Re: Lovecraft's America
Nigourath, I don't have a grand thesis about Lovecraft in his times. This "Lovecraft's America" isn't a research project.
However, I have found that it can be rewarding to dig into the social context of the time and place, when thinking about fantasy writers.
Here's an example. People have sometimes objected to the emphasis on good food and creature comforts like hot baths, in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. These objectors disdain that material as juvenile.
But I recently read David Kynaston's superb Austerity Britain: 1945-1951, and was struck by the dreary, meagre lives of the British people -- year after year. Food rationing actually got worse after the end of the war. And I began to feel it was not very becoming in us well-fed Americans today to sniff our disapproval of a few passages celebrating how wonderful it felt for the weary hobbits to get hot baths or a plate of mushrooms cooked in butter with fresh bread. I think Tolkien's audience could appreciate such things all too well. Tolkien wrote most of The Lord of the Rings during World War II and the subsequent austerity years, and when it was published in 1954 those privations were hardly distant memories. So my enjoyment of a book I love very much was enhanced this way.
I don't anticipate anything just like that happening if I get into the background for Lovecraft, but I think interesting things will happen. For example, it would be interesting to see a little, in some excellent panoramic book about America in the Twenties and Thirties, about the discovery of the one and only American planet discovery (Pluto, since downgraded to "dwarf planet" status). Or take the progress of rural electrification and telephony & think of "The Dunwich Horror." Or flood control damming and "The Colour Out of Space."
JDW, was Lovecraft a newspaper reader? I rather suspect that he was; he was not endlessly poring over his Poe and Dunsany; he could have talked about events and issues of his day with rather more sophistication, I suspect, than some of us could talk about our own! Or am I wrong?
Incidentally, some of us are admirers of Arthur Machen. He wrote a very fine little essay called "The Gray's Inn Coffee House" that was published in book form in a wartime anthology called We Shall Eat and Drink Again. It's worth reading if you get the chance. It celebrates "pudding," good things to drink, and roast beef, and well it might, well it might, for the benefit of people suffering privations that we'd be apt to think of as "Third World."
That great book about America between the wars is out there, I suspect, but I don't know what it is yet.
I'm making several points in this message, or maybe they are all aspects of one point... Here are some comments about a limited aspect...
I'd like to be able to read Lovecraft's stories (and other literary works that I care about) with an imagination a little better able to reconstruct how a contemporary audience might have read them. Conversely, I feel some desire to shy away from the Mountains of Madness movie that is being discussed here. Already there is the expectation that the imaginations that will be at work upon the Lovecraft plot line will be standard-issue ones of now. Whatever it looks like, the movie is hardly likely to look like anything but a typical big-budget 2010s horror/sf movie, with CGI, mandatory sexy female character(s), and above all lots of scenes that elicit that COOL! response from adolescents and gamers of all ages. I'm not trying to be cynical! But really, isn't it to be expected that if someone makes a movie in 2011, it's going to look like a 2011 movie? And that means copious CGI and go-for-the-WOW COOL response, even if, as I suppose there may be, there is some superficial attempt to capture some obvious 1930s color (if they do decide to be that faithful to the story).
If we must have a movie of Mountains, I wish we could have one that, sure, would use appropriate technology of now, appropriately, but would give us something closer to what would have been imagined by HPL and his original readers -- people who grew up on Verne, Wells, the mags, not Alien etc.
Last edited by Extollager; 27th November 2010 at 11:30 PM.