Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lovecraft 101 - What the Moon Brings & Azathoth

What the Moon Brings
"I hate the moon—I am afraid of it—for when it shines on certain scenes familiar and loved it sometimes makes them unfamiliar and hideous."
This is how Lovecraft begins the short story fragment What the Moon Brings. This is a very strange dreamlands story that is hard for me to pin down. I have gone back and forth on whether I like it or not. There are certainly some cool ideas in it and some great imagery. Lovecraft also doesn't seem to get as bogged down with vistas and world building as he does in his other dream stories. But it is hard to really make any decision on this story as it is so short. Given more time, this could have been a great narrative epic spanning a number of pages, instead of one. At 720 words, I suppose we could lump it in with HPL's other prose poetry.
The story climaxes in what we would expect from Lovecraft. Vast underwater cities and unseen monstrous horrors that assault our minds with their mere presence. But with such a vague story there is very little to go on here. But the images still seem to be building in Lovecraft's dreams that are leading us to those major stories. So we can still see the seeds of what would become all the major "mythos" stories.
If you want to check out the full text, you can read it here: HPL's What the Moon Brings

A second piece for you this week as the last one was just too short. The next is also a fragment, this time of what is thought to be an idea for a projected novel or other longer work. Lovecraft would of course abandon this idea for other works, but we do get the introduction of perhaps the most monstrous and powerful entity in the Lovecraftian cosmos.
Now, we don't actually get to hear about Azathoth in this story. Hell, we don't get much of anything in this story. Because it was intended as the opening paragraphs of a deep mystical fantasy, HPL throws heaps of poetic vocabulary at the reader. Though this fragment is only three paragraphs long, it can be somewhat arduous to make much sense of it. Now we are up to the summer of 1922 in our literary history of Lovecraft, and we have seen that Lovecraft often writes based off of what he is reading. In his letters and writing, HPL mentions that he had been reading the dreamlike fantasy novel Vathek by William Beckford the year before, and it is this sort of Arabian fantasy the he is trying to evoke in his proposed novel. To a friend he wrote,

I shall defer to no modern critical canon, but shall frankly slip back through the centuries and become a myth-maker with that childish sincerity which no one but the earlier Dunsany has tried to achieve nowadays. I shall go out of the world when I write, with a mind centred not in literary usage, but in the dreams I dreamed when I was six year old or less--the dreams which followed my first knowledge of Sinbad, of Agib, of Baba-Abdallah, and of Sidi-Nonman

And it is from this desire to create a "weird Eastern tale in the 18th century manner" that we get Azathoth. Though the novel would never get completed, this extant portion can easily be seen fitting into the narrative of The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, still to come, which does feature Azathoth and is much more concise and flowing.

If you want to take a moment to read this fragment, despite it showing up in much better form later, you can read the full text here: HPL's Azathoth.

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