Founding Mythologies

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The Believer, the very excellent monthly magazine about books and culture that spun out of Dave Eggers’ McSweeney’s about 18 months ago, features an interesting book excerpt in its October issue (the one with John Kerry on the cover).

The excerpt is from a book (to be published this spring by Believer Books) called H.P. Lovecraft: Against Nature, Against Life by French dark fiction author Michel Houellebecq. It’s an interesting excerpt, and makes the book look very exciting. Fans of Lovecraft should check it out.

Houellebecq, among a number of funny and interesting points about Lovecraft’s fiction and its effects, makes a smart observation: Only Lovecraft’s work has been continued by other writers after his death.

Lovecraft’s mythos, his stories about the mysterious, inhuman elder gods like Cthulhu or Yog-Sothoth, were taken up and expanded on after his death by writers including Frank Belknap Long and August Derleth. This, Houellebecq argues, is unheard of in fiction, where authors might write unofficial, even critical, sequels (The Wind Done Gone is one example of this) or works heavily influenced by an earlier writer, but, as Houellebecq rightly says, no one would ever dream of continuing, say, Proust.

But they did it to Lovecraft.

This, he says, makes Lovecraft’s works founding mythologies for a much larger body of work and unique in literature. And I can’t think of an example that contradicts this.

I’m looking forward to Houellebecq’s book. In the meantime, check out the new issue of The Believer for the excerpt.

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