Friday, January 17, 2014

Good Morning from Innsmouth

Via Buzzfeed: One Hundred Years of Weird Fear

Whoa! I must not have read enough Lovecraft. I totally did not know about his racism.

That Lovecraft was racist beyond even the excessive racism exhibited by other white writers of his time is not in question. The above paragraph is far from an aberration among his over 100,000 pages of letters, and he populates his fictional universe with slithering, swarthy-faced mongoloids and idiot, infanticidal black men (he almost never wrote about women of any race — an erasure that warrants an essay unto itself). As writer Phenderson Djèlí Clark points out in his excellent essay on Lovecraft, “It’s always perplexing to watch the gymnastics of mental obfuscation that occur as fans of Lovecraft attempt to rationalize his racism.” Responses tend to write off his racism as a product of his times and then be paradoxically surprised that it didn’t hinder his success. “In spite of […] his overt racism,” biographer Donald Tyson tells us, “he created a mythic world that continues to captivate the imagination of millions of readers.” The phrase “in spite of” comes up a lot, as well as allusions to a vaguely presumed-to-be anti-racist, first-person plural that is of course appalled by such bigotry.

I can sort of see why his racism didn't hinder his success, given that he was writing in a time (it became worse in the 50s) when to write about homosexuality, gay authors had to change the genders of their characters, pathologize the homosexuality, or move to Europe. Lovecraft was writing for a mostly white (male) audience, and I imagine he is still popular today mostly because people can (attempt) to brush off that racism as the quote says: as a "product of his times" though that seems like a intellectual game of obfuscation. I also imagine his popularity is a matter of white privilege.

So, what originally began as a "oo oo, a post on H.P. Lovecraft!" turned into "oh, dear, I may need to rethink this whole H.P. Lovecraft thing."

2 comments:

JamTheCat said...

Crazy-brilliant people usually have crazy ideas. I don't let him off the hook for his hate; I think that viciousness is why his stories stand the test of time; they aren' mitigated by sensibilities of the period.

Writer said...

Kyle, I like that concept that his "[stories] aren't mitigated by sensibilities of the period." But I have to disagree: being racist seems to make them even more a part of the period in which they were written because of the widespread racism. IDK. It's something to think about.