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Effortless!  Fey!  Engrossing!  Eloquent!  There’s some blurbs, and I mean every word of them.  These are short works, hence my dual review, but they are the very soup and cheese of madness in literature.  The acrobatics that Carroll puts the English language through are as breathtaking as they are simply presented.  But let’s get specific.

Throughout Alice’s adventures in Wonderland there is nary a plot in sight.  A plot would make too much sense, or would too directly funnel the dreamy insanity of the text.  Instead, I would describe the style and product as one of uncorked effervescence.  These stories are made of bubbles.  Things just pop up, but you’re no more surprised than to see boiling water in a pot.  And then things just pop entirely and you move on.  Or rather, you fall deeper in.

There is absolutely no explanation given at any point and I wanted for none.  No explanation could satisfy.  The characters are all distinct and Alice’s experience of each of them is completely honest.  This world breathes but it doesn’t follow our rules.  There is a sense that underneath it all, there is a set of guiding principles by which the dimension and its inhabitants operate, but Carroll never tries to bring it to the surface and neither should we.  It is organic, it is inexplicable, it cannot be reproduced.  It makes as little sense as lightning in a bottle and is just unlikely to happen a second time.  But the craziest thing of all is that it did.  Lewis Carroll put pen to paper and banged out two trips to Wonderland, and the second didn’t fall on its face.  In fact, I preferred it.

You see, lightness and inconsequence and variety all have their place in illusory literature.  And yet the bubbles burst, the steam dissipates, and the pot settles down.  I remember laughing aloud and often while reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I read sections to friends and tasted the words trip and tumble over my tongue.  But I don’t remember any of it particularly well.  It is an ill-defined feeling.  Through the Looking-Glass is another beast entirely.  There Wonderland bares its fangs but slightly, and yet the feeling burrows and bloats and sets up shop in the back of your mind, making itself comfortable and plopping down in self-satisfaction right on top of your brainstem.  There’s something wanton in it and the constant poetry pushes sense up against the ropes.

I can complain only about the framing narratives.  I could not care less about Alice’s sister or her cats, and when she speaks in the “real” world you want to stop up your ears and pretend she’s not there.  Carroll relies too heavily on wrapping up the stories as dreams or sleepy-time fantasies.  I don’t blame him; he couldn’t have had any other idea what to do with Wonderland.  He just uncaged it, a very little bit.  And that’s what we have to do.  Open up your door, whisper the words, listen to how they hop and skip out of your mouth and into your ears.  It’s genius and it means nothing at all.  It is a glimpse into pure mind, and it is just-because.

 

I have very little idea as to how to go about reviewing Frankenstein. Frankly, it took some effort.  I realize that I started this whole gauntlet with H.P. Lovecraft, a veritable king of overwrought and antiquarian prose, but I could not handle the dialogue (internal or external) in this book.  And considering that it is a series of first person narratives within one another, that’s saying something.  Lovecraft wrote to match a style, he wrote to elicit a feeling out of time, and yes, he overdid it quite a lot of the time.  This is not a fourth Lovecraft review, but he certainly has something to say about the book and about why I finally cracked it open.

In his seminal essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” Lovecraft calls Frankenstein “somewhat tinged but scarcely marred by moral didacticism.”  I’m not entirely sure that I agree.  Hardly a page–nay, hardly a paragraph passes without Victor waxing eloquent on his utter worthlessness and inhuman betrayals.  He cannot recount a moment of his story without warning his listener in the framing narrative against any repetition of his mistakes.  Further, he lambasts curiosity itself.  The novel is chock full of messages, many of them wonderful if not wonderfully wrought, but among them seems to be a painfully unnatural aversion to looking behind the pretty colors of the imminent natural order.

The story preceding the completion of the monster (overlong and consisting not so much of a family history as an epic poem in praise of upper-class rural Swiss upbringing) is clearly meant to more profoundly devastate the reader following later tragedies, but it is tough to feel deep loss when every character acts, thinks, and speaks in the exact same way.  We can never miss anyone when everyone else is the same person.  There is only one character who stands out, one character who displays anything other than tragically inappropriate sensationalism and loquaciousness, and that character is cast aside from the human race entirely.  Yes, Frankenstein’s monster is the novel’s single interesting and unique player.  But holy crap is he fascinating.

