starrywisdomI don’t like what HP Lovecraft has become. Read most modern Lovecraft-inspired books, and coinage like “literary strip mining” comes to mind – people insist on demystifying his mysteries, classifying what’s meant to be unclassifiable, and ruining or ignoring what was great about his stories. The Cthulhu Mythos (ew) is now a parody: as dull and overfamiliar as a Marvel comic book character roster. What everyone needs to do to Lovecraft is leave him alone, and stop scribbling graffiti over his tombstone. There’s something about being able to buy Cthulhu plush toys that makes him not seem cool any more.

With that said, The Starry Wisdom is a strong collection of stories. It doesn’t take itself seriously, and it doesn’t treat Lovecraft as some kind of holy canon. It contains a lot of tones and moods, a lot of experimentation, and a lot of subject matter that Lovecraft would have been appalled by.

JG Ballard’s “Prisoner of the Coral Deep”, Ramsey Campbell’s “Potential” and John Beal’s “Beyond Reflection” are fairly conservative, but most of the others are full of graphic sex and violence. Some authors take shock value to ludicrous extremes, packing in the sickness and depravity until the stories resemble nasty little transgression piñatas?. Others throw narrative away altogether, and instead try to evoke a strange mood.

Alan Moore contributes three stories – I’m not used to reading him unaccompanied by comic book art. As a stylist he resembles Clive Barker, with a lot of florid, overheated imagery. “The Courtyard” is the best of the three. Michael Gira’s “The Consumer” is a blistering missive written in all caps, reading it feels like being gripped in an enormous fist and shaken. Simon Whitechapel’s “Walpurgisnachtmusik” is intense and strangely synaesthesic – one of the few written stories that I can hear as well as read.

There’s some comix, too. James Havoc contributes “Teenage Timberwolves”, with artist Daniele Sierra backing him up from the shotgun position. Like all of Havoc’s work it manages to be stupid, outrageous, and entertaining. John Coulthart’s famed interpretation of “The Call of Cthulhu” is featured here, but I fear he indulges in some of what I mentioned before, like over-literalisation of Lovecraft’s work. When we actually see Cthulhu, the result is anticlimactic. Someone like Junji Ito would probably have fared better. To be fair, the book is too small to do justice to Coulthart’s art – lines and words pack the pages like sardines in a tin. Creation were many things, but purveyors of impeccable artisanship is not one of them. I seem to recall a certain Suehiro Maruo “artbook” consisting of low-res jpegs copied off the internet…

Some stories hit, other stories miss, there’s a story called “Hypothetical Materfamilias” that misses so hard that it just about circles the world and strikes the target from the other side. Adele Olivia Gladwell was apparently Havoc’s girlfriend, and I hope he got lots of anal in return for this because it’s retarded and annoying and resembles something Burroughs would write if he was twelve years old and in SPED class. Speak of the devil: Burroughs has a story in this book too. When I read his work I always feel like I’m missing a trick – like I’m the mark in some joke or con and he’s laughing at me from the other side of the page. I didn’t understand Naked Lunch and I don’t understand this one, either.

But there are so many stories by so many authors that you’d be hard pressed not to find something you like. Don’t even think of it as being Lovecraft-inspired – the connection is vague and best, and Starry Wisdom is better seen as a collection of extreme/transgressive literature. Lovecraft would have spat venom upon this book, but it works for me.


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    Your website is so useful! I was just looking into these authors and stories and you came up again. I see that you also wrote a piece on David Conway’s Metal Sushi. You’re the greatest! I just heard of his story in this collection too and had to look it up, you came up right away.

    I was thinking about Simon Whitechapels “Walpurgisnachtmusik” and how he’s always writing about made-up bands and albums and making all this lore, even posting fake comments about the fake musik on his post and linking to non-existent websites. Everything! …except attempting to actually make the sound. Now that would be impressive, wouldn’t it?

    Well, I believe I may have found an alternative. Uh, okay, I didn’t find it. Someone else did. About a decade ago. Maybe you’ve already seen it.


    Same dude different names, from what I can tell.

    It reminded me of this:

    Is this what you had in mind when you read Walpurgisnachtmusik or Beating The Meat? or what did you think? I just thought it was interesting and wanted to share. I doubt this guy was inspired by or even knows about WS, I don’t think? But it is interesting to find sounds that could fit that profile that SW often writes about and wonder what’s the sound he has in mind.

    This is how I found it:

    You can scroll down on that page and see the comment by a user “musicdrome” if you click his name all the music in his profile is similar. Seeing all the user’s writings like Graffity in H.M.P. Yivgvanurve while listening to the various artists makes me feel Like I’m in one of Whitechapel’s story. (I just moved my keys after writing that and they made a weird sounds that my keys had never made before. Chang-a-chang-CHANG. It sounded like a sharp blade unsheathing. Actually the static from my television is deafeningly loud. I can hear the hum of my computer as I type and for a moment it sounds like sounds like buzzing… Like the buzzing metallic insects. My puppy is making strange growling and choking sounds I’ve never heard before. The music by the artists I sent you has now turned into drowning static looping in my Bandcamp tab, the sound of metallic wings)

    If you see that comment. It was posted August 23, 2014. I found it yesterday August 23. Coincidence? I should’ve known. Typical stars-become-right.

    I feel like Dakota Johnsons in Wounds. Can You be my Armie Hammer

    Comment by Justin — 2023-08-25 @ 08:55

    Thanks for the reply.

    Yes, these cult British authors are singularly excellent, aren’t they? Thanks for the linx. That musicdrome guy seems awfully well informed—I wonder if it’s DM Mitchell? He has a band called Photographed by Lightning that does avant-garde/found-noise in the same vein. Worth a listen.

    To answer your question, I don’t particularly have anything in mind when I read Walpurgishnacht etc. I don’t think my mind is wired up that way. I was synaesthesic as a child. I would imagine colors and personalities on numbers, for example: the number 5 is sanguine and red, the number 8 is stern and gray, the number 7 is DEFINITELY up to mischief. But that doesn’t happen to me anymore. Numbers are just numbers.

    Books don’t contain experiences for me. That’s more what film and music is for. Books are good for storing information, but they mostly don’t activate my senses. When I read Simon’s stories, I am aware that the CHARACTERS are hearing static, but I don’t really hear static myself. Maybe that’s normal or abnormal, I don’t know.

    Comment by admin — 2023-09-04 @ 11:30

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