Wednesday, April 28, 2010

H.P. Lovecraft

This spring I've made a pro-active war campaign against existentialism. What that basically means is I'm going to have lots of purposeful things to do instead of playing Freecell and allowing my brain to think depressing thoughts while my hands and eyes are busy. Being home when your family is gone from 7-3 and your best friends are in different countries makes me want to consider life. But life is for living, not considering. Anyways, I started reading again.

I picked up a collection of stories written by H.P. Lovecraft, who has been hailed as one of the greatest horror writers of the 20th century. He's most famous for emphasizing the grimness of the unknown. I was only able to read five of the stories before I got weirded out, but his prose is gorgeous and his themes are eloquently (and grotesquely) presented.

In "The Music of Erich Zann," a man in a boarding house hears beautiful yet frantic viol playing from the highest room in the building. He seeks out the player, who is named Erich Zann and is both mentally unstable and mute. He "befriends" the old man and begins to visit him. He notices that Erich has his curtains drawn over a window, which, the narrator surmises, would be the only one in the whole boarding house that would allow a view of the city. Erich refuses to let anyone touch anything in his house, so the narrator doesn't get to see. As time goes by, Erich's music grows more intense and otherworldly. The story ends when the narrator sees why his music is so frenetically played: his window is a portal to an abyss, and the foul creatures that live there are entrapped only by his viol playing.

Lovecraft's stories almost always involve some frightening element of something incomprehensible. In another story he created a monstrous demon called Clthulhu, who is so sinisterly alien that its name isn't even meant to be pronounced by humans (and that's the closest we'll ever get to accurately saying it). And it looks hecka freaky:

Lovecraft's writing reminds me of a paper I wrote about Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My paper was about how the dual-natured main character acted as an invitation to introspection. One assertion I made revolved around the fact that Stevenson never explicitly describe Hyde's visage; the author merely describes everyone's unease towards him. This lack of imagery forces the reader to delve into his or her own dark nature to find a decent representation of a being so crooked as Edward Hyde. Lovecraft, however, uses under-explicit imagery to evoke fear of the unknown. Despite the foulest depths of human nature, there are forces in this world (and far beyond) that we could never understand or even begin to illustrate with words.

So much for fighting existentialism.

I personally have few qualms about the things I don't understand. I love learning more about things, but I know that there are concepts that are beyond human comprehension. And I'm okay with that. I know that God created man and woman in His own image, and I'm also convinced that evolution is a valid scientific principle. How they coincide, I'm unsure; I leave that to the Creator. As for the abyss of the unknowable, my testimony puts everything in perspective. Our Father in Heaven created everything that exists in the universe. We cannot know all that He has made, but we can know Him. He is all-loving, so we shouldn't fear what we don't understand. That's what faith is for.

-Locked in a kiss / Outsiders cease to exist

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