Lovecraft: Invading the ego with shadows from the id

Recently published at the online Trebuchet Magazine, which “champions contemporary art, activist politics, and ecstatic music” and strives to be “A creative magazine minus the lifestyle upsell,” this brief and astute analysis of Lovecraft cuts right to the heart of his deep and enduring appeal as a visionary supernatural horror writer whose works resonate with an apparently inexhaustible power:

[T]he very titles of his tales announce a delirium spell:

NYARLATHOTEP
BEYOND THE WALLS OF SLEEP
THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE
DAGON
THE WHISPERER IN THE DARKNESS
THE HORROR AT RED HOOK
DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE

The content consists of an almost whimsical effort to disturb the rational mind by overloading it with hyper-spatial concepts, mundane technical detail and curiously familiar atavisms which linger long after the final page. There are no traces of human eroticism but the work is positively id pornographic — loaded with lustrous glowing colours and the faint sting of intra-dimensional penetration.

Although his works are daring and imaginative, I defy anyone to stay completely focused on the narrative while reading Lovecraft. Try it as an exercise, and see if you can remember who exactly did what to whom, the precise location shifts, or even the exact order of events. A great effort is required by the reader to prevent the conscious mind from drifting down the many strange pathways which are sprung open by suggestive images embedded in the text. I suspect that it is these fecund pathways which attract and stimulate artists of a certain mindset.

. . . [T]hat is the startling point of Lovecraft’s fiction: to encourage a wilful interpenetration of the single-faceted ego by the sprawling id. Like the protagonist of The Innsmouth Horror* who discovers, at the last, and to his sublime relief, that he is one with the alien race who have pursued him relentlessly throughout the tale, it is we, the readers, who have been lured into an exotic and disturbing dream space not only for our pleasure, but for the sheer pleasure of the dream itself.

More: “Why Is Lovecraft So Sexy?

* One wonders if the writer is actually thinking of Lovecraft’s story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” but has gestalted the wrong title in there. The Innsmouth Horror is an expansion pack for the Arkham Horror board game.

 

About Matt Cardin

Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin is the author of DARK AWAKENINGS, DIVINATIONS OF THE DEEP, A COURSE IN DEMONIC CREATIVITY: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO THE INNER GENIUS, and the forthcoming TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN. He is also the editor of BORN TO FEAR: INTERVIEWS WITH THOMAS LIGOTTI and the academic encyclopedias MUMMIES AROUND THE WORLD and GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND PSYCHICS: THE PARANORMAL FROM ALCHEMY TO ZOMBIES.

Posted on May 26, 2013, in Arts & Entertainment, Psychology & Consciousness and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. My favourite Lovecraft quote that encapsulates him so well,

    “At moments I fancied I saw those omniscient conical horrors moving about at their accustomed tasks, and I feared to look down lest I find myself one with them in aspect. Yet all the while I saw thee sand-covered blocks as well as the rooms and corridors; the evil, burning moon as well as the lamps of luminous crystal; the endless desert as well as the waving ferns and cycads beyond the windows. I was awake and dreaming at the same time.” – The Shadow Out Of Time

  2. Strangely enough, it was the Shadow Out of Time that introduced me to Lovecraft, more than 20 years ago. After reading that, I saw no point in trying to visualize exactly what his alien horrors looked like and was happy to let vague impressions and sinister undertones carry me alone the narrative.

    I cannot be sure exactly what artists find in Lovecraft and respond to, but I am willing to wager that a large and rather heterogeneous readership responds to the Lovecraftian atmosphere – a kind of enhanced version of the everyday world, the 20th century with the addition of cursed books, unlucky academics and entities beyond the stars.

    What I respond to, is the creation of a space that includes the dreamlike, the mythological and the quotidian. Lovecraft alters and enhances your inner-self. He embeds his vision in a deep place, beneath the usual trappings of identity; he maps something that you didn’t even know was there. Maybe his obsessions with atavism, antiquity, non-Euclidean space and indifferent deities, capture something essential about collective humankind. Maybe that is why no one reads Lovecraft for well crafted plots and rich characterizations.

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