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LovecraftÕs Grimoires: Intertextuality and the Necronomicon

Conny Lippert University of Bristol The creations of Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937), an American author of Òweird fictionÓ who mainly published in the 1920s and Õ30s, have been seeing a remarkable revival and steady increase in prominence in recent years.1 His writings are generally considered under the modern genre categorisations of gothic and horror fiction. The ever widening field of scholarly criticism has initially been collated and undertaken most prominently by S. T. Joshi, while critical attention has also regularly emerged from the literary camp. This includes members of the so-called ÒLovecraft CircleÓ (friends and colleagues of H. P.) as well as modern writers like, for instance, Michel Houellebecq.2 Apart from a small group of personal associates and fellow authors of weird and speculative fiction, Lovecraft was not very widely known during his own cancer-shortened lifetime. Nowadays, however, self-consciously Lovecraftian elements frequently crop up in a great array of contexts. We encounter his creations in a broad variety of media, as for instance in the works of Swiss artist H. R. Giger, various songs of the wider heavy metal genre in music, and, perhaps most frequently of all, the world of graphic novels. This is, at least partly, due to the fact that Lovecraft and some of the aforementioned Lovecraft Circle used pieces of each othersÕ writings in their respective stories, thus creating a network of allusion and reference which was the first, and perhaps most significant step in keeping LovecraftÕs fictional universe alive long after the man himself was gone. This article provides a closer look at related intertextual methods and effects by using one particular creation of LovecraftÕs as its focus. The Necronomicon, LovecraftÕs fictional grimoire, has been continuously evolved and perpetuated by others and, by now, can be said to have developed a life of its own. It has been borrowed, used and altered to such an extent that, on occasion, certainty of its fictitiousness has become compromised. Some people, in other words, think the Necronomicon to be a real grimoire. Matters have been further complicated by the fact that a number of books under that name are now available for purchase on the market. The Necronomicon has gained materiality through intertextual techniques like borrowing and allusion, as well as imitation of the grimoire tradition. Life, in this case, seems to have imitated art, as will be elaborated in the following. The notion of art having an exclusively imitative focus on nature has been a critical commonplace since antiquity, with Plato and Aristotle (4th century BC) being the main exponents of mimesis.3 In his Republic (c. 380 BC), Plato deemed the imitative arts a potentially dangerous distraction to society. As learning was thought to occur primarily through imitation and by example, it was a choice of crucial importance to which text or object to expose an impressionable young mind. According to Plato, who would famously have banned poets from his ideal city-state, imitation is always already twice removed from the idea of a thing (in depicting the manifestation of that divine idea) and thus just as far removed from genuine knowledge (Potolsky, p. 25). Aristotle, on the other hand, treated
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mimesis as a Òfoundational aspect of human nature, with its own internal rules and proper effectsÓ (Potolsky, p. 7). He introduced a careful distinction between artistic and ethical choices in his Poetics (c. 335 BC) (Potolsky, p. 36). Dionysian imitatio, after the Greek author Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1st century BC), deviates from the concept of art exclusively imitating nature and focuses on the imitation of an already existing work of art instead. This imitation is not seen as mere copying or repetition, but rather as emulation or Òthe completion of a process of interpretation.Ó4 Its goal is to enrich another authorÕs creation. Shared fictional universes and the modern popular culture practice of fanfiction wherein pre-existing texts (such as movies, TV-shows or literature) are