Race and Decay (II)

This argument will take some time to build and I will do it step by careful step, taking all the time there is to do it. I will eventually get into argumentative waters that are more strictly pertinent to race and decay, no doubt about it – at least I seem to be aware of a fork in the road that will eventually get me there, and I plan on taking it.

I started with several hypothetical punchlines, in some logical relation to one another:

  • Decay and Apocalypse are related.
  • Apocalypse is for historical people only.
  • There is a self-protective way to step out of the timeline that will be a “remedy” against apocalypse. This is not possible to counter the danger of decay.

Well, I didn’t exactly start with these points, but I’m doing it now. I made mention of some beautiful and vehement – to me – passages from a David F. Wallace short story, and I’ll take now a closer look at Lovecraft: just where does time go in his stories? Nowhere exactly.

The best model of his concept of time (not of narrative time, to be precise – his stories proceed at a wholesame pace along the timeline) is offered in his 1933 short story Through the Gates of the Silver Key, not to be confused with its much shorter prequel The Silver Key. He collaborated on the later and longer story with fellow outré writer Edgar Hoffmann Price – grudgingly, after Price, a fan of Lovecraft’s, had composed a prequel to “The Silver Key”, pointing it at Lovecraft and duly awaiting the maitre’s corrections and expansion, which finally came.

The story is: wondrous. If you think of Lovecraft in terms of bileous, amorphous monster conglomerates – and like him for that – this story is a real change – it’s largely set in the dream world (and Lovecraft has a way to push his vocabulary to make the story not just dreamy, but sleepy, as well – in a positive way) of character headliner Randolph Carter, who Lovecraft employed in several, varied stories before that one. Carter is a master dreamer, and above all that means – that he is standing outside the timeline. Indeed, he’s travelling and manipulating it at will, in an act of almost burgeois escapism. Time, after all, is here co-terminous with enervating work routines, and rather than fighting and escaping them for real, he resorts to dreaming a way out.

Randolph Carter, who had all his life sought to escape from the tedium and limitations of waking reality in the beckoning vistas of dreams and fabled avenues of other dimensions, disappeared from the sight of man on the seventh of October, 1928, at the age of fifty-four.

He seems to have lot of experience in his field – a real master dreamer, that is –

His career had been a strange and lonely one, and there were those who inferred from his curious novels many episodes more bizarre than any in his recorded history.

Now he’s gone for good, gone to wherever – and his estate needs to be settled. His habits transpire. The New Orleans room chosen for the act of splitting the estate is outside the continuum, which may have the simple reason that Carter himself is actually present, in disguise, though the reader learns that only much later.

[…]while in a deep niche on one side there ticked a curious, coffin-shaped clock whose dial bore baffling hieroglyphs and whose four hands did not move in consonance with any time system known on this planet.

[The room is being maintenanced by an “incredibly aged Negro in somber livery”, which, now that I read it, reminds me of that insightful slide show that slate.com has on the “strange history of racist spokescharacters”]

Carter is an active time traveller (and, beware, Lovecraft is not nearly the first to use that concept – eve very thickly in mainstream literature you have that realized long before his time, for example in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol ( 1843 – one of these books that get me, letter-sensitive literary scholar, sobbing even before I come to the parts that are actually meant to be productive of tears), and there’s some of it in Mark Twaine’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (yeah, the title is..kind of…indicative of the fact), as well.

More on the story in my next post. I’m drooling for some sleep.