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(Some offensive language is below, but only for the purpose of clarity.)

I found Lovecraft early in my life, and his work fascinated me.  He wrote of horrific gods and monsters that were unlike any mythology I'd read before.  I read some of his imitators as well, and I could easily tell which ones understood his style, and which did not.  

Lovecraft's Elder Gods did not wish to inhabit our nightmares, or gain anything from our fear.  They didn't even wish to be loved.  Sometimes, they had worshippers, but Lovecraft's god didn't care about them at all.  They viewed us in the same way as we might view an infestation of vermin in our cellar.  They didn't wish to communicate with us, they just wanted us gone.

One day I read one of his lesser known short stories that described several tribes that met one another in combat.  One tribe was described as "Aryan" and defeated the other because of their debased, degenerate nature.  When I read the story I started to dislike the themes and suggestions and wondered if he was a racist.  After awhile I decided I shouldn't over-think things and continued reading.

Then I found this work:

On the Creation of Niggers:

When, long ago, the gods created Earth;
In Jove's fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were designed;
Yet were too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest of Man,
Th'Olympian host conceived a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a Nigger..

I read it twice, and felt stunned, then angry.  Then I shut the library book and left it on the table.  That night I went through the books of his that I owned and read them again, trying to understand what I saw.  I wanted to know if I'd missed something I'd read before.  

When I finished around midnight I threw them all in the garbage, and I didn't get another of his books for many years.  When other people brought his work up, I changed the subject.  At the time my feeling was that the work of a racist shouldn't be read or promoted.

I grew up in Florida, and though I appear white and nobody I live near today is aware of it, part of my family was Seminole Indian, and my grandmother was black.  The Seminoles and escaped slaves had frequently intermarried.  My family and I were sometimes referred to as colored.  It's likely that if Lovecraft were a living author who read that work aloud in my presence during that period in my life, he would have had a really bad day.  I doubt he would have made it to the end of the poem.

Years later I attended a group of people into horror and one of them brought up Lovecraft.  I wanted to leave but didn't.  He mentioned what Lovecraft's life had been like.  

Lovecraft was born to a rich family in Massachusetts.  He was a sickly child who grew into a sickly man, nothing like myself in either regard.  He was believed to have suffered from what is now known as night terrors.  His family lost it's fortune and he lived in poverty for much of his adult life.  

He eventually married and moved to Brooklyn.  Initially, he loved New York, but he couldn't find any work, and in time his wife lost the shop she had owned.  She moved to Cleveland while he stayed in New York, and in time he came to hate the place.  His failure to find any employment in the midst of a large immigrant population had to clash with his image of himself as a privileged Anglo Saxon.

Eventually the marriage failed, though it was never officially ended.  He moved back to Massachusetts where he continued to write.  Despite his efforts he grew ever poorer, and eventually moved in with his Aunt.  In 1936, Lovecraft was diagnosed with cancer of the small intestine, as he has was also suffering from malnutrition.  He died in 1937 in Providence.

In Lovecraft's own words, from a note to the editor of Weird Tales, on re-submission of "The Call of Cthulhu:"

Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. To me there is nothing but puerility in a tale in which the human form-and the local human passions and conditions and standards-are depicted as native to other worlds or other universes. To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all. Only the human scenes and characters must have human qualities.
Lovecraft was familiar with the work of German conservative theorist Oswald Spengler, who believed that the modern west was decadent, and probably doomed to be pulled down by outside influences.  Though economically speaking he was a bit of a socialist, in virtually any other way he was utterly conservative.

The fear of the unknown is present in virtually everything he wrote, even his letters for the most part.  Perhaps the most central theme in his work was that man lived in a tiny sliver of the universe which was safe, and everything around it was filled with horrors which we not only did not know of, but could not understand.  If we found out about the unknown, we would go mad.

When you live in a building, you are not obligated to know the name of the architect who built it, nor do you need to be aware whether it was built by slaves.  Writers suffer in that they leave an easier trail to follow than the architect; we are more likely to learn of their racism or other failings through their art.

When we do, we are left the decision of whether or not to throw their work away.  Whether we do so or not, everyone who has been effected by their work has been effected still, and if you don't know of the forces which made them the people they were, then you will not understand their art.  And art itself, is a reflection of the soul of the society which produced it.

