RARA-AVIS: Hammett, Lovecraft, Frontier (this is a long one!)

From: Juri Nummelin ( jurnum@utu.fi)
Date: 08 Feb 2000

I thought once more about my comment on hardboiled horror. I claimed that Lovecraft was a frontier writer and therefore he is linked with the hardboiled. But wait a minute. Lovecraft is an antithesis of the frontier ideology - in his texts the nature is evil and hids all kinds of terrifying monsters and secrets. This is totally different from Cooper and Thoreau, for whom the nature is a healing, romantically perceived experience. Lovecraft then is similar to, say, Joseph Conrad who, at least in "Heart of Darkness", claims that if a man contacts nature, he finds his own horrifying abysses and becomes a raving animal
("Horror. Horror."). Here Lovecraft links with some authors that are more inclined to hardboiled, for example Jack London. (He's always said to be a nature loving writer, but I find the hate of nature in his books.)

Does this have something to do with hardboiled? Browsing through Jopi Nyman's short article in a Finnish anthology of essays about Hammett I find that he says the same thing about Hammett: "Red Harvest" is an anti-frontier book. In it all the ideas of frontier ideology have vanished and there's only corrupt city culture. It has poisoned Personville and it has become Poisonville. The factories and mines have ruined the countryside and the nature that were so important to the frontier ideology. There is the aspect of the corrupt city in almost every hardboiled/noir book/film, but there is also the healing aspect of nature, e.g. in "The Asphalt Jungle". Maybe Hammett was more radical than to renew old stereotypes.

But maybe this is what links Lovecraft and Hammett - the view of the corrupt society that has also destroyed the nature so that there are no more places to go. But this is a link that functions only in the deepest layers of discourses or the ideologies. As a writer, a craftsman, Lovecraft has nothing to do with the hardboiled!

But I found that John G. Cawelti says that the plot of "The Dain Curse" is straight from "The Mysteries of Udolpho"! Comments, anyone?

Juri jurnum@utu.fi

# To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to majordomo@icomm.ca.
# The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 08 Feb 2000 EST