The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Fri Sep 27, 2019 11:14 am

=D>

An excellent write-up! Well done for finishing it!

There's one more thing I wanted to say pertaining to this story, which I find interesting (though I'd understand if nobody else did ¬_¬).

Whenever Lovecraft writes stories set in real places, I like to Google Map the various walks described, as it helps me visualise the story better.
H.P. Lovecraft wrote: Poe generally stopped at the Mansion House in Benefit Street—the renamed Golden Ball Inn whose roof has sheltered Washington, Jefferson, and Lafayette—and his favourite walk led northward along the same street to Mrs. Whitman’s home and the neighbouring hillside churchyard of St. John’s, whose hidden expanse of eighteenth-century gravestones had for him a peculiar fascination.
This walk can be seen here:

Image


This is a picture of Poe's ex-girlfriend Sarah Whitman's house, that Poe would have called in at during their brief, stormy relationship:

Image

And here is a picture of all that remains of the Golden Ball Inn, where Poe actually stayed:

Image

As you can see, now it is just a car-park. Lovecraft would be particularly horrified to learn that the building next door is now a cafe run by... ASIANS! :o

Image

(Den Den Cafe Asiana)
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Sly Boots » Fri Sep 27, 2019 12:05 pm

It's like some nightmare vision of the far-flung future :lol:

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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Fri Sep 27, 2019 2:47 pm

I believe this is a picture of the original building as it would have appeared in Lovecraft's day (the one on the end of the block with the balcony):

Image

You can see the sign saying "ROOMS" above the door.

It is the Hill's Grocery store on the right which has now become the Asian cafe.
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Fri Sep 27, 2019 4:00 pm

Is it time for another story? Yes, I think it is!

Next on the list is THE CALL OF CTHULHU...

http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/tex ... on/cc.aspx
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Sly Boots » Fri Sep 27, 2019 4:38 pm

Cool. I must confess I read that one a few months back when the club was in hiatus, I can still remember most of it, may have a skim to remind myself but probably ready to go through it as soon as you chaps are.

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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Wed Oct 02, 2019 4:50 pm

Looks like Snowy melted like tallow in The Shunned House. :(
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Snowy » Wed Oct 02, 2019 4:55 pm

Oh oh oh oh oh! Sly has read it! And commented! And we are moving onto the next story!

Sorry chaps, will get right to it. Off to dread R'lyeh!
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Tue Oct 08, 2019 11:11 am

How are we doing, folks?

By which I mean, "Have you read it yet, Snowy?" ¬_¬
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Snowy » Tue Oct 08, 2019 4:56 pm

:oops:

Will get it done. I could cheat, I mean I have read it once or twice before, but I shan't do that...
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Snowy » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:43 am

Not forgotten this btw, just stupidly busy atm.
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:57 am

Don't worry. We'll patiently wait for you. -_¬
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Snowy » Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:53 am

Started yesterday, will finish today and post my thoughts.
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Snowy » Mon Oct 14, 2019 4:59 pm

And finished.

There is a reason it is so well known, it is in my view one of his seminal works. It is funny that because we have focused so much on his xenophobia it leaps out at me so much more, from the evil negro who killed the narrator's grand-uncle to every other ne'er-do-well that the story conjures up: it isn't that I had not noticed it before but I think I had more given some leeway based upon the times that he was alive.

Anyhow, raging racism aside, the story. I tried taking Doug's approach and looking up some of the locations in the story. Most were unremarkable square buildings too modern for the 1920s so I assume that they are new buildings on old addresses, with a few noticeable exceptions like 7 Thomas Street. Also the Fleur-de-Lys building is very cool indeed:

Image

I had better luck with some of the artists mentioned, and enjoyed perusing some of the work of artists referenced, Sime and Angorola particularly.

CoC is one of the more unusual stories for HPL where you come face to face (albeit from the recollections in a journal) with one of the creatures of the Mythos. I always loved the concept of dread R'lyeh lurking beneath the waves, raised up by the grinding of the tectonic plates and triggering the dreams and visions of sensitive types around the world. The almost first hand exploration of the isle, the emergence of Cthulhu, after the slow exposition of his cult in the first part of the story, suffice to say that re-reading it after a hiatus of several years was an unalloyed pleasure.

