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Question: from Lovecraft's "What the Moon Brings"
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Author Topic: Opinion of this paragraph  (Read 131 times)
Senator Scott
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« on: August 10, 2016, 02:30:05 am »
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"It was in the spectral summer when the moon shone down on the old garden where I wandered; the spectral summer of narcotic flowers and humid seas of foliage that bring wild and many-coloured dreams. And as I walked by the shallow crystal stream I saw unwonted ripples tipped with yellow light, as if those placid waters were drawn on in resistless currents to strange oceans that are not in the world. Silent and sparkling, bright and baleful, those moon-cursed waters hurried I knew not whither; whilst from the embowered banks white lotos blossoms fluttered one by one in the opiate night-wind and dropped despairingly into the stream, swirling away horribly under the arched, carven bridge, and staring back with the sinister resignation of calm, dead faces."

---

This was posted on another forum in a thread about Lovecraft's work.  Someone jokingly remarked, "So there was a river in the garden, then?" and someone else said it sounds so overzealous that Lovecraft may well have plucked it from a poetry share thread.  Which got me thinking, writers who cut straight to the point are often considered bland in their style, but those who try to fill every possible space with imagery are typically called "try-hards."

Given the literary genius Lovecraft was for his time, I question whether those critiques are more of a reflection on the short attention spans people today have rather than an honest analysis of the work itself.  This becomes a problem to me, as a creative writer, when I try to balance how much to reveal versus how much to keep to the readers' imaginations.

What do our literature enthusiasts think?
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« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2016, 02:44:21 am »
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Prolixity and the simultaneously overwrought and strangely unemotional nature of most of his prose are definitely valid criticisms of Lovecraft's style, but he was very conscious of his method, tools, and aims, so to call it bad writing sort of misses the point. Lovecraft's project is to bombard the reader with symbols and images to evoke strong aesthetic reactions; he's to literature what late-period Moreau is to painting. I've often heard somewhat similar criticisms of Donna Tartt's style, even though from what I know of her she isn't particularly (or at all) similar to Lovecraft in other respects.
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« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2016, 02:45:44 am »
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Okay, I guess.

I personally prefer writing styles that privilege narration, dialog, and psychological exploration over physical descriptions, but that's just me.
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« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2016, 02:50:18 am »
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Come to think of it, late-period Henry James is an excellent example of another English-language writer (of the generation before Lovecraft) who uses a very affected, involved, ornate style, but towards very different ends and with a very different effect on the reader (bracketing out for a moment The Turn of the Screw, which actually is proto-Lovecraft in a lot of ways). Antonio would definitely like him better, as he’s generally more interested in describing psychological states.

ETA: Although in terms of subject matter and tone Lovecraft is obviously more comparable to the earlier Romantic and Gothic writers whom James is riffing on in The Turn of the Screw and, elsewhere in his body of work, moving away from as part of his realist project. (Careful use of point of view, however, is another trick common to James and Lovecraft.)

The non-Lovecraft piece of writing that reminds me the most of Lovecraft, actually, is this genuinely delightful bit of homoerotic Symbolist pastiche by the Japanese painter Murayama Kaita. As the title of the book in which the translation appears indicates, this sort of writing is to be understood as a type of Modernism--a classification which Lovecraft himself would have loathed--even though its subject matter and manner of presenting 'reality' is very different from that which we find in the more respectable, canonical Modernist texts such as Ulysses ('a heap of dung, crawling with worms, photographed by a cinema apparatus through a microscope').

This kind of 'mapping' of physical objects and spaces is extremely, extremely common in sci-fi/fantasy/horror literature of the old school; it shows up also in Tolkien, in a more restrained and statelier prose style and in the service of a very different worldview, and in somebody like Asimov often to the exclusion of meaningful characterization, and sometimes to the exclusion of dialogue and plot as well! This tendency is modified somewhat in 'New Wave' writers like Le Guin and Moorcock (both of whom I have problems with, for different reasons, although they have more literary control and thus possibly more objective merit than the old guard), but never entirely disappears, possibly because the nature of the genres means that certain things have to be given fairly detailed physical or technical descriptions as an aid to the reader's understanding. (I'm not going to get into what Mervyn Peake's project is because it's been a long time since I've read Gormenghast and I'm sure it would take ages for me to refamiliarize myself with it enough.)
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