Lovecraft himself was a particularly influential writer.  Stephen King wrote in Danse Macabre that Lovecraft was responsible for King's own fascination with horror, and has called him the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.

The history of mankind is filled with both achievements and horrible mistakes, many of them directly connected with one another.  If you try to ignore the mistakes, you won't really understand the achievements, and you will most likely relive them.  That at least, is my philosophy.  If we were all to throw his books in the garbage, then we would be living by Lovecraft's example.  I'd rather not do that.

Immediately after reading his poem I felt as though I had been duped, and I was stupid for not understanding what I saw.  I hated the author.  

Today when I think of how awful his life was, I realize that he had no faith in his own abilities to adapt to a changing world, and he likely felt frightened and alone much of his life.  I read his work sometimes and use it as as a model in my own work, and it helps me to remember that horror comes from fear, as does racism.  They don't have to inhabit the same work, but sometimes they do.  If I'd never picked up his work again, then my writing would be weaker for it.

Originally posted to Martian Expatriate on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 10:54 AM PST.

Also republished by Readers and Book Lovers and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Small man with a big talent (22+ / 0-)

    There have been a lot of them over the centuries. Eventually, if their talent was large enough, their personal smallness and pettiness is forgotten and only their work lives on. (Richard Wagner comes to mind - a very small and petty man with a very large musical talent. Most people don't know what an asshole he was in private life.)

    If it's
    Not your body,
    Then it's
    Not your choice
    And it's
    None of your damn business!

    by TheOtherMaven on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 11:08:30 AM PST

  •  Lovecraft is an interesting figure (19+ / 0-)

    because of the many contradictory characteristics of his work and himself.  He was in many ways a man of the 18th century who made his living selling fiction to pulp magazines in the early 20th century.

    The unifying concept of his work, cosmic horror that comes from the insignificance of humanity in the grand scheme of things, is at once a huge imaginative leap forward and a reactionary step backwards.  Ironically it was much easier for Lovecraft to accept the insignificance of humanity in a largely alien and indifferent universe, than it was for him to accept that the ideals and assumptions of the age of reason (educated white male privilege) didn't hold sway in his own era to the extent that he would like.

    "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

    by matching mole on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 11:19:32 AM PST

    •  "many contradictory characteristics of his work (12+ / 0-)

      and himself"

      Whenever I encounter this in an artist, in anyone really, my first reaction is curiosity.

      Kipling is less psychically cramped than Lovecraft, but he also has a contradiction between unthinking racism and a large sympathy and awareness. Kipling was larger than Lovecraft (and luckier, and happier). But many large individuals contain smallnesses.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 12:57:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Indeed. (11+ / 0-)

        This diary made me think of the experience of reading the short story 'The Prepersons' by Philip K. Dick.  It was in a collection published while he was still alive and he had a short commentary for each one.

        He acknowledged that the story, a strident anti-abortion polemic, would displease many of his readers.  In fact he said that Joanna Russ, a noted feminist sf author had threatened to beat him up upon reading it.  However he said he could not do other than stand with the innocent and powerless.

        Upon actually reading the story I discovered it to be perhaps the most misogynistic work I have ever read.  Anyone familiar with Dick's work in 1950s and 1960s would recognize a familiar fear of controlling women throughout it.  This is taken to ludicrous and revolting extremes in the story mentioned above.  Apparently Dick was blind to the fact that his 'defense' of the helpless was portraying half of the world's population as selfish unfeeling monsters.

        This doesn't mean that there aren't things of value to be learned from reading his work (although I would not recommend that particular story).

        "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

        by matching mole on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 01:45:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Dick wasn't misogynistic in those works (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brecht, linkage, The Marti

          Having read most of his published works at one time or another, I was struck that of all of his women characters less than a half-dozen could be described as much more than a "bitch". It is probably his most glaring flaw as a writer.

          I can only wonder if he had amazingly bad luck with women in his life; I can think of no other sympathetic explanation for this.

        •  I thought of Dick as I wrote my previous comment (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          matching mole, Youffraita, The Marti

          because he was a man with many contradictions in him. Though the first that springs to mind is that he churned out shoddy product and also wrote profoundly original and well-crafted stuff (yes, the first was partly a response to financial pressure. And he learned and grew as he went.). The Man in the High Castle is the only one I've read where I felt his art was fully realized, though Do Androids Dream... is very fine, and Ubik is weird but wonderful.

