“Book, The“

   (title supplied by R.H.Barlow).
   Story fragment (1,200 words); probably written c. October 1933. First published in Leaves(1938); first collected in Marginalia;corrected text in D. The unnamed firstperson narrator, whose “memories are very confused,” tells of coming upon a “worm-riddled book” in an obscure bookstall near the river. Recognizing it, in spite of the absence of its opening pages, as a rare and forbidden work, he wishes to purchase it; but the old man tending the bookstall merely “leered and tittered,” refusing payment for it. The narrator hurries through the narrow streets to his home, sensing vague and disturbing presences around him. As he reaches home and begins examining the book in his attic study, he hears a faint scratching at the window—evidently a creature he had summoned by uttering an incantation in the book. After that time his perceptions are seriously affected: “Mixed with the present scene was always a little of the past and a little of the future….” Further bizarre events occur as the narrator continues to chant the formulae in the book. At this point the fragment ends.
   R.H.Barlow dated the fragment to 1934, but in a letter of October 1933 HPL writes: “I am at a sort of standstill in writing—disgusted at much of my older work, & uncertain as to avenues of improvement. In recent weeks I have done a tremendous amount of experimenting in different styles & perspectives, but have destroyed most[emphasis added] of the results” ( SL4.289). The fragment appears to be an attempt to recast Fungi from Yuggothin prose. The existing text narrates the events outlined in the first three poems of the sonnet-cycle (which indeed present a connected narrative); the fact that the text terminates at this point may suggest that HPL had no idea how to write the rest of the cycle as a coherent story.
   See S.T.Joshi, “On The Book,’” Nyctalops 3, No. 4 (April 1983): 9–13; rpt. CryptNo. 53 (Candlemas 1988): 3–7; Michael Cisco, “The Book of ‘The Book,’” LS No. 42 (Summer 2001): 5–21.

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