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Re: [HP Lovecraft] The Rats in the Walls

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  • chou_tun_yi
    I agree that the tainted bloodline theme is central to the story, but I think that it is also intimately connected with that which makes the bloodline so
    Message 1 of 17 , May 1, 2004
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      I agree that the "tainted bloodline" theme is central to the story,
      but I think that it is also intimately connected with that which
      makes the bloodline so perfidious, that being its cannibalistic
      hunger and, as in Arthur Jermyn, its far too close connection with
      primitive forms of life. Part of the horror is also that it is an
      otherwise supposedly refined and blue-blooded line who succumbs to
      these weaknesses. It shows that no one is above this sort of
      baseness.

      As to the question of Lovecraft and entertainment, I agree that just
      because his stories are entertaining does not mean that there are
      not deeper levels there to be explored. Shakespeare wrote to
      entertain the capricious crowds that came to the theatre, but this
      does not mean that there is not profound insight in his writings
      also. I think that Lovecraft is being more and more recognised as an
      author of serious literature that is at the same time entertaining.
      He is at last seen to be as legitimate a successor to Edgar Allan
      Poe as writers such as Baudelaire and Lautreamont. This is not to
      say that he can be reduced to merely being a successor to Poe, of
      course. Yes, he wrote some potboilers such as "Herbert West
      Reanimator" but that is not to say that all of his work is to be
      seen as disposable entertainment.

      I think that the philosopher Paul Ricoeur was right when he outlined
      different stages of reading a text. There is a first naivete when
      one simply takes in the story and is entertained. Then there is a
      stage where one interprets the text further and looks at the deeper
      significance. Then there is a second naivete when one reads the
      story and is entertained but this is enriched by the knowledge
      gained in the second phase.

      I see that it is May first. I hope everyone survived
      Walpurgisnacht. :)

      --- In hplovecraft@yahoogroups.com, "sckyxss" <sckyxss@y...> wrote:
      > --- In hplovecraft@yahoogroups.com, "morsprofundus"
      > <morsprofundus@y...> wrote:
      >
      > > but if you want to fight, go ahead.
      >
      > > But not with me.
      >
      > I have no interest in fighting. In fact, I'm grateful to you for
      > helping to prove a point that I've made before:That the
      trivializers
      > in this eGroup far outweigh those who treat Lovecraft
      > and his works respectfully and intelligently. It amazes me that,
      the
      > minute a (very rare) serious and intelligent conversation that
      > actually has something to do with Lovecraft and his works arises
      here,
      > someone immediately has to urinate all over it. Ask yourself,
      > sometime: Why do such conversations bother you so much, to the
      extent
      > that you feel the need to interject trivial, absurd, and utterly
      > beside-the-point comments into a discussion that has nothing to do
      > with you? Why not just skip it until the next"Lovecraftian
      references
      > in the Justice League of America cartoon" thread comes along? You
      > won't have long to wait, I'm certain.
      >
      > At any rate, the others have had the good sense to ignore you; I
      > shall try (though I make no promises) to do the same. Perhaps you
      can
      > return the favor?
      >
      > To the others in the discussion:
      >
      > Although the idea of atavistic resurgence is interesting, I tend to
      > think that the notion of hereditary taint is more pertinent to
      > Lovecraft's tale. Atavistic resurgence refers more to
      > something that lies dormant in an entire species; specifically, to
      a
      > prior evolutionary state. Hereditary taint, on the other hand, can
      > limit itself to a given family line, which seems to
      > be Lovecraft's main concern in "The Rats in the Walls".
    • Thomas Breen
      I think Rats in the Walls illustrates both points nicely, and that they fit into an overall framework in his stories of horror emerging from the depths. In
      Message 2 of 17 , May 1, 2004
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        I think "Rats in the Walls" illustrates both points nicely, and that they
        fit into an overall framework in his stories of horror emerging from "the
        depths." In "Rats," this emergence is twofold: both the horror they
        literally discover in the vast depths beneath the ancestral de la Poer home,
        and buried within the deepest recesses of the family history itself. This
        certainly isn't the only story where "what lies beneath" is seen as the
        source of the horror - you could probably write a decent article examining
        all the instances in his work in which this is true.

