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H P Lovecraft Lovecraft, the Cthulhu Mythos, and writers who continued the tradition.

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Old 10th March 2010, 08:24 AM   #1 (permalink)
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The Picture in the House

I read it once over and I did like it but is it ever hard core. If this story was developed any further it might be banned, but not quite. This is real horror here, and it is full of grit. The story is stretched, not unlike, "The Terrible Old Man", but you have the intent. The picture is a nice story telling angle, that could go somewhere and that I'm not sure that I recognize in other stories. What an evil story this one is.
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Old 10th March 2010, 09:30 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

An interesting take. I've always felt this one was, in many ways, one of his minor works. Not bad, but certainly not on a level with, say, "The Call of Cthulhu", The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, At the Mountains of Madness, "The Colour Out of Space", etc. Genuinely horrific, and a bit more inclined to sadism and grue than was usual in Lovecraft; but also a story which has some notable flaws. For one thing, it shows Lovecraft falling prey to the very thing he chided Poe about: "second-hand" scholarship, with the picture by "the brothers De Bry"... given that the picture actually in the Regnum Congo bears little actual resemblance to that described, and which was taken from a chapter of T. H. Huxley's Man's Place in Nature and Other Anthropological Essays (I have seen a reproduction of the original -- it is included as an illustration facing p. 134 in The Dark Brotherhood -- and own a copy of Huxley's book, where the one Lovecraft used is on p. 74). In addition, the ending to this tale is a bit too abrupt and leaves a few too many loose threads dangling, which can be less than satisfying for many readers. It is also a bit more histrionic in spots than suits the whole; though the opening paragraphs are certainly among the best for setting a tone and setting forth a thesis in Lovecraft -- something which was a hallmark of his fiction to begin with.

Nonetheless, an effective piece of grue, and even Lovecraft's minor works tend to be richer than most other weird writers best....
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Old 11th March 2010, 01:49 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

The factual error in this story would probably not even be worth remarking on if it weren't that Lovecraft himself would probably have been appalled had he realised his mistake. I agree that this story stands apart from the more cosmic, weird horror Lovecraft specialised in - but it is a notable tale in his development as a writer, I think.

Lovecraft's evocation of the horrific possibilities of New England hinterlands with their legacy of fanaticism and isolation is an early example of his usage of regional atmosphere as a backdrop for his tales. He may have taken a cue here from Hawthorne and Gorman, but it was an approach that he would make very much his own. As J.D. notes, The opening passages are notably strong and the whole sequence re: 'searchers after horror' can serve as a cornerstone for the whole move from mystical, Gothic settings to horror that is grounded in places the writer personally knows and can depict in that much more vivid detail.

The picture of the old man, a man who might even have been impressive and worthy of respect if not for his squalid, slovenly condition is very vivid and resonated with another thread that runs through many of Lovecraft's works.

While the actual horror here is more the sort of thing that would later be milked by Tobe Hooper, it's worth noting that Lovecraft may have been there first. Definitely a creepy tale with a great slow-dawning of horror, although the over-fortuitous ending is a serious weakness, in my opinion.
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Old 11th March 2010, 02:37 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

I don't think that I'll read it a second time. I'll move on to the next story. There is some reference to Hawthorne as it applies to Puritanism. The atmosphere involved a sort of gothic setting but not quite, and that word, "grue" is perfect since the houses had grown as part of the land itself.

As for the racist interpretation, I don't think that it was that big of a deal (I know about the photo), and Lovecraft would not be appalled at racism. Those people were all racist, yet it might have worked back than since there was no way to control or govern people and communities, or provide for everyone with services and education, etc. So basically there were strange people in those parts and this story is a reminder. It was a shocking tale, which makes it effective.
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Old 11th March 2010, 05:31 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

I wasn't referring to the racist element of the picture, but rather the fact that the picture Lovecraft based the story on simply didn't exist where he thought it did... one of those few instances where he really didn't "do his homework", which consequently tripped him up.

