Exoticized Look

Despite the rubbishing of Lovecraft by serious critics over the years, it seems that he’s steadily becoming ‘Canonized’ (like that really means anything) by the American literary eastablishment. Discussing this persistence of interest in the horror writer, 3Quark’s J.M. Tyree had this to say:

“…his weird mythology (is) the nightmare American version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s steadily increasing stock, which is something other than strictly literary. I have one Lovecraft theory, rather political in nature, which I wouldn’t go out on a limb to defend. When a continent is conquered by war, slavery, and racial extermination, the landscape, only seeming to lack a persistent cultural memory, could come back to haunt us, with monsters bred out of the sleep of reason. In this sense, I see Lovecraft in a line with William Burroughs, whose conclusion from a superficial and exoticized look at the native culture of Central and South America, in addition to the white madness that displaced it and the native peoples of North America, was that America was simply an evil land. It is surely right to place Lovecraft’s externalized demons back into his head, biographically speaking, but there’s something odd and inexplicable about his cultural persistence. What it boils down to, perhaps, is not only that America is haunted, an “old world” also (at last, the truth admitted), but also that in Lovecraft we see the ultimate denial and dramatic reversal of the original American Dream of Starting Over in an Edenic land of boundless possibility and natural beauty.”

Certainly an interesting take on Lovecraft, and one that seems to explain his peculiar resonance within the Americas. The parallel with Burroughs is an useful one – here is yet another American whose psychical troubles (Lovecraft was plagued by vivid dreams in much the same way that Burroughs was plagued by all-encompassing paranoia) has resulted in a fiction which acts a kind of crucible for a century of unspoken fears and the ultimate disintegration of America’s faith in the new and the revolutionary.

2 Responses to “Exoticized Look”

  • Tony E Says:

    Interesting theory, but I always got the impression that for Lovecraft America was never evil *enough*, or old enough.

    His heroes were english writers who could root their horror stories in hundreds and thousands of years of history. Trying to do the same he had to continually invent mysterious prehistoric ruins in New England woods (because there weren’t any), and everything always linked back to the Salem witch trials and Cotton Mather, becuse that was as old as ‘old evil’ got in America.

    I’ve often felt that as a would-be antiquarian, he was actually embarrassed by the paucity of America’s history, and compensating for that in his stories.

    I’ve just come off deadline, can you tell?

  • Rob Knowles-Leak Says:

    I read that and was reminded of the American Gothic stories written by Alan Moore in his Swamp Thing days. All the same themes and thoughts seem to tie those stories together. They were very heavily Lovecraft influenced too.