        For the record, I am entertained by Lovecraft's stories, by critical works
        examining those stories, and by discussions (like this one) about those
        stories. However you do it, the important thing is that you get your kicks,
        to misquote Louis Armstrong.


        on 5/1/04 6:21 AM, chou_tun_yi at edgarstuart@... wrote:

        I agree that the "tainted bloodline" theme is central to the story,
        but I think that it is also intimately connected with that which
        makes the bloodline so perfidious, that being its cannibalistic
        hunger and, as in Arthur Jermyn, its far too close connection with
        primitive forms of life. Part of the horror is also that it is an
        otherwise supposedly refined and blue-blooded line who succumbs to
        these weaknesses. It shows that no one is above this sort of
        baseness.

        As to the question of Lovecraft and entertainment, I agree that just
        because his stories are entertaining does not mean that there are
        not deeper levels there to be explored. Shakespeare wrote to
        entertain the capricious crowds that came to the theatre, but this
        does not mean that there is not profound insight in his writings
        also. I think that Lovecraft is being more and more recognised as an
        author of serious literature that is at the same time entertaining.
        He is at last seen to be as legitimate a successor to Edgar Allan
        Poe as writers such as Baudelaire and Lautreamont. This is not to
        say that he can be reduced to merely being a successor to Poe, of
        course. Yes, he wrote some potboilers such as "Herbert West
        Reanimator" but that is not to say that all of his work is to be
        seen as disposable entertainment.

        I think that the philosopher Paul Ricoeur was right when he outlined
        different stages of reading a text. There is a first naivete when
        one simply takes in the story and is entertained. Then there is a
        stage where one interprets the text further and looks at the deeper
        significance. Then there is a second naivete when one reads the
        story and is entertained but this is enriched by the knowledge
        gained in the second phase.

        I see that it is May first. I hope everyone survived
        Walpurgisnacht. :)

        --- In hplovecraft@yahoogroups.com, "sckyxss" <sckyxss@y...> wrote:
        > --- In hplovecraft@yahoogroups.com, "morsprofundus"
        > <morsprofundus@y...> wrote:
        >
        > > but if you want to fight, go ahead.
        >
        > > But not with me.
        >
        > I have no interest in fighting. In fact, I'm grateful to you for
        > helping to prove a point that I've made before:That the
        trivializers
        > in this eGroup far outweigh those who treat Lovecraft
        > and his works respectfully and intelligently. It amazes me that,
        the
        > minute a (very rare) serious and intelligent conversation that
        > actually has something to do with Lovecraft and his works arises
        here,
        > someone immediately has to urinate all over it. Ask yourself,
        > sometime: Why do such conversations bother you so much, to the
        extent
        > that you feel the need to interject trivial, absurd, and utterly
        > beside-the-point comments into a discussion that has nothing to do
        > with you? Why not just skip it until the next"Lovecraftian
        references
        > in the Justice League of America cartoon" thread comes along? You
        > won't have long to wait, I'm certain.
        >
        > At any rate, the others have had the good sense to ignore you; I
        > shall try (though I make no promises) to do the same. Perhaps you
        can
        > return the favor?
        >
        > To the others in the discussion:
        >
        > Although the idea of atavistic resurgence is interesting, I tend to
        > think that the notion of hereditary taint is more pertinent to
        > Lovecraft's tale. Atavistic resurgence refers more to
        > something that lies dormant in an entire species; specifically, to
        a
        > prior evolutionary state. Hereditary taint, on the other hand, can
        > limit itself to a given family line, which seems to
        > be Lovecraft's main concern in "The Rats in the Walls".


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      • sckyxss
        ... Most certainly. I was merely contrasting the hereditary taint concept to the concept of atavism . ... Exactly. Where did the dreary notion arise that
        Message 3 of 17 , May 1, 2004
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          --- In hplovecraft@yahoogroups.com, "chou_tun_yi" <edgarstuart@h...>
          wrote:

          > I agree that the "tainted bloodline" theme is central to the story,
          > but I think that it is also intimately connected with that which
          > makes the bloodline so perfidious, that being its cannibalistic
          > hunger and, as in Arthur Jermyn, its far too close connection with
          > primitive forms of life. Part of the horror is also that it is an
          > otherwise supposedly refined and blue-blooded line who succumbs to
          > these weaknesses. It shows that no one is above this sort of
          > baseness.

