Racism, handcuffs and tan half-pins

H. P. Lovecraft is, arguably, the most important author in the history of horror. The recalcitrant racist from Providence basically invented the modern horror genre back at the turn of the 20th century. Thorsten Bonsch (Xenomurphy) has created (with some help from Legopard) a highly atmospheric LEGO imagining of his study, complete with diabolical details and pretty presentation. Another entry for Mocathalon 2013.

H. P. Lovecraft’s Study

PS. And yes, I am planning to enter Alliterathalon 2013.

21 comments on “Racism, handcuffs and tan half-pins

  1. jiaxingseng

    Great scene. But… I don’t think bringing up HPL’s racism is relevant. Don’t want to make an excuse for it. But it does not have much to do with this scene. Most of his fans like his work, but recognize that the author was sort of a … loser. And not to say that HPL was a great man in history with this comparison, but… the founding fathers of America (and for that matter, most Americans until the modern era)… were racist in some way or another.

  2. gambort Post author

    ^ Considering his racism (which was extreme for his time) carries through his books, where in some ways the hulking horrors represent his views on immigrants, I don’t think it’s irrelevant. But more to the point, you cannot write a review of an H.P. Lovecraft model without mentioning the man. And I won’t mention the man without mentioning his infamous peccadillos.

  3. jiaxingseng

    Fair enough. I have not read that much HPL actually. I did not realize that his racism is pervasive through his works. I certainly did not realize that his racism was extreme for the time… considering at his time America was extremely racist and prominent mainstream elites supported fascism.

    I guess you need to mention HPL if the work is about him/his environment, as opposed to something out of his fiction. I just wonder… if someone makes a scene of the signing (or writing) of the Declaration of Independence, would you find it necessary to comment that many were slave-owners?

  4. Xenomurphy

    I think that racism was very common in the 1920s in the US (and probably in many other places all over the world). We can only condem those few who wrote their opinions down and became famous enough so that we can read today what they thought.

    Lovecraft changed his opinion when he became older (and wiser). He got rid of some friends who had a bad influence on him. His wife Sonia Greene was of Ukrainian-Jewish ancestry.

    I also think it wasn’t a case of racism, more like a case of xenophobia.

    Just my two cent.

  5. l0b0t

    Yeah… I have to call shenanigans on the claims of extreme racism. They stem exclusively from the recent works by Joshi and he seems to be interpreting things through the VERY clouded lens of an immigrant, with a sketchy grasp of American history, inculcated into leftist PC academia (he is from India and a product of Brown and Princeton). While Lovecraft was certainly an unrepentant cultural imperialist and xenophobe (he considered the Anglo-Saxon world to be the pinnacle of civilization and grew to thoroughly dislike immigrant labor when he lived in Brooklyn), he wasn’t wrapped up in ‘biological’ racism. As for his racism being more pronounced and emphatic than his contemporary society, that doesn’t pass the laugh test (Lovecraft self-identified as a ‘New Deal Democrat’, in opposition to the ‘Dixiecrat’ wing of the Democrat Party). This was a time in America when Jim Crow was in full force, there were still living veterans of the War Between the States, and the Ku Klux Klan was at the height of its power.

    That said, it’s a really nice MOC.

  6. gambort Post author

    Xenomurphy> As I understand it his wife then divorced him because he hated jews and sex.

    l0b0t> OK. His views weren’t “extreme” for the era, but they were certainly pervasive through his work, and thus worthy of mention. In your own words “he considered the Anglo-Saxon world to be the pinnacle of civilization and grew to thoroughly dislike immigrant labor when he lived in Brooklyn” which sounds an awful lot like a man who was a massive racist.

    I’m now very curious why you think an immigrant doesn’t have insight into American racism. Perhaps you consider wealthy, Anglo-Saxon, Christian males to be more informed about that.

  7. Xenomurphy

    The main cause for the divorce were financial problems. Lovecraft didn’t hate sex, he was just not very much interested in physical contact.

