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Old 25th November 2010, 11:05 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Re: Lovecraft's America

Love the Basement Tapes (both the Columbia release and the more complete recordings that a friend gave me); but don't those two 1990s albums, Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong home in more on the old weird America?

I hope some folk will feel like looking up Derbyshire's essay and seeing if they feel any Lovecraftian connection. I like to refer to this article when I teach Hawthorne's superb story "Roger Malvin's Burial."

The Old Weird America - John Derbyshire - National Review Online
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Old 25th November 2010, 11:21 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Re: Lovecraft's America

Quote:
but don't those two 1990s albums, Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong home in more on the old weird America?
Perhaps, in the sense that Dylan covers traditional folk songs some of which are a hundred years old or more, as opposed to composing new ones as he did on The Basement Tapes. However, some of the songs on the 1990s albums hail originally from Ireland ("Jack-A-Roe") and Australia ("Arthur McBride"), so any connection to the old weird America is tenuous at best.

Thanks for the link. That's a dead-to-rights appraisal of Hank Williams and his world. I'm quite a fan of Hank. I got all the stuff. I had the WJSN radio transcriptions on CD-R's twelve years before they finally got released.

But I don't feel a Lovecraftian connection, I'm afraid. Hank and HPL are divided by distance (HPL in New England, Hank in the south) and by a generation in time. I just don't see it. For a Lovecraftian connection you'd have to find music from HPL's specific region and from his lifetime. Hank came later.

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Old 26th November 2010, 12:35 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Re: Lovecraft's America

Richard -- W, I must look up Skip James -- all I have is a Newport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues 1959-68 set with a couple of selections.



This is the set with Robert Pete Williams singing "Levee Camp Blues" and you begin to hear a siren and a dog barking in the distance. Whew
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Old 26th November 2010, 12:36 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Re: Lovecraft's America

I wouldn't look to Dylan for anything other than folky 60s rehash- but Patton was the real stuff. Look to R. Crumb for great illustrated histories of the early blues and country musicians. Patton wasn't recorded until way late in his life, but the stories tend to agree that he was the greatest of his time. Of course, he was probably in a few knife fights and slept outside a lot and thus didn't have time to become a teenage rock star.
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Old 26th November 2010, 12:45 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Re: Lovecraft's America

Richard -- W, I didn't mean that Williams and Lovecraft were connected. It was Derbyshire's piece on Williams, though, that seems to have introduced me to the phrase; a phrase that has helped me get an angle on Lovecraft that is away from the simple pulp weird fiction category, and helped me to consider whether one can think of him in connection with a bygone, unfamiliar-yet-familiar, strange America -- a way that might yield more interesting insights than the well-mined themes of "cosmicism" and so on. Perhaps that's why, a while back, I threw out something about Lovecraft and the great Joseph Mitchell (Up in the Old Hotel). I like (so to speak) to put two or more authors side by side and see if they "talk" to one another. Even if their "conversation" might not last very long, it might be a more interesting one for an old hand (40 years) like me than the more familiar "conversation" "between" or about HPL and Blackwood et al. At the very least, when I associate Lovecraft stories such as "The Picture in the House" with some of the old songs, I feel like that helps me appreciate it a little more.

Irrelevant aside, but Dylan's "Arthur McBride" performance is something I have a special fondness for. I'm a conservative, but I feel very far from the flag-waving shouting-from-the-bleachers kind of right wing. Whoever wrote "Arthur McBride" may have been a conservative I could talk to with enjoyment!

My thanks to any Lovecraftians who are patiently enduring all this about Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, etc. I haven't even brought up Flannery O'Connor. But since I just did, I wonder what she'd have thought of "Picture in the House"? She too had loved her Poe, I believe....

And Poe was, surely, a Southern writer, not a New England writer, and he was HPL's "god of fiction." And I find myself wondering whether it would be worthwhile for a few moments, if more knowledgeable folk than I wanted to, to pick up HPL as in some ways arguably a Southerner-in-spirit.... For sure, if he hadn't been so attached to Providence, one thinks that, with his sensitivity to cold, he could have been a lot more comfortable in the South.

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Old 26th November 2010, 02:40 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Re: Lovecraft's America

First: I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss Lovecraft's being exposed to some of those older pieces, or things similar to them. He was quite aware of folk songs and expressed a high regard for the ballads of the cowboys of the West, which he saw (and he was backed on this by various researchers into such things) as being a more recent version of something close to the old border ballads; and many of those songs of the west are indeed transpositions to a different soil of things which originated in Ireland and Scotland, and show traces of them, at times quite strongly. He goes into some of this at some length in one of his letters to the Kleicomolo in the Letters to Rheinhart Kleiner volume....