          Most certainly. I was merely contrasting the "hereditary taint"
          concept to the concept of "atavism".

          > As to the question of Lovecraft and entertainment, I agree that
          >just because his stories are entertaining does not mean that there >
          > are not deeper levels there to be explored. Shakespeare wrote to
          > entertain the capricious crowds that came to the theatre, but this
          > does not mean that there is not profound insight in his writings
          > also.

          Exactly. Where did the dreary notion arise that serious art cannot
          also be interesting or entertaining on some level? Also, if getting
          paid per word disqualifies one from serious consideration, then where
          does that leave Dickens? Of course, we all must draw the line
          somewhere, I suppose (My line, as will come as no surprise to anyone
          by now, is at "Mythos" writers and RPGs), but the seriousness of
          Lovecraft's intentions and of his (more often than not successful, in
          my eyes) attempts at artistry certainly place him on the right side of
          that line. Others seem to agree, as I've noticed that Lovecraft has
          not one, but two, scholarly annotated volumes of his work published
          by Penguin Books,an honor that has, to the best of my knowledge, so
          far eluded Mickey Spillane.
        • Harry Roth
          ... So was Raymond Chandler, but there are few scholars of American literature who would refuse to treat his writing seriously. ... Shakespeare is only
          Message 4 of 17 , May 1, 2004
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            morsprofundus wrote:

            >Lovecraft was good, often very good, and his mythos is pretty much
            >unique in it's widespread use as a backdrop for horror tales, but he
            >was no more than a pulp writer.
            >

            So was Raymond Chandler, but there are few scholars of American
            literature who would refuse to treat his writing seriously.

            >"Sex and the City" is good TV, but it is not Shakespere.
            >

            Shakespeare is only Shakespeare because we generally agree that he is
            Shakespeare (i.e., a genius, etc.). In other times, he was considered a
            lousy hack. Which is true? Both.

            >HPL was a good writer, but unless you think you might have shoggoths
            >under your bed, his fiction is no more than good light entertainment.
            >

            If that is all it is to you, fine. Why MUST that be all it is to
            everyone else?

            >He was the Stephen King of his day, not as prolific or sucessful, but
            >a reliable wordsmith.
            >

            Stephen King is actually a very good novelist. Try examining his novels
            looking for depth of setting, depiction of the novelistic world,
            characterization through speech, language interaction (especially
            between thought and what is said aloud), and so forth, and you will see
            what I mean. He is a real craftsman of the novel, even if he does churn
            out occasional monologues like the Dark Tower series.

            <snip>


            >I thought for years that the Mythos was indeed a real system of
            >beliefs, and that if there were magics in this world, they would be
            >found in the Necronomicon, and other tomes.
            >

            Taking a serious attitude towards HPL's work does not imply believing in
            Cthulhu. There is nothing wrong with using literary analysis on popular
            culture. In fact, IMO, if we did more of it, we'd be better informed
            about how our world works and the sea of ideas we so blithely swim in.

            As for the Necronomicon, as I'm sure you know, there are a couple of
            them out there. They are as "real" as their users want them to be.

            I too first read HPL back in the late sixties. I have not yet discovered
            what it is about his writing that has drawn me back again and again over
            the years. But I have been enjoying reading posts here that do take a
            critical perspective on his writing, and I've been impressed with the
            depth of knowledge that many people here have on his work.

            Harry


            >
            >
          • Harry Roth
            ... In this context (Rats in the Walls) his connection to Poe is especially pertinent, I think. This story more than any of his others reminds me of Poe, in
            Message 5 of 17 , May 1, 2004
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              chou_tun_yi wrote:

              >He is at last seen to be as legitimate a successor to Edgar Allan
              >Poe as writers such as Baudelaire and Lautreamont. This is not to
              >say that he can be reduced to merely being a successor to Poe, of
              >course. Yes, he wrote some potboilers such as "Herbert West
              >Reanimator" but that is not to say that all of his work is to be
              >seen as disposable entertainment.
              >
              >

              In this context (Rats in the Walls) his connection to Poe is especially
              pertinent, I think. This story more than any of his others reminds me of
              Poe, in particular, The Fall of the House of Usher.