Despite Shelley’s unfortunate inability to let the monster speak as anything other than a presumptuous  noble, massively educated and with gilded tongue, the creature manages to articulate himself more clearly, sincerely, and sympathetically than all the rest of the cast combined.  When he is given the opportunity to finally speak for himself (halfway through the book about two framing narratives deep) it is a shot to the mouth.  It is waking up to a jack-hammer on your nightstand.  The “daemon’s” brief(ish) autobiography is spectacular and exactly what the novel needed as a whole.  It reinvigorated me; I became excited to read the book and dove in at every opportunity.  It gives a focus and a pace to the story that the theretofore meandering speechifying of Shelley had hogtied and hidden behind a shed of ostentation.  And then it was over.  And Frankenstein continued in his blind game of both considering himself the lowest and unluckiest of human beings and blaming his creation for everything from stubbing his toe to the very Earth pulling a Krypton and blowing the fuck up.  And yes, this is a charge which I will level at the character at every turn.  Seriously, any sympathy he may have incurred is swept into the toilet every time he gives voice to his apparently unparalleled woes.  But enough about Frankenstein; that guy sucks.

Frankenstein’s monster is an incredible creation, both of the title character and of Shelley.  The manner in which he relates the creeping development of consciousness is enthralling; his first periods of animal survival have in them something beyond the experience of the author; his early observations of humanity pull one up and out of cynicism and gives one a planetary pride; and his fall is as devastating as it is unavoidable.  Read this book.  Read the hell out of it.  Read every crappy chapter that you have to so as to absorb the story of the conglomerate creature.  Make it a part of yourself.  Prometheus was never terribly interesting, anyways.  The good stuff is what we’ve decided to do with fire ever since he slipped us some.

Continuing through my massive backlog of cheap classics via nook, I ended up spending some time with Jules Verne again rather quickly.  And I loved it.  But even now, weeks later (my reviews are very behind), I still can’t place exactly why.  Let’s try to figure that one out together.

If you think back to my review of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, you will recall that a chief complaint was the overall repetitive nature of the text.  Well, Verne (or his translator) doesn’t seem to have quite so much trouble with that here.  You will also recall that my chief praises were of the book’s adventurous spirit and sudden gravitas.  Well, those are both present here as well, and in spades.  Around the World does seem to take much more of a “and then there was this cause why the hell not” sort of approach to the story, but it works.  I mean, there’s not much going on in terms of plot, but it is certainly more cohesive and present than in 20,000 Leagues. And what Around the World lacks in Nemo, it makes up (partly, at least) in Phileas Fogg.

Loathe as I am to continually compare this book to my last with Verne, I have no choice.  Honestly, I loved them both, but this one just shoots out of the gate with so much more breathlessness.  The characters, while all equally inexplicably and impossibly noble, are differentiated significantly more than “this one’s Canadian and impatient, these ones love fish, and this ubermensch has a mysterious past.”  Don’t doubt that they are all caricatures, but it’s a book about a bet to circumnavigate the world.  And that’s exactly what it feels like.

After the exhaustive cataloguing of Conseil, I fully expected his counterpart here, the circus-gymnast-cum-suddenly-devoted-manservant Passepartout, to be some sort of amateur geographer, listing off altitudes and precipitation and waxing eloquent on the virtues of European imperialism.  And that last part does have a place in the story, but humorous and speedy observation takes the place of global oceanic surveys and the very few big events that happen deftly blend that same rush and humor with an honest desire to give the audience a couple of delicious red herrings and make the characters as genuinely good as possible.

I really didn’t mind in the least just how much of this story Jules Verne pulled out of his butt as I burned through it over some toast and  orange juice.  Don’t take any of the characters so seriously as Captain Nemo (who continues his badass reign) and don’t worry too much about the few incidences of spontaneous Europeanization.  Nothing this breezy can offend too deeply and it’s too much fun, and far too short, to get up in arms about it.

A shorter (and likely less eloquent review) yes, but it’ll suffice for what it is I’m reviewing.  Give it a shot.  I’m no Phileas Fogg, but I’ll bet it’ll sit with you just fine.

