Monday, 4 July 2011

Antinatalist Book Reviews Issue I: Where is the Love for Lovecraft?

First of all, I apologise for not looking more thoroughly at the settings for this blog - I hope that at the moment I have rectified the commenting system and that anonymous users will be allowed to post. Sorry to James as well, I got your comment in my email - thanks for it!
    I've been reading the works of H.P Lovecraft recently, finding them quite delightfully like Edgar Allan Poe's works, but with this unique, almost terrifying use of the unknown and the unimaginable. But every so often, a passage just sticks out really, that summarises for me so well my mental states: in Celephais it was the man drugging himself in order to spend more time dreaming, in The Call of Cthulhu it was 'The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents', and most of all - I saw yesterday - was the entire first half of The Silver Key. It shocked me to my core to read this; I really had no idea anyone could have put my life down on paper. The dreaming wondrous childhood, the science and logic killing the magic, the struggles to find happiness somewhere else, the boredom inherent in conversation with other people, and eventually the striving to return to my childhood. I cannot recommend this enough for anyone disillusioned with the 'real' world. Do be warned, however, the style is a little archaic - you may want to read more of his works (all free) to develop a taste for it. Don't just think that The Silver Key is the end - although it is certainly, in my opinion, the best in terms of this, by no means is it the last; H.P Lovecraft's works typically have scattered little comments here and there showing the author's deep concerns about the futility of human existence from a universal perspective, the defencelessness of humanity and the strangeness of science beyond our understanding.

As a bonus review, I'd recommend Douglas Adams's books as well for the pleasant, comical misanthropy and world-weariness sometimes inherent in his prose. For example:
'There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory which states that this has already happened.'
Of course there's also the classic statement, I think a very adequate parody of people searching for the 'meaning of life', that "The Answer to the Great Question, of Life, the Universe and Everything" is simply 42. The absurdity of the universe is parodied in an assortment of places, so it's worth it to pick the Hitch Hiker's Guide up at a bookstore if you think you'd like it. Still this is only a 'bonus' review, so I'm not recommending that you read it NOW, QUICKLY and THOROUGHLY. But for an antinatalist in this big gruesome world, it's a nice thing sometimes to hear your voice spoken by another person.


  1. I have been thinking a lot lately that the Old Ones are a metaphor for our evolutionarily-determined cognitive tendencies. And the insanity that comes from contemplating them, for the Ligotti-esque inability to actually comprehend our puppet nature (but with no masters) with our meat brains.

  2. Interesting, that makes quite a lot of sense actually - people who see these entities often go mad at the sight of them, the entities are frequently referred to as being amoral, and uncaring of human values (selfish genes), and they are said to have been around long before humans even existed (our evolutionary history). With Lovecraft's general rationalist views on life, I wouldn't really put it past him to have thought about this himself.

  3. The Silver Key is indeed a wonderful homage to disillusionment and one I also thoroughly identify with. One of the most enjoyable critical takes on Lovecraft is Michel Houellebecq's "H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life", a fine tribute to one nihilistic writer from another.

    Speaking of Poe, I was delighted to discover a few days ago that he attended school in a building a few doors down from where I live in London. I had no idea that he had ever left the States in his life. This discovery has sent me scurrying back to his works. I was also not surprised to learn that in later life he commented that his time here had been "sad, lonely and unhappy". Ah....

  4. Thanks very much for the recommendation Karl, will read it eventually. As for Poe, the one thing I always liked about him was his ability to make use of a villainous protagonist - it takes a special kind of mind to do that. I've always wondered myself whether periods of unhappiness such as what you mentioned contribute to an author's works

  5. Estnihil, I had no idea that this blog linked mine. You could have told me, or commented on my, so I could link yours in exchange.

    Nice post. I´ve read Lovecraft, but not the Silver Key tale yet, so I´m going to read it ASAP! Nice recommendation, man!

    I have a question though. In the end of Celephais, he speaks of a man drinking something, just in the final lines. That man, is he the protagonist? But the protagonist is dead by the end of the tale, right? I always had this doubt in mind, wanted to ask people what they think!

    =) Cheeers!

  6. The protagonist I think, is the tramp washed up on shore - his mind has instead gone to the Dreamlands. The noble man drinking, on the other hand, may serve to show that human ideas of pleasure and entertainment do not parallel to that of the Dreamlands. I'm not sure about this myself, though, I only realised it there now. Thanks for your comment!