          Also, he was unstable, and the drugs didn't help.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 03:11:16 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Excellent comment. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      linkage, Brecht, The Marti, James Kresnik

      One can extrapolate all kinds of things from that, especially the fact that he was probably unconscious of his fear of the passing away of educated white male privilege.

      --says the very educated, very white, male, small business owner

  •  Good Diary (18+ / 0-)

    I've never been a big Lovecraft fan and was reading some of his stories for the first time when I wrote my series on him last month, so I approached them sort of as an outsider.

    Your diary, coming as it does from a deeper familiarity, and a deeper emotional reaction both positive and negative, offers a deeper perspective on Lovecraft.

    Thanks for sharing it with us.

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 11:23:28 AM PST

  •  apropos of little ... (11+ / 0-)

    ... just found an old notebook sketch scan from a few years back.


    my illegibly hen scratched altered song lyric reads:

    "let me live 'neath your spell
    do that chthulu that you do so well"

    probably pretty outlandish to suppose chthulu has a soft side, but there it is.

    more to the point of your diary, though: solid discussion here. the fear of the unknown is some very primal stuff. i have to admit that i'm a bit more familiar with jung's approach to the theme (see: "the red book") than with lovecraft's, though.

    and it helps me to remember that horror comes from fear, as does racism.
    yes! great line!

    keep your eyes on the sky. put a dollar in the kitty. don't the moon look pretty. --becker&fagen

    by homo neurotic on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 11:31:48 AM PST

  •  kudos for your learning curve, martianexpatriate. (11+ / 0-)

    You had good reasons for throwing out Lovecraft. But, though you were repulsed, you kept looking at him, until you saw more of the man behind some of his very ugly opinions.

    Most people never attempt that kind of work.

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 01:01:03 PM PST

  •  The sad fact: (8+ / 0-)

    In the 19th and early 20th Century, nearly all white people had views and sterotypes about race that would be (accurately) considered to be racist today.
       In order to judge historical figures within their own context, we have to close one eye to their moral views.

  •  What is even more interesting is that a scientist (3+ / 0-)

    has actually been able to explain the wierd geometry inside R'lyeh as described in Lovecraft's writing and then goes on to calculate the required to create the exotic spacetime curvature described.  Guess what, it is very similar to that required for those theoretical warp drives.

    You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

    by Throw The Bums Out on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 01:48:43 PM PST

  •  Let's try that again. What is even more (8+ / 0-)

    interesting is that a scientist has actually been able to explain the wierd geometry inside R'lyeh as described in Lovecraft's writing and then goes on to calculate the exact type of matter (PDF Warning) required to create the exotic spacetime curvature described.  Guess what, it is very similar to that required for those theoretical warp drives.

    You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

    by Throw The Bums Out on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 01:50:35 PM PST

    •  You are aware, are you not, that "Francis (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Throw The Bums Out

      Wayland Thurston," who supposedly wrote that funny article, is a fictional character created by Lovecraft?

      From your insistence here, I think you probably don't realize that, and may be missing an irony gene.

      Funny article though.  I wonder who wrote it.

    •  Interesting paper (0+ / 0-)

      Leads me to a theory I've had about the Cthulhoid creatures Lovecraft described: could they be living organisms made of Dark Matter? While Jan Oort first hypothesized the existence of Dark Matter in 1932, 4 years after Lovecraft published "The Call of Cthulhu", when I encountered the first pop science explanation of Dark Matter, I couldn't help but wonder if that explained not only the weird effect of the alien creatures, but the fact terrestrial creatures uniformly feared or shunned such creatures. (Such material would have not only unfamiliar but, if I may use the word, alien smells & other sensory data.)

      Since it's such an attractive idea, I bet someone else has thought of it first.

      •  I'm going to assume you have your tongue in (0+ / 0-)

        your cheek so far that it's reaching around the back of your head.

        •  What? (0+ / 0-)

          Just throwing out an idea. Want to explain?

          •  Dark matter is less than ghostly (0+ / 0-)

            The whole point of dark matter is that it interacts gravitationally with ordinary matter, but otherwise hardly interacts at all.

