Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Sam Moskowitz on Cool Air (1967)

COOL AIR By H. P. Lovecraft


Even in the most bizarre and far-fetched tales, a little research will usually uncover the fact that at least the begin- nings of the idea were developed from the author's personal experience. H. P. Lovecraft's, Cool Air, which originally appeared in Tales of Magic and Mystery for March, 1928, opens with the lines:

"You ask me to explain why I am afraid of a draught of cool air,- why I shiver more than others upon entering a cold room, and seem nauseated and repelled when the chill of evening creeps through the heat of a mild autumn day."

Friends of Lovecraft recognized those symptoms as belonging to the author. In his early youth he had suffered from a kidney ailment, as well as Bright's disease (also an affliction of those organs) which was eventually to prove a major factor in his death at the age of forty-seven. Since kidney disorders decrease the tolerance to cold in some people, it seems quite logical that for a man suffering from such a condition the term "cool air" would evoke horror.

Lovecraft's detestation of refrigerated air therefore makes a good "jumping-off place" for his story, even though the explanation he gives for it is far more horrifyingly imaginative than the truth.

During the last decade of his life, Lovecraft increasingly tended to employ "an atmosphere of scientific credibility" for his horrors rather than to attribute them to a super- natural agency. The subject matter of this story has only once before been told as effectively without resort to the supernatural and that was when Edgar Allen {sic}Poe wrote The Facts in the Case of M. Vaidemar for the December, 1845, issue of The American Review.

Horror Times Ten, ed. Andre Norton (notes by Sam Moskowitz), Berkely Medallion, 1967, p. 30

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