Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.111: Austin Grossman's 'Crooked'

There are times when it seems as if we have pretty much reached peak Cthulhu, such that I feel on the verge of experiencing eldritch fatigue - but then a novel like Austin Grossman's Crooked comes along, and manages to revive my flagging libido for Lovecraftian and Cthulhuvian fiction. Having only just finished the book, I rate it so highly that I felt it deserved a place amongst the many other strange and fine Lovecraftian Things a Day - despite one particular qualification which I'll come to shortly.

I'm not much for giving reviews, even in capsule form, so I'll keep things as brief as I'm able: comprised of Richard Nixon's autobiographical account of the secret Lovecraftian foundations of the Cold War (as well as the origins of the United States' constitution), Crooked exemplifies exactly the kind of innovative take on the Lovecraftian milieu - here linking it to current fears and anxieties around the increasingly occulted nature of modern government and politics - needed to keep it fresh. Granted, there are definite comparisons to be made with Delta Green, Charles Stross's Laundry novels, as well as Tim Power's Declare; Crooked, however, ups the ante by putting the one-time President of the United States at the centre of things - and manages to present him in a sympathetic light to boot. The novel is also more Lovecratian, with clear nods to The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, than Mythos - although like Dexter Ward, the Cthulhu Mythos is so strongly implied here that its presence in and impact on the narrative is clearly evident. Stylistically, this is to the book's advantage. By avoiding the worn and often unimaginative expositions of Mythos lore that has been the bane of much Cthulhu Mythos fiction, its power becomes all the more horrifying and effective as a consequence of it being kept off stage.

As for the qualification, I only own Crooked in Kindle format (a fact not entirely unrelated to my incipient sense of eldritch fatigue, insofar as I have long abandoned any attempt at trying to collect every new volume of Cthulhu Mythos fiction in hardcopy); it thus constitutes the first digital Lovecraftian Thing a Day. Which, I supposed, might raise the question amongst the more philosophically-minded as to how one might position Crooked, ontologically-speaking, with regard to its 'thingness'. We at Ghooric Zone central are certainly disinclined to deny its object status, given as we are to dealing with entities, articles and other materials of questionable (not to say anomalous) corporeality, as well as those of an ontologically indeterminate character. In any case, I'm sure the speculative realists would have plenty to say regarding the human capacity to meaningfully qualifying the 'thingness' of a digital artefact, in which case I would recommend interrogating Graham Harman's Weird Realism if that kind of thing interests you!

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