Sunday, April 6, 2014

YE DUNWICH HORROR

Ye first three volumes of PS Publishings LOVECRAFT ILLUSTRATED are about to be unleash'd upon ye world.  Part of ye allure that this series has for me is that some of the volumes will include essays written about Lovecraft's tales, and one of my initial introductions to literary criticism, for which I now have a passion, came from reading such criticism in publications such as LOVECRAFT STUDIES and CRYPT OF CTHULHU.  In the PS Publishing illustrated volume for THE DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE, besides a new Introduction by S. T. Joshi, there will be a Foreword by Stuart Gordon, who filmed the story for telly; and a reprinting of "Through Hyperspace with Brown Jenkin," by Fritz Leiber.  

For THE DUNWICH HORROR volume, for which S. T. has written a new Introduction, there will be included a foreword by series artist Pete Von Sholly, "The Mythic Hero Archetype in 'The Dunwich Horror'", by Donald R. Burleson, and one of my old essays from ye 1990's (and reprinted in a 2003 issue of Crypt of Cthulhu, I think) in my "Lustcraft" columns for TALES OF LOVECRAFTIAN HORROR.  I am slightly dubious about the worthiness of this latter for inclusion in an actual book, thrill'd as I am to be included at all.  

"The Dunwich Horror" was one of the stories that most delighted me when I first read H. P. Lovecraft, and it is a story to which I often return and continue to find satisfying--despite what I see as an extremely silly ending. I mean, to pack some magick powder into a pesticide gun and then proceed to a haunted Dunwich hill so as to shoot ye powder at some invisible cosmic grotesque:

ye can just barely see the pesticide gun in Santiago Caruso's wonderful illustration above, carry'd by ye chappie at ye back of ye line.  Sorry, my dear E'ch-Pi-El--it just doesn't work for me.  And what purpose does the powder serve, except to make visible the monster so that it may be vividly described?  Yet, despite misgivings about ye climax of the tale, I do not at all agree with S. T. Joshi that the story is an artistic failure.  There is too much in it that is wonderful, evocative, delicious.  Lovecraft is often derided for being unable to create interesting, realistic characters.  First, such characters were not his concern as an author, and had he concentrated on them it would have been an artistic misstep.   However, with just the slightest of strokes, Lovecraft in this story creates three distinct characters that are absolutely fascinating.  Little is told of Lavinia Whateley; but we learn enough so that a fascinating portrait is suggested, enough so that an ingenious writer could fashion an entire novel concerning Miss Whateley from just the few mentions we have of her in this story.  Indeed, the magnificent poet, Ann K. Schwader, has written an entire sonnet sequence, Lavinia; here is one of ye poems:
"Predestined"
She heard the voice of thunder in the hills,
& knew it for a summons.  Wandering
Alone among the ageless stones, she thrilled
At premonitions subtler than spring
Might spark in other maidens.  All she'd read
& wondered at came clear, as though a gate
Had opened for a moment in her head, 
Revealing her both cursed & fortunate
Past human comprehension.  Lightning split
The sky in triumph as she turned for home
Convinced of chaos & her place in it,
Exulting in the mystery to come
Beyond this last brief spate of April rains:
A black tide rising, surging in her veins.

And what of Wilbur?  No cinematic version has yet to capture the power of this creature as it is portrayed in Lovecraft's prose.  The aspect of Wilbur's sinister and unearthly nature, especially when he be fully grow'd and of towering height, is a masterpiece of dramatic writing.  Lovecraft captures, superbly and absolutely, the Outside nature of this gigantic hillbilly, and the degrees of fantastic mental abilities that lies beneath the facade of country bumpkin-ism.  This is rich character writing, perfectly suited to the story in its ability to both arouse fearful suspicion and move the plot.  Lovecraft's characters shew, as does his excellent prose style, that he was in full artistic control as a writer.  Despite his repeated complaints that he had fail'd to accomplish what he wanted to as an artist, his fiction has survived and continues to stay in print because it is, in every way, successful.

And nigh we get this awesome new illustrated edition of this remarkable story!



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