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Familiar Diversions

I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.

Currently reading

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Dreams in the Witch-House by H.P. Lovecraft

The Dreams in the Witch House - H.P. Lovecraft

I'll start this off with a story from my grad school days. There is a point to all of this, I promise.

I don't remember being all that sleep-deprived as an undergrad – I think I maybe did one all-nighter during the whole four years – but my memories of grad school are filled with how sleep-deprived I was. This didn't happen every weekday, thank goodness, but there were times when I'd get up early in the morning to go to class, go to one or both of my jobs in the afternoon and/or evening, and then spend the late PM and early AM hours working on homework. On particularly horrible days, I'd get home with only a couple hours left before my alarm went off to start the next day. Some days, I had a choice between grabbing a bite to eat or sleeping, because I didn't have enough time or energy for both.

I remember one particular evening. I was in my apartment, working on an assignment. I was pacing my usual path around the room while thinking about what I was going to write when I spotted something I swear looked like an evil little gnome on the floor. It wasn't until after I jumped about a foot and made a strange little scared noise that I realized what I'd seen was not, in fact, an evil little gnome, but rather a warped reflection of myself in some shiny packaging material. Shortly after that, I decided it was time for bed.

Parts of “Dreams in the Witch-House” read like H.P. Lovecraft had had a similar experience and then had chosen to couple it with drug use. Gilman's more abstract dreams were extremely bizarre, to the point where I had a hard time even picturing what was supposed to be going on. The Brown Jenkin bits were more in line with my “evil gnome” experience, except that Brown Jenkin definitely wasn't Gilman's reflection in a bit of shiny packaging material.

Apparently this is the norm for Lovecraft works, but I thought I'd mention that this story doesn't end well for Gilman. Personally, I didn't mind that, since I didn't particularly like Gilman – I cared less about whether he lived or died than about what was going to happen next. What I didn't entirely understand was why Gilman didn't just completely move out of the Witch-House. Was it that he couldn't afford a more expensive room? Had he just become so obsessed with Keziah, his dreams, and his studies that it never even occurred to him that moving was an option? Was he too disturbed by his experiences to remember that he could leave? Whatever his reason for staying, it was frustrating for me that he continued to live in a place that was causing him so much mental distress.

Although I enjoyed the overall creepiness of this story, I think I liked At the Mountains of Madness more. Gilman's dreams of Brown Jenkin and Keziah were spooky and interesting, and I enjoyed the detail about Gilman's painfully sharp hearing (all the better to describe disturbing sounds and wonder at what those sounds might be hiding). The more abstract dreams were a bit much for me, though, and I never could shake that feeling that Gilman's problems would have been solved if he had just gotten a room somewhere else.

 

(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)