The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

For your eyes and ears.
User avatar
Stormbringer
Rad Dad
Posts: 1265
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:57 am
Location: The Ghooric Zone
Contact:

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Thu Sep 19, 2019 4:42 pm

Finished it last night!

Spoiler
Overall, I'd say this one is quite long-winded, but still strangely absorbing. So absorbing, in fact, that the first time I ever read it (years ago) on the bus, I travelled for three miles beyond my stop before I realised what had happened! :lol:

This time around, my more advanced knowledge-base helped me to appreciate the historical details of the story more.

First, a few FUN FACTS:

1. The real-life Shunned House -- 135 Benefit Street -- is literally just around the corner from Lovecraft's home in Providence -- the same home where he wrote (and set) The Haunter of the Dark.

2. Lovecraft's aunt Lillian lived at 135 Benefit Street for a time.

3. Edgar Allan Poe, who is mentioned at the opening of the tale, was very briefly engaged to one of his literary admirers, Sarah Helen Whitman, also mentioned in the tale, whose house was also around the corner from 135 Benefit Street (hence why Poe would theoretically walk past the place). Apparently Poe, at the time, was drinking, on drugs, dating a couple of other women at the same time, and hated Whitman's friends, so their relationship was a little "rocky" to say the least, and not destined to last. I think he dumped her the day before their planned wedding in a drunken outrage that required the police to be called.

4. The weapons that the narrator and his uncle bring to the house -- the battery-powered Crookes' Tubes -- were an experimental device for projecting a ray of electrons, invented by Sir William Crookes, who has the most amazing waxed mustache:

Image

The discovery of X-Ray technology was developed from this device. How the narrator and his uncle worked out that these devices could be effective for blasting ghosts is a little curious, but it's arguably a precursor of the "Proton pack" from Ghostbusters. Though, these completely fail to work against this horror (unsurprisingly).

5. The narrator's uncle, Dr. Elihu Whipple, was likely based on Lovecraft's maternal grandfather, Whipple Van Buren Phillips, who Lovecraft was very close to, and who encouraged his literary pursuits:

Image


~


My favourite bits:

1. How cool is your 81-year-old uncle when he agrees to go on a ghost-hunting expedition with you, armed with experimental ray guns and MILITARY FLAME THROWERS?

2. Military flame throwers in the basement a wooden house. Good call. Can't see any problems there.

Image

How exactly did they get their hands on that kind of hardware? I guess there was a lot of surplus army kit for sale after the Great War?

3. You thought the Deviant Dutch were bad? The Awful Asians? Now we're dealing with THE FRIGHTFUL FRENCH! I chuckled a bit when he said:
The words were at first indistinguishable, and then—with a tremendous start—I recognised something about them which filled me with icy fear... For the venerable Elihu Whipple was muttering in French[!]
~

Bits I don't get:

1. Why did the monster, which I assume is the transformed corpse of the occultist Paul Roulet, target the old man, but didn't touch the narrator?

2. Why, when all the other inhabitants of the house wasted away gradually, as their life and health were slowly sucked out of them, did Dr. Whipple rapidly "melt" before his nephew's eyes?

3. A HAPPY ENDING?! Sweet apples and nesting birds? This is the most unusual Lovecraft story ever for this feature alone.

"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."

-- Aquinuas

User avatar
Snowy
Posts: 776
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:57 am
Location: Ballhang

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Snowy » Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:09 pm

An excellent write-up Doug, and touching upon some of the things that gave me pause, the kindly uncle going all Raiders of the Lost Ark nazi and melting for example.

It was, as you say, a bit long winded, but this gave HPL the chance to properly indulge himself to prove the old adage from Mr Bruce Willis...

Image

In this story we have characters called:
Elihu Whipple
Rhoby Dexter
Elkanah Harris
Obadiah Brown
Dr Job Ives
Eli Liddeason
Mehitabel Pearce
Mercy Dexter
Preserved Smith (my particular favourite)
Zenas Low
Peleg Harris
Phebe Hetfield
Dutee Harris
Archer Harris
Rathbone Harris
Welcome Harris
Carrington Harris
Eleazar Durfee

It was funny, when I started reading I was wondering "Is this the original 'built on an Indian burial ground' story?" and it did come close!