As for the inaccurate "copy" which is in Huxley's book (rather than the Regnum Congo)... that he describes quite well....
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Old 11th March 2010, 06:38 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

Since this is such a minor piece, I am paying scant attention. Just finished stage two of my wine making, and now I hear this. Well, I'll be damned.
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Old 11th March 2010, 09:19 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

@ J.D. : I'm prety sure nobody would notice that nowadays . It's not like the book is a classic read most people get their hands on these days :P
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Old 11th March 2010, 03:25 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

It looks like I'm going to read it one more time, today. Why not. One more analysis to come.
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Old 11th March 2010, 04:58 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

Quote:
Originally Posted by j. d. worthington View Post
I wasn't referring to the racist element of the picture, but rather the fact that the picture Lovecraft based the story on simply didn't exist where he thought it did... one of those few instances where he really didn't "do his homework", which consequently tripped him up.

As for the inaccurate "copy" which is in Huxley's book (rather than the Regnum Congo)... that he describes quite well....
The picture of the butchers shop you mean?

After the second reading, the only thing that changed was that God became a character in the story. The wierdo nutjob thought that eating human flesh might prolong his life. Well was Puritanism the model of being left to interpret everything in the context of the Bible?
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Old 11th March 2010, 06:44 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tinsel View Post
The wierdo nutjob thought that eating human flesh might prolong his life.
It did prolong his life. Remember that he mentions getting the book from a guy who the narrator knows died around the time of the War of Independence.
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Old 11th March 2010, 09:08 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

Indeed. Which would have made him at least 150, most likely older. (Though George Wetzel, if I recall correctly, speculated that this was an instance of Lovecraft's theme of the "ghoul-changeling"....)

As for "God" becoming a character... in no sense is that the case. Coming from the period he did, he would naturally have those views (even those who escaped the Puritan theocracy of Massachusetts and founded Rhode Island were still heavily under the influence of Protestantism of one form or another; being an atheist at that time was darned near unheard of, and distinctly unhealthy). But that does not mean that his beliefs along those lines are true.....

As for the picture, and the inaccuracy concerning it: no, it doesn't change the story per se, that is, the events of the tale; but it does make it evident that Lovecraft (in this case) was "talking through his hat", making the text less reliable; indeed, quite wrong. This is an important point in that Lovecraft relied very heavily on getting such facts straight as a way of increasing verisimilitude in his work, lulling the reader into trusting the narrator by getting all such facts straight and thereby making the narrator a reliable voice, so that when the tale veered off into the weird or unreal, the reader would more easily be carried along into accepting it as a part of the world, and therefore a violation of what we normally think of as the "natural order". As Lovecraft put it more than once, he felt that the writer of weird fiction needed to compose a piece with the same care as a crooked witness would compose their testimony with cross-examining lawyers in mind; in other words, with all the care and attention to detail and verisimilitude of an actual hoax. And, generally speaking, this is what he indeed did. Hence you have a blending of genuine historical fact and created history which is almost impossible to detect from the real thing in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward or "The Shunned House", where, for instance, the occurrences of vampirism in Rhode Island are quite genuine, yet sound like the sort of thing which would have to be created; while some of the most sober-sounding "facts" are in reality creations of the writer....
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Old 11th March 2010, 09:38 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

There was an interesting essay on the Weird review (which sadly seems to have not gotten a single new entry for a year now) mentioning similarities between this story and De La Mare's "Mr. Kempe" , has anyone read it ?
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Old 11th March 2010, 09:50 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

I'm going to have to read Wikipedia on the subject of American History because it seems to keep coming up in these stories. I didn't exactly learn this stuff in school but I did watch the movie "The Patriot".

Well he went through the door on the left, and God sent a thunderbolt unless I read that wrong. Sin is mentioned. I'm not sure what the rationale was in having blood drip down onto the picture. It is implied that the narrator escaped from the house, and that his mind was saved. He looked up and saw the blood on the ceiling than the thunderbolt.

So the man was 150 years old. Did he capture something from the photo?

I'd have to read it again to try to come up with a theory. It felt nice to read it. The words were well put although the beginning of the story had some odd references.
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Old 11th March 2010, 10:18 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

Well if I don't re-read it, it appears that the photo changed during the story. That is the main point.
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Old 11th March 2010, 11:05 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

If I were taking the standpoint of the author, I would not use the word "mind", but rather "soul" or "spirit".
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