Read The Mask of Cthulhu by August Derleth Free Online
Book Title: The Mask of Cthulhu|
The author of the book: August Derleth
Edition: Beagle Books
Date of issue: July 1971
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 4.58 MB
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Reader ratings: 4.7
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August Derleth saw himself as H.P. Lovecraft's natural heir, weaving his stories into the Cthulhu Mythos and incorporating the 'dreadful events in Innsmouth' and other incidents from the original corpus. At one moment, he suggests, in a fit of in-joke paranoia, that Lovecraft and others died young because they knew too much - a nice little conceit.
He has been much and rightly criticised on two grounds - for being derivative but, more seriously, for attenuating the raw cosmic horror of the original (as if he had failed to understand its essential bleakness).
He constructed a mythological fantasy of good and evil much closer to the religious tradition and to fantasy than true horror. A Sumerian would have understood his Elder Gods and Ancient Ones, whereas only a modern mind could have comprehended Lovecraft himself.
The Mask of Cthulhu, a collection of stories from Wierd Tales, stretching from 1939 to 1957, epitomises those failures and yet, perhaps, the reaction has gone too far because too much was expected of Mr. Derleth.
His early championship of his master helped to ensure that Lovecraft became a cultural phenomenon, heir to Poe in leading the American tradition of horror and influencer of popular culture. Although his writing is not great, by the standards of pulp fiction, Derleth is solid, clear and, at times, can write very well and suggestively. There is a minor and unexpected erotic charge in the final story - The Seal of R'lyeh - and the community threat to the 'hero' to The House in the Valley is well drawn.
The chief difference from Lovecraft is one of perspective. He is more likely to be 'simpatico' to the person drawn to the evil which he can treat more ambiguously as just the not-good of another - as if alien creatures have rights too. Lovecraft is determinedly judgemental. These evil forces are dominant but they are evil, or at least anti-human rather than just non-human, to Lovecraft. The alien is generally to be extirpated.
The American Government in Innsmouth would have had every right to slaughter the half-breeds whereas Derleth sometimes sees them as sentient 'others' to which he, like some of his heroes, are drawn. Abominations or just different? - Derleth's ambiguity shows a culture in change between judgementalism and relativism.
His weaknesses are intellectual and imaginative rather than purely literary and he still deserves to be remembered as the leading member of the 'School of Lovecraft'.
The stories themselves are like watching re-runs of favourite TV shows. They are comfort food for horror fans. The first stage in a process with all horror tropes that has a visceral original eventually end up with a child's cartoon or toy. From Dracula to Count Duckula and so from Innsmouth to cuddly Cthulhu knitted toys. Derleth is the first unfortunate stage in taming Lovecraft as Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula was in taming the Nosferatu.
His stories are the sort that remind you why you wish Lovecraft had lived longer and written more. As the years go by, it becomes ever clearer that the gap between Poe and Lovecraft is reflected in a gap between Lovecraft and whoever is to be the next great innovator in horror.
Sadly, it is not Stephen King (though he is another writer who is over-diminished by literary snobs) and it is not yet Thomas Ligotti who is too much in the shadow of his Master and whose corpus seems small and too out-of-the-way. Someone out there, in some American High School, is turning their Goth mind to dark matters that must be written down ... lest he go insane :-)
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Read information about the authorAugust William Derleth was an American writer and anthologist. Though best remembered as the first book publisher of the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos and the Cosmic Horror genre, as well as his founding of the publisher Arkham House (which did much to bring supernatural fiction into print in hardcover in the US that had only been readily available in the UK), Derleth was a leading American regional writer of his day, as well as prolific in several other genres, including historical fiction, poetry, detective fiction, science fiction, and biography
A 1938 Guggenheim Fellow, Derleth considered his most serious work to be the ambitious Sac Prairie Saga, a series of fiction, historical fiction, poetry, and non-fiction naturalist works designed to memorialize life in the Wisconsin he knew. Derleth can also be considered a pioneering naturalist and conservationist in his writing
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