            So beings made of dark matter, unless they were planetoid sized, would simply pass through us without any effect. "Smells and other sensory data" are generated by electromagnetic forces, and dark matter is electromagnetically nonexistent, for all practical purposes.

            I suspect that's the basis for Timaeus's reaction.

    •  The 7 recs so far here are a testament to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      James Kresnik

      typical DKos behavior of not reading the links, and if one does, not having one's critical brain in gear.

      It's a HOAX, people!  A clever one indeed, but not really all THAT clever.

  •  Two More Seekers (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, Brecht, The Marti
    There are things known and things unknown and in between are The Doors. - Jim Morrison
    “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. - William Blake
  •  Hugely wise and interesting diary (5+ / 0-)

    about one of my favorite writers.

    I had never encountered the 1920s style KKK crap before this diary.

    The diarist is to be commended for the way he grapples with contradiction.

  •  interesting diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Considering that he was also considered to be some what socialist and said he was a "New Deal Democrat". Although that was towards the end of his life so maybe he had a change of heart or perhaps the concepts of socialism and race were kept separate by him.

    I do think there is a bit of fear in those who hate so much. Sadly I think there are those who profit by playing into that fear and sometimes growing it. We don't know how much of Lovecraft's language came out of how things were perceived back then. The overall view of society was a bit different than it is now and certain words and ideas were considered okay back then. Thankfully things have changed and hopefully will keep changing.

  •  I believe it was Toulouse L'Autrec who said ... (3+ / 0-)

    "The artist is never the equal of his art."

    Every great artist has an equally great flaw.  Sometimes I think it is the flaw that allows the creation of great art.

    I've read Lovecraft, and his flaw was how he saw himself as helpless against the world.  But at the same time, it allowed him to create some truly creepy stuff.  Personal favorite:  The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath, followed by The Colour Out of Space.  

    It doesn't surprise me at all that he was a raging racist.  Born white upper class, only to be brought down by loss of the family fortune, unable to find work "worthy of a gentleman", a failed marriage, poor health, forced to live on the charity of maiden aunts ... it was almost a given he would despise anyone not of his own class and race.  It was the only thing he felt he had going for him.

    Try reading some August Derleth.  He "got" the whole Lovecraft mythos.  Good stuff!

    •  I like this point. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jared the bassplayer
      it was almost a given he would despise anyone not of his own class and race.  It was the only thing he felt he had going for him.
      Like all racists, it seems clear that Lovecraft, given his upbringing and subsequent life, clearly had self-esteem about half-a-millimeter above rock-bottom.  ("Rock bottom" being the grandmother of all anxiety attacks.)  

      When people are that close to rock-bottom, they desperately need to shove someone under them to act as a cushion -- someone they can feel superior to.  And when you can shove a whole race of people under you, based on a factor that is unchangeable (so there's never a chance they might get the upper-hand) ... well, all the better.

      In fairness to him, though, I seem to recall that as he got older, in later life, Lovecraft seemed to soften in his racist views, and to exhibit a bit more sympathy and empathy.  Maybe he was starting to grow up too.

  •  In recent years I have had the same reaction (7+ / 0-)

    to the writings of Orson Scott Card. He is obviously a talented writer and an award winner for his early Ender's Game novels - but with his recent writings about gays and liberalism being so hate-filled I find it hard to read anything of his without that filter - and it changes how I read his works.

    •  Feel much the same way about Glen Danzig. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jared the bassplayer

      Danzig a brilliant horror musician and comic writer who's frequently played with reactionary politics, racism and white nationalism, seasoned with heavy doses of misogyny. 'Bullet', 'White Devil Rising', publicly dissing Obama as a "real horror." etc.

      Unsurprisingly, his Misfits replacement (umwhatshisnameagain?) runs a right-wing punk site.

      Come to think of it, Alice Cooper, a pioneer in horror rock, is a Regan-worshiping right-wing culture warrior. Then there is the depressing  number of death and black metal bands openly courting organized racists.

      Maybe I'm being too glib, but perhaps there is something to this notion of between fear of the unknown extending to fear of the other.