I have mulled over getting this tattooed at several points in my life - if I had found an artist I trusted to make it happen, I would already have it :)

Image

Yeah OK, the scale is somewhat off, but I love it anyway :)

Great story, bring on the next.
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Stormbringer » Wed Oct 16, 2019 2:49 pm

Thanks Snowy! Now I shall type up some thoughts of my own:

1. I consider this tale to be the "gateway" tale, where Lovecraft's real-world horror stories that we have been (mostly) reading about so far -- where you can actually Google-map the locations in which they take place -- meets his grand mythology (known as the "Cthulhu Mythos"), which he will continue to write about after this point, but set in locations of his own invention -- otherwise known as "Lovecraft Country", which look and feel like real-world locations, but are completely fantastical. More on those later.

2. The real significance of this tale is that, unlike all the others so far, it does not concern an isolated case of inbreeding, sorcery, cannibalism, weird science, or a minor Nyarlathotep cult tucked away in an old mansion or church -- this time it's a global scenario of vast, cosmic significance that poses an existential threat for all of humanity (at least in theory; more on that later).

3. Once again, it is full of racism. This time, it's the blacks (mostly). Not a Dutchman in sight here, but keep an eye out for those pesky Eskimos and sinister Chinese. Now, it is well-attested that Lovecraft loathed Asians and blacks, as can be deduced from many of his stories and many of his letters on the subject (if I'm not mistaken, he believed the abolition of slavery was a mistake). And yet, one thing to keep in mind is that, while it may be black people who are worshiping the horror that is Cthulhu -- and therefore must be quite horrible themselves -- according to the laws of Lovecraft's own mythology, the black people in the story are actually RIGHT! In the story, Cthulhu isn't just some hand-crafted idol that horrible people worship, he is a living entity of incredible power, posing a very real threat to all of humanity. And while white, "civilized" people hide themselves behind their walls of modernity and science, thinking themselves powerful and advanced, it is the black people who are more in touch with "reality". That's something to chew on at least.

4. I quite like the means by which the story is told; a series of accounts and newspaper clippings from his uncle's research which the narrator assembles to build the picture as a whole. You may have noticed a similarity here between the concept of The Shunned House and The Call of Cthulhu: narrator has an uncle whose life work has been collecting info on a mysterious subject that causes him to die. The research culminates in the uncovering of a gigantic thing buried deep below the world's surface which is causing misery and evil even while itself safely entombed within the earth.

5. One thing that struck me as rather strange was how much theosophy is mentioned in the story, as if it were a credible, mainstream branch of knowledge. My understanding was that theosophy was a crackpot concept that only a handful of rather strange people took seriously. I have, through strange circumstances in themselves, actually visited the Edinburgh Theosophy Society (10 years ago). There were indeed some very peculiar people in attendance, all very snobbish and all of whom were obsessed with various forms of occultism. Quite a bizarre experience. In any case, I since discovered that theosophy was ALL THE RAGE among the middle-classes of the early 20th century, which is probably why it gets so much attention here.

6. As great as the story is, there's some things which I just find too odd to be convincing:

a. The epicentre of the Cthulhu Cult is located in Irem, city of the Pillars:
Of the cult, he said that he thought the centre lay amid the pathless deserts of Arabia, where Irem, the City of Pillars, dreams hidden and untouched.


Now, if you remember (and I don't blame you if you don't ¬_¬) Irem is mentioned once before in another tale we've already covered: The Nameless City:
...and one terrible final scene shewed a primitive-looking man, perhaps a pioneer of ancient Irem, the City of Pillars, torn to pieces by members of the elder race.

