Regarding This Lovecraftian Horror

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Mike Bragg

New Member
Jan 7, 2016
1
2
37
#1
Hey there. I liked this book and wrote a whale about it. I tried to edit it down...

This is a very interesting and compelling book, but the ending is soured when King describes the "bad" in too much detail.

You find yourself with a thin pinch of pages in your right hand as you're being drawn toward the climax of the story, which makes you realize that this is going to be a novel with no resolution. But then, what is the central conflict? Is there truly a climax at all?

On the surface, there's a man vs. man conflict. The way dialogue was used in this reminded me of Ken Kesey's "Sometimes a Great Notion." King used it to present ideas about mortality and existence as characters' opinions. We can explore them, but they aren't "the moral of the story."

However, King defuses the man vs. man conflict before the climax. Yet the protagonist is led onward by curiosity, much like the kid in "The Body." Morbid curiosity, you could call it. "Like a moth to flame" we're drawn to forbidden knowledge.

This is a theme that is often central to horror. I will speak from my personal experience. I was once visiting my cousin's house, and got up at 2 a.m. to use the bathroom. As I was sitting on the toilet, the doorknob suddenly turned and the door opened, but there was no one there. It was exactly the way a person who'd lived in a house for a long time, likely alone, would thoughtlessly open a door. Muscle memory. I'll spare further detail other than to say I made all efforts to find a rational explanation. When I tried going back to bed, I was cold with fear. But fear of what?

That is horror. To be afraid, without being able to quantify that fear. Something that goes beyond the fear of death, which we might call terror. If you were abducted by a person, you might feel terror. Mortal terror, and fear of suffering. But horror includes a fear of things that might do more than mortal harm, something secret that lies in the unknown.

This is what King touches on in this novel. We are offered a critical examination of how we deal with death, though in the end, the story says it doesn't matter what you believe.

King references Lovecraft, which is a fair invitation to experience and explore the conclusion of this novel as an attempt at Lovecraftian horror. Here's where I have a problem with too much description.

In real life, both terror and horror come from our position of subjectivity. We are present, cannot escape, and can be harmed. In a book or film, you can detach from the action. To evoke terror, the work must achieve both suspension of disbelief and investment in the character who is threatened.

Horror is trickier because it involves a fear of the unknown. When a monster is shown on film or described in a book, it loses its power to evoke that primal "bump in the dark" horror.

My favorite short story of all time is "Greatness Strikes Where it Pleases." It's the story of a man so severely disabled mentally that we would see him as a vegetable. But the story shows that he has his own magnificent inner life, using a sort of symphonic coordination of description, emotion, and abstract thought. I believe that describing the supernatural requires a similar kind of technique.


In order to evoke Lovecraftian horror without cheap slight of hand, an author has to draw us into a hypnotic state where we can draw on our experience of our own dreams to understand a horror that operates by suggestion, that is observed but ephemeral, one that is real enough to do harm, but cannot be recorded just as dreams often can't be remembered.

I just don't think you can create horror in a reader with description born of psychological realism. It's like CG in a movie. You can represent a monster in detail, and it may be disgusting. But while it would be horrible if you saw it in real life, when it's just a depiction clarity robs its power to horrify.

But the flat ending does not spoil the book because it's not just pulp fiction. In the main part of the story, the characters themselves are almost like separate arguments. And although the text moves along on the strength of King's storytelling prowess, the actions and speech of the characters suggests that this is an allegory.

It is a story of ideas and personalities and culture and the unknown. The ending tries to make it into something it is not, but I feel that Jacobs may stick with us like Captain Ahab. One of the things I love about King is that he doesn't take his audience for granted and write as if it was the audience's responsibility to trudge through reading because his ideas are important. It may be an easy read, but there are ideas in this book that won't go away just by whispering, "It's only Stephen King."
 

GNTLGNT

The idiot is IN
Jun 15, 2007
84,472
334,916
57
Cambridge, Ohio
#2
....it was an homage to Lovecraftian style-not an attempt to copy concepts directly....I thought it was a rather deftly handled myself, but the ending is without a doubt-polarizing-no middle ground, either you love it or just can't stand the freakin' thing...
 
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