      •  Metal has always had a problem (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        James Kresnik

        ...with sexism and racism. The misogyny in metal is breathtaking, but the racism a bit more subtle. But one need only look at the near-infinite number of metal band and their fans to see that there's something wrong with that picture.

        The problem with going with your gut as opposed to your head is that the former is so often full of shit. - Randy Chestnut

        by lotusmaglite on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 04:31:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  At the Mountains of Madness (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zhimbo, jared the bassplayer amazing.

    Really sets up the entire sci-fi/horror genre in that one.

  •  if all fairness to Lovecraft (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blukat, The Marti

    he was born and lived in a time where racism was not uncommon and not just against blacks and indians. In point of fact the general 'proper English gentleman' considered himself inherently surperior to everyone but his own 'race' and culture and this is something you also see in America especially affluent America at the time and that is where he spent much of his childhood.

  •  And yet someone posted this a week or (5+ / 0-)

    two back:

    "As for the Republicans — how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical 'American heritage'…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead." -- letter dated Aug 15, 1936.

    seems as true today as it did then

    Thump! Bang. Whack-boing. It's dub!

    by dadadata on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 06:14:09 PM PST

  •  as a HPL fan (6+ / 0-)

    Howard's racism was obviously one of ignorance and petty fear.  It was NOT one of ignorant hate or provincialism -- HPL was an anglophile and racist because he knew no better.  

    Yes, I could cite, and will if any commentor insists. The thing is, HPL wrote between the 1920's and 1930's, when racial mores were very thin and brutal.  To give him some credit -- he was a racist, but not more so than his pen-pals would let him be (Robert E Howard was a West Texas rogue who curbed HPL's overt bigotry quite nicely during the '30's).

    Howard's craft, however, was an insight into terror -- social mores aside, his writing explored horrific nightmares that no one else would dare exploit.

    "The Horror at Red Hook" is -- in my opinion -- the very best example of HPL's constant turning and twisting between the fear of unknown peoples and the knowledge of ancient horrors.  The story is all about fear of unknown peoples with strange and wonderful habits and rituals while at the same time understanding that their rituals have no bearing on a sane and logical universe --let alone our world  ... and then yet a lone white man who is struggling to understand where he can intersect between superstition and logics suddenly discovers that he is a player in this horrific cross-current ... ?!

    The Horror At Red Hook is HPL's version of Angel Heart writ large across the World, sans Mickey Rourke or Hollywood.

    And at a penny a word seems quite cheap, LOL


    We haven't met but you're a great fan of mine

    by Great Cthulhu on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 08:30:05 PM PST

    •  and you *would* know... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jared the bassplayer

      ...given your handle :D

      We have no desire to offend you -- unless you are a twit!

      by ScrewySquirrel on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 12:23:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's probably true. (0+ / 0-)

      I'm certain that there were fewer people around to challenge racist ideas, and as has been pointed out elsewhere, there were weird ideas like phrenology floating around in science.  German scientists were out promoting the idea that certain family lines were superior to others.

      Today if someone suggests that a given race is inferior, I can point out that actually their DNA is virtually indistinguishable from that of any other race.  We are all the same species and physically are almost entirely the same.  Many of the scientists of the day believed the opposite and tried to back up that idea in studies.

      Ignorance more frequently begets confidence then knowledge. Charles Darwin

      by martianexpatriate on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 10:25:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not to excuse HPL's racism... (9+ / 0-)

    because he was racist. In the same way that we've struggled to understand Jefferson as BOTH the author of the Virginia Statute and the Declaration of Independence... and the slaveowner of Monticello, we need to grapple with people like HPL as who they were, in their time.

    Some small handful of people managed to rise way above their times. But few, very few.

    As Oliver Wendell Holmes observed, "We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribes." So was Lovecraft (as the diarist observes, in passing). His racism wasn't just for blacks; as a scion of an upper crust New England family (as part of my family is...), he'd have sneered at the Irish (which another part of my family is). And the Italians (another part of the family).

    This is the man who wrote:
    “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

    And there you have it, I think. Such racism and bigotry roots in that fear and unfamiliarity. The strange, different and unknown is threatening--and bigotry fans the flames of that into something worse.

    Which is the distinction between those who, like Lovecraft, have the tattoos... and those who, like Father Coughlin, Rush Limbaugh, and others, seek to turn that fear and bigotry into something far worse.