    I respect your opinion, Tim, but I think it is dangerous to reduce a complex character like Lovecraft (father died after spending 5 years in a mental hospital when Lovecraft was 8/Lovecraft being too ill to attend school for most of his youth/the strange hate-love-relationship to his mother (before she died in the same mental hospital)/his extreme isolation before he started to write/his nervous breakdown and suicidal tendencies/…) to a simple racist.

    I’m sure he was xenophobic, but for different reasons. He was a very fearful man in general and it must have been a big efford for him to leave his save and quiet Providence to follow his wife to Brooklyn. And Brooklyn must have been a horrible place for him after Sonia had to leave him to find a job.

    I would never defend a real racist.

  8. jiaxingseng

    Guys, I’m sorry I brought this up. Its not an important topic and I just don’t want a topic like this on a site I like to cause bad feelings.

    I am an American Jew, grandson of immigrants who were racist against their neighbors. I grew up in ghetto neighborhoods. I’m a product of PC education too. I think foreigners / immigrants have unique and valid opinions on racism in America. I think I have some valid insights too.

    Pretty much everyone in American history was racist. By today’s standards, Lincoln would be fairly racist too probably. I really don’t think HPL was more racist than average for his time, but its true that his racsim was reflected in his writings, unlike the writings of, say, Walt Whitman or many others.

    There are a lot of different types of racism. Structural racism that causes minorities to live in poor areas. Cultural racism taught from parents to children. Cultural Imperialism… which most Americans actually buy into without realizing it (see “Dances with Wolves”). Racism brought about by sheer ignorance. And then there are those who have borderline personality disorders (like HPL)… who just react negatively to those who don’t look like him because that’s how his mind is wired.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents. Really like this site. Like that Moc. Don’t want this to get out of hand.

  9. l0b0t

    “I’m now very curious why you think an immigrant doesn’t have insight into American racism. Perhaps you consider wealthy, Anglo-Saxon, Christian males to be more informed about that.”

    That is not even close to what I wrote (unfortunately, immigrants are often given too much insight into American racism and xenophobia). I apologize if I was unclear. My point was that Joshi is as much a product of his time and environment as was Lovecraft and while Lovecraft’s surroundings were quite racist by today’s standards, Joshi’s is one (being raised in a socialist, extremely caste-based society and moving into leftist academia) that seeks out and amplifies any perceived racism (full disclosure, I spent some time at Brown in the late 1980s and it was rife with the kind of political correctness that is presented as a caricature of academia in 2013). A great example is actually airing on C-SPAN3 right now; Lani Guinier is claiming that Dr. Seuss is racist because he wrote stories about the perils of racism.
    There also seems to be a great deal of conflation here of cultural bigotry with ethnic bigotry. While the former is perfectly reasonable (unless one subscribes to the clap-trap of cultural relativism), the latter is ignorant and almost as stupid as believing in the existence of biological ‘race’ in the first place.
    I’m curious as to where you are finding evidence that racism pervades his work? Apart from the protagonist in The Rats In The Walls having a cat named ‘Nigger Man’ and a mention in The Call Of Cthulhu of “degenerate half-caste Kanakees” and “a nautical looking negro”, I just don’t see it.

  10. Andrew

    Just as a side note, I’m quite pleased that there’s a literary discussion happening on our little LEGO blog…

    Thanks for keeping the discussion so far cordial, everybody!

  11. gambort Post author

    jiaxingseng> It’s all pretty civil. And this thread has probably contributed over half the comments on TBB for the past month ;)

    Xenomurphy> I wouldn’t say I’m reducing him to a racist. My opening sentence show the importance I place on him as a literary figure.

    l0b0t> The racism certainly does pervade his writing beyond that. I can’t remember the exact stories, but when I read it last year I saw several quite negative references to non-English immigrants. I believe in one story he actually lists the races of people in some sort of degenerate cult.

