Wednesday, September 29, 2010

He by H.P. Lovecraft

by H.P. Lovecraft

Our Nameless Narrator is a New Englander who has moved to New York, only to realize that he has a strong aversion to life in the big city.  While exploring the city at night, hoping to find some long-forgotten and historical hideaways, he makes the acquaintance of an Equally Nameless Character--the titular He.

He, dressed in peculiarly outdated clothes, becomes our narrator's tour guide through the hidden corners of the city, exposing the truth that lies beneath.  And this being a Lovecraft tale, the truth he finds is sure to drive him mad.
"The things we saw were very old and marvelous, or at least they seemed so in the few straggling rays of light by which I viewed them, and I shall never forget the tottering Ionic columns and fluted pilasters and urn-headed iron fenceposts and flaring-linteled windows and decorative fanlights that appeared to grow quainter and stranger the deeper we advanced into this inexhaustible maze of unknown antiquity."
 Some of the themes here are typical of Lovecraft's canon: the anonymous narration, the accidental stumbling into some sort of altered reality, an entity so terrifying it shatters one's sanity.

What's not typical here is the city where this story unfolds, and that the supernatural elements are of a more traditional manner--akin to "This old house was built on an ancient Indian burial ground!"  As with the previous tale, "The Moon Bog", it's more of a ghost story than the horror tales we have come to expect.

Despite the great descriptive prose (most noticeable when detailing the spooky street tour), the story itself was not enough to hold my interest.  To make matters worse, H.P.'s old racist self reappears here in subtle form when talking of New York's immigrant population.
"The throngs of people that seethed through the flume-like streets were squat, swarthy strangers with hardened faces and narrow eyes, shrewd strangers without dreams and without kinship to the scenes about them, who could never mean aught to a blue-eyed man of the old folk, with the love of fair green lanes and white New England village steeples in his heart."
Settle down, Howard.  They're Italians, not Elder Gods.


1 comment:

  1. Nicely written review of He. I also recently reread the story and, apparently, read a little more into it than you.

    I suppose in my case it's a thing of looking for monsters where there are none.

    At any rate, once again I've enjoyed your take on Lovecraft.

    - Aaron


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