Posts Tagged ‘H. P. Lovecraft’

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The Shadow Over Lovecraft

November 23, 2015

It is true I hold a soft spot for H. P. Lovecraft; his stories are among those that made me want to write. It is an unfortunate history, then, fraught with caveats; this is the problem:

First, Lovecraft―who wrote “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Colour Out of Space” and other influential tales of madness and “sentient blob[s] of self-shaping gelatinous flesh”―is one of weird fiction’s most celebrated authors. He is enshrined in the Library of America.H. P. Lovecraft Stephen King calls him “the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” The author of the novel “Psycho,” Robert Bloch, once wrote, “Poe and Lovecraft are our two American geniuses of fantasy, comparable each to the other, but incomparably superior to all the rest who follow.”

Second, as Lovecraft’s letters―and, to a lesser extent, his stories―reveal, the guy harbored a fierce loathing for almost all non-WASPs. Blacks were “greasy chimpanzees,” in Lovecraft’s words. French-Canadians were a “clamorous plague.” New York’s Chinatown was “a bastard mess of stewing mongrel flesh.” And so on.

Phillip Eil’s explanation, for Salon, of the final distribution of Howards for the World Fantasy Award does, indeed, follow the gravity of the tale. It only goes downhill from there.

We can try making what excuses we want; he was a misanthrope, he was crazy, he was an extreme product of something whatnot whonow … er … right. It’s possible to do the five stages; I recommend skipping tracks to acceptance. Then again, neither do I know how many of the generation that comes after me even bothered with Lovecraft, so maybe my own years of reflecting on the question really are as useless as they have always felt.

Still, though. Sigh.

No, no, I’m not fretting for the trophies. It’s just, you know, it’s just one of those, This is why we can’t have nice things! feeling. Lovecraft, Koestler, Cosby. Sometimes it just hurts to face up to what all goes into the art we love, y’know?

But it’s true, he was a miserable, sickly, repulsive sort of genius.

―bd

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Image note: H. P. Lovecraft in undated photo via Wikimedia.

Eil, Phillip. “The ghost that haunts American literature: The genius & the repugnance of H.P. Lovecraft”. Salon. 21 November 2015.

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They Rises

April 15, 2015

The ACES conference is getting more attention; we had cause to take a moment in order to wonder about pet peeves, but one of those questions persists. Ben Zimmer explains for Wall Street Journal readers why copy editors need to get over themselves and accept the “singular they”.

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 1 April 2015.According to standard grammar, “they” and its related forms can only agree with plural antecedents. But English sorely lacks a gender-neutral singular third-person pronoun, and “they” has for centuries been pressed into service for that purpose, much to the grammarians’ chagrin. Now, it seems, those who have held the line against singular “they” may be easing their stance.

Mixed feelings are fair enough; my objection to the singular they is simply that while the larger academic argument about the lack of a gender-neutral singular third-person pronoun is exactly useful, it is also true that the singular “they” has always, in my experience, been simply about sloth, and much like “transition” as a verb, is intended to improve people’s vocabularies by reducing them.

I cannot speak for the copy editors; I do not and cannot count myself among their numbers. Still, though, if the increasing acceptance of the singular they Mr. Zimmer suggests is actually occurring, we can still expect our manuscripts to flame with red ink over that many of our singular theys. If this is the reason we should adopt the term, then let us adopt the term; but let us not replace “he” and “she” entirely. The evolution of language is supposed to improve communication, not muck it all up.

―bd

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Image note: Detail of Bug Martini by Adam Huber, 1 April 2015.

Zimmer, Ben. “Can ‘They’ Be Accepted as a Singular Pronoun?” The Wall Street Journal. 10 April 2015.

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Essential Living

April 13, 2015

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The Three Rs: Reading, writing, and coffee.

This incredibly lame joke is brought to you by boredom sufficient to test the WordPress mobile app, and whether I can meet my own markup standard. It’s neither as easy as we might hope, nor as awful as we might expect.

—bd