Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Dream-Concert Of Unknown Arcade

There's a pair of tickets in the inside pocket of my brown velvet blazer. Look at those crisp rectangles, those little friends of mine. Printed in 10cpi Courier on that shiny paper, little black letters spell, "Gen Admission All Ages / Doors 7:00 PM Show 8:00 PM". And the line above those ones? Arcade Fire is playing tonight, dear sons and daughters, and so is Wolf Parade. I'm trying to persuade a friend of mine to buy a unitard from AA and go to the show in that and a headscarf. We'd get invited to the afterparty for sure, I know it. At the very least, I could borrow the uni and sing to The Darkness on karaoke night. Can Arcade Fire top that?

Reading: Kuranes looks for Celephais, Iranon sings of Aira, Randolph Carter takes ship for unknown Kadath. What does all this searching for the city mean? There is also another thing. In a different story, the author writes, "We shall see that at which dogs howl in the night, and that at which cats prick up their ears after midnight". And Randolph Carter, now, voyager, is saved from the moon-beasts by a combination of the cats of Ulthar and the canine-faced ghouls. What does this feline and canine salvation mean? By the way, I write "salvation", but the ghouls are referred to as soulless, soullessness being a part of their doglike state. So what salvation? Am I asking the wrong questions? I think there is no meaning in this book. The stories are a puzzle, and so is the author, Howard Phillips Lovecraft. The key to the whole book of stories, I believe, the silver key to Lovecraft, is a throwaway comment in a little story called "The Hound":

I remember how we delved in the ghoul's grave with our spades, and how we thrilled at the picture of ourselves, the grave, the pale watching moon, the horrible shadows, the grotesque trees, the titanic bats, the antique church, the dancing death-fires, the sickening odors, the gently moaning night-wind, and the strange, half-heard directionless baying of whose objective existence we could scarcely be sure.

Lovecraft is sensation, of course, but that is all he is. I'm curious how that new movie of Lovecraft's most famous work will turn out. My guess is that the film will be a series of beautiful pictures, a gothic wet-dream, Tim Burton's mission statement. But it will not be a movie, not after the first twenty minutes of film chew through the script. The action of that story, after all, is not very lengthy, and the plot is spare. And while we're on the topic, did anyone else think how strange it was that AVP had nigh on the same exact plot as At The Mountains Of Madness? I felt like I was taking crazy pills, watching that movie. Right, so it's called a digression, folks, nothing to see here, keep moving. Back to Howard Phillips Lovecraft and Randolph Carter. Lovecraft, I was saying, is sensation. There is no meaning in him. His stories are circles, images on a merry-go-round. Those dog-faced ghouls which saved Carter, for instance, were, earlier in Lovecraft's opus (I'm thinking "Pickman's Model", here), one of the deadliest possible monsters to be encountered. But there is always something worse out there in the night. Earth's gods are terrible to men, but worse than these gods are the Other Gods, and worse than the Other Gods is the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep, but there is an evil over which Nyarlathotep has no power, the faceless night-gaunts, which, however, give authority to an ancient entity called Nodens, who is not yet the most powerful, for there are still the coloured sentient gases from other spheres of existence. You get the idea. Repetition is plot. It's not that the ghouls really save anyone; they've just become part of the pattern, another turn of the engine that moves the story. You recall the first Trek series? Klingons were all evil. Trek Next Generation? Klingons good, Borg and Ferengi bad. Trek Nine? Ferengi good, and in Trek Voyager, Borg good, too. You see where I'm going with this. The threat becomes the stepping stone to the next threat, and thus suspense is maintained even as a universe is created. Behind that veil in Oz, there's a magician who controls the city. Lovecraft's universe, however, is an unending series of veils. There is always a mysterious city. That city is always the creation of the dreamer. And that dreamer is in mortal peril within his dream. There is no authority, no stable point of view, in Lovecraft's tales. There is only the story, a headless And Then which never ends. There is no city, you see. That is, there is no definite solid concrete city which will satisfy the searcher. If that was the case, the story would end. But there are always more stories, more tales, more continuation, another amazing episode. The story cannot end, and that is why Lovecraft's soulless creations provide salvation, rescuing the Randolph Carter, saving him from death. If the story is to continue, Carter must live. Because to die is to stop the story.

Do I sound like I'm criticizing Lovecraft? Well, there is much to criticize, but that doesn't mean these stories don't succeed. Not all of them are successful, sure, but that is due to the fragmentary nature of many of the smaller stories. One of the more successful of Lovecraft's stories, indeed, a very well-written story, tying many of his amazing tales together, is the bizarre novella "The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath" + H. P. Lovecraft

Listening: Look, the reason I check in with all these music blogs is because of a song like this. What a song. What a brilliant song. So flamingly simple, mere seconds long, and beautiful beautiful beautiful. This is one of the reasons New York will never leave the music scene. Ever. This song has messed my vocabulary up. Thanks to Alan Williamson at *Sixeyes for this one, for "Paddy's Gone" + Antony And The Johnsons

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