Anyhow, very enjoyable and I can't possibly top Doug's awesome investigation above, so I will leave you with the fact that the nefarious Dutch were undoubtedly at the heart of affairs, there was a Dutch oven in the basement after all!
RCHD wrote:Snowy is my favourite. He's a metal God.
08/10/2003 - 17/08/2018
10501 :-({|=

User avatar
Stormbringer
Rad Dad
Posts: 1265
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:57 am
Location: The Ghooric Zone
Contact:

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:24 pm

I completely missed the Dutch oven reference! :lol:

To be fair, most of those names are Biblical, and therefore would have been common among New Englanders in the 17th, 18th and even 19th centuries with their strongly Puritan-influenced culture. Puritans were fond of Old Testament names like Eleazar, Obadiah etc., New Testament names such as Zeleg or Phoebe etc., and general Christian virtues such as "Mercy", "Patience" etc.
Last edited by Stormbringer on Mon Sep 23, 2019 3:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."

-- Aquinuas

User avatar
Stormbringer
Rad Dad
Posts: 1265
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:57 am
Location: The Ghooric Zone
Contact:

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Mon Sep 23, 2019 3:16 am

Sly Boots wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 4:11 pm
I'll be on my own this weekend, so I'll book in some time to read it then. Looking forward to it, sure it'll be nice and relaxing!
Any success with this plan?
"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."

-- Aquinuas

User avatar
Sly Boots
Bar Staff
Posts: 2932
Joined: Thu Aug 09, 2018 8:34 am
Location: Hampshire
Contact:

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Sly Boots » Mon Sep 23, 2019 6:24 am

It almost nearly worked -_-

I don't know if it's giving up caffeinated drinks, but I've been so exhausted the last few days I ended up going to bed at 9.30. I did open it up last night, but my brain wasn't able to process it and ended up falling asleep after reading the first paragraph.

I'm not sure when I'll be able to do it, either. I won't be offended if you guys just want to move onto the next one.

User avatar
Stormbringer
Rad Dad
Posts: 1265
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:57 am
Location: The Ghooric Zone
Contact:

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:29 am

No one gets left behind!

Unless you mysteriously disappear without explanation like Mantis and Gibby...
"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."

-- Aquinuas

User avatar
Sly Boots
Bar Staff
Posts: 2932
Joined: Thu Aug 09, 2018 8:34 am
Location: Hampshire
Contact:

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Sly Boots » Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:31 am

I'll try again tonight. It might have to be over a couple of evenings though as it's a long one.

User avatar
Stormbringer
Rad Dad
Posts: 1265
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:57 am
Location: The Ghooric Zone
Contact:

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:46 am

How do you feel about audiobooks?

To me, they take less mental effort than reading the text oneself. Wayne June does a good rendition of this one.
"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."

-- Aquinuas

User avatar
Sly Boots
Bar Staff
Posts: 2932
Joined: Thu Aug 09, 2018 8:34 am
Location: Hampshire
Contact:

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Sly Boots » Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:51 am

Eh, not tried them but don't think it would be my thing.

User avatar
Stormbringer
Rad Dad
Posts: 1265
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:57 am
Location: The Ghooric Zone
Contact:

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:40 am

Fair enough. Myself, if I listen to a HPL audiobook, it HAS to be Wayne June. He's the only narrator who I think does HPL right. I wasn't sure at first, as his voice is deep and gravelly, and I always thought HPL narrators should be a higher-pitched, slightly nervous-sounding fellow, but Wayne June just seems to get the pacing and inflections perfectly.

Gotta say, I've been more tired than usual myself the last few days. This weekend I was sleeping 10 hours each night! Usually I sleep about 5 or 6. I've not been off the caffeine, but I have been varying my caffeine intake a bit (stronger coffee, but less actual cups). I don't know if that's what made the difference, or if it's because I've been fighting off a cold that my wife had, which I've (mercifully) not succumbed to. Yet.
"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."