    I have a long list of ancestors who undoubtedly loathed the very idea of each other (my grandfather had a story about part of his family--people he'd never met, but close blood kin--presuming, when he showed up, for the purpose of introducing himself and showing them that he'd made good in a way that even they'd have acknowledged, that he was there for a handout. We can be such asses...). We have to somehow let it go. Salvage what we can that's useful, valuable, interesting--and let the rest go. Let the twistedness of people die and be buried with them, and save what might be useful for civilization... never forgetting that it's the careful, judicious salvage, so that we stop passing down those damned tribal tattoos.

    "Be just and good." John Adams to Thomas Jefferson

    by ogre on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 11:07:20 PM PST

  •  This is a beautifully large-minded diary. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  21C Perspectives A Go Go (0+ / 0-)

    Firstly I gotta suggest that if you only noticed the racism in HPLs work when you read that poem you weren't reading the rest of his stuff very well. Didnt you ever read The Horror At Red Hook? The Call Of Cthulhu?

    HPL was a product of his time, just as was Sax Rohmer (the Fu Manchu novels and others) and many other writers who expressed and wrote stuff we now read with a raised eyebrow....if we so choose. George Orwell famously, and on many an occasion, railed against Kipling for being a cheerleader for imperialist opression. And, just for jolly, why not peruse Shakespeare.... The Merchant Of Venice and Othello come to mind. Read any Dickens by any chance?

    When you apply your 21C Political Correctness goggles to these authors you end up in the same stupid joyless trashcan world that the idiots who wanted to "de-nigger" Mark Twains works live in. The same twatty revisionist unreality that idiots who go to Renaissance Fayres and Jousting dinners live in.... a sanitised and PC version of the past, spun washed and fabric softened for the modern dicktickler.

    HPL was a racist living in a rabidly racist country at a time when the KKK marched in full ghost costumes down the streets of the capital in their thousands. Many of his works drip with racism, but its the same sepia toned dusty racism that you find in Rohmer, Shakespeare, Kipling and Dickens.

    Get over it, or get onboard the Lets Rehabilitate Twain Train

    •  Did you read the whole diary? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zhimbo, James Kresnik

      Did you miss this part at the end:

      Today when I think of how awful his life was, I realize that he had no faith in his own abilities to adapt to a changing world, and he likely felt frightened and alone much of his life.  I read his work sometimes and use it as as a model in my own work, and it helps me to remember that horror comes from fear, as does racism.  They don't have to inhabit the same work, but sometimes they do.  If I'd never picked up his work again, then my writing would be weaker for it.

      And my baby's my common sense, so don't feed me planned obsolescence.

      by vadasz on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 03:41:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hero Worshipers (0+ / 0-)

        Fans are prone to developing deep emotional attachment to a person they admire as a flawless and transcendent figure, worthy of unabashed admiration.

        The infatuated fan quickly falls into cognitive dissonance the moment their hero displays some ignoble traits.

        The fan will attempt to either dismiss the character flaws, spin them, or bash anyone who dares to criticize.

        It's a pretty sad thing to see, no matter how many times one witnesses it.

  •  comparing Lovecraft to Jefferson? (0+ / 0-)

    Come on.  He wrote fantasy horror stories mostly enjoyed by juveniles.  He's more like Ayn Rand as an author.  Like her, he has a cult following that is almost all male.

    And this is the second HPL community spotlight diary in as many weeks, not what I expect to see on dKos.  

    Not surprised to learn he was a racist too.

  •  Just out - young philosopher's book on Lovecraft (0+ / 0-)

    Graham Harman is an important young philosopher. He teaches at American University of Cairo. For his Ph. D. he read all of Heidegger's works and came up with novel way of cutting through all of Heidegger's works.

