“Terrible and Blasphemous”

cthulhuresized.jpg(Illustration by John Coulhart)

“…Summoned back from those terrible, blasphemous spaces Outside to begin again the horror…” The Lurker at the Threshold H.P. Lovecraft

The foreboding words of Dr. Seneca Lapham, spoken to his skeptical protégé Winfield Phillips, are at the core of H.P. Lovecraft’s mythology, here detailed in The Lurker at the Threshold, part of his over-arching Cthulhu-mythos. Here are the malevolent Outsiders that lurk always on the edge of our reasoned understanding, waiting their opportunity to break restraints and take hold of a universe once theirs. 

I love it.

For all its morbidity, for all its stark gazing into nether regions, accursed depths, forbidden knowledge, and beings with such ridiculous names as “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” (The Village, anyone?), I truly enjoy Lovecraft’s Lurker

I say my love of Lovecraft began with another of his works, “At the Mountains of Madness,” a novella in length, about a group of scientists journeying to the Antarctic, and the “terrible and blasphemous” discoveries that await them.

I say it began with “Mountains” … but I lie. I dislike this piece. I find its storytelling too detached, its focus on archeology and history too laborious, and its ability to just, well, scare me, too lacking. In my opinion, it is not a great horror story (possibly a re-read will change my mind?), which is interesting because even then I considered Lovecraft an authority on the genre. In the same book as “Mountains” is his essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature.” And I cannot lavish praise enough on this work.

In 72 short pages, Lovecraft references nearly 275 separate novels and short stories, from Macbeth to The Man-Wolf , The Arabian Nights to the short story “The Apparition of Mrs. Veal.” The entire essay vibrates with Lovecraft’s incredible depth of knowledge. It is no wonder Stephen King says of him, “H.P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” (Though I wonder if King added that qualifier “classic” in hopes of edging him out towards the end of the millennium!) 

I finished “Supernatural Horror” with a clearer grasp of why I like the genre in the first place. Having always liked authors such as Edgar Allen Poe, it was refreshing to read Lovecraft’s explanation of how Poe “…knew that the function of creative fiction is merely to express and interpret events and sensations as they are, regardless of how they tend or what they prove – good or evil, attractive or repulsive, stimulating or depressing-” 

Yes! I agreed. There is no glory in calling evil good, but great good in drawing someone into a world where the reader feels the sensations, motivations, and responses of the characters. Horror understands that it is not enough to explain; good stories must be felt. Even the words, “terrible and blasphemous,” are meant to strike a chord of disgust, of loathing, of irrepressible dread. 

I shudder with Ambrose. I revile with Phillips. I become Frankenstein cursing the product of my hands, and yet the monster himself, cursing his creator.

It is terrible and blasphemous to pronounce as good the evil portrayed in horror. But like a mirror, placed in discernment’s wise grasp, it can become a vehicle of repugnance; a stark reminder that not all knowledge is desirable; and a constant reminder to “never invite him that lurks at the threshold!”  

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Published in: on January 22, 2008 at 11:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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