Howard & John, John & Howard

Sunday, 9 September 2018

About halfway through the above. Surprising that I didn’t read it in my junior high days when I had read much of John Bellairs’ work. It’s pleasant to have old things that are new to you.

I really love The Beatles and this will be a short digression. Merely a paragraph, surely. There are certain Beatles albums– The Magical Mystery Tour, for instance– that I’ve never listened to. For me, there are brand new Beatles recordings out there. Someday I’ll listen to them as if they were just made and released that very week. My fear is dying unexpectedly. Then I’ll never get to hear that stuff. But then, I’ll be dead so… Either there’s nothing so I won’t even be aware or there is an afterlife. And if that afterlife doesn’t have The Beatles? Then I want my money back.

I reread a few of Bellairs’ stories this past Spring. They didn’t scare me in the way they did when I was twelve or thirteen but I still thoroughly enjoyed them. Though there were a few moments when I found myself glancing behind me to make sure I was safe.

What surprised me was how many little references there were to HP Lovecraft. Bellairs was clearly a fan and, I would say, one of Lovecraft’s successors. A pleasing discovery as it creates a certain (small) wholeness within my life: That I can draw a line from what I loved in junior high to when I found Lovecraft my freshman year of college to the present day. Points of interest in my life can be connected, which, for whatever reason, is pleasing. In a way, it strikes me as meaningful.

Lewis and Rose Rita, the main characters, encounter a soup-like fog surrounding their small hometown of New Zebedee, Michigan. They try riding their bikes through it to get to the next town but find themselves, against all reason and common sense and physics, to be right back where they started. They went in a straight line but somehow the line became a circle.

That’s common enough but, nonetheless, it creates a feeling for which I have no name. It’s predicated upon fear but fosters a connectivity between the characters. It almost feels cozy and warm. There’s camaraderie too– a kind of sharing. But also fear. It can be found in Jaws when the terror truly begins to settle over the small town. Or in the original Resident Evil as you explore the old mansion on a dark and stormy night, occasionally running into an ally, savoring the brief safety. I can still hear the music from one of the few safe rooms where one might save or exchange items from the trunk. Another: It. The kids have only each other to count on for safety. As if they were on a small raft in the middle of a dangerous sea.

I find myself always searching for that feeling. Even in real life. I’ve experienced it on a dreadful winter night in a coffeehouse. The outside is inhospitable, even dangerous, but we few have braved the elements and icy roads to make it to the building’s warm safety. The snow continues to fall, it can be seen through any of the windows, but we are together, drinking our coffee and slowly warming.



3 thoughts on “Howard & John, John & Howard

  1. Woah! John Bellairs made references to Lovecraft? That’s news to me.

    I read John Bellairs back in elementary and middle school (Eyes of the Killer Robot ftw) way before I knew anything about Lovecraft. But hearing this… well, that’s just awesome.

    They just don’t make authors like Bellairs anymore. My children will definitely be reading Bellairs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. He was one of a kind. Sadly, he was only 53 when he died. I can’t help but wonder what the world missed out on.

    I remember classmates reading Goosebumps when I was a kid and it really bothered me that they weren’t reading the obviously superior John Bellairs. The Curse of the Blue Figurine was my first and is still a favorite.

    Oh, and then to have Edward Gorey as illustrator? Amazing.


    1. True that.

      Goosebumps… was not really a fan. The twists at the end always left a bad taste in my mouth.

      CotBF was good, I loved the Johnny Dixon stories.You always remember your first, that’s probably the reason I loved The Eyes of the Killer Robot.


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