-- Aquinuas

User avatar
Snowy
Posts: 776
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:57 am
Location: Ballhang

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Snowy » Mon Sep 23, 2019 4:27 pm

Stormbringer wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:29 am
No one gets left behind!

Unless you mysteriously disappear without explanation like Mantis and Gibby...
It was the beastly Dutch, I am sure of it...
RCHD wrote:Snowy is my favourite. He's a metal God.
08/10/2003 - 17/08/2018
10501 :-({|=

User avatar
Stormbringer
Rad Dad
Posts: 1265
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:57 am
Location: The Ghooric Zone
Contact:

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Thu Sep 26, 2019 7:25 pm

Made any progress, Sly? ¬_¬
"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."

-- Aquinuas

User avatar
Sly Boots
Bar Staff
Posts: 2932
Joined: Thu Aug 09, 2018 8:34 am
Location: Hampshire
Contact:

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Sly Boots » Thu Sep 26, 2019 10:04 pm

I read it tonight, just making it to the end before my eyelids slammed shut.

Sorry I've been slow, it's been tough to find the time in the last week, what with going to bed before 10pm every night due to caffeine-related fatigue, work stuff, post-work stuff with the children and a pneumonia jab when I saw the doc on Monday that, among other not-nice symptoms, gave me a fever for two days -_-

Too tired to post thoughts now, though, so will post some tomorrow.

I'll just leave you with the one line that left me tittering like an immature schoolboy:

"When I told my uncle about it, he was greatly aroused."

:lol:

User avatar
Stormbringer
Rad Dad
Posts: 1265
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:57 am
Location: The Ghooric Zone
Contact:

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Fri Sep 27, 2019 8:34 am

I never even noticed that! :lol:
"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."

-- Aquinuas

User avatar
Sly Boots
Bar Staff
Posts: 2932
Joined: Thu Aug 09, 2018 8:34 am
Location: Hampshire
Contact:

Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Sly Boots » Fri Sep 27, 2019 8:52 am

So, some scattered thoughts. I won't retread what you guys have said but try to add some of my own.

Overall, I quite enjoyed it. While at certain points it got a bit bogged down, overall I felt the slightly longer than usual format (for his short stories anyway) worked well, allowing him to flesh out certain scenes and background (I really enjoyed the passage where he sets out the history of all the people that had died in the house) where in shorter pieces it feels like he overuses overly florid vocabulary to set the scene. Here, the narrative was able to breathe a bit more to the story's benefit.

The lack of overt racism, aside from a slight distrust of the French, was a relief after the last couple.

I also didn't have a clear notion of what the big bad was here. There were suggestions of vampirism but in the end it was something a bit different, and although the exact nature of the beast was largely unknown still, it was nice that it wasn't a bit tropey like the zombie in the last one, or a bog-standard vampire type thing.

There was one other part though that made me smile a bit. It was when they were camped out in the mouldy basement. Prior to going in, the narrator is at great pains to point out that, because they don't know exactly what it is they'll discover, their minds are completely open to any possibility, however unlikely, and prepared to face it. His uncle then awakes from a vivid nightmare, during which the very sight of his uncle's sleeping expressions are enough to engender horror in the narrator. His uncle talks him through the dream, where he sees himself being buried by French-looking people in tricorn hats and the faces of everyone who lived in that house, notably the entire Harris line.

At which point, the narrator, hearing this, basically shrugs, says, 'meh, it's probably nothing. Right, my turn for a kip. Budge up, old-timer'. :lol:

As for the uncle's rapid demise, my take was that it was an act of self-preservation by the creature (whatever it was). The narrator was pretty sure he'd been watched as he went about his business in the cellar, so it seems likely the creature at least guessed what he was up to. As for why it went for the uncle rather than him, you could say that it was probably a combination of a) his uncle being more susceptible to its influence being very old and a bit frail and b) a narrative device.

All in all, a decent read.

Post Reply