lovecraft, an attempt

trying once again to read a lovecraft.  so many great writers and readers love him.  I do not get it.  I am killing myself slogging through all the phonetic dialect and the 20x a page “furtive”s and the repeated information.  I cannot enjoy it — once the mystery is actually revealed I imagine I will think for 30 seconds “cool” and probably retain the image but I don’t feel anything except impatience to get to the good part along the way.  I will say that this one I’m reading could be read as basically the anti-textbook for the genre of “literary fiction” and in that way it’s kind of interesting.  It segregates description from people having conversations.  The dialogue is not saved for character and dynamics it is for plot and information delivery (though when I ‘translate’ out of the phonetics it can be really musical and vivid– in the phonetic sections a ton more than the other voices).  It repeats and rubs its little hands together refusing to spit it out.  It eschews character except in the most oblique or stylized ways.  Characters serve only the narrator and so on.  So that is fun to see–a reverse-chronology of tongue-wagging.

I can also see the appeal of turning your surroundings into a mythical horror show– and once I get through the prose and past the endless repeated information — SAME story from one after another encounter none of which contradicts the last version just this INCREDIBLY slow focus–

well once it comes into focus it’s kinda cool.  and I can always get behind an analytical type never being made fun of for being smart or analytical but being overcome by the unknowable– although here I am only half way through and that’s what I imagine will be the reward– that comforting tale I love so well.

ok I also really like the systematic approach to the town, the map of the town, then the architecture, then the person further from knowledge of the secret, then the person closer to it– that sequence, plodding as it was to read, gets reversed and embodied in the 2nd half as he runs away (wrestling architecture, then the map, as the mysterious beings get closer and closer to his apprehension and his body).

gosh and then into the body– the dreams and the genes.  this is an amazing story.

And in another reversal:  I think I have tried for the last time to teach Russell Banks’ “Sarah Cole:  A Type of Love Story.”  Maybe if I ever lecture again (and god willing I won’t) I will be able to really articulate my relationship with this story in a way that can bring students to it.  But I am finding that I believe there is more and more nuance and substance to their revulsion to this narrator than I used to.  It is because they don’t see themselves as him at all– and they absolutely see themselves as Sarah.  I don’t think that was always the case for my students.  These are a different sort of student than the kind that would come easily to self-examination as they witness Ron’s, or to seeing a commonality because of his effort to understand an inexplicable fascination that changes what we might think of as “golden.”  They do not hear that heightened tone, for one thing– that does not put them in a spell — they don’t actually hear it in that tone.  I practiced reading it with the tone I know to read and with a tone that is not derived from that school of writing and I can imagine how it sounds.  Not like a spell.  So they don’t care about his analysis.  They don’t believe in it.  They see Sarah only as being treated as a specimen (frog) and they do not see her becoming beautiful as he kills her/”kills” her, in relation to having written her.  They only see the bullshit angle.  Something is shifting the balance in the last 10 years around this story.  It is sort of an unashamed-resisting-the-narrative-of-privilege thing.  It is also still a sort of refusal of cruelty as a part of life that ought to be examined and that is part of what makes art work– is facing it/embodying it/ dramatizing it and living within it for the length of the story.

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2 Responses to lovecraft, an attempt

  1. lito says:

    Please keep teaching “Sarah Cole.” That was one of the first stories to show me that I had so much further to go in exploring just how well we lie to ourselves, and I was fully moved by Banks’ project. I fully got that we’re Ron and Sarah. You know how cohorts move in waves, so just ride this one out. Or maybe, give it a break, and return.

  2. lucy says:

    aw lito– I’m glad to hear this– I actually didn’t even try it in the grad class this Q– just with the undergrads… maybe it’s a grad school story… or maybe you’re right and it’ll come in waves for the undergrads, too…and maybe I read them wrong or read into a few peoples’ responses… they’re really a great group so I take them very seriously…

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