Friday, February 1, 2013

An Eldritch Education: "Celephaїs"

Spooky Synopsis: The man didn't always call himself Kuranes. That was the name he discovered in his dreams, and given how his family's loss of fortune has left him one of London's anonymous millions, he sees no reason why he shouldn't claim it as his own. Plus, Kuranes' dreams seem more of a refuge than his squalid garret, offering tree-dappled mountain ranges and sparkling, sapphire harbors and Celephaїs, city of marble and onyx and bronze. Kuranes begins to long for sleep more and more, turning to drugs so that their blessed narcotic stupor can help him discover the myriad secrets of Celephaїs -- nay, of the universe.

Lovecraftian Language: "Kuranes had previously entered that abyss only at night, and wondered what it would look like by day; so he watched anxiously as the column approached its brink. Just as they galloped up the rising ground to the precipice a golden glare came somewhere out of the east and hid all the landscape in its effulgent draperies. The abyss was now a seething chaos of roseate and cerulean splendor, and invisible voices sand exultantly as the knightly entourage plunged over the edge and floated gracefully down past glittering clouds and silvery coruscations."

Eerie Evaluation: Although I've only scratched the surface of Lovecraft's oeuvre, "Celephaїs" seems something of a departure. Beautifully surreal settings. Lush, rich descriptions. A plot like a vapor, coalescing just long enough to establish the smallest action before dissipating into another airy imagining. Lovecraft really nailed the dreamlike atmosphere, and there's still a bit of horror in the grim final paragraph. All the same, it doesn't speak well for the tale that, at a mere six-and-a-half pages in my edition, it felt like it could use some editing. The story itself is pretty slight, relying on disassociated mythic musings to move things along rather than character or theme. Overall? Mildly interesting and mostly average.

Number of Sanity-Shredding Shoggoths (out of five):


To visit the story index for "An Eldritch Education" (my year spent reading H.P. Lovecraft's work), please click here.

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