 

I didn’t know exactly where this collection fell in the general mythos of Sherlock Holmes when I started it.  It was next up in my huge collection of classics on my Nook.  Being particularly chronologically occupied when getting into a new series of stories, I was initially very put off after realizing that I was perusing the middle of the man’s career.  The good news is, though, that this collection is imminently accessible.  Outside of a very few references to prior adventures, which are peripheral and have little to no bearing on the case currently at hand, you can dive right in with this particular book.

Each of the stories is written from the point of view of Watson as he reminisces or combs through case files collected over his long association with Mr. Holmes himself.  And I have to admit, Watson shocked me somewhat.  He’s not the bumbling fatty that generations of visual versions have bequeathed to us.  He is Sherlock Holmes’ dearest (and arguably only) friend, which is what makes him so much more infuriating.  He is a veteran of the Afghan campaign, a successful medical doctor, brilliant in his own right, and a happily married man.  And yet Sherlock Holmes shits all over him.  Seriously, the detective is a dick.

Watson is startling well-spoken, intelligent, and loyal to a fault.  And how does Holmes thank, nay, reward him?  By constantly showboating and sniping at Watson’s failure to pick up on some apparently insignificant detail that no one without the inherent wealth or time of leisure and total lack of society of Sherlock Holmes could ever be bothered to master the noticing of.  And Watson just keeps taking it. He falls for Holmes’ bait every damn time.

“Well Watson, this certainly does seem to be a difficult case.  Do you notice anything useful?” Holmes may mutter disinterestedly as he hides his prick grin.

“Well, the client is wealthy, and I can medically diagnose him with my eyes closed in the other room.  But no, as usual, nothing helpful,” Watson might reply.

“Well, Watson, if you have half a brain, a single functioning eye, and can tell right from left then you must have noticed that this man is not, in fact, a Bulgarian merchant but is, in fact, a horse.  See his teeth?  Anyways, I’m bored now since I’ve already solved the case.”

“Really?  Wow, then where is the cache of diamonds?”

“Oh, I don’t want to tell you yet.  First I’m going to throw on some black-face, go slumming, have a sandwich, synthesize a new element, and then you can meet me at the bank at half-five on Thursday next.  And bring your gun?”

“My gun!  Is there to be danger?”

“Could be.  You’ll take point,” said Holmes as he snorted a mountain of cocaine and disappeared into his boudoir to hide from the womenfolk afoot.

Yes, it seems like I’m lambasting a classic character of English literature.  Mostly because I kind of am.  But I loved it.  Honest!  The reason I am so hard on it is because it promised so much that it failed to deliver on.  Most of the stories have little to know drama.  The stakes are so low they’re under the table.  And whenever something genuinely sinister happens and it shakes Holmes out of his ennui he gears up to be some badass avenging angel, prepared to cross seas and mountains to bring the felons into swift and terrible secret karate justice.  And then they die in a tragic ice-cream cart accident.  Or a cat sneezes on them and they fall permanently comatose in an allergic fit.  Some of these stories just finish up right as they get genuinely interesting and the stakes come out of the basement.  I can only imagine that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle realized he’d taken too long being clever and was out of paper and had his own mountain of cocaine that needed snorting and so couldn’t be bothered giving the thing an actual ending.

Doyle is clearly brilliant!  He’s got a great concept, a great set of characters (if they would just shape up a little more often), an pleasant style, and (in spite of some clearly pulled-it-out-of-his-butt moments) is an immensely creative and clever man.  So yes, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was awesome.  And that’s what made it so damn frustrating.

I’d recommend it.  I intend to pick up the rest and fill in the blanks (in order this time) and I think you’d be doing fine by yourself if you did the same.  You’ll be impressed.  And then you’ll tear your hair out and punch a wall and beg Watson to just pistol-whip Holmes in the ear before reaching up out of the page and cocking Doyle in the nose until he finishes the story up big and proper like he promised eight pages back.

 

The first thing to be said is that I really should be more prompt.  Secondly, Captain Nemo.  Let’s back up, shall we?

I finished 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea some time ago and although I’m not sure I had any specific timeframe in mind at the outset, the book definitely took me longer to finish than anticipated.  No doubt because there is a great deal of dry (*harhar*) material padding out what is otherwise a none-too-hefty story.  So should you read it?  Yes.  Yes you should.

