Thursday, November 03, 2016
Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.308: O Fortunate Floridian
O Fortunate Floridian: H.P. Lovecraft's Letters to R.H. Barlow turned up on my doorstep today: something of a timely arrival given the controversey that surrounds Paul la Farge's novel The Night Ocean - despite it not having yet been published. For those unfamiliar with the furore, la Farge's novel takes as its starting point speculation that Lovecraft may have been romatically involved with the young Barlow. For my part, I'm looking forward to reading The Night Ocean (I hear that it is very well written), particularly as I'm interested not only in the ways that Lovecraft himself has been used as a character in fiction, but in takes on the Lovecraftian milieu that challenge our embedded assumptions regarding it (that is, as far as I am concerned, what good Lovecraftian fiction should be about anyway).
In fairness, I think there is no concrete evidence to back up the speculations about Lovecraft and Barlow, but I do become very interested when certain sectors of the Lovecraftian community express (often very vocally) a sense of personal offense in instances such as this. The withdrawal of the Lovecraft statuette from the World Fantasy Award (a decision I happen to agree with) being a case in point. As an anthropologist, this kind of thing registers keenly as an index of how significant symbols are to us in our daily lives, how we deploy them as concrete signifiers of identity, and how (as cognitive anthropologist Harvey Whitehouse suggests) those identities become profoundly psychologically and collectively fused with our symbols - such that an attack against the symbols of our group may be affectively experienced as an attack against the self. Indeed, there is an academic paper in here regarding the ideological dimensions of this kind of identity fusion in contemporary geekdom...
Well, that's enough for now, other than to say I am vey much looking forward to reading O Fortunate Floridian (although I'll probably have to wait until Christmas before I get a proper chance to look at it); that said, on a very final note, if you are interested in this volume, ignore the silly prices that hardback editions are being offered for on Amazon - I picked this paperback copy up directly from the University of Tampa website for $30.00 (plus very reasonable shipping to the UK).