Dale: I don't know whether you were aware or not, but Lovecraft made it plain he was a Southern sympathizer, a supporter of the Confederacy against the North when it came to the War Between the States. He also had a strong interest in Southern literature and culture which lasted his entire life, only made all the stronger by his love for Charleston, S.C., St. Augustine, FL., and so on.
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Old 27th November 2010, 08:34 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Re: Lovecraft's America

Interested topic.But Lovecraft, was more like a time traveller ,trapped at his age confinements,but ,yet only partially.So, i wouldn"t see why this 20-30ty research ,would have any definitive importance,except, maybe, the influences, he inevitably draw from it.Anyway, i am glad to see ,he put some of his readers ,to the same little trip, that he was on frequently-namely ,"time travelling"....
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Old 27th November 2010, 09:52 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Re: Lovecraft's America

Well,ofcourse i meant ,"interesting" ,not "interested" topic.Despite ,a topic like this, could come to life and start really have an interest on us hehe..
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Old 27th November 2010, 10:48 PM   #24 (permalink)
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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.

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Old 28th November 2010, 12:56 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Re: Lovecraft's America

Extollager, are you able to access the newspaper microfilms for Providence, Rhode Island in the 1910s and 1920s? The college libraries and historical society make them readily available. If so, take note of the society column in which public events are mentioned. Note the movies and plays that came to town, what the music stores advertise in terms of sheet music and cylinders, the radio station schedules, the lectures, and most of all, the bookstores. You'll get a picture of the culture in which HPL was immersed from the newspapers where he lived. Read up also on local and national news as reported in the same newspapers. I'd be surprised if HPL did not at one time or another stand on the same breadlines as everybody else. I'd also be surprised if his name were not mentioned from time to time, as one of the more well-known residents.

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Old 28th November 2010, 02:07 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Re: Lovecraft's America

Maureen Taylor's Picturing Rhode Island might be especially interesting. Thanks. The newspaper idea would be an excellent one for researchers. I wonder if S. T. Joshi hasn't done a lot of the legwork already, though.

Anyone who's read the original version of his biography of HPL, or the 2-volume edition that just came out: does Joshi evoke America of the time for you?
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Old 28th November 2010, 08:25 AM   #28 (permalink)
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Re: Lovecraft's America

He does a pretty good job at times; certainly he researched it well enough, and includes a considerable amount of data to help put things in context. (I am speaking of the original published version; I have only just begun the restored, revised edition; but I'll pass on anything in that which seems germane.)

No, HPL was not one to show up in the papers as a well-known resident. In fact, he wasn't listed as a Rhode Island writer until long after his death in any of the standard reference works dealing with such things. However, he did keep abreast of current events, to a surprising degree. The father of two of the best friends of his youth (a man who himself served in the Rhode Island legislature), Addison P. Munroe, had this to say about him:
Quote:
Occasionally I would have an opportunity to talk with him and he always surprised me with the maturity and logic of his talk. I remember one time in particular, when I was a member of the R. I. Senate, 1911-1914, we had several important measures before that body; Howard, being over here one evening, started to discuss some of these measures, and I was astounded by the knowledge he displayed in regard to measures that ordinarily would be of no interest to a young fellow of twenty. In fact he knew more about them than 75 per cent of the Senators who would finally vote on them.
-- taken from Winfield Townley Scott's "Howard Phillips Lovecraft: His Own Most Fantastic Creation", cited in Joshi, Life, p. 88.

His letters are full of discussions of various issues of the day and his thoughts about them, as are a number of his essays. Even some of his verse shows their influence. As for his fiction... a careful reading of that will reveal his full awareness of what was going on in the world around him, and its importance, as well. A good brief overview of this topic is Joshi's "Topical References in Lovecraft", in his Primal Sources: Essays on H. P. Lovecraft (pp. 126-44).

On the subject of the Mountains movie... given GDT's comments, the long time he has been desiring to make this, the fact Joshi is to be a consultant, and that he is apparently going to handle this with the same care and concern he did his own El espinazo del diablo (2001) and El laberinto del fauno (2006), there's a good chance we'll get a stunning film here; one which will at least show due respect for the original material, even though it will inevitably take some liberties with it.
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Old 7th December 2010, 12:47 AM   #29 (permalink)
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Re: Lovecraft's America

Richard, thanks for the recommendation of Maureen Taylor's Picturing Rhode Island a while back. I have been browsing in an interlibrary loan copy. The book's worth some attention from HPL fans. However, I should note that most of the photos are from the late 1890s and some that aren't are from after HPL's 1910s-30s -- of which desirable three decades there are not a great many pictures here. The emphasis is on landmark buildings, bridges, etc. I don't think one would get much of a sense of Lovecraft's neighborhoods from the book. The single best picture, for me, is probably "View from Prospect Terrace, Providence, Early 1870s," with sight of the "tower of the Superior Court House (built 1877) at the corner of Benefit and College Streets." The whole view must have fit in well with Lovecraft's love of sunset scenes. There's a gambrel-roofed house to be glimpsed, too. On the opposite page is a view from the same spot, 2006. Ach! Lovecraft's view is about as lost as Atlantis -- though there's still a gambrel-roofed building, presumably the same one. I suppose Lovecraft must have mentioned the spire of the First Baptist Church...
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Old 7th December 2010, 05:47 AM   #30 (permalink)
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Re: Lovecraft's America

Indeed he did... frequently. Pity that the view has been so altered; but yes, that is almost certainly the same gambrel-roofer; from what I understand, since the 1960s there has been a very thorough attempt to preserve most of the antiquities of old Providence which were still standing.. and that, at least, would have made HPL very happy....
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