This is my first time reading Monsieur Jules Verne, a posthumously claimed father of science fiction literature, and I was initially shocked by the repetitive nature of a great deal of the text.  Looking back, I’m sure some of the blame falls on the translation, the translator of which I fail to recall.  However, a great deal of the novel is epithetical.  Every character has a select number of traits by which they are referred and identified, most irritatingly in Conseil, a Flemish “lad” who is called “gallant” entirely too often.  And Conseil is really a very good place on which to hinge certain strengths and weaknesses of the text overall.

You see, Conseil is a cartoonishly slavish devotee and manservant to his master, the venerable Professor Arronax, through whose eyes the reader is related the story.  The man is fully extreme in his occupation and acts as the professor’s pet classifier.  Arronax, being an eminent marine naturalist, relates huge sequences of nomenclature and geological data for each of the Seven Seas traversed.  Yes, that’s right.  So far as he was able Verne included, in long-ass lists, every marine plant, animal, and rock formation that he conceivably could have without calling the thing a specialist text.  Being no expert marine naturalist myself, I was forced to take his word on it as he wowed me with the wonders of the sea and the limitless potential of electricity.  When Conseil was mentioned I always went on guard, knowing that a whole heap o’ fish were about to come pouring off the page.  And yet, this grounds the novel somewhat intriguingly.

You see, our own venerable Steven Lloyd Wilson has called science fiction, and I’m either paraphrasing or completely filling his mouth with totally foreign words, a vehicle to poke at our limits and celebrate our potential for progress.  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea does all of this.  However the science shook out historically (despite coming up with a full early model for the submarine, Verne was no seer (and the Nautilus is no mere submarine)) it made the book feel like an exploration.  This is science, it says.  It may not jump off the page, but look at how everything else jumps off of it!  Most of the book is spent cruising under the waves without any real problems beyond a weirdly stir-crazy Canadian harpooner.  There are scenes of action and adventure, and the science serves as a sink of the real world that leaves the reader hopelessly unprepared to really tackle the improbability of many of the characters’ discoveries, but one issue stands out from amongst the rest.  Preeminent, ridiculous, necessary, feared, and beloved: Nemo, captain to the Nautilus and an apparent god among men.

It doesn’t take an ancient Greek to tell that 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is hugely indebted to the Odyssey. Nemo’s very name is a callback to Odysseus’ clever introduction in Polyphemus’ cave, and there are few characters in literature quite so simultaneously tragic and haughtily superior as those two.  And Nemo is a fully ridiculous character.  He speaks God knows how many languages (without a trace of accent), he’s inexhaustibly wealthy, he’s got a veritable Library of Alexandria in his study aboard the submersible, he’s a scientific genius a century ahead of his time, a singularly compelling individual, and a totally, unbelievably, unrelatably preposterous character.   But every time he keeps or loses his cool, playing the pipe-organ (onboard, in the aforementioned library) with distracting mystery or fighting a shark with a knife(!), the reader is game for it.  This character is a total badass.  He is a consummate human being in his accomplishments and his questionably stubborn faults.

Read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. You might not always feel like much is going on, but when something does happen you will be knocked right the hell over and you will read those damn fish-lists for just one glimpse of Nemo going mano-a-mano with a giant squid with nothing but an axe and unquenchable fury.  And then something genuine and human will happen out of absolutely nowhere and, inexplicably, you will feel just a little bit like crying.

To all few of you

Apologies and fear not.  A new review is forthcoming.  This week no less.  Tremble and quake in excitement as we approach…

 

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea!!!

 

3/3 – The Long Horror

The short stuff forms the crux and basis of everything Lovecraftian, but it is his longer work that gets name-dropped the hardest (outside of “The Call of Cthulhu,” which I’m betting 300% of Cthulhu Mythos “fans” have never actually read).  At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow Over Innsmouth get a lot of mention and a lot of praise.  Unfortunately, the majority of the people doing the naming and praising have no idea what in the R’lyeh they’re talking about.  Let me explain.

