Sunday, April 01, 2007

Nyarlathotep: Paragraph 2: Part 1

A little rhmobic deconstruction.

"I do not recall distinctly when it began, but it was months ago."

Lovecraft frequently advocated that a weird tale be ill defined in time and space. It was supposed to be atmospheric, a mood, and a little out of phase. He advocated a mythical base rather than a concrete basis. So, he starts out quickly with, "I do not recall distinctly...".

He is often criticized for adjectivitis. This is certainly compounded with a jumpled series of unusual words. I suppose, semiotically, one could diagram this:

{i} {recall} [do not = negative]

[distinctly] is an adverb. A writer would normally say "I have a distinct recollection." Or "I don't have a distinct recollection." Lovecraft spins this about to emphasize the weirdness of the situation, and makes it subliminal.

The next segment {it} {began}. The connective is when. This is a time metaphor choice. He does not say "where" or "why" and so it is placed in a time sequence. In a dream, one can't tell time, or read a clock, usually. Since this was a dream, Lovecraft reproduces that sense of timelessness.

{it} {was} {months} [ago] makes it an extended period of time. Lovecraft could have chosen "moments" to make it ill defined but sudden. He could have chosen "years" or even "aeons" as he sometimes did. "Weeks" or "days" would have been other choices. He might have pulled in astronomical metaphors such as "it was many moons ago" but that would not be his style or usage. However, since "months" is based on lunations, or cycles of the moon, it does pull in a sense of astronomy. The astronomical universe is never far from Lovecraft's vocabulary.

That HPL chose a type of passive sentence to introduce the phenomenon of Nyarlathotep, here, means he is sidling up to the subject.

I suggest that this is an apocalyptic circumlocution. American apocalyptic has always been about the end time. A popular recent {REM} song states, "It's the end of the world as we know it ... but I feel fine." Lovecraft's personal apocalyptic was the abhorent population growth of Providence which erased treasured landmarks of antiquarianism. The fact it was southern European immigrants, Jews, and blacks scared him greatly. He was not the only WASP to have this angst, but his words are rife with symbolism of his paranoia.

No one has ever defined where the surreal Nyarlathotep came from other than some Dunsanian derivative. I often wonder if it is not a merger of Egyptian and a "New York and Atlantic RailRoad" anagram.

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