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'On A Placid Island of Ignorance'
The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft
© 2013 James LaFond
From ‘Black Seas of Infinity’ a collection selected by Andrew Wheeler, by the Science Fiction Book Club, in 2001, originally written in 1926.
This seminal story by the sickly Rhode Island aristocrat and prodigy of weird literature begins, “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all of its contents.”
By the time you are through reading Lovecraft’s first brief paragraph you have absorbed the entire message of the story he is about to tell, a novelette length confession by a nosey scholar doomed to be consumed by the dread he was investigating. In fact Wheeler took his collection’s title Black Seas of Infinity from the very same brief paragraph.
Lovecraft’s style is dated and obtuse, and does not make for an easy read when one is tired. His paragraphs are too long and rambling for my taste. But, he is writing as a scholar, and that is how they write, in page-long paragraph’s, always trying to jam more information into a paragraph in hopes that they will have the answer to the question in their mind before they begin the next paragraph.
The story is an introduction into a horrific mystery concerning the ‘antiquity of dreams’ and their importance to humanity. In the author’s fantastic dark imagination humanity’s dream life is a kind of connection with some pre-human intelligence that is awaiting reentry into the world. This work offers a plate full of spiritual worry and is distrustful of both God and science, imagining that both might really be entwined in a cosmic stranglehold on humanity.
In this creepy sinister world where the minds of the best academics are literally blasted by encounters with the truth the greatest danger to one’s body and soul is that we might actually figure things out and be driven insane by our findings. I find this attitude commonly reflected among the materially and socially successful, the politically and religiously devote, and the elderly as a seemingly instinctive willful ignorance, and can’t help but think Lovecraft found the same among his contemporaries, and cloaked it in this bizarre package.
Reading The Call of Cthulhu was not entertaining. I did not laugh or hurry up my pace to get to the end in anticipation. By the time I was done the 27 pages I was ready to set it down and found myself wondering at all the fuss about Lovecraft. Then I found myself unable to forget the story, unable to stop wondering about the slimy undercurrents of his mythos. I find myself now writing twice the words than I projected; beginning to ramble like one of his stodgy academic characters; trying to fathom the uncomfortable notion this long dead eccentric has, just now, placed in my mind. If reading murder mysteries and romances is the literary equivalent of eating Chinese, than Lovecraft is a handful of raw cookie dough.
I’ll be back for more.
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