Earlier this year, I read "The Horror at Red Hook" for the first time in decades - I was stunned by how much of the story is nothing more than a rant by the Gary Stu-ish narrator against the "swarthy" degenerate races taking over his beloved Brooklyn. Lovecraft had some incredible ideas, but daaaaamn. It'll be a couple decades before I read that story again.
He would have loved my predominantly West Indian neighborhood in Crown Heights!
I live in a section of Jersey City that's mostly Asian and Indian. He wouldn't have made it five feet down the sidewalk without exploding in rage and fear!
As you might well know, Lovecraft's cat, in real life, had the same horrid and offensive name. The genius versus the ugliness is an interesting comparison, especially since there's no way to take the good of the Old Gent without the bad. Even without the letters, the stories themselves show a decidedly racist bent. Ferocious vision. Virulent and horrific vitriol toward so much that was human, especially people who were different. Yet all communicated in the voice of a deranged and lonely outsider. A gravely conservative streak that shaped everything he believed in...yet he believed in far less than most conservatives, of his time or ours. Sometimes I think he's most precious because if we didn't have him, we wouldn't be able to invent him.
All very well said. And I didn't know that about his cat!
the genius of his stories lives on, and much more strongly than the ugliness in them does.
That's a serious judgment call, though. I may think that the brilliant riff of "Brown Sugar" is more significant than the violently racist and misogynist lyrics...but it's not like I'm an objective judge, either, and I don't think I have the right to make that call for somebody else. Certainly the racism encoded in Lovecraft's work and the song is still alive and hurting people deeply. And if a man tried to tell me that the brilliant melody of, I don't know, "Under My Thumb" lived on much more strongly than the misogyny in it, I think I'd tell him to go to hell, only with more profanity.
You're right, I don't mean to speak for everyone, and as I said in the post, your mileage may vary.
On a related note, I only recently learned what the actual lyrics to "Brown Sugar" are, and they're so much worse than I ever imagined! Yikes!
Holy crap, I only just went and read them because of this thread, and... wow, Mick, just wow.
I know, right? Even worse, I learned what the lyrics are because of a karaoke night. Luckily, I wasn't the one singing, but I sure felt bad for the guy who was!
The thing that gets me about the Chambers quote is the fact that later in that paragraph, you get, "after the colossal Congress of Religions, bigotry and intolerance were laid in their graves."
2011-12-13 12:31 am (UTC)
December 13, 2011 Links and Plugs
Yeah, it's hard. I could point out that it isn't Herbert West so much who's making these statements as A) the narrator, ie his equivalent of Dr Dan Cain and B) Lovecraft, but it doesn't really matter: Great title! And so horribly, horribly true.
I should write a stage play with this title!
I just learned of this poem yesterday.
On the Creation of Niggers (1912) by H. P. Lovecraft
Sincerely, what was wrong with that guy?
He was crazy racist, that's what!
Actually, I think the description of the black guy in Herbert West is much worse than the name given to the cat. I can kinda see how someone might use the N-word in that historical context and honestly not think it a particularly evil word to use, loathsome as it may be, but Lovecraft is something else. In his stories you get this awful, obsessive kind of racism that makes it very clear how much he loathes other people.
Seriously, it's like you're reading a great story and suddenly-
"And then a Polish person walked into the room-"
-cue massive amounts of pretty vile stuff.
Although I usually recoil at the suggestion that an authors work needs to be purged to make a modern audience more comfortable with it, in Lovecraft's case I would find it difficult to voice an objection.
I think purging his work would be doing everyone a disservice. The key, in my opinion, is not to excuse his racism or pretend it never happened, but to acknowledge that it was there and feel free to talk openly about it. Otherwise, it becomes a sticking point.