Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Blackest Gulfs of Immemorial Ocean.....

Nightmare at 20, 000 Feet
I plodded on with Somewhere in Time last night in bed and Hell House this morning (I believe I’m close to the end of it now).  I’m plodding even slower with The Time Traveller’s Wife!!  It’s not that I don’t like it, I can’t even put my finger on it, but I have read about 150 pages now. This will be the book that breaks the record of taking me the longest time to read.  The current record is held by Moby Dick - it was a drudge and a half getting through that one.
During lunch I had a nice surprise and read a rather creepy story that I wish I had read tonight instead so that I could savour the creepiness before going to sleep.  It was only a short story called The Festival by H P Lovecraft.  It tells the story of (we presume) a young man who goes back to a town that he has been called to by his ‘fathers’ – meaning his ancestors – to attend an ancient Yuletide Festival.  The houses within the town are very old fashioned, there is no cable car although he had thought that it did run into the town, and all doors are closed and curtains are drawn.  He knocks on the door of ‘the house of his people’ and the door is answered by a man who is dumb but who writes a friendly welcome on his slate.  The room he is ushered into is cold and damp, there is an enormous fireplace but it is not lit, and there is a woman spinning furiously on a spinning wheel with her back turned towards him.  The old man’s face shows no emotion or expression and the younger man feels a certain unease that it is a mask. He is told that they are waiting, and so takes a seat and of the terrible books sitting on a table close by he picks up the unmentionable Necromonicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred to read.
The tale then goes on to tell how he and the rest of the town make their way to an old church and then descend into the bowls of the earth to ride off on demon like creatures.  Our narrator is meant to ride a creature too but he throws himself into the putrid river than runs underground to get away……  he awakes in hospital, the town is as it should be (modern and with the cable car).  The only way he can prove to himself that he did experience those horrors is to obtain a copy of the Necromonicon and see if he recognises the passages that he had read the night before.
This passage I thought was wonderful; the narrator had just descended under the church:
“….. and suddenly there spread out before me the boundless vista of an inner world – a vast fungous shore litten by a belching column of sick greenish flame and washed by a wide oily river that flowed from abysses frightfully and unsuspected to join the blackest gulfs of immemorial ocean”.
Actually, whilst I was reading it, it brought to mind a short story called Ringing the Changes by Robert Aickman.  I haven’t read it for a long time but it has always stayed with me.  It was set in a seaside town but all was not what it appeared to be.  I must find a collection that has it so I can read it again……
Anyway, I picked up Nightmare at 20, 000 Feet by Matheson from the library; it is dedicated to, and has a forward by, Stephen King.  I also picked up Walter Scott's Ivanhoe.  I've never read any Scott but he's mentioned in many novels and after reading Whales for the Wizard by Malcolm Archibald I had to put him on the list. Whales for the Wizard pays homage to all of Scott’s novels.
Off to watch a bit of Jeeves and Wooster now.

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