In The Lovecraft Museum

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IN THE LOVECRAFT MUSEUM by Steve Rasnic Tem

Cover Art: Jason Van Hollander

A purchased book recently received from PS PUBLISHING (2015)

My previous reviews of work by Steve Rasnic Tem are linked from HERE.

If I conduct a real-time review of this book, it will appear in the thought stream below or by clicking on this post’s title above.

11 thoughts on “In The Lovecraft Museum

  1. I. THE PARK
    Pages 3 – 9
    “He’d wanted to be both a good husband and a good father, but he’d learned long ago that the universe did not care what he wanted.”

    The more one studies that description, the more it seems a natural sentiment for a man heading toward the autumn of his years to have. But then it suddenly dawns on you how utterly Lovecraftian this sentiment is without being obviously Lovecraftian in the sense of a Lovecraftian style. It’s sort of unLovecraftian, unmentionable, too, if it weren’t for the feeling that Lovecraftianism is something that can now be mentioned in any ordinary conversation or small talk.
    Jamie is one such Autumnal man in America, as he thinks of his wife Chloe and son Henry, and Jamie also tells someone other than the reader about these thoughts. And about the Park and the dread it holds for him. About Henry’s imputed weirdness as a boy. I thought Henry should be the name of the father, Jamie that of the son. Why? I have no idea. But, meanwhile, we learn of Jamie’s pen friend in Great Britain, writing quality handwritten letters to each other, as I still do to my own handwritten-pen friend, someone I met in 1966 with a shared interest in Lovecraft, but that’s beside the point. Jamie’s pen friend is founder of the Lovecraft Appreciation Society in Great Britain.
    I am already intrigued to say the least.

  2. image Pages 9 – 17
    “He was perfectly aware that every time he picked up this collectible book and began to read, he was decreasing its value, but he had decided not to care.”

    Like me and this book with a wonderful cover. I have already pencilled in its margin.

    The novella started with a ‘wall-eyed’ Young Man at the front door. Seems to be echoed by the walls in the Park…image

    The guilt about Chloe, with her passed on, and Henry, also gone, mysteriously, I gather, and, now a Lovecraftian himself, Jamie is invited over by his Lovecraftian pen friend to Great Britain….
    MR James, too, Jamie turns his name back to James, so as to escape something childish. My earlier feeling about the names now borne out!

  3. II. FLYING TO ENGLAND

    “–the longer you lived, the more you knew how little you knew.”

    Which is perhaps a blessing in disguise, or you might start correlating everything you would otherwise grow to know?

    James now takes a second trip (after ten years) across the Atlantic towards Great Britain to meet up with his pen friend. I have always been scared of flying and this chapter fills me again with all the anxieties flying would entail. I don’t need to fly to reach Great Britain because thankfully I am already there.

    I could ramble on about my various reactions to this text or explicate its plot’s audit trail endlessly. But the important thing is to state that if you are interested in great Steve Rasnic Tem fiction with, here, an original slant on the Lovecraft phenomenon, swaddled in poignancies of marital and filial relationships, relationships now gone but hopefully somehow retrievable, travelling along time parallels of reported interview, memory and present moment, and the most interesting prospect of a Lovecraft Museum now taking shape by means of third-party notes of observation – THEN this book, I can already tell, is for you. It’s taking off very strongly.

    “The world always feels strange to people who are unhappy.”
    Not the book’s view but the view of someone summoned by the book.

    There are some arcane designs by Jason McKittrick scattered throughout the pages, that actually seem to stain the text beneath or above them. Not significantly so, but enough to become a remarkable effect that reminds me of (inkspot) by Gahan Wilson.

  4. III. ANARCHY IN THE UK

    “I not only read the text, I interpret it. I attempt to determine what the author is really saying, what images and themes obsess him,…”

    I have read a lot of Steve Rasnic Tem fiction and this work is the author at the very top of his game. Unless, it tails off in the second half, then we surely have a classic of Weird Literature in our hand, with this book. PS: American literature in and from UK print.