All of these works are absolutely worthy of praise, but listening (or reading, rather) the way the supposed Lovecraft community discusses these works does a disservice to their brilliance.  They are masterful works of imagination and do an absolute credit to the argument for intelligent pace.  What they are not is terribly active.  Cthulhu is not flying around brain-raping the world into submission.  People are not seeing things that are knocking them off of their rockers and into some loquacious fit of fainting.  Rather, people are seeing half-hints and indirect, indefinite, and impossible glimpses.  The “Innsmouth look” is not an outright frog-man, it is the promise of degeneration.  The most maddening thing about At the Mountains of Madness is not the only appearance of an actual shoggoth in all of Lovecraft’s oeuvre.  Rather, it is Lovecraft’s stubborn refusal to elucidate exactly what it was which blasted Danforth’s sanity so completely.

Lovecraft’s novellas are long-form articles of inference.  Dyer and Danforth make unbelievable discoveries beneath the Antarctic ice, but what they infer is world-shaking.  Professor Peaslee’s confirmation of his historically unsettling and upsetting experience isn’t half so fundamentally bothersome as the simple, cool breeze floating up from the buried secrets underneath already shocking buried secrets.  The Yithians of The Shadow Out of Time were alien, no doubt, but empathetic in a sense.  Whatever they so feared remains unrevealed and Peaslee and the reader neither one want or need to know what lies beneath.  The narrator in The Shadow Over Innsmouth is less effectively terrifying in his flight from a disgusting cult than he is in his hints and explanations of his inhuman life and acceptance beneath the sea.

All three of these stories are frustrating, and all three are better for it.  In each of them, next to nothing at all actually happens, given their length.  They are simple sequences of action.  Their purpose, their real meat and influence, is that which has already happened.  They are the dark side of discovery.  They are curious men finally submitting to limitation, and the pain and loss that must accompany the human intellect and thirst for knowledge giving up and cowering before something too tall to measure or too deep to dig up.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, to me, is the strongest of Lovecraft’s horror novellas.  It is also the leanest (not referencing length).  It is absolutely and inextricably tied to the remainder of Lovecraft’s fiction, but it is more immediate.  It is a more active story.  In almost each of the other stories we experience half-explained inferences and shy madness in the first-person.  In The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, we watch the actual supplanting of identity by the inescapable weight and accuracy of those inferences.  In other stories the results of an old mistake are revealed and its repetition by the modern world is staved off by secrecy or disbelief or the barest thread of inarticulate survival.  Charles Dexter Ward makes that old mistake, and one Dr. Marinus Bicknell Willett stands by and experiences the loss secondarily, sharing in our blindness and ignorance and so making him a more directly empathetic, and thus powerful, figure with whom to identify.

If Randolph Carter goes on my favorite journey, then Dr. Willett is my favorite man.  He is Lovecraft’s one genuinely good character.  He is reason wrapped both in truly scientific understanding and pure will.  Where Ward’s discoveries and consequences chill, Dr. Willett’s own actions belie an underappreciated aspect of Lovecraft’s own personality: optimism.  Dr. Willett is not himself a particularly optimistic man, but he is the most proactive, and so most human, of all of Lovecraft’s characters.  Lovecraft was a strict materialist, but he understood better than most of his age the terrible possibilities and probabilities of an infinite universe.  In the bounds of infinity, everything is possible if not likely, and he rightly recognized that this was an alternately sobering and exasperating realization.  Dr. Willett is both sobered and exasperated, but he is engaged.  He does not shut down, he does not flee.

I really have no idea how to conclude any discussion of the entire fiction of this man.  In reading H.P. Lovecraft we should neither misunderstand the horror and gravity, nor should we ignore the creative virility of his more agile imaginings.  Human beings are small.  Everything is scary to the small.  Don’t believe when other people name-drop the man.  There are weirder things which more horribly threaten one’s sanity than Cthulhu, because Cthulhu ultimately has a name and a nature.  Cthulhu is a priest, and what he believes is much, much more devastating.

 

2/3 – The Short Horror

Let’s continue, shall we?

The short horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft receives the most accolades, the most criticism, and really the most attention of anything and everything that he wrote.  And there are many reasons for that.  But there’s one particularly simple, direct reason and it goes as follows: of the shit-ton that Lovecraft wrote, this type is the lion’s share.  From “The Beast in the Cave” immediately following S.T. Joshi’s introduction to “The Haunter in the Dark,” which concludes the main body of the collection prior to Lovecraft’s excellent, if a bit haughty, essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature” and the piecemeal appendix, the vast majority of the 1098 pages are dedicated to short stories, lovingly and stubbornly published in amateur journals and primarily revolving around one central image or moment.

