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At the Mountains of Madness

Finished my proofreading project yesterday and now have nothing new lined up. It doesn't feel good. I hope I get a new project soon.

I've been reading At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft for the Xenagia book group, and I'm having positive and negative reactions. I like the story, but not the way it's being told. It's a horror story, but it has very little atmosphere. Lovecraft delights in telling us that things are menacing or horrifying, without actually menacing or horrifying us. It's a "show, don't tell" problem. Stephen King is good at the atmosphere thing, but Lovecraft's story seems a bit too intellectual for that. Lovecraft also likes to repeat himself, which I don't mind, since that's something I tend to do in my own writing for effect. I don't know how many times I've encountered the phrase "mountains of madness" so far in the 60 pages I've read of the story.

I think I'll go finish it now.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
kimberly_a
Jan. 25th, 2008 12:12 am (UTC)
That's a good point about the characters. I couldn't tell you a single thing about the characters in At the Mountains of Madness. There is little to no characterization.
daev
Jan. 25th, 2008 12:19 am (UTC)
Lovecraft seems prone to do that sort of atmosphere-by-declaration thing. If it works, it can build up a nice background tension. But when you're reading "At The Mountains Of Madness" and he keeps referring to "hideous" and "mind-shattering" revelations, you have to shake your head and point out that the characters are looking at a bunch of instructional wall carvings. For about a full third of the story!

The best comparison I can make is to a dream. For no identifiable reason, you just know that certain objects and settings are terrifying or sad or comfortable. I think Lovecraft is trying for the same sort of implicit emotion when he talks as though the mountains themselves are oppressively menacing or "insanely" high.

But if you've finished it, you know that the whole thing eventually takes a sharp and scary turn. I always thought of "At The Mountains Of Madness" whenever I was looking down the BART tunnel while waiting for a train.
kimberly_a
Jan. 25th, 2008 05:00 am (UTC)
You know, I didn't even find the scary part to be very emotionally stirring. The whole story left me feeling detached. It never engaged me.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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