              Harry
            • chou_tun_yi
              I think it s also of interest that the protagonist of the story seems to be the end of the family line, his wife having apparently died and his son dying after
              Message 6 of 17 , May 2, 2004
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                I think it's also of interest that the protagonist of the story
                seems to be the end of the family line, his wife having apparently
                died and his son dying after the Great War. This makes the sound of
                the rats descending to the depths of the priory even more urgent in
                the desire not to let the tradition die out.
                Lovecraft himself seems to be the end of a family line, but it's
                notable that he did not depict the main character as someone his own
                age but as someone a generation older.


                --- In hplovecraft@yahoogroups.com, "sckyxss" <sckyxss@y...> wrote:
                > --- In hplovecraft@yahoogroups.com, "chou_tun_yi"
                <edgarstuart@h...>
                > wrote:
                >
                > > I agree that the "tainted bloodline" theme is central to the
                story,
                > > but I think that it is also intimately connected with that which
                > > makes the bloodline so perfidious, that being its cannibalistic
                > > hunger and, as in Arthur Jermyn, its far too close connection
                with
                > > primitive forms of life. Part of the horror is also that it is
                an
                > > otherwise supposedly refined and blue-blooded line who succumbs
                to
                > > these weaknesses. It shows that no one is above this sort of
                > > baseness.
                >
                > Most certainly. I was merely contrasting the "hereditary taint"
                > concept to the concept of "atavism".
                >
                > > As to the question of Lovecraft and entertainment, I agree that
                > >just because his stories are entertaining does not mean that
                there >
                > > are not deeper levels there to be explored. Shakespeare wrote to
                > > entertain the capricious crowds that came to the theatre, but
                this
                > > does not mean that there is not profound insight in his writings
                > > also.
                >
                > Exactly. Where did the dreary notion arise that serious art cannot
                > also be interesting or entertaining on some level? Also, if getting
                > paid per word disqualifies one from serious consideration, then
                where
                > does that leave Dickens? Of course, we all must draw the line
                > somewhere, I suppose (My line, as will come as no surprise to
                anyone
                > by now, is at "Mythos" writers and RPGs), but the seriousness of
                > Lovecraft's intentions and of his (more often than not successful,
                in
                > my eyes) attempts at artistry certainly place him on the right
                side of
                > that line. Others seem to agree, as I've noticed that Lovecraft has
                > not one, but two, scholarly annotated volumes of his work
                published
                > by Penguin Books,an honor that has, to the best of my knowledge, so
                > far eluded Mickey Spillane.
              • Harry Roth
                ... Didn t he always style himself as an older man, referring to himself as Your Old Grandfather and so forth? Harry
                Message 7 of 17 , May 2, 2004
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                  chou_tun_yi wrote:

                  >Lovecraft himself seems to be the end of a family line, but it's
                  >notable that he did not depict the main character as someone his own
                  >age but as someone a generation older.
                  >

                  Didn't he always style himself as an older man, referring to himself as
                  "Your Old Grandfather" and so forth?

                  Harry

                  >
                  >
                • chou_tun_yi
                  Yes, he referred to himself as an old man from a rather young age. I remember reading a letter in which he referred to himself and some of his old friends as
                  Message 8 of 17 , May 3, 2004
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                    Yes, he referred to himself as an old man from a rather young age.
                    I remember reading a letter in which he referred to himself and some
                    of his old friends as having hair "besprinkled with grey" when they
                    must have been in their early thirties or so.


                    --- In hplovecraft@yahoogroups.com, Harry Roth <admin@c...> wrote:
                    > chou_tun_yi wrote:
                    >
                    > >Lovecraft himself seems to be the end of a family line, but it's
                    > >notable that he did not depict the main character as someone his
                    own
                    > >age but as someone a generation older.
                    > >
                    >
                    > Didn't he always style himself as an older man, referring to
                    himself as
                    > "Your Old Grandfather" and so forth?
                    >
                    > Harry
                    >
                    > >
                    > >
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