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.



Lost time

Monday, 25 June 2018

A long day outside: Twelve hours. A variety of tasks, however, kept things somewhat fresh. But still exhausted. My nails were filthy and my hands rough. Took a shower soon after coming in, which felt like the best thing in the world. Nevermind the weak water pressure. Have to find something to eat after this. Anything is my favorite food when I’m hungry; nothing when I’m not.


I’m excited to read (for the first time) the above book. I’ve seen the movie of course. Keep getting distracted though. This time by HP Lovecraft. Think I’ve read most of his work but it’s been some time and so I forget whole stories. The Whisperer in Darkness is what got me. That story was, by the way, what earned old HP the most money he ever got for one. Bully for him. I’ve since finished it but now I’ve started At the Mountains of Madness.

On the barren shore, and on the lofty ice barrier in the background, myriads of grotesque penguins squawked and flapped their fins…

Never have I heard penguins described in such a way. Always and only the opposite. Were penguins somewhat unknown to the general public back in HP’s day and so some might conceive of them as such? Or was this Lovecraft being Lovecraft: Even the adorable, when near the mountains of madness, become something else entirely? I suspect as much.

Memory is like that, I guess– forgetting the details (or more) of things read in the past, I mean. One of my favorite professors once told me that forgetting was the best part of getting older: You get to read the things you love anew.

Several years later, he died unexpectedly and very prematurely. It was a terrible blow to hear of his passing. It still hurts. Not in a constant way but it’s there. In some ways, I think I looked at him like a father. When I spent a year studying abroad, I went (coincidentally) to the same university that he once spent a year at teaching. Felt at home right away because I could picture him walking the same steps as myself.

I mentioned his name to a lowly receptionist (as opposed to, say, the head of a department) and her eyes lit up. He was one of the best. Of that, I have no doubt. What’s really terrible, I always meant to visit with him later on but didn’t. I thought there was time.