Monday, June 1, 2020

Universe | H. P. Lovecraft

I have been spending my evenings dipping into the new Library of America edition of H. P. Lovecraft: Tales.  Here is the inimitable Lovecraft on New York City:
“a tangle of material and spiritual putrescence from which the blasphemies of a hundred dialects assail the sky . . . I saw the squint-eyed people of that city, robed horribly in orange and red, and dancing insanely to the pounding of fevered kettle-drums, and the clatter of obscene crotala, and the maniacal moaning of muted horns whose ceaseless dirges rose and fell undulantly like the waves of an unhallowed ocean of bitumen.”
I am willing to bet you do not know what a “crotala" is. I had to go the 20-plus volume Oxford Unabridged Dictionary to find out. A “crotale” is “A type of castanet used mainly in Latin-American music.” And far be it from me to quibble with Lovecraft, but the plural of crotale would appear to be crotalum, and not crotala, as he has it. But why, I must ask, is a crotale “obscene”? And how about that “unhallowed ocean of bitumen”? A ocean of bitumen is scary enough, but an “unhallowed” ocean of bitumen? That is really, really frightening. 

Of course it was just not New York that Lovecraft could not stomach:
"I hated the mocking moon, the hypocritical plain, the festering mountain . . . Everything seemed to me tainted with a loathsome contagion, and inspired by a noxious alliance with distorted hidden powers."
My feelings exactly. In particular the hypocritical plain, just pretending to be flat and even, has always annoyed me. And in fact, it was not just the Earth that Lovecraft was revolted by. He also loathed:
“unknown spheres and powers . . . the beating of black wings or the scratching of outside shapes and entities on the known universe's utmost rim.”
I had hoped that this new edition would shed some light on that much-reviled occult text the Necronomicon, which Lovecraft used as source material, but it now appears its author, the unspeakably vile Abdul Alhazred, was devoured by a flesh-eating demon in broad daylight in the copper-ware market of Damascus and is thus no longer available for interviews. I might add that Abdul Alhazred was not, repeat not, a follower of the Greek neoplatonist philosopher Proclus (410 - 485 A.D.), despite what some woefully misinformed people may have claimed. For a thorough demolition of this absurd assertion see Fragments of the Lost Writings of Proclus.