It is a cold, windy New England day in November. You find yourself in Providence. How can you not visit the gravesite of H. P. Lovecraft? I have mentioned Lovecraft before, in my podcast on Dagon, but that brief citation does not give credit to a man whose life provides episodes that feel strangely familiar to me. Barely known as a writer in his own lifetime, Lovecraft had difficulty finding employment and had a fascination with ancient gods. Indeed, I discovered Lovecraft while researching Dagon for a serious presentation and soon students were telling me about the Cthulhu (I would not dare attempt to pronounce) Mythos and how I had only scratched the surface of his writing.
Lovecraft’s fascination with ancient gods brought new life to forgotten entities. Dagon, despite being a major deity of ancient Mesopotamia, would likely have been completely forgotten by all but professors of arcane mythology had not Lovecraft resurrected him, albeit in a fishy form. His fascination with the protagonists of ancient myths, nearly forgotten deities, clearly influenced Neil Gaiman in his American Gods, and has preserved for the modern reader some of the fascination with powerful, ancient forces that show the insignificance of humanity. I found reading American Gods while in Providence a very humbling experience. Lovecraft also gave the world Arkham, the asylum of Batman fame, as well as Miskatonic University.
Along with Melville and Poe, Lovecraft deserves a place of honor in the pantheon of American literary explorers. The assortment of gifts left for him at his tombstone, including a small cairn, pennies, a pen, and even a note reading “thank you for the ideas,” attests his local fame. The prominence of his books at neighborhood bookstores assured me that I was not the only traveler to breathe in the air that Lovecraft exhaled. My visit also brought to mind a story that a friend of mine started to write some years ago. It had something to do with ancient gods coming back to life, although my friend had never heard of Lovecraft or Gaiman. Lovecraft’s spirit, it seems, may still be alive and well in Rhode Island and in the minds of other residents of Arkham.