    The UK is not as James remembers it from ten years before and I take this for granted as I have been here the whole time and might not have noticed. He looks for his son Henry who would have also changed – into an adult during this period. I feel intense worry-free anxiety and guilt-free paranoia while reading this text, a sense that I am outside this book, as well as truly within it. I empathise with the body-bandaged Britons returning on the same plane (like they must have done from a Terrorist blackspot abroad, recently?)
    And I feel myself to be ‘socially awkward’, while reading about the transcribed deadpan interview of James referring to the Barton Fink toiletpan in his B&B, and then there is Clarence the penfriend who turns out to be without that earlier mentioned ‘small talk’, plus the customs exodus with kafkaesquely inscrutable corridoors, posters of children holding vaguely unidentifiable pets, a BBC 0 channel, and talk of our bodies with design limits evolving askew, making me think again of my own social and physical askewedness. Aickmanness, too, awkwardness.

  5. IV. THE LOVECRAFT MUSEUM
    Page 43 – 58

    “Chambers appeared to spiral into chambers…”

    The journey towards the Museum on the tube, in company with Clarence the penfriend, the sight of the Museum itself, our deadpan take-it-for-granted acceptance that such a public service exists in London in such a building, and our entering with James to tour it, are, well, quite astonishingly done and believable, and to tell you too much about this ‘journey’ would spoil it. So, just as Clarence withdraws from accompanying James within the museum, I shall withdraw, too. You will, I promise, find this part at least of the journey devastating in a positive way.
    Some of accoutrements of the journey, however, I will mention – the Lovecraftian fear-of-foreignness in behaviour, body and dress, the false alarm sightings of a grown-up Henry, the sullen and the deadpan, the acute and the revelatory.
    This section ends with the question of why on earth such a New England ethos is housed in England, together with some of its more careless elements of curatorship.

    “The intention, I gather, is that every visitor’s experience be different, and that with successive trips a sense of the whole is, I suppose, accumulated.”

  6. Pages. 58 – 73

    “…several books floating in glass jars full of a yellowish liquid.”

    The reader’s journey continues to run parallel with that of Jamie, via a monumental vision that this Museum provides with every aspect of Lovecraft. Nothing can do justice to what is in store for you in these pages and I feel privileged to have read it so far (save for a short section yet to be read). There is an urgency now, a pursuit, through this monumentality, and a feeling that there are implications for Jamie in in his personality, his whole past life, his family…
    Also, I sense that the privilege that I feel in owning this book is in having been granted a child-like taste of Lovecraft himself, a taste for my ageing Autumnal self retrocausally toward my younger self, even toward an age before I had read Lovecraft. Summoning me up then now.
    A James to Jamie.
    An Old England to New England.
    (I note the name Chloe with its own guttural Cthl- affricate ‘attack’.)

  7. V. FLYING HOME

    My use of the word ‘sullen’ earlier comes home to roost in this coda. A thoughtful closure, if it is closure at all. I gained a sense of those Mountains of Madness at the end, where aloneness ultimately prevails, glimpsed recently (after this book was published or coincident with it) as Ice mountains on Pluto and its moon Charon.
    I think this book is so strong on Lovecraft and what that word means, it might even summon the man himself who lies behind that unique word or name in some shape or form. I say that half-seriously because, if I said it seriously, they’d take me away for a Shoggoth sandwich.

  8. Des, I often have problems with your reviews. Sometimes your enthusiasm for a book reaches me like a wave, while your explanations leave me high and dry, stranded, and I find myself thinking: “Slow down! Wait! You’re leaving me behind!”

    This time you pitched it just right. For me. The first paragraph (after the quote) struck me as deliriously funny… and I’m really not sure why it takes me that way, but it still makes me smile when I read it again. Anyway, I had to read on and, inevitably, as if I haven’t already got enough books in this house (can there ever be?) I found myself clicking buttons to add one more.

    Now should I post this at TLO or Dreamcatcher? Decisions…

    All best as always,

    Rog

    • Rog, I often empathise with an unknown reader reading the book alongside me. I try to impart information about the book, without spoilers, as well as a theme and variations upon a personal journey: describing, interpreting and evaluating. Sometimes I no doubt fail in one or more of those aims. But the overall aim is to catch the book’s dream, a dream intended or unintended by the book’s author.

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