Thursday, February 10, 2011
Review: The Festival, He, and Cool Air by H.P. Lovecraft
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories:
by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages
The Festival (October 1923) is considered to be one of the first of Cthulhu Mythos.
During Yuletide (a winter festival celebrated by Germanic people, and later absorbed into Christian celebration) an unnamed narrator is going to Kingsport, Massachusetts.
The narrator comes at his relatives’ house where he meets an old man. The old man tells the narrator to wait a few moments in a room. The narrator picks up a book from a pile: the Necronomicon.
At the sound of a clock bell the narrator goes outside the house and follows a crowd of cloaked figures.
The people is going to a great white church, where they engage in a Yule-rite.
‘It was the Yule-rite, older than man and fated to survive him; the primal rite of the solstice and of spring’s promise beyond the snow; the rite of fire and evergreen, light and music. … But what frightened me most was the flaming column; … For it all that seething combustion no warmth lay, but only the clamminess of death and corruption.’ (page 115)
Lovecraft suggests the idea of ‘the survival of some clan of pre-Aryan sorcerers who preserved primitive rites those of the witch-cult … that … had its origin in a pre-Aryan race that was driven underground but continued to lurk in the hidden corners of the earth.’ (from the explanatory notes, page 385)
He (August 1925) tells the story of an unnamed narrator who has moved to New York.
One night the narrator meets a man, who is wearing eighteen’s century clothes, and offers to show him the city.
Eventually the narrator follows the man at his home, where he learns about the true face of New York: he sees visions from the past and the future with flying creatures and mutated people.
‘I never sought to return to those tenebrous labyrinth, nor would I direct any sane man thither if I could. Of who or what that ancient creature was, I have no idea; but I repeat that the city is dead and full of unsuspected horrors.’ (page 129)
These were Lovecraft impressions of New York.
Cool Air (March 1926) is another story written during Lovecraft’s journey to New York.
The narrator is looking for an apartment for rent in New York. He finds one where, upstairs, lives a doctor, Dr. Munoz.
One day the narrator suffers a heart attack and he is rescued by Dr. Munoz.
As the acquaintance goes on, the narrator learns about Dr. Munoz’s obsession: he keeps his apartment at a vey low temperature (13° C) using a refrigeration system.
Problems occur when the refrigerator’s pump breaks down.
Dr. Munoz, after death, has preserved his body for eighteen years helped by the cold. The narrator is witnessing Dr. Munoz’s body decay, caused by the warm.
A technologically (refrigeration system) version of The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar by E.A. Poe.