813.52 American fiction 1900-1945
At this point in S.T. Joshi’s Lord of a Visible World, Lovecraft’s mother has just died. Depression hits him so hard he can hardly move. Before long, however, he recovers. At his aunt’s urging, he attends some meetings of the United Amateur Press Association and quickly rises to the top of the group’s leadership structure. Membership in the group not only brings him out of his funk, but also out of himself: he begins to come in contact with the world beyond Providence. Even if it repulses him at first, the change may do him good in the long run.
Lovecraft was not unique in his open, unashamed bigotry. Ezra Pound was a world-class anti-Semite. Actually, Abraham Lincoln was no great fan of non-whites, either. Sometimes it seems hard to believe that things have changed as much as they have, even if it’s not very much.
85—HPL writes about suicide. He put it off while mother was alive—now he wants to go through with it
says only his mother understood him, maybe Galpin
he admired her for speaking French, playing music and painting
2nd graf—depressed—no interest in things because he can’t talk about them with his mother
postmodern—“This bereavement decentralizes existence—”
no one pays attention to him now
86—never displays emotion
for a time, couldn’t even get dressed
at little, had trouble walking, but still no emotion—somaticized his pain
met with UAPA member at aunt’s urging
87—spirits seem lifted
fond of Sonia Greene, a Russian Jew who recently immigrated to New York City and joined the UAPA
88—shows her around Providence
89—she’s not Anglo
she meets his aunt—they hit it off
has to apologize to aunt for amateur journalism’s “extreme democracy and occasional heterogeneity”
has dinner with Sonia at hotel
[If I ever write this story, I will have HPL saying stuff like “nigger” and “chinaman” a lot, just throwing words like that into everyday conversation without a second thought. I will try to find examples of HPL and contemporaries using words that would be totally unacceptable today. To my Protestant (Lutheran? Methodist? Presbyterian? Who the fuck knows) grandmother, even my nice, white wife took a little getting used to because she’s Catholic.]
90—Sonia is smart, sophisticated and hard-working, even though she’s a non-Aryan
91—she is “certainly due to make the greatest stir in amateurdom of any recent recruit; for unlike the majority, she takes the institution seriously enough to put real cash into it . . . ”
typical New Englander—At this point, he hasn’t traveled further from his home base than Hampstead, N.H.
Sonia gets along with HPL’s aunts despite “racial and social chasm”
She seems to have $
[My impression, baste on one of the HPL books at the Newton Free Library, is that of a nervous man, someone who has a hard time keeping still, and not in a good way. Yes, he has a lot of energy, which explains all the writing, but he doesn’t display emotion, and so his anguish (which I’m not necessarily sympathetic to) comes through in other ways—shaking, nervous tics, difficulty making eye contact (this is all supposition which should be supported with more documentation). He is sympathetic because he is trying to keep it under control, always minding his manners. Never phony—not sophisticated enough for that. Less Vincent Price, more Boris Karloff, but even more genuine, no cliché. Youthful enthusiasm fighting for dear life.]
H may have found SG’s independence intimidating and threatening, and certainly alien to his culture
93—goes to NYC for 1st time in April ’22
meets SG in Penn Station
they meet Loveman
H reads “Hypnos” to warm reception
95—loves MOMA—Greece, Rome, Egypt
98—infatuated with NYC like I was with Boston 20 years ago—cool little green trains on the T. Ten punishing years here has taken that out of me.
[Here’s where he starts to get really objectionable, offensive and unsympathetic; is he beyond redemption?]
102—horrified at Lower East Side
“We walked—at my suggestion—in the middle of the street, for contact with the heterogeneous sidewalk denizens, spilled out of their bulging brick kennels as if by a spawning beyond the capacity of the places, was not by any means to be sought.”
“ . . . a bastard mass of stewing mongrel flesh without intellect, repellent to eye, nose, and imagination.”
105—knows Cyrillic alphabet
106—goes to Cleveland Aug. ’22
visits Loveman, Galpin
meets Hart Crane, bookseller Geo. Kirk
(then to NYC)
107—Loveman collects antiques, rare books
108—hideous drawings of Clark Ashton Smith—“grotesque, unutterable things”
109—no headaches or depression
114—loves Marblehead—that figures, fucking hellhole
115—announces his support for Mussolini
116—ready to accept anything as long as it’s true
“democracy . . . is a false idol”
“there is no earthly reason why the masses should not be kept down for the benefit of the strong, since every man is for himself in the last analysis”
This and the following quote really give a sense of what drives HPL. His every-man-for-himself nihilism probably springs from at least the following three sources:
1) His interest in science, which leads him to reject religion and an Earth-centered view of the universe. Rejecting those beliefs probably put him at odds with the Classical poets and philosophers he loved, as well as his family.
2) His ignorance. He may have been thoroughly modern in rejecting belief in God and belief that the universe revolves around the Earth, but he was also thoroughly New England in not knowing or caring much about the rest of the world. (The success of any story I write, at least artistically speaking, hinges on whether he comes to care more about the world beyond these six tiny states.)
3) Family problems: His family’s financial setbacks following the death of his father, the cause of which still stirs up debate more than 100 years later. His mother’s death causes HPL to go into a deep depression.
4) Personal setbacks in school, career and relationships.
118—“the blood of a million men is well shed in producing one glorious legend”—this is HPL’s thinking in a nutshell—a proto-neocon ideology. Every time I wonder under what rock the Bushes, Cheneys and Rumsfelds of this world crawled out from, I think of this quote.
[Again, the key thing to look for, the frame on which the rest of this story hangs, is whether this thinking changes, how much, and why. If the change is not that deep or lasting, you may not have much of a story.]
“Freedom of press and speech sound well—but these vague principles cannot be allowed to interfere with the fight of a race for the values which are its only solid possessions.”
No wonder he was depressed. He was delusional. People want to live, even if they don’t look like you. When you push them down, they push back. WWII should have proved that, but there are still and probably always will be people out there who think their race or religion or economic system is better than someone else’s race or religion or economic system.
If HPL had ever bothered to speak to any of the immigrants he avoided on the streets of NYC, he might have found many of them were just as conservative as he was.
119—“Ease, amusement . . .”—that’s all that really matters.
119-120—writes cover letter to Frank Baird to Weird Tales—says he doesn’t care if his stuff gets published. He even denigrates (or damns with faint praise) the magazine—gets published anyway
Loveman edited 21 Letters of Ambrose Bierce.
121—paraphrase: “I don’t expect much from the likes of Weird Tales. Only Machen can write scary stuff.”
“true art is obtainable only by rejecting normality and conventionality in toto”
122—“Only a cynic can create horror—for behind every masterpiece of the sort must reside a driving daemonic force that despises the human race and its illusions, and longs to pull them to pieces and mock them.” [That’s why I thought Alien worked.]