Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme where we randomly select a book from our Goodreads To Be Read list and share it with the world. It’s been hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners, but I’m not sure if that blog is active anymore. Please enjoy this preview of what I want to read in the future!
by Matt Ruff
Published February, 2016, by Harper
From Goodreads: The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy
Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, twenty-two year old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned Atticus’s great grandmother—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.
At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction.
A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of one black family, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism—the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.
The 2020 Hugo Awards sparked controversy when horror writer H.P. Lovecraft was awarded a retroactive award for ‘Best Series’ due to his work in ‘The Cthulhu Mythos’, a world of ancient eldritch gods that sleep in the deeps and beyond the edges of the universe. Though the mythos he developed his fascinating, Lovecraft was a racist and misogynist, and these ideas permeate his work, prompting many contemporary readers and authors to want to cancel Lovecraft and remove him from everything.
(There’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there?)
Lovecraft left the Cthulhu mythos open-ended and, ultimately, open source meaning that anyone with an idea can create whatever they want within the mythos. This has allowed many, many writers, artists, musicians, game developers, etc., etc. to be able to further explore the core story ideas Lovecraft introduced– including women and writers of color, who take these ideas and use them to explore racism, misogyny, and other injustices people face in the world today. On a recent episode of the podcast Imaginary Worlds, author Victor LaValle states that we shouldn’t ‘cancel’ Lovecraft, we should converse with his ideas– which LaValle did brilliantly in his novella, The Ballad of Black Tom (which uses the story ‘The Red Hook Horror’ as a springboard for his story of systemic racism in 1920s New York City and its effects on a young Black man in a world where Cthulhu exists).
The new HBO series Lovecraft Country is based on this book, with showrunners Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams. I don’t read very much in the Lovecraftian subgenre, but the book and show look like they could be fascinating and more timely than ever.