At the Midpoint of “The Dream-Quest of the Unknown Kadath”

poster by vggonzalez, 2009 at Please observe any copyright restrictions.

poster by vggonzalez, 2009 at
Please observe any copyright restrictions.

One of the several books I am reading currently is an anthology of Lovecraft’s dream cycle.    Its story that I am reading now is “The Dream-Quest of the Unknown Kadath”.   I wrote up my views on the work today for and thought I would share them here as well (though in a slightly modified version):

I am a Lovecraft fan, but I find “The Dream-Quest…” very tough reading.  I want to finish it, if for no other reason than to be able to say I managed to struggle my way through it and achieve my goal in spite of the hardships I encountered like the explorer of a literary Amazon.

The language is cumbersome and the plot is just Randolph Carter escaping one bad situation after another by luck.  Still, I am only about half-way through, and the optimistic side of me keeps hoping it gets better.  I don’t have much hope though, particularly after reading part of the Wikipedia article on it, which gives Lovecraft’s own views, which echo my own:

“Lovecraft himself declared that ‘it isn’t much good; but forms useful practice for later and more authentic attempts in the novel form.’ He expressed concern while writing it that ‘Randolph Carter’s adventures may have reached the point of palling on the reader; or that the very plethora of weird imagery may have destroyed the power of any one image to produce the desired impression of strangeness.”[8]

In the paragraph preceding this one in Wikipedia, Joanna Russ sums up the work nicely:

“The Dream-Quest has evoked a broad range of reactions, “some HPL enthusiasts finding it almost unreadable and others…comparing it to the Alice books and the fantasies of George MacDonald.[6] Joanna Russ referred to The Dream-Quest as “charming…but alas, never rewritten or polished”. [7]

Count me among the ones who find it almost unreadable, with its awkward, first-draft phrasing and its confused attempt to set a tone using an imagined scholarly, courtly language somewhere between Shakespeare and Poe.

However, I do love this awesome poster, which I found at  Please visit this beautiful site.  If you decide you would like to use this poster, please check with gatostudio and adhere to all copyright restrictions.

I just wish Lovecraft had written the story as masterfully as Mr. Gonzalez drew his poster and H.P. had lived up to the promise of the fantastic adventure to which the poster alludes.    The poster really outshines the story.    Given another two or three drafts, this story may have outshone all of Lovecraft’s other works.

Thoughts?  Comments?


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