Saturday, March 08, 2008


I've just returned from a business trip to New Jersey. After 80 years, the area looks nothing like it did in his era, but I wanted to give my impressions.

Lovecraft visited Elizabeth, NJ during his New York "exile" in the early 1920's. I was able to see glimpses of Elizabeth, some of Llewelyn, and drove through much of the Oranges, Maplewood and Bloomfield. Yep, got to see a glimpse of New York and wondered how Lovecraft viewed it as he crossed in the ferry, or drove across the bridges. Of course, we have his prose-poetic evaluation as he first entered the city.

What I enjoyed were the antiquarian homes, those summer mansions that are now permanent residences. Most are beautifully restored. As I drove through the area, it dawned on me that these are the very homes Lovecraft would have thought "new and modern". Indeed, most were being built betwen 1920 and 1930.

To me, a person in 2008, these are "old" and "quaint". The mouldering factories of that era I think of as "classic" and "period". I imagined Edison working with his employees at his Llewelyn factory (now closed for renovations). I wondered at the Irish immigrants of the Oranges back then as I saw the gree stripe down the center of the town in ready for the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Lovecraft would not have approved. He probably would have railed at the riff-raff who should have been embracing the British and rejecting their Celtic traditions. He would have seen the factories as modern and urban. The mansions he would have sniffed at with their bay windows, turrets, german and dutch trims, Italian roofs, or wooden ornamentation. The row houses he'd have ignored. He wanted to see "antiquarian" examples of 150 years or more prior to his era, and admire the Pre-Revolutionary British example.

I got to eat in a great NJ diner and ate stuffed peppers. I admired the melting-pot and ethnicity of the revitalized town squares I glimpsed. I heard so many dialects it was great. My somewhat southern accent raised a few eyebrows, though. I saw so many Mom and Pop eclectic restaurants.

I got a subway sandwich from a wonderful young Indian man from Bombay. We chatted about the resurgence of India, and chuckled over how in India software is passed from person to person and pirated so everyone could share.

I write a lot about Lovecraft, and he was iconoclastic. He was who he was, and we can only celebrate - and sometimes puzzle - over the life he lived. It's a shame he couldn't have enjoyed the jazz age for its diversity, though.

At 118, maybe he would have driven through the Oranges and had a different perspective. If so, I wish he could have ridden along with me this week and seen a bit through my eyes. It would have been a fantastic conversation.

No comments:


Blog Archive


Google Analytics