Monday, April 27, 2009

Joshi's The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos

Beware that this post continues with the trend of curmudgeonly bitterness common to my earlier scribblings. Though hopefully what I have to say wont end up alienating what few readers this blog retains. In any case, I've finally started reading Joshi's The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos and, two chapters in, a couple of things jump out.

Most notable of which is the fact that Joshi doesn't offer up much so far in terms of a critical methodology. While he often points an accusatory finger at many mythos tales as having no literary merit, the manner in which this merit is to be measured (outside a set of rather conservative and unimaginative 'abstract aesthetic standards' that are 'widely accepted') lacks analytical depth. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh here, for in truth a lot of mythos fiction does tend to be a bit shit.

In any case Joshi doesn't really seek methodological support from contemporary (for which read 'faddish') literary theorists. In chapter 1, for example, he takes a snide dig at Robert M. Price's highly informed and theoretically rich insights into mythos fiction as the product of (a presumably suspect!) avante-gardism. Now, I'm not an expert in recent trends in literary criticism (though fortunately my sister is an academic who is) but it seems to me that Joshi is unfairly dismissive of some thirty odd years of developments in the field, many of which (far from being faddishly avante-garde) have come to inform the academic mainstream. In this respect it strikes me that Joshi, like Lovecraft, is a man out of his time.

Indications at this stage, then, are that anyone who doesn't tow a line that broadly recapitulates Joshi's own construction of Lovecraft are in for similar treatment - evident for example in Joshi's insistence that his is the absolute authoritative definition of the meaning of the word Necronomicon and one that brooks no argument - especially from Price. Joshi's literalism in this respect indicates a disappointing unwillingness to engage with wider developments in literary, critical and cultural theory.

That said, up to this point I'm finding the book insightful and enjoyable (when not infurating). More feedback as I delve deeper into the mouldering tome. By the way, if this does come across as rather elitist view of Joshi's work, fear not - look out for a forthcoming iconoclastic post which takes a pop at recent obscurantist co-options of Lovecraft from within academia. Nice.


  1. James K10:01 PM

    Keep it up - looking forward to the next one! Enjoyed Hite's digs at Joshi, too...

  2. GB Steve8:44 AM

    I've not read much Joshi but I get the impression that he is slightly jealous of his position as HPL's #1 fan. I mean kudos to him for helping to get HPL literary and critical recognition, but once you shove it out into the limelight, it's fair game for everyone.

    For an alternative and entertaining rush through the stories you could try Ken Hite's Tour de Lovecraft.

  3. How did your further reading of this go?