always found, in my own mind, a certain kinship with Lovecraft's nameless protagonists, which is perhaps why I have always enjoyed his work so much, but I really don't care at all about Harry Houdini, especially not his travelogue, which is essentially what this is.

However, despite my lack of ability to connect with the protagonist, or actually read the text for myself, there are aspects of the story I really like:

1. I like the concept of a secret, hidden tomb network beneath the Giza Pyramid complex, containing experimental re-animated mummies, and an actual Sphinx being that they worship. Pretty cool, and would make a great RPG module, if you're into that sort of thing. Or for the plot of yet another reboot of The Mummy franchise.

2. I also like the way in which Harry describes the "layers" of Egyptian culture:

a) The "European" Egypt that disgusts him due to its over-familiarity.
b) The "Saracenic" Egypt that appeals to his Orientalist fantasies.
c) The "Bedouin" (i.e. the real) Egypt that disgusts him due to it being full of actual, real-life dirty foreigners.
d) The "Pharaonic" Egypt that simultaneously enchants and repulses him due to their religious rites and concepts of death and the afterlife, as well as its incredible antiquity, which as we know from the previous story (The Nameless City) always freaks out HPL.

I also like the overuse of adjectives as you described in your own thoughts, Snowy, and I think they're well employed here in certain places to describe Harry's nightmare fantasies concerning the mystery and darkness of ancient Egypt.

However, there's a few things I really don't like:

1. I don't like the very long set-up.

2. I don't like the detailed, long-winded description of the Pyramid complex and surrounding area. That was so dull.

3. I don't like how freaking surreal the story becomes after Harry is seemingly lowered down into the earth via the rope; all the weird visions and feelings he experiences -- everything from the impossibly deep descent, the entire length of impossibly long rope falling onto him, feeling like he's been pecked by an Ibis, the constant falling in and out of consciousness -- totally killed the story for me, and leads me to conclude that the whole thing he experiences after he's been tied up and blindfolded and laid on the ground ACTUALLY IS just a dream, as he so concludes at the end of the account.

Perhaps the Arabs slipped something into his drink after the fake boxing match on top of the pyramid (I actually really liked the idea of a boxing match on top of the pyramid -- this would make a great scene in a movie) and this drug, combined with his own knowledge of Egyptology and apparently highly colourful imagination, serves to wreak havoc on his mind. This is my theory, because it's just too surreal to suggest otherwise. If it hadn't been for that weird "passing out three times" section in the middle, I actually think this could have been a really creepy story about a man who, on a tour of Egypt, uncovers a secret underground lair of undead horrors beneath the Giza plateau (which would have been awesome).

Unfortunately, due the bizarre visions, Harry becomes the most unreliable of unreliable narrators and we just cannot trust this story as anything other than the recollection of a really bad hallucenogenic trip.

In his other stories, HPL often makes reference to Egyptian things. We've seen this already in The Nameless City, The Outsider and if we manage to keep this book club going long enough we may see it again, but this is the one and only story where HPL actually writes a wholly Egyptian tale of cosmic horror. And I think it's a sadly wasted opportunity. There's a cool concept buried within this tale (about as far down as Harry thinks he descends beneath the earth) but it's covered up by too many other factors which sadly obscure it from sight.

Some further observations:

1. Did you notice that Queen Nitokris is mentioned several times in this tale? She's also mentioned in The Outsider -- in fact, the protagonist from The Outsider is probably among the army of the dead that Harry witnesses toward the end ("I know that light is not for me, save that of the moon over the rock tombs of Neb, nor any gaiety save the unnamed feasts of Nitokris beneath the Great Pyramid")

2. I see a strong resemblance to The Nameless City in places, as well as other tales we've covered so far. A man travelling deep, deep underground -- far deeper than he thought possible -- discoveres a (possible) hidden world of horror beneath. Harry Houdini even quotes a line of poetry from Thomas Moore, something that the protagonist of The Nameless City did as well!


I have to say, there is a quote that made me chuckle:
I would give much, in view of my experience and of certain Bedouin whisperings discredited or unknown in Cairo, to know what has developed in connexion with a certain well in a transverse gallery where statues of the Pharaoh were found in curious juxtaposition to the statues of baboons.
I am not sure what Lovecraft was suggesting with this fragment, but the wording made me chuckle as I imagined statues of Pharaohs positioned in such a way that it was as if they were having sex with baboons. ¬___¬

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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Snowy » Thu Feb 28, 2019 6:58 pm

I did indeed pick up on the Queen Nitokris reference - did you see the Celtic Frost link I posted a couple of pages back?

