Thursday, March 15, 2012

In Memoriam: "I Am Providence"

75 years ago today, the city of Providence, Rhode Island bid farewell to one it's native sons, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, one of the greatest literary minds of the last century. Although it would take a few years before the world knew his name.

To be honest, it was only very recently that I myself discovered the genius that was H.P. Lovecraft. I had always heard his name mentioned and would hear little bits about "Cthulhu" here and there, but never really paid it any mind until recently. In my mind, Edgar Allen Poe was the end all when it came to strange fiction! It wasn't until a very good friend lent me a copy of  "Dreams of Terror and Death: The Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft" that I actually delved into the strange world created by Mr. Lovecraft. I remember reading "The Statement Of Randolph Carter" and being hooked almost immediately. I came away with a sense of fear I had never felt before merely from a story. I wanted to know what happened to Harley Warren! What did he see? Why did he go down there in the first place? From there I went on to discover "The Outsider", "The Silver Key", "The Dunwich Horror", and his most well-known piece "The Call of Cthulhu", amongst many others. The mind that created those stories had become my new favorite thing in the world, and still is to this day! His old world style of writing and his choice of words (for example: gibbous, eldritch, and cyclopean to name a few) truly encapsulates the genius shining through in his work. 

As with any new thing I discover, I found myself beginning to do research on the Old Gent himself and what I learned fascinated me more than any of his stories ever could. It was no secret how Howard felt about the changing world around him. His stories certainly reflected the time period in which he was living. Although he was never commercially successful in his time, he wrote tirelessly. His extensive collection of work consisted of short stories, journalistic essays, poetry (when he was just a child!) and a vast network of correspondence with fellow writers who would later come to be know as "The Lovecraft Circle".  He literally wrote about 20,000 letters in his lifetime!  I think my absolute favorite piece by Lovecraft is his essay entitled "Supernatural Horror In Literature". When I printed it out to read it, it was a total of 32-pages! 32 pages just about writing supernatural horror! He even kept a journal during his battle with cancer at the end of his life. He wrote until he could no longer hold a pencil. As I'm sitting here struggling to write this post and trying to make it worthy of Howard, I can only hope that one day I can reach that same level of passion with my writing that he had for his. 

Howard understood that "the oldest and strongest emotion of humankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest fear is fear of the unknown". That, coupled with his famous line, "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents" proves that he truly understood not only his craft but he also knew that the world and the universe were full of mysteries and horrors that were yet to be discovered. He created an entire mythos to fill that void.  

Writing this post over the past few days has made me stop and think about Howard's final days. He died alone in a hospital and most likely in pain. The Howard we know today should have been surrounded by friends and loved ones. If you're not a fan of his work, at least remember him for that reason alone. Continue to rest in peace, Mr. Lovecraft. You're name will live on forever. We will make sure of it. 

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