    Cultural racism is just as bad as physical racism. Sure, cultures have values that are better or worse from broader philosophical principles (like human rights, which I do consider important), and that’s not a problem. But when those broad opinions (and that is what they are) are extended to drawing grotesque stereotypes about members of a given culture it gets into the territory of violating their human rights by assigning to individuals the ‘sins’ of the culture.

    And please stop arguing by slogan. “PC” says nothing. Argue against the argument, don’t just whack a tag on things and use that as some sort of faux-intellectual fly-swatter.

  12. Xenomurphy

    Tim, it is just a bit shocking that ‘racism’ is the first word of the headline (especially in combination with the 2nd word ‘handcuffs’). It is misleading and might create a false picture of Lovecraft. When I think of him, the first words that come to my mind are ‘author’, ‘horror’ and even ‘weird’. This is like describing a Stephen King MOC and using the word ‘homophobe’ in the headline.
    Nevertheless, I’m glad to see that your knowledge of Lovecraft is quite comprehensive.

  13. gambort Post author

    ^ The misleading title was fully intentional. I’ll bet more people have looked at this model than if I’d just said “H.P. Lovecraft’s study in LEGO”. For the same reason ‘tabloids’ sell more than ‘broadsheets’. But I’m happy enough if people think of Lovecraft as a racist. Since he was.

    If Stephen King had ever given me cause to believe he was a homophobe, I would use that too. Orson Scott Card would certainly warrant it.

    PS. The first words I think of are “overly wordy”, “weird” and “Providence”. But “racist” isn’t too far behind.

  14. Brian

    Although H. P. Lovecraft was a racist, I don’t think that you should have used the word “racist” to describe him, and I especially don’t think you should have put the word “racism” in the title. These give rather awful connotations to a man who was the most prolific horror author of the 20th century. Also, during the 20th century, most writings from that period included some form of racism. For example, Huck Finn. One of the major characters in this novel’s nickname is the “N” word. Also, (sorry if I’m ranting here, I am a budding HPL scholar) only a few of his stories contain explicit racism. It is also known that in some of his later stories, closer to his death, you can see some of his racism waning towards the end of his life. For example, in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, he speaks very favorably of a black couple. Overall, I don’t think that the word “racist” should be used to describe Mr. Lovecraft.

  15. Xenomurphy

    Tim> At least it created more comments here.

    I still don’t agree with you about Lovecraft having been a racist instead of a xenophobe. We are obviously not able to convince each other from the contrary. Since everybody is entitled to his or her opinion (as long as it is not hurtful), I don’t have a problem with that.

    From ‘The Temple’ (1920):
    … When we rose to the surface about sunset, a seaman’s body was found on the deck, hands gripping the railing in curious fashion. The poor fellow was young, rather dark, and very handsome; probably an Italian or Greek, and undoubtedly of the Victory’s crew …

    Very handsome Italian or Greek doesn’t sound too racisit.

    About King: When I recently reread ‘It’ and ‘Salem’s Lot’, I realised how homophobe King was in his early years (especially in ‘It’) and though I’m directly concerned, I don’t have a problem with that since he changed his opinion when he became older, just like Lovecraft did.
    And I love his masterpiece ‘The Shining’.

  16. Brian

    gambort> So, you’re basically saying that you are misrepresenting H. P. Lovecraft just so that you will get more people to look at this MOC.

  17. gambort Post author

    ^ Of course. Because nowhere have I claimed he was a racist, given arguments why I think he’s a racist, or stated that I consider his racism is an important part of his character…

    Did you actually ready the discussion?

    Xenomurphy> Interesting about Stephen King. He’s clearly changed his mind. And good on him.

    I must confess I remain unconvinced that Lovecraft changed his mind, although it certainly sounds like he may have tempered his views in his older age. But I think we’ve hit the point of viva la difference. Thanks for the good discussion, all.

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