Friday, March 2, 2012

Lovecraft 101 - Old Bugs and The Transition of Juan Romero

Old Bugs
Lovecraft did not take kindly to drinking. Not only is drunkenness portrayed entirely in a negative light in his writing, HPL was in fact completely against the consumption of alcohol in real life and was involved in the promotion of the growing prohibition movement in New England. A friend of Lovecraft mentioned that he wanted to try alcohol before the law made it impossible to do so. Lovecraft’s response was this story. A tale HPL called, “little masterpiece of comic deflation and self-parody.” It being a masterpiece is perhaps up for discussion, but it is obvious that he did this as a joke. What started as a simple conversation turned into a tale of warning. And to drive the point home to his friend, HPL used his name for the wretched main character and then named the protagonist’s betrothed, the woman of the picture after a fellow student from his friend’s school.
The tale rather simply tells of the denizens of a bar in the distant future of 1950 and the ultimate fate of one who makes the mistake of taking to drink. It unfolds like a fortune-tellers message, avoid this fate at all costs or lose everything that is coming to you. I guess the real lesson is, if you are friends with writers, be careful what you say in their company. You may end up receiving a story with all the subtlety of an after school special.
You can read the entire text here: HPL’s Old Bugs
Illustration by Jeff Powers © 2012

The Transition of Juan Romero
Transition is far from one of my favorite stories. And it wasn’t high on any of Lovecraft’s lists either. In fact he tried his best to claim that he never wrote it. It wasn’t published for another twenty-four years after it was written (seven years after HPL’s death). It doesn’t usually show up in some of the better collections of work, but will get thrown in with “complete” collections.
The story is of a man who comes from a sordid past, working in a mine that opens into an unfathomably deep abyss. Really this story has very little going for it, and it isn’t a wonder that HPL disowned it. It is far from the atmosphere and terror of his usual works, and though he experiments with trying to invoke fear while limiting his explanations of thing, it fails to work in this story. The ending is a letdown. You almost want the barely interesting story to continue just in hopes that something else could happen. But we are left feeling empty and unfulfilled. Not to mention Lovecraft’s slurs against the Mexican people leaves you wanting to move on to the next tale. Like I said, Lovecraft’s racism is far more apparent in some tales than others. This is one of those tales. And really the things he writes could almost be excusable as creative flaws for a character. But rather than making the demeaning comments only reflect the person of Juan Romero, he chooses to state that those comments are true of all of his race. Again, I do not endorse nor like what Lovecraft has to say here, and if all his work were this bad, he would have been forgotten long, long ago.
You can read the entire text here: HPL’s The Transition of Juan Romero

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