Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lovecraft 101 - The Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson and Ex Oblivione

Note: I somehow managed to let the write up for the first story get lost in all my notes. I had forgotten to ever do any art or even post it. I think because of the small amount in which I felt like writing about it, it was set aside to be added to another work, but then never was. So this week I will make sure it gets posted for all those out there following along with Lovecraft 101 and wants to be sure to read it all. For chronology's sake it should have come right after Dagon. Sorry for the mix up.

The Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson
The tale of Dr. Johnson is probably the biggest example that not everything that HPL wrote was a treasure. In fact most printed collections of his work do not even include this short. That isn’t to say anyone is missing much by skipping over it.
Reminiscence is a strange little tale with no discernible plot. It is written in a bizarre archaic memoir form, told and originally published under the pseudonym Humphrey Littlewit. The name is the biggest clue. This is meant as a joke. In fact Lovecraft is actually making fun of himself and his own writing. Poking, lightheartedly, at his tendency to write in an older style, not always popular with his contemporaries, and that his demeanor was often that of grave seriousness.
The writing style and odd use of colloquial spellings and random capitalization are certainly something to get used to when reading this short story. But Lovecraft is pushing the style he chooses to its extremes for a more comic effect. And while HPL is certainly not one I think of for his wit (in fact very little wit, haha), it is hard not to chuckle or at least smile when reading this tale aloud or silently in your head, and slowly that pretentious Boston Brahmin accent creeps up.
The complete text can be found here: HPL’s The Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson

Note: I also decided to include Ex Oblivione, though out of order because it would be best paired with another shorter work.

Ex Oblivione
This is a rather short piece that could be considered a work of prose poetry. The concept is very similar to what we read in Celephais, with a man in his final hours finding peace and refuge in sleep. But instead of exploring the vast vistas and fantastic landscapes of the Dreamlands, he instead finds a strange book, detailing the works of this unconcious world. In this dream, he finds a large gate, that is locked and will not let him pass, but upon further research into the book, he finds that he can fashion a new drug that will open it when he next sleeps. Open the gates of perception, man. Beyond this gate is the openness of oblivion.
This is a very short work that paints a rather poetic scene. I am not sure what Lovecraft was trying to say or depict in this work. It certainly feels more like a poem, open for interpretation. Though in my research I found I am not alone in seeing a link between this work and feelings of depression. That overwhelming sadness and apathy for the world, the desire to sleep, and the longing gazes into the beauty of nothingness. It's as beautiful as it is heartbreakingly dim.
We know that Lovecraft suffered from various maladies, and that depression and mental disorder did run in his family. So, perhaps this is simply a brief example of Lovecraft finding a poetic outlet for these feelings as he dealt with them.

Check out this poetic work here: HPL's Ex Oblivione

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