I had a chance to look at Angela Carter’s 1975 essay on Lovecraft, “The Hidden Child”, written for the UK’s leftist New Society weekly magazine. It has an interesting dynamism and pungency that I don’t often read now, except in the likes of Mark Steyn at his best. She was of the brisk and blunt generation that came of age via the British underground press, and which was perhaps best exemplified by Swells & Co. writing in the NME at its 1975-1984 height. One fragment is almost a story…

He adored erudition, like the Argentinian Borges, to whom he has an odd stylistic resemblance. But he took the easy way out and invented all his own references. So his work provides all the appearance of pedantry but none at all of the substance. He devised whole libraries of books to validate his mythologies. They have the most wonderful titles. The Pnakotic Manuscripts. The Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan. The “delirious” Image du monde of Gauthier de Metz. The suppressed Unaussprechlichen Kitlten of von Junzt.

One could write a very Lovecrafty tale about the arrival at his door late, very late, one night of a (preferably) demented student clutching in his hand an actual copy of the dreaded Necronomicom of the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred, bound in human skin, stolen from the enfer of the Bibliothèque Nationale and brought triumphantly to the Maestro of the Twisted Nerve, who has so often mentioned it.

Shocked horror of the master, who never thought the vile thing existed. Has he thought the abomination into existence? Or did it always exist, has he always been unconsciously quoting it? Opening the pages with trembling fingers, he discovers cryptic marginalia on the time-seared pages, penned what centuries ago in what fearful city yet, unmistakably, in his own handwriting.

Carter also attempts a little pop psychoanalysis with Lovecraft. Psychoanalysis was all the rage in the mid 70s, as the disillusioned flower-children among the British literati turned inward, their revolutions seemingly defeated and trodden into the mire of a socialist Britain. Lovecraft she deems a perpetual boy, seeking his way back to boyhood, but rather to …

The beastly world of childhood, with its polymorphously perverse imaginings; its wild, inconsolable fears; its terror of darkness, of loneliness, its hatred of strangers. Its love of long, strange words and facility for inventing private languages. Its ability to construct elaborate mythologies out of the cracks in the crazy paving or the patterns on the wallpaper. Fear of cold. Weakness. Clawing, screaming temper tantrums. Self-abuse, old wives’ tales.

She may not be far wrong in that. But then it seems to me she perhaps projects something of the bubbling and festering violence of mid 1970s urban England onto Lovecraft, and also foreshadows the feminist turn toward seeing ultra-violence lurking around every phallus. She deems the lack of surface sexuality in the stories to be masking…

a strong sado-masochistic element. Carnage, ghouls, cannibalism. Ravages of “demon claws and teeth”; corpses “mangled, chewed and clawed”. … Is it any wonder, when evil finally manifests itself, that it does so as an obscene and huge ejaculation? [pus, slime, surgings, bubblings, etc]

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