Monday, February 1, 2010

The Statement of Randolph Carter

Short Story by H.P. Lovecraft

Randolph Carter is found wandering around a swamp in a daze. When the police question him from his hospital bed, he tells the story of how he and his friend Harley Warren went to an old cemetery in the swamp and found something terrible. Warren never came back.

The horror of this story is all fear of the unknown. Warren descends into a tomb that leads somewhere, leaving one end of a portable telephone wire behind him for communication. He never really answers any of the questions Carter asks on the surface, but does mention legions of hellish things. The story ends rather abruptly, and for my taste, the last sentence breaks the horror a bit.

But this is all fridge logic. Why did Warren have so much time to talk, why does the bigger thing know English, why do ancient books from India talk about Florida cemeteries? These things don't hurt it too much, because I also spend time thinking about what they were actually looking for, the only clue being something about dead bodies that never decompose, and what was it they actually found?

The two things that stand out most about the writing are Lovecraft's excellent description of the cemetery, and his use of alliteration and rhythm in his description. He manages to talk about scenery and make it seem scary in it's own right. The vividness of the abandoned cemetery description contrasts with the lack of any description of what was found below ground, and this only adds to the sense of fear.

Overall I found this story scarier than it had any right to be given the plot and the ending. It wasn't brilliant, but it was good. 3.5 times out of 5, your buddy Warren is not there.

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