    His book Heidegger Explained has the following review on, titled "A refreshingly non partisan introduction to Heidegger"

    By "non-partisan" I mean that Mr. Harman does not write from the set framework of either Continental-phenomenological or Anglo-analytic philosophy, giving his take on Heidegger a refreshing perspective for anyone who is al-too-familiar with these schools and how they typically color the disputes of modern philosophy. Harman takes Heidegger as a pointer in a direction which brings philosophy out of the intellectual ghettos and back to life. In language at once pithy, moving, and substantive, Harman delivers a reading of Heidegger which neither forgives his sins nor ignores his great contribution to philosophy -- bringing a sublime, careful thoughtfulness to the terrible beauty of reality. Of all the books which attempt an introductory overview of Heidegger, this is the only one I've read that goes as far in humanizing the man with new details of his personal mistakes and challenges, while also doing a superior job explaining his key concepts in succinct, pithy, well-written English statements. The concepts are unfolded chronologically along with the basic narrative of Heidegger's career. Harman brings a perspective to Heidegger which is neither that of the fawning Heideggerian imitator nor that of the belittling, condescending critic. He is an admirer of Heidegger's originality with a unique and particularly compelling view of how Heidegger should be understood as an important point of departure from many of the stale problems endemic to modern thinking.
    I follow his work. Last Graham Harman gave 44 lectures around the world on many, many different topics. Artists, architects, philosophers, poets, scientists and many other disciplines are involved with his work and the circle that he runs with.

    He is one of the founders of a hybrid topic in Philosophy, Speculative Realism. All of the founders spend most of their time in other areas, but as they got to know each other, Lovecraft was common experience to all of them.

    Here is the publisher's statement on Harman's Lovecraft book Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy

    Book Description
    Publication Date: September 16, 2012
    As Hölderlin was to Martin Heidegger and Mallarmé to Jacques Derrida, so is H.P. Lovecraft to the Speculative Realist philosophers. Lovecraft was one of the brightest stars of the horror and science fiction magazines, but died in poverty and relative obscurity in the 1930s. In 2005 he was finally elevated from pulp status to the classical literary canon with the release of a Library of America volume dedicated to his work. The impact of Lovecraft on philosophy has been building for more than a decade. Initially championed by shadowy guru Nick Land at Warwick during the 1990s, he was later discovered to be an object of private fascination for all four original members of the twenty-first century Speculative Realist movement. In this book, Graham Harman extracts the basic philosophical concepts underlying the work of Lovecraft, yielding a weird realism capable of freeing continental philosophy from its current soul-crushing impasse. Abandoning pious references by Heidegger to Hölderlin and the Greeks, Harman develops a new philosophical mythology centered in such Lovecraftian figures as Cthulhu, Wilbur Whately, and the rat-like monstrosity Brown Jenkin. The Miskatonic River replaces the Rhine and the Ister, while Hölderlin's Caucasus gives way to Lovecraft's Antarctic mountains of madness.
  •  Another literary racist.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Don midwest, lotlizard, James Kresnik

    ....was Robert Heinlein, most notably in Farnham's Freehold where cannabilistic blacks enslave and eat whites.  There is also a strain of anti-Asian bigotry in several of Heinlein's works.  Aside from this, over the course of his life, Heinlein politically devolved from being a New Deal liberal to something approaching a Fascist.

    Yet Heinlein is still rightly considered to be one of the fathers of modern science fiction and his work is essential reading for anyone with any interest in the genre.  For the likes of he and Lovecraft, one has to take the good with the bad and not throw away the baby with the bathwater.

    Besides, neither was a blowhard dickhead like, say, Ted Nugent.

    See the children of the earth who wake to find the table bare, See the gentry in the country riding out to take the air. ~~Gordon Lightfoot, "Don Quixote"

    by Panama Pete on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 06:55:58 AM PST

    •  Heinlein and Racism (0+ / 0-)

      I think calling Heinlein a racist is an over-simplification.  Granted, Farnham's Freehold is pretty cringe-inducing, but I always interpreted it as him trying to make a statement about racial equality in America by turning the tables -- but that he did so in a maladroit and offensive manner.  Farnham's Freehold is among my least favorite books of his for that and several other reasons.

      I only know of one of his novels with anti-Asian bigotry in it, and that's The Day After Tomorrow.  I give him a pass on that one, because he wrote it on his editor's request from the editor's outline.  Heinlein disliked the racism in the plot, (involving America being conquered by the Chinese), and tried to mitigate the some of it by having an Asian-American character on the good guy's side and who sacrifices his life to stop a racist character who had gone insane.

