Saturday 6 March 2010

I've been re-reading the short story 'He' by H.P. Lovecraft this morning. The opening passages of this story correspond so closely with Lovecraft's own impressions and experiences of New York that I am moved to point out how much the 'weird fiction' of this man is in fact closely intertwined with his own dreams, hopes, thoughts and quotidian experience. It isn't the richness of a writer's external doings with the world that feed creativity so much as a rich internal life which can transform the mundane experiences that may be shared by many others into unique, illuminating inspiration.

I live in a city that I once loved, or thought I would, and am increasingly dismayed by the way it has grown. This passage by Lovecraft strikes me as a particularly striking observation on the sense of what it is like to live in a place that has outlived all of its original meanings and beliefs, a zombie city, quick with a terrible, unnatural new life:

...I saw at last a fearful truth which no one had ever dared to breathe before - the unwhisperable secret of secrets - the fact that this city of stone and stridor is not a sentient perpetuation of Old New York as London is of Old London and Paris of Old Paris, but that it is in fact quite dead, its sprawling body imperfectly embalmed and infested with queer animate things which have nothing to do with it as it was in life.

Of course, I have to read this passage with that strange double vision with which I empathise completely with what is being said, while reserving a grain of sourness for the knowledge that those 'queer animate things' may well have included creatures like myself, in Lovecraft's eyes.

Still, what a powerful, dark image that is! And how pertinent when the cities that we live in seem no longer to be conglomerations born of human need and wants but machines that perpetuate themselves, with human lives serving merely as grist to the mill.

Or perhaps I'm just having a morbid morning. In any case, a striking passage that I thought worth sharing.

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