Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"The Festival" (a book review post)

[Note: I am working my way through a complete collection of H. P. Lovecraft's works. Although I will give my thoughts about Lovecraft in a more general sense when I've finished the collection, I think it's worthwhile to look at the individual stories (or at least some of them) as I'm going through.]


So let's play pretend for a moment.

It's Christmas. Now, I don't know who you are or how you celebrate Christmas or the yule season, but, yet, that's what it is. You're descended from an ancient, reclusive people who live in a small fishing town in the northeast. Not many of them ever leave. Yet, somehow, whether it was your grandfather or your mother or whoever, one of your more immediate ancestors left that village. All you know is that once a century, your people, your family, are commanded to keep the Festival. You are the only one of any of the scattered ones of your people who return to keep the tradition.

And what you find there in that village of your people, that village that you have never before visited, is far from... normal.

Would you go back? Knowing that your parents or your grandparents, whoever it was who "escaped," is ignoring the call. All of your immediate family is ignoring the call of upholding the tradition. Would you go back?

"The Festival," by Lovecraft, is the story of a man who did go back. A man who finds stranger and stranger things the more he allows himself to be pulled along with the happenings of the Festival. A man who, in the end, is left to question... everything. Even his sanity.

The real power in this one, apart from Lovecraft's imagery, is the blending of the mundane with the fantastic. Everything is just normal enough for the protagonist to think that he's imagining things or that he's the one who's crazy.

All I know is if I ever get called to some out-of-the-way location for some ancient family tradition that I am going to do some major amounts of research before I go.

11 comments:

  1. Advance research is a good idea... But yes, I'd probably go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. TAS: Well, you know, if you do ever get called to some ancient ritual, let me know how it turns out.

      Delete
    2. Yes, I think that seems like it would be worth a blog post.

      Delete
  2. I've not read this one. I wonder what happens to those who don't go back?
    No one writes horror like Lovecraft anymore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alex C: I think that's because Lovecraft's style is so heavy on telling and that's not the current style.

      Delete
  3. This one I've read. It was pretty good. Slow and dense, like most of his work, and the payoff wasn't as horrifying as some others. I think Shadow Over Innsmouth did a better job with the whole "return to your roots/is this normal?" thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeanne: I'll be looking for that one, then.

      Delete
  4. I haven't read this one either. I actually haven't read much Lovecraft. Intriguing theme, though. Returning to your roots. Reminds me of when I tried moving back to where the bulk of my extended family lives. We didn't even make it a year before we fled back to Colorado (my extended family mostly lives in Oregon and California--we moved to Oregon.) If certain family members told me to come back for some big to-do, I'd have to figure it was illegal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shannon: That's both funny and scary about your family.
      And, see, I'm reading Lovecraft because I hadn't.

      Delete
  5. Your book reviews are always so interesting. I have never read any of Lovecraft books. I think maybe son has read a few, I need to see if he has any in his bookcase.

    cheers, parsnip

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. parsnip: If not, the collection I got for my Kindle was, I think, only $0.99.

      Delete