Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dottie and Howard

That is not dead which lives forever and a day,
And come strange eons, even Cthulhu gets a lay

(With apologies to George and Nick -- I just had the impulse to litter on your side of the street.)

"I'm sick of this shit," I say.

"What? What?" The missus spooks easily these days, and I guess it's my fault.

"Oh, my brain keeps throwing me these fucking Howard Waldrop stories. I don't want to write historical fiction, ever! There are always people who are righter than I am about history. It's too much work."

She looks up from her iPad, and then her phone, and then her computer, and then she actually looks up. "What are you talking about?"

"The thing is, there's a market for this kind of crap. If I did it right, I'd be signing checks."

The missus sighs. "So?"

"Okay, here's the deal. Nineteen-twenty-five. Dottie needs a new hat, right?"

"Who's Dottie?"

"Dorothy Parker. She's looking for a hat, sees a store and goes in. It's Sonia Greene's store, and while she's shopping, she mentions that she's working at a magazine that just started. It's called The New Yorker. And Sonia tells Dottie that her husband is a writer."

There's a sound of music as the missus goes back to her maze game on the iPad. "Sonia's husband..."

"Lovecraft. H.P. Lovecraft. He winds up a traveling reporter like A.J. Liebling or Calvin Trillin, only earlier. So it would be kinda like a cross between The X-Files and The Thin Man. Screwball romantic comedy with supernatural mysteries."

"How do you get romantic comedy out of that?"

"Look, Dorothy Parker said that all she needed in a man was that he be ruthless and stupid. Lovecraft's exactly wrong for her! It's got to happen! And you look at the history, you get the impression Sonia wasn't really that into Howard. He was just a project to her."


"He'd put some brakes on Parker's boozing, and she'd make him eat his fucking greens. 'O crepuscular light that shines from the East, I think the most merciful thing in the world is the inability of the human mind to correlate its contents.' 'Well, it doesn't just happen, darling. Get me another, and make it a double or I'll pretend I don't know what crepuscular means.' They'd be swell together.

"And the whole New Yorker would change. I mean, Lovecraft mentions he's got a line to the forgotten Boy Poet of the Sierras, starts sending Ross letter after letter until he breaks down and publishes Lafcadio Hearn and Lord Dunsany.

"And let's be serious. What we call New Journalism? It started back then. Lovecraft was a lefty Tom Wolfe, but Robert Howard's reporting on the Texas oilfields was sober gonzo, the most motherfuckingest shit you ever read, and Ross whipped that shit into shape, put a real shine on it."

I can sense my enthusiasm getting the better of me.

"That was the best fucking magazine of all time! It had the best qualities of the early New Yorker, Weird Tales, sixties and seventies Rolling Stone and Esquire -- but what really gets me? H.P. Lovecraft and Dorothy Parker get happy, fulfilling lives. They give each other mutual annihilation of tragedy, the way we do."

The music from the missus's iPad stops as she freezes the game. "Wait a minute. Did that really happen?"


And then the question comes, posed in that sweet tone of innocence that makes me wonder how much she's joking.

"Why not?"


NM said...

Ever read "Weird Tales" by Fred Chappell, which dramatized the meeting of Lovecraft and Hart Crane?

Sean Craven said...

Oh, my God, no. I must. That name Fred Chappell sounds familiar -- did he do a novel called Dagon? It was literary Southern Gothic with a twist 'o Lovecraft -- not bad at all.