Tuesday, October 30, 2012


It's the day before Halloween and I'm going to a party today. I'm planning to dress up as something in my closet.

As a kid I didn't have all that many exciting Halloweens. For a few years I was a cow (moo...), there was one time I was a pirate (before pirates were cool!), and once I attempted to be a vampire but, little did I know that a girl with deathly white face paint, a black-on-the-outside-and-red-on-the-inside cape, and fangs, was actually Cinderella! Yep, that's what I got mistaken for. Well, that was also before vampires were cool ...

Halloweens out here where I live are always cold and rainy, thus making the whole dressing up thing kind of unpleasant, which makes me wonder what they're like where the holiday was actually invented. Who thought it was a good idea to send kids out on dark rainy nights to beg candy from strangers? And all those dark, shadowy costumes?

Incidentally, what I'm reading is rather Halloween-themed, too: H P Lovecraft's "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath." I picked it up just for the title. Turns out you can't judge a book by it's cover but the title might be a good hint of what you're getting yourself into; long winded title=long winded book. Especially when it's H P Lovecraft.

I've only got a third of the way through and am having serious trouble. With his prose, with his way of obscuring the few important actions going on by squashing them into looong sentences that explain way too much at once. With his lack of any dialog until, like, page 98 (of 99!). I understand that he was inspired by certain other writers, but I don't understand what tradition thinks it's a good idea to have no dialog whatsoever. No, it's written that characters talk to each other, and what they say (or glibber), but it's not made into dialog. Which would be so much easier for me or, I expect, most readers (modern or of his time, too) to handle. Surely there was a reason--saving paper, maybe? a pathological fear of quotes-marks?--but I just can't fathom it.

Getting back to the action in the book, I can't really tell you what's happening. Every time an action takes place in the midst of the narration, which feels mostly like explaining of things, I have to go back and read again to figure out what it was. And just as the dialog-less-ness bugs me, the fact of vast sweeping actions taking place in single paragraphs has me grinding my teeth. A whole city is overrun by sentient cats in a paragraph. The main character seems to travel by ship halfway around the world in a page or two and scales the world's largest, most impossible mountain in an equal amount of time. Maybe I'm exaggerating (only because I can't recall his fuzzy details very clearly), but not by much.

Not that I dislike H P Lovecraft in general; anyone who can dash off a phrase like "an Acheron of multiform diabolism" without blinking really has an eye for the weird. But weird shouldn't mean impossible and, though he's popularly known even today, I wonder how many people have actually read him.

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