Joel Lane on Lovecraft

Joel Lane on Lovecraft:

“…his work may, at its best, be nuanced and complex—but like the tortured landscapes of his major stories, it works out every deformation on its surface. Part of Lovecraft’s significance in the weird fiction genre is his commitment to making the unknown visible. He does so with a rhetorical flair that would ring hollow if it were not combined with a forensic attention to the meaning of details. The damaged reality he portrays is inscribed with the symptoms of disease and decay.

At its heart, Lovecraft’s narrative is one of loss: the loss of health, sanity, faith, home, family and identity. These protective shells around the human condition are not only broken by events in his stories, but are shown to be illusory. His use of supernatural horror and science fiction, and of an original mythology that blends the two, represents an increasingly subtle approach towards his core agenda of showing the human soul exposed to the cold wind of a terrible reality.

But although the sensibility underlying his stories is acutely personal, Lovecraft rarely dwells on the inner life of any character. Rather, he explores the development in space and time of malign or terrible processes, like a doctor tracking the progress of a disease. The most remarkable aspect of his storytelling is his commitment to giving horror a morbid geography and history of its own, while showing individuals caught up in its strands like moths that have flown blindly into a geometrical and lethal web.

Lovecraft’s stories blend the themes of death, madness and disease with the compensatory themes of intellectual and imaginative vision, always reaching towards a tragic perspective but withdrawing into irony, bitterness or violence. Closure is his comfort zone. Over two decades of writing he built increasingly complex and ambitious narratives, ultimately balancing his sense of loss with a commitment to the mysteries of a world beyond the human. That vision is expressed most starkly by his character Wilbur Whateley, who writes in his fourth year of life: ‘I wonder how I shall look when the earth is cleared and there are no earth beings on it.’ Becoming alien is a way to take meaning from the journey of alienation.”

– Joel Lane, This Spectacular Darkness: Critical Essays

 

3 thoughts on “Joel Lane on Lovecraft

  1. Lovejoy came up with his own philosophy: Cosmicism…
    If one combines this pessimistic attitude about our place in the universe with Nietzsche’s affirmative philosophy; there’s opportunity for overcoming nihilism.

    Liked by 1 person

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