      On the other side,  The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress decribes a melting-pot society where the cultures freely mingle and race is considered largely irrelevant.  It is when the dark-skinned protagonist goes to Earth that he gets thrown in jail by a racist judge for miscegenation.

      (Okay, countering my own argument.  Now that I think of it, there are a couple places in Harsh Mistress where the protagonist refers to Chinese as "Chinee"; Prof warns him not to use that kind of term on Earth.  But the Chinese of New Hong Kong are not, I think, regarded as inferior.)

      One of my favorite Heinlein novels, Double Star, involves a politician deeply committed to to the cause of equality, and his passionate speeches about equality between humans and martians is clearly meant to remind the reader of the equal rights struggle on Earth.

      Regarding Heinlein's political path, he did become more conservative as he grew older.  As a young man he campaigned for Upton Sinclair's attempt to become governor of California.  Some have suggested that he turned more conservative under the influence of his wife Virginia.  My own guess -- and its only a guess -- is that as his writings made him more affluent, he began to emphathize more with the concerns of affluence.

      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

      by quarkstomper on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 10:35:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Dr.Seuss drew racist cartoons before he was famous (0+ / 0-)

    The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

    by lotlizard on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 09:29:28 AM PST

  •  Not to defend him... (0+ / 0-)

    But he was a man of a different time and to compare him by todays standards is unfair to both him and you.

    Not to mention that if all art was merited based on the artist themselves, there would be little great art. We are all human with human flaws, but art is a tiny reflection of the best within us.

    Van Goghs are little more than the crayon drawings of a schizophrenic in this context and would be worth little more than the canvas they are painted on...

    Not only can a small group of dedicated people change the world, its the only thing that ever has.

    by fToRrEeEsSt on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 10:41:52 AM PST

    •  I used to have a painter friend who went so far (0+ / 0-)

      as to insist that no artist should be judged on the basis of anything but his art, because the artist had so saved all the best of his personality for his art that he must be forgiven if, at the end of that Herculean effort, nothing was left of his personality but the dregs.  

      It was (and remains) an idea with a certain appeal to me, but boy, was it self-serving.  My own inclination is to hold artists to the same standards to which I hold everybody else.  Not that I'm a scold, I hope.  But I do find that when I know of a given artist that he or she was a terrible person (Wagner is a good example), it does influence my feelings about his or her art.  

      •  Were Lovecraft alive today, (0+ / 0-)

        and if he said what he did in public, I would feel absolutely no shame in refusing to promote him, because Art promotes ideas, and it's dangerous to allow ideas like that to go unchallenged.  If I believed that he were promoting dangerous ideas that might incite violence I would certainly not buy anything he produced.  If someone writes a book which is a brilliant story that suggests that the government be overthrown by force, I can oppose the work based on the idea it's proposing.  It isn't really about whether the book is well written any more.

        When an artist has passed away and is spoken of in historical terms, then I think all artists should be viewed differently, because progress is something that occurs in time.  If we look back critically, most of the people in history did things which would be utterly unacceptable today.  I think that it's fine to make note of that, because if you understand those things, it helps you to understand not only the book, but our own history.

        Ignorance more frequently begets confidence then knowledge. Charles Darwin

        by martianexpatriate on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 10:32:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I Am Providence Too (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Kresnik

    I live in the same neighborhood as HP Lovecraft. He was a very frightened man. I think his racism hurt his wife and destroyed their marriage. And you can't excuse him because he lived in racist times. There were many accomplished people of color living in Providence, he could only have avoided them by willful blindness.
    He must have had good qualities, a lot of people loved him. But his sense of superiority isolated him, limited his options, likely shortened his life.

  •  It helps that I never liked Lovecraft (0+ / 0-)

    I always found his work juvenile and silly. Perhaps because I have a touch of xenophillia, my fear of the unknown isn't quite so sharp.

    Lightless room with creaky floorboards, a moaning wind, whispering voices I can't quite make out, and spiderwebs in my face? Okay, maybe a little unnerved. Person across the counter from me doesn't look like me? Yawn.

    Anyway, because of this, I have a hard time forgiving artists their garbage attitudes. Lovecraft is hardly alone in this.

    The problem with going with your gut as opposed to your head is that the former is so often full of shit. - Randy Chestnut

    by lotusmaglite on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 04:44:26 PM PST

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