17 July, 2012

The Mythos

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Tales
H.P. Lovecraft

It is a good two and a half months since i took this book out of the library; what can possibly account for my taking so very long to read it? After all, it’s not that long (twelve stories in five hundred and fifty pages), nor difficult (first published in the pulp magazines of the first half of the Twentieth Century). The truth is, i’m not altogether sure what has held me up, other than life itself ~ i’ve tended to be at work quite a bit over the Christmas period, and then when i’m home i’ve gone to bed quite early, which has severely cut down on my reading time; i don’t think that there is anything in the book itself which has held me up ~ indeed, i have enjoyed it each time i’ve read it ~ so the time factor oughtn’t be any reason for me to have bad feelings towards it, or Lovecraft.

These dozen stories are what might be termed classic horror, along the lines of Poe, though more detailed, more developed, perhaps, than Poe was; they tend to revolve around Lovecraft’s creation of a mythos of Elder Ones and ancient evils based on some interstellar travellers who brought conflicts to Earth in the aeons prior to the present. These evils have been glimpsed by certain authors of the past, in particular Lovecraft’s favourite, Abdul Alhazred, whom he several times refers to as “the mad Arab”, and his book the Necronomicon which is completely forbidden and evil, yet seems to have been available to everyone in the stories who has wanted to see it. This apparent contradiction is one of the minor complaints that i do have about the book, and it appears in a stronger form in one of the later stories, “At the Mountains of Madness”, in which a couple of explorers are making their way through a long abandoned city of the Elder Ones, amazed at all the sculptures and reliefs they find, and they are able, within the constraints of the small amount of time available within the plot-line, to comprehend millions of years’ history as shown in those reliefs, as well as offer a critique of the relative degradation of the later ones. It’s as though Lovecraft lost track of what the time-line was within his story, and he compressed what would in actuality be many years of study, learning about a truly alien culture purely from its art, into a couple of hours or so. This kind of fault in a book or story is annoying, but not sufficiently so to prevent me from reading more; i have to say that, using my single criterion, this book was a success for me.

No comments: