Monday, March 30, 2009

Remembered and Never Forgotten

Do you recognize this writer?

It's HP Lovecraft.

In the fantastic Lovecraft Remembered (Arkham House, '98) ...

... those who knew the man (Neighbors, Friends, Confidantes, Colleagues, Critics & Fans) reflect on every aspect of his work and persona. It's like a warm wake of one fondly remembered and treasured, a mind-boggling collection of rich words and wonders.

I unearthed this tome in a dusty, under-the-stairs book nook in San Francisco. It took my breath and hooked my imagination. The bookshop no longer exists.

Why, then, do I insist on visiting the building it once occupied whenever I have business or pleasure in the City on the Bay?

I don't know. Not for sure, anyway. But I think it has something to do with HP himself. Like no other dead writer, his spirit lingers like a welcome, purple bruise on the flesh of dark literature . At least for me, anyway. This book is a solid extension of the man, and a literary autopsy of a rich, troubled inner life that paralleled some of my own, and that of many other devotees, too, I'm sure.

There's a good reason why we all find ourselves bobbing in the same boat.

Upon hearing of HP's passing, the great Robert Bloch penned the following:

HP bruised Mr. Bloch, too.

Whenever I travel, even if I know there will be little time for reading, I take this book with me. Keeping it close maintains some kind of connection. A part of me clearly needs to be connected to HP. To his world. To his spirit of dedication to the word. To his creations.

This piece from August Derleth, who championed the writer like no other, raises the subject of HP's mother, and her obsession with her son's "awful" appearance.

Derleth expands on Mrs. Lovecraft's belief that her son was "hideous", giving us extraordinary insight into Lovecraft's upbringing and reclusive demeanor.

In "Lovecraft As I Know Him", HP's wife, Sonia H. Davis, also writes about HP's image of himself, and how the writer's mother molded that image:

Winfield Townley Scott, in the chapter, "His Own Most Fantastic Creation", wrote of the author's work and dietary habits prior to his journey north to the last Mountains of Madness.

Howard Lovecraft, the man who defined "Weird Tales", left a legacy with a tangible presence that is as strong today as it ever was.


  1. In the field of criminal investigation, the most important thing to keep in mind at a crime scene is that 'every contact leaves it's trace'. You cannot enter a room- even if you don't touch anything- without dropping something that is uniquely yours.

    'Microbes and whatnot', to quote the Coen Brothers.

    I don't think what you are speaking about regarding that book shop is what Detective Training School had in mind when it teaches this dictum; what you speak of pertains to the laws of nature- or rather the laws of the supernatural- and the cops don't enforce those laws.

    In short, what you sense, and what takes you back there, as you would know, is in part 'what was there', and part 'what you bring'. In physics, looking at something changes it- just as in forensic science- when a terrible murder has occurred in a place, that deed echoes for eternity.

    You won't hear cops talk about it much- it is considered 'voodoo' and most don't go there- but I'm sure you have done enough research to know this is often the case.

    What goes on in a place endures; a home is not just a house, a structure, and all that. It is bricks and mortar and the sum total of everything that has occurred within it's walls-every kiss, every tear, every birth, every death, every whispered passion, every uttered lie...


    Re the bookshop, I share your 'rain dog' qualities. It is as though you marked your territory, and the rain came and washed it away. You have sense of where you 'pissed', but it is not the same. And yet...

    Most of what we do is powered by this, I think; some call it nostalgia. I believe we are all trying to get back 'home', whatever that is- some distant memory of something long past, something abiding, enduring, comforting. A place to belong.

    I can't speak for you, but there is something of this in everything I adore. All my passions contain a goodly portion of this sense of 'homecoming'. When I read Raymond Carver, or Bukowski, or Vonnegut, or Brautigan, I feel like I am home. Even though the writers are gone, the structures are gone, their words, their voices, the messages for us echo for eternity.

    If your blog- your entire site- was obliterated for some ungodly reason, I would still be entering the words 'Phantom of Pulp' in my search engine every day. Whether anything came up or not.

    And I don't care to know anyone who doesn't have something of that in their persona.

    That's all I have to say.

  2. I encountered Lovecraft at a weird point in my life. It was right after my high school graduation and my parents were divorcing. My first girlfriend also picked this time to break up with me. Literally homeless, I stayed with an uncle who was worse than my bad parents. I worked a shitty fast food job, trying to save enough money to run away to college.

    And then I came across Lovecraft. Wow. I sympathized with his outsider nerdy characters and I nodded with my 18 years of bitter experience every time one of his heroes was devoured, went insane or worse. This might sound odd, but Lovecraft was very real to me. I had no doubt that horrible things awaited those who seek knowledge and I took comfort in the solitary nature of his characters. Here was a man writing in the 20's and 30's who understood me in 1991.

    I never lost interest in Lovecraft but my appreciation deepened. I really love his understanding of how alien rural life can come across and quite frankly, the dude was right; there is something otherworldly about fish and the sea. Psychological problems drip from every sentence he writes but that is what makes him so great.

    My own prize possession is a illustrated Spanish language Dunwich Horror book I picked up in San Juan. I can't read a lick of it but the black and white paintings don't need a translation. It warms my heart that the old man could still be scaring the shit out of people around the world.

  3. mandingo -- your "home" analogy is very apt. I feel the same way as you. I am either very connected to something or not at all. There's no betwixt.

    There is a great sense of belonging found in reading.

    Shon -- I totally understand how Lovecraft was real to you. Me, too. Most of us here are "Outsiders", and writers like Lovecraft, Bukowski and Vonnegut speak to that aspect of us which searches for meaning in a world seemingly devoid of it.

    I understand his take on rural life, but I don't connect with that. I connect with the "outsiderishness" of his perspective. I feel most at peace by the sea or in the countryside. I love remoteness. That doesn't mean I don't love old cities, too, and ruins. I just feel no relationship with the modern.

    You are right. Psychological problems (signposts?) drop from his every sentence.

    The Dunwich book from San Juan soundsl ike a serious find. Have you ever posted the black and white paintings, anywhere? I'd love to see some.

  4. I haven't yet but its a good idea. I'll get working on that and I'll let you know.