Saturday, October 09, 2010

Year of 25 Books: #15 - "The Call of Cthulhu"

Including this short story in my yearlong challenge to ready 25 books is, admittedly, a bit of a cheat. After all, it IS a short story and not a novel. But I purchased a collection of H.P. Lovecraft's stories for the Kindle app on my Droid phone awhile back. 67 tales of Lovecraftian goodness without the heft of the physical book - what more could you ask for? Well, I've determined that it's going to take a millennium to finish all 67 stories because in the month since I bought it, I've finished exactly four, the most recent of which is "The Call of Cthulhu." (a word that I will never be able to spell for as long as I live.)

I've been interested in Lovecraft for a long time and appreciate his place in the canon of horror fiction, but had never really gotten around to reading him. A friend of mine in pharmacy school recommended Lovecraft to me during the summer of 1995. He was not a guy that I was close with by any means during pharmacy school, but he was one of the few people that remained in Iowa City after graduation, so he initiated me into films like Evil Dead and Reanimator. After watching Reanimator, I headed down to the Iowa City library and picked up a Lovecraft collection. I surrendered after half a story - a complete and utter fail.

Despite that, I'm still intrigued by the Lovecraft mythos and even though his writing is still as dense as I remember it being, I really wanted to cross "The Call of Cthulhu" off my to-be-read pile this year. It's an essential Lovecraft story and references to Cthulhu, a gigantic winged and tentacled beast from another world that is pure and unadulterated evil, populate the internet and pop culture in everything from web comics and plush toys to oven mitts and ukeleles. Since it seemed to be one of Lovecraft's more enduring tales, I figured it would be one of his best. After reading it, my verdict was "not so much."

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents" is the famous first line of "The Call of Cthulhu." I think my mind lacked the ability to correlate all the contents of "The Call of Cthulhu." I wanted to like this, I really did. But I just kept thinking about how I liked the three stories that I read prior to "The Call of Cthulhu" so much better than this one. I felt like Lovecraft's prose was more obtuse than usual and for being a horror story, it was really not all that scary. Creepy in places, yes but scary? Not by a mile.

I will keep plugging through the 67 Lovecraft stories that are on my phone. I figure if nothing else, there will always be reading material with me. But I've determined that I really do appreciate Lovecraft more than I enjoy him. And I'll still think that anything Cthulhu related that I find on the Internet is cool - the more tongue-in-cheek, the better - even though I'm resigned to the fact that I'll never completely get it.

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