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Thread: Lovecraft and atheism

  1. #31
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    I really like the Conan stories too but they're also rubbish. Nothing wrong with that. I just didn't want version to expect Great Literature and get confused and disappointed when what he actually gets is a comic book.

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by version View Post
    As someone who's read one Lovecraft story, where's the best place to start? The one I read was about some dude trapped in a submarine and finding a temple at the bottom of the ocean and was pretty good, but nothing spectacular.
    Is this not an HG Wells story? I'm sure I've read one by Wells that has a very similar plotline to this.

    Speaking of Wells, 'The Time Machine' has a section set in the unimaginably distant future that gave me more of a sense of 'cosmic horror' than anything I've read by Lovecraft.

    It is interesting, this obsession people have with Lovecraft. In part I think it's to do with the idea of these ancient gods lurking just beyond our view being so titillating. It's the substitution of a higher meaningfulness for a higher meaninglessness.

  3. #33
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    Is this the literary equivalent of enjoying music you regard as objectively 'cheesy'?
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  4. #34
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    I remember watching True Detective and wanting it to end in the Cthuluesque. It would have thrilled me more. It's a version of the Romantic sublime, isn't it? The thrill of confronting something vast and implacable. The Gothic romantic.

    Having read a biography of Eliot recently, I'm struck by how American Lovecraft's disgust towards life (particularly its sexual aspect) is - how it derives from a culture that was from the off Puritanical.

    Eliot saw the artist as being an articulate lunatic - saved from uselessness by his articulacy. I think there's something clinical about the fascination of Lovecraft's stories - particularly something like 'The Shadow over Innsmouth', which gives you an insight into his disgust towards sex and 'lower' races.

    Definitely go for his later stories, he became a better writer as he escaped Poe's shadow.

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  6. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    Is this the literary equivalent of enjoying music you regard as objectively 'cheesy'?
    There's a few possibilities here, including

    1. His 'content' is fascinating, despite the hair-raising style, making the stories last longer than any number of badly written schlock-shockers
    2. His style and content are indivisible, and what's more the style is one of the things that makes his stories last longer than any number of badly written schlock-shockers

  7. #36
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    Obviously (and sadly) Mark isn't here to tell me himself but I wonder how sympathetic he was to Lovecraft's atheism/nihilism, and - if he was - how he could square that with political activism. After all, if we're all nothing but electrons deluded by egotism, what matters it if Tories are destroying the state infrastructure?

  8. #37
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    Although Mark did try to square these aspects of himself my feeling is that at root he was no more a harmonious unity than any of us and that essentially those aspects were at war within him, the balance of power continually tipping one way and the next.
    What I wrote on this thread at 24 still seems true to me now, 100 years later

  9. #38
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    It's interesting that nihilism can be as much of a comfort as belief can.

  10. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Corpsey View Post
    I remember watching True Detective and wanting it to end in the Cthuluesque. It would have thrilled me more. It's a version of the Romantic sublime, isn't it? The thrill of confronting something vast and implacable. The Gothic romantic.
    That's an interesting take, in that Lovecraft despised Romanticism and, while he was obviously strongly influenced by earlier generations of 'gothic' writers, he was very much a Classicist. The two eras he felt he'd have been at home in were pagan Rome and the pre-independence Colonies, or better still England, in the 18th century.

    Which series of TD are you talking about, btw? The first series was pretty Lovecraftian, with a lot taken from R. W. Chambers too, and I haven't watched the third series yet but I understand it's closer in feel to the first (less said about the second, the better, I think).
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  11. #40
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    It's the cessation of effort. Oh well, nothing in that cave, no need to keep looking

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    Incidentally, there is a third pole which is neither classicist nor romantic, its the visionary, the prophetic.

    I can't see any way to usefully categorise HPL as a classicist. I think corpsey is right to see the romantic there.
    Last edited by luka; 11-03-2019 at 10:19 AM.

  13. #42
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    Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. To me there is nothing but puerility in a tale in which the human form—and the local human passions and conditions and standards—are depicted as native to other worlds or other universes. To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all. Only the human scenes and characters must have human qualities. These must be handled with unsparing realism, (not catch-penny romanticism) but when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown—the shadow-haunted Outside—we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold.
    — H. P. Lovecraft, in note to the editor of Weird Tales, on resubmission of "The Call of Cthulhu"


    The conflict in Lovecraft is between the stated aim of an externalised perspective on human affairs ('one must forget that such things as... good and evil, love and hate... have any existence at all") vs. his personal horror at such a state of affairs ("the boundless and hideous unknown").

    What's most important in his stories isn't the (supposed) indifference of the universe so much as our (supposed) horror in the face of it.

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  15. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by luka View Post
    Incidentally, there is a third pole which is neither classicist nor romantic, its the visionary, the prophetic.

    I can't see any way to usefully categorise HPL as a classicist. I think corpsey is right to see the romantic there.
    I'm talking more about how he saw himself and what his own literary and artistic tastes bent towards. He loved Classical antiquity and the poetry, art and architecture of Enlightenment Europe but he had no interest in the Middle Ages and he hated anything that smacked of 'Victorianism'.

    I guess his attachment to Providence and the other bits of New England that he loved so much could be called romantic, with a small 'r'.
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  17. #44
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    That brings up the huge and complicated question of what romanticism with a big R means - since it can encompass the spiritual 'Lines written above Tintern Abbey' and cynical 'Don Juan'.

    Romanticism was both an optimistic repudiation of and pessimistic acknowledgement of the damage the Enlightenment did to God and to man's newly degraded place in the cosmos.

    At least, this is what 'sublimity' means to me. Not just awe, but terror.

    And that's where I'd link this aspect of Lovecraft to Romanticism. Not just monsters lurking in the dark, not even evil emissaries of Satan, but monsters (gigantic, dwarfing human scale like the Alps) representing cosmic meaninglessness!

    EDIT: Not suggesting Lovecraft was consciously Romantic, only that his appeal has something in common (For me) with the sublime.

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  19. #45

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    good thread, mark in ultra-landian mode in the OP. he was in a tough spot though, wasn't he - since he'd picked up nick's nihilism but not his (weirdly optimistic) capitalistic-AI theology.

    Of course, life has no meaning. But neither does death

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