Thursday, October 30, 2008

Attack the story like a radiant suicide

Quickly, before supervisors come to give me work.

The title comes from a something H.P. Lovecraft wrote to one of the many writers who came to him for advice, as quoted in the awesome Michel Houellebecq's so-far awesome H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life, which halfway pretends to be an essay of scholarly study (though in the introduction to the edition I have Houellebecq even admits that "In retrospect, it seems to me I wrote this book as a sort of first novel. A novel with a single character (H.P. Lovecraft himself)") but is really a brilliant manifesto in defense of fantastic fiction and violently against realism. One of my favorite things about Houellebecq is that he very consciously places himself in that French misanthropic tradition (Céline, Camus, Chazelle) of making absolutely sweeping statements with absolutely sweeping authority and a stunning lack of evidence, that one immediately recognizes as true and deeply beautiful, even if later one finds that one disagrees (which to be honest is not often). Or at least that's the case when one is me.

Take, for example, M. Houellebecq's opening paragraphs:

Life is painful and disappointing. It is useless, therefore, to write new realistic novels. We generally know where we stand in relation to reality and don't care to know any more. Humanity, such as it is, inspires only an attenuated curiosity in us. All those prodigiously refined "notations", "situations", anecdotes... All they do, once a book has been set aside, is reinforce the slight revulsion that is already adequately nourished by any one of our "real life" days.

Now, here is Howard Phillips Lovecraft: "I am so beastly tired of mankind and the world that nothing can interest me unless it contains a couple of murders on each page or deals with the horrors unnameable and unaccountable that leer down from the external universes."

Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937). We need a supreme antidote against all forms of realism.

Highly recommended, even for those with no interest in the craft of love.

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