I ignored the Houdini aspects to be honest, don't know much about the man and not that interested either. For me it was the first of the stories we have read that had both the written feel and atmosphere of the later Mythos tales.

Which story shall we take next? I am always more than happy to return to some HPL, and have my Necronomicon leather-bound edition on the bedside table ready to go.

I know (as do you knowing your recall) that Dreams in the Witch House is one of my favourite HPL tales, and I have not read it for years. Fancy it?

It's here if you do...
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Thu Feb 28, 2019 9:50 pm

Well, we could go with Dreams in the Witch House, seeing as Dreams were a theme of the last tale.

I was, however, going to suggest another list, following in the same tradition as before:

1. More crazy dreams... (or nightmares, more like)
2. Bizarre, surreal, dark and wholly illogical goings on in vast spaces beneath the ground...
3. More dark Egyptian secrets...
4. Monstrous living things concealed beneath the ground which are only PART of an EVEN LARGER THING...

Also, can more people please join the club? ¬_¬
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Snowy » Tue Mar 05, 2019 12:00 pm

I vote for number 3 - bring on more in the name of Anubis!
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:31 pm

Very well -- let us read THE HAUNTER OF THE DARK!
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Sly Boots » Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:38 pm

I was freaking out a bit before because of my work schedule, but I will endeavour to read this one if I can.

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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Tue Mar 05, 2019 3:05 pm

Excellent!
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Snowy » Wed Mar 06, 2019 9:24 am

I might be a bit slow in reading this due to some life stuff I have going on just now, but I will read it!
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Wed Mar 06, 2019 1:03 pm

You're in good company. ¬_¬
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Snowy » Thu Apr 04, 2019 4:59 pm

OK, just want to breathe a little life back into this one, and possibly placate Doug ;)

My mum died a month ago today following a one-sided battle with brain cancer, and my life has been shot to shit ever since. Today was mum's funeral - long in coming as we needed a day when both crematorium and church were available, as my folks are both devout christians. Now that it is behind me, possibly the hardest day of my life, I can start to look forward and will re-read this little beauty and commit my thoughts to the thread.

Sorry for delaying but had an awful lot to contend with, so suspect I will be forgiven.
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Fri Apr 05, 2019 8:45 am

I am terribly sorry to hear of your loss, Snowy. :(

If your mother was a devout Christian, then you know she would have placed her hope in "the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come", which, as a Christian myself, I also sincerely believe in. I shall pray for you, for sure.

Also, as I hope you know, any "pressure" to keep up with this group has been in jest. I haven't put any type of deadline on this one as I know folks have a lot going on in their lives.
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Sly Boots » Fri Apr 05, 2019 8:30 pm

Hey Snowy, sorry, thought I'd sent you a PM but it seems to be still sitting in my outbox not sending. I just wanted to say I'm so sorry to hear about your mum. If you want to go have a chat over a few beers just say the word mate.

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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Snowy » Sat Apr 06, 2019 1:19 pm

Stormbringer wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 8:45 am
I am terribly sorry to hear of your loss, Snowy. :(

If your mother was a devout Christian, then you know she would have placed her hope in "the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come", which, as a Christian myself, I also sincerely believe in. I shall pray for you, for sure.

Also, as I hope you know, any "pressure" to keep up with this group has been in jest. I haven't put any type of deadline on this one as I know folks have a lot going on in their lives.
Don't worry mate, it was as light-hearted a comment as I could manage, no pressure felt at all :)

And Alan, a beer would be good, not particularly to talk about recent happenings, just for the sake of a laugh and a catch up would do me fine :)
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Medicine Man » Sat May 04, 2019 9:21 am

Thought this might be of some use to folks in here...

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07RB5DB8C

Also belated condolences to you Snowy. My sincerest apologies for not noticing your post earlier. Thoughts are with you fella. All the best.

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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Thu Aug 08, 2019 10:43 am

Does anyone want to pick up where we left off and read The Haunter of the Dark? ¬_¬
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