It's an obscure and very brief mention, but it actually refers to a "Lost City" spoken of in the Qur'an. Read the Wikipedia article here in you're interested:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iram_of_the_Pillars

I suppose it kinda makes sense that a cult that did its utmost to remain hidden would have its HQ located in a mythical lost city, but I just found this a bit too unbelievable.


b. I found it really odd that, despite being so powerful, The Great Old Ones can only "live" when the stars are in the right positions. What use is that, I wonder? Also, not only that, but they need others to help wake them up and free them from their tombs. What use is Cthulhu as a vast and powerful "god" when he needs talking apes to let him out of his tomb?

c. Also, Cthulhu has purpose-built idols of himself which he brought with him to earth, ready-made for humans to worship him, all so he can have a crew of people ready to wake him up when the stars are right again? And these idols are just a few inches tall? Cthulhu's hands are big enough to grab several humans at once...
Three men were swept up by the flabby claws before anybody turned...
...and yet he can construct miniatures of himself that can sit on the palm of one human hand? Daft. I suppose it could be other, smaller "Old Ones" who actually made the idols, but it's still odd.

d. Cthulhu can be temporarily defeated when a ship cruises through his head? Really? Now, that whole climactic scene, where Cthulhu actually emerges from his tomb, is brilliant as a "set piece" and makes a fantastic image, much repeated by artists for several decades (including the great one that Snowy posted), but the fact that they're able to actually escape him in a steam-ship really doesn't lend a lot of credibility to him as a being of vast power.

e. R'lyeh's rising and falling. In the early 20th century, it was genuinely believed by some scientists that land-masses in the ocean could just randomly rise and sink. This was actually used to explain mysteries such as the "lost continents" of Mu, Atlantis and Lemuria. There are at least three different Lovecraft stories which depend upon this concept, this being one of them. Again, the whole idea that Cthulhu's threat depends on:

i. The stars being right

ii. People being available to let him out at the right time

iii. His tomb being above the ocean floor at the time that the stars are right

iv. People not having steam-ships to escape on


...really doesn't bode well for him as a serious, credible uber-villain.


All that said, I do really like the concept of a monstrous being trapped under the ocean who can contact certain people through their dreams.

I also really like the ending line:
What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men.
It often comes to mind when I think about the chaos and madness of the western world's current political shenanigans.


One final thing from me:

Image

This is where R'lyeh was found in the story. Lovecraft and August Derleth (Lovecraft's literary executor) seem to place it at different points (I'm not sure why). The "Nemo" point refers to the part of the Pacific Ocean that is furthest away from any mass of land. According to Wikipedia:
Known as "Point Nemo", Nemo being Latin for "no one" and also a reference to Jules Verne's Captain Nemo, it lies more than 1,400 nmi (2,593 km) from the nearest landmass. This point was featured in the 1928 short story, The Call of Cthulhu, by H. P. Lovecraft as the location of the fictional city of R'lyeh. The area is so remote that sometimes the closest human beings are astronauts aboard the International Space Station when it passes overhead.

The area is also known as a "spacecraft cemetery" because hundreds of decommissioned satellites, space stations, and other spacecraft have been deposited there upon re-entering the atmosphere to lessen the risk of hitting inhabited locations or maritime traffic. Point Nemo is relatively lifeless; its location within the South Pacific Gyre blocks nutrients from reaching the area, and being so far from land it gets little nutrient run-off from coastal waters.

I love the idea that the humans on board the ISS could suddenly experience horrifying dreams, or that R'lyeh is today covered in the wreckage of hundreds of spacecraft. :lol:
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Re: The H.P. Lovecraft Reading Club

Post by Snowy » Wed Oct 16, 2019 4:56 pm

If we are poking holes, you missed one Doug:
H P Lovecraft wrote:After vigintillions of years great Cthulhu was loose again, and ravening for delight.
Now, deep breath, a 'single' vigintillion is...

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

And Cthulhu hasn't been loose for more than one of them.

According to science, planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old (I think we can discount creationist views :lol:), a whole lot less than a vigintillion.

Therefore, Cthulhu was parked in R'lyeh for an untold length of time in the place where Earth would come to be, the city's structure designed for talking apes that would come into existence in the last 60,000 - 125,000 years.

At least we know why he made all his little miniature statues - he had plenty of time on his hands!
RCHD wrote:Snowy is my favourite. He's a metal God.
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10501 :-({|=

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