Saturday, March 15, 2014

Uncle Howard Memorialized

Today marks the anniversary of Uncle Howard's death. Uncle Howard demonstrated a lot of racist and xenophobic attitudes, but seemed to be on the cusp of recovery when he was cut down by intestinal cancer at the age of 46. For a guy who claimed to embrace a cosmicist view of the universe, he sure was obsessed with the petty human concerns of phenotype and culture. In his later works, these concerns figured in his works less and less, and his later fiction was more sympathetic of the "other" (usually in the form of aliens like half-vegetable crinoidoid scientists and immense, iridescent, hyperintelligent, rugose cones.

I had forgotten that this was the anniversary of his death until I spoke with a nice couple who were attending a dramatic interpretation of The Call of Cthulhu at, appropriately enough, the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. I'm stuck at work, so I can't pop on up to hear the performance. I even loaned my copy of the excellent Call of Cthulhu silent movie to a friend:





The big author who put Sleepy Hollow on the map, and is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, is Washington Irving. Of Irving, Lovecraft had this to say:


Washington Irving is another famous figure not unconnected with the weird; for though most of his ghosts are too whimsical and humorous to form genuinely spectral literature, a distinct inclination in this direction is to be noted in many of his productions. “The German Student” in Tales of a Traveller (1824) is a slyly concise and effective presentation of the old legend of the dead bride, whilst woven into the comic tissue of “The Money-Diggers” in the same volume is more than one hint of piratical apparitions in the realms which Captain Kidd once roamed.


Irving's too whimsical and humorous ghost story has been mutated in pop culture from "Scooby Doo" progenitor (if only Ichabod had had a bunch of young hipsters and a talking dog to help him!) to supernatural thriller. Out of the two stories Lovecraft singles out, The Adventure of the German Student is a great, spooky tale, but modern readers will guess the ending well in advance. The portion of "The Money Diggers" that Lovecraft is probably referring to is the terrific The Devil and Tom Walker. I'd have to note that Irving was a much more worldly and jolly figure than HPL ever was, so his literary designs were vastly different, but the guy did know how to bring the creepiness when he wanted to... something that Arthur Rackham got immediately.

Back to Lovecraft and his Call of Cthulhu... I did manage to find an audio recording of the story on teh Y00t00b as a consolation prize for missing the live recitation:





I can't wait to hear how he pronounces "Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

5 comments:

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I'm a big fan, of course. I need to get back into audio books, they're great for the car.
~

John Gray said...

That final phrase looks welsh

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I'm a big fan, of course. I need to get back into audio books, they're great for the car.

They certainly are- what is the local library's policy on audiobook loans?

That final phrase looks welsh

Sure does, with all those consonants. Gotta love the Cymric language.

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Tangki Fiber said...

I am so sad that Uncle Howard had gone at 46 ....