This moment is both the failure and redeeming factor in the early clump of Lovecraft’s fiction.  Many of those early stories prepare an excellent atmosphere around a…thing.  That thing may be a twist, it may be a scene, person, word, sound, or faint (more on this momentarily).  It may be telegraphed from the first page.  It may diffuse the tension, it may throw the brakes on the pace, or it may drop the floor out from under you (for better or for worse).  But it is always creative.  So many stories were overly verbose, too obviously and too fondly antique, or just too damn singular, but by the far side of Yuggoth I cannot reduce the man.  And I wanted to in the middle of several of his stories.  Too many characters lecture at Miskatonic University, too many of them have almost total recall of the Necronomicon, and far, far (fucking far) too many of them faint.

I get it, our minds cannot conceive, and the threat of imminent conception of said inconceivable breaks the very borders of the brainpan, but I had to take breaks early on to sack-up for the next marathon of short stories.  And that is the weakness of reading one man’s entire literary life in one stretch.  These things were published all out of order and relatively far apart across several different publications, to boot.  It is hardly fair of me to hold recurrence against the man when that same recurrence so effectively and professionally comes into its own near the end of his career.

Here’s the thing about H.P. Lovecraft, as is abundantly clear on powering through his colossal collection of short horror fiction: he is a point of tension.  Each story is familiar enough so as to both frustrate the reader and more effectively deliver the creative culminating element.  The man had a knack for reference, straightforward misdirection, and inference that belies his fastidious self-relegation to pulp rags.  He wrote for the love of writing and died impoverished and underappreciated.  He refused what he perceived to be artificial literary elevation even as he abhorred the company he kept (and that kept him from proving a point to the company that kept him at arm’s length).  He stressed the importance of the outside natural to the same species he begged to quit looking beyond nature.  And this is what makes his ideas so damn scary.

Nothing he writes will make you jump.  Nothing will give you active nightmares or shift your sweat production into fearful and nasty.  What will truly scare you is when that moment he places in your mind in that deceptively easy pill to swallow (insert short story here) sprouts into genuine shared insight.  When you really think through the implications of his own nervous “What if?”  When you really sit down and try to decode what he describes as “alien geometry” the abstractions that tug at the corners of your reason will momentarily paralyze you.  When you ponder unaccountable ages, uncaring super-conscious potentials, or sharing empty space with uncountable presences exactly beside our own perception, you will close down your reason and retreat, exactly as all of his characters do, into a “don’t be ridiculous” reaction.  You will watch TV, turn on the radio, browse Pajiba, what have you, and all the while the much-discussed couplet of the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred will wind itself into circles in the back of your mind where the ape-man still sits shuddering by his dying fire and you will wonder if you yourself would faint or just give up completely if just for one moment you felt the slimy brush of the choking masses in the air just barely more dimensional than ourselves.  When you wonder what the words “Cthulhu fhtagn” really sound like, when the mouth pronouncing them utilizes neither lips nor tongue, then you will realize that anything big and old is scary and there is nothing bigger and older than the universe we live in.

Unless there is, in which case oh shit.

1/3 – The Fantastic

Alright team, here we go.  Barnes & Noble, bottom shelf, huge tome of a book with purple cosmic geometry for a cover design.  Great big letters: H.P. Lovecraft.  This is what I had been waiting for.  I had long wanted exactly this: something in which I could easily approach the entire library of a man who has influenced so complete a volume of everything I love and find myself interested in.  Did it disappoint?

1098 pages of stories, long and short, essays, introductions, notes, drafts.  Anything that big is bound to disappoint in part (*harhar*), but the man didn’t effectively originate (or at least concretize) an entirely unique and novel genre without producing an overall phenomenal output.  Collected, introduced, and presented by “leading Lovecraft scholar” S.T. Joshi, the ancillary and supplemental material is, in all honesty, legitimately revealing and helpful.  What Joshi and Barnes & Noble seem to have missed is a great many typos which I am sure remain from the original, and supposedly edited and enhanced, texts as they first appeared.  But these are comparably few and mighty far between and only very occasionally distracted from my consistently swelling appreciation of the man and his work.

