Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lovecraft proliferates

It's difficult to even get my head around what I'm supposed to think of Lovecraft now, and I mean that in the most personal way: not what the world presents to me as a possible thought about Lovecraft, a selection of possible thoughts to pick through and choose (select this paradigm, this view, this state-approved opinion, this establishment-approved view), but I withdraw and look at my own history reading Lovecraft and what that history represents itself as inside me: the acts, taken individually, of reading his works, the thoughts later about what I wanted to feel or think when reading him, the attempts to return to those earliest sensations (for me it would be 12 years of age, 7th grade in an absolutely mundane, mediocre, middle-of-the-run public school)...the sensations, perhaps of a cool page against my fingers, the weight of the volume, the smell of the dust inside of it, the feel of the plastic book wrapper outside the jacket. I remember the sensation of wading through the obscure terminology, the arcane vocabulary, the world that descended upon me once I had pierced through to some of it and could translate Lovecraft's prose into my own ideas. I remember other sensations, though, the loves, lusts, desires that Lovecraft must have felt as he lovingly described their objects and objectives: the dead, corpses, ancient ages, books, hidden places of solitude, escapes, refuges, magic, that penetrating and scornful materialism, the freedom of flying into the air, into space, the freedom of other planets, the freedom of the relativism that he painted over humanity's precious human-centered ideals and religious beliefs. So from that earliest reading what he represented to me was a sort of...arcane, mysterious, secret group that I could belong to if I chose. Who else read Lovecraft at my school, or years later? No one. I tried to explain his attraction to others...none of them understood. If they did understand what I was feeling or what I was trying to communicate, it wouldn't have mattered. If they had found the time to peruse his works they would have brought different lives to that creation of meaning, different pasts, alien outlooks and views and desires, alien needs being spread over the text. With Lovecraft and in that realm where I was discovering so many parts of myself, I was alone. Any attempts to communicate what I was feeling would naturally be useless. It took me years and years to reconcile myself to this truth. Over the years I have returned to his writings, time and time again. Each subsequent pacing through his words lessens the earliest feelings, new sensations have to be created. The echo of that first reading retreats through time and space...10 years, 15, 18 now. There is the nostalgia, of course, but it only surrounds the text itself, the ideas and images (or feelings) the texts produced in my mind at the time. Nothing else from that time survives as it was related to Lovecraft. I do not have fond memories of looking up from the books to see something, to hear something, I do not have popular (in my own internal chorus or audience) memories to rehearse of social events or experiences that coincided with the readings...there are only the texts, the feel of the books, and the worlds inside of me which they opened. In my mind this situation, this state of being is represented by an image of an open book from which a shaft of light beams towards the ceiling...nothing else. Nothing too cliched about this, I can put whatever I want in this picture as an addition. Nothing climbs out of the book, nothing is revealed in the room because of the light. I can see a possible destiny in these first readings, of course...I can look into the light and see what might have been, or what could be in the future. But that is could take any moment or any sensation or any object and wrap it in the same ideals, the same ideas.

I can read Lovecraft now and laugh at the prose style, the nakedness of his desires, the pride he displays on every page, the pretentiousness, the redundancy. I don't feel any relief in doing so, or that I am raising or lowering him or me in any way when I do this. It's just me, laughing in a room, not proving anything to anyone. It's one act among a million others...I might as well shut the book, open the window, start screaming, etc. I feel a little ashamed in that I have to resort to a prefabricated emotion or series of acts in order to express something what I undoubtedly feel: this distance from a prior self. Lovecraft is not a constant value which I can measure myself against as I age. Each separate reading is an experience in itself, and carries with it, of course, the echoes of earlier experiences - including earlier readings or what I remember about them, or the thoughts those readings inspired. It is a chain whose beginning is the first touch that my hand made upon a volume of his works, 18 years ago now. It crosses several similar chains, my conscious mind can not keep track of them, it can only see only link at a time. There was never anything frightening in Lovecraft for me. There was only a lust of recognition, a soothing sense of peace and expression - as if things I needed to say for myself (words to be erected in fences around myself) were being put in my hands, or at least in my head. I can still find those words, even though they have lost most of their connotations. It doesn't matter. I have to live, move on, see new things, there will be other Lovecrafts. He exists for other people he always did anyway.

U. Amtey
15 May 2005, 10:27 PM