The relationship I had with this solid brick of pages (made all the more dramatic by the startling lightness of my spankin’ new Christmas Nookcolor) began on rocky footing.  Lovecraft was young and while a glimmer of weird promise hovered around the early entries, I am not accustomed to reading anything written by someone younger than myself and I may have resented the fact that it was still lightyears ahead of anything I may have written at that same age.  Nonetheless, it was exciting to watch the rapidity with which young H.P. increased his overall output and the quality thereof.

The first element of Lovecraft’s oeuvre to come into its own is the same element which receives the least attention.  We’ll get to the Cthulhu Mythos soon, and they are fantastic, but they are not totally separate or absolutely superior to Lovecraft’s more fantastic (or “phantastic,” as he renders it) Dream Cycle.

Lovecraft’s own strength was in his desperate lack of definition, allowing for an easy inter-compatibility and cohesive cooperation amongst his stories of all styles.  The largely indeterminate Dream Cycle actually laid the viscous and amorphous background which is the world behind the world of Lovecraft’s whole fiction, however it is expressed.  Alternately material, fey, and something like dream, this in-between or backside-world is peppered with names, places, references, and phrases which the reader comes to consider pillars of the whole shared world which Lovecraft created throughout his career.  As silly as names of people and places like Sarnath, Ulthar, Oog-Narthai, Atal, Kuranes, Leng, etc. initially appear, by the conclusion of Randolph Carter’s personal storyline I considered them essential and creative archetypes of a world perpendicular to our own.

The way that characters and elements weave in and out of one another’s individually delineated story-worlds is something a little too chronological, but still exciting and exhausting to behold.  Lovecraft’s verbiage is also clearly most at home here as well.  It is a common complaint against the professional amateur that his language is overwrought and despite Joshi’s protestations, I can’t completely discount that complaint.  As the pages turn he reigns it in, subtly and effectively so, but in his more fantastic turns Lovecraft comfortably allows his pen to flower and flow in whatever direction it so desires.  He’s writing a dream, whatever the composition, and dreams don’t have to submit to scholastic criteria.

Explicitly influenced by Lord Dunsany (who I hope to tackle later in the CBR), we still find here the very heart of H.P. Lovecraft (Randolph Carter, despite being one of my favorite characters ever, is essentially Lovecraft’s own proxy) and the seeds of eternal Pajiba favorites like Neil Gaiman and Steven Moffat.

This cycle also builds on itself more believably and less distractingly than the horror vein.  As we’ll explore more later, it becomes tiresomely curious how so many Miskatonic professors could be exposed to the very most secret and ancient histories of the world and the nameless and painful true character of the universe.  In Dreamland I took no such issue.

“The Doom That Came to Sarnath,” “The Terrible Old Man,” “The Cats of Ulthar,” “Celephaïs,” “The Other Gods,” “The Strange High House in the Mist,” and, what I consider to be Lovecraft’s very crown jewel, “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath,” among many others, compose a collection that I cannot recommend highly enough.  That final novella alone is among the most dreamily and beautifully constructed literary culminations that I have ever experienced.  It is everything that the stories that built up to it promised to be.  Is it perfect?  No.  But it was the turning point in what had until then been a sometimes exhausting trudge through a format I was largely unfamiliar with (the short story).

I won’t assign stars, or thumbs up, or numbers, or any sort of rating.  But I will give my recommendation and I will give my appreciation.  This third of my overall review of H.P. Lovecraft’s complete fiction garners my enthusiastic praise.  Read these stories.  Read about the world that underpins Randolph Carter and read his own journey through the heart and germ of decadent imagination itself.  Just don’t trust anyone named Nyarlathotep along the way.  That guy is crawling chaos and he’ll walk you right up to the monotonous piping of flutes around the daemon-sultan throne of the blind idiot god Azathoth at the center of Chaos itself.  Bastard.

And one day, people will read it. Welcome, ‘Jibans & Co., to my first and only blog (not counting the one I had to keep for a semester of Spanish).

I’m jazzed to Cannonball with all of you, and if you don’t know what the Cannonball Read is and you’ve somehow stumbled over here, well, check it out at http://cannonballread3.wordpress.com/ or follow it sporadically at Pajiba itself.

I’m especially thrilled about the title, which I think means I’m a real-life blogger now, and it should all make sense in my successive combo of three reviews.

Coming Soon: Three-part review of the entire fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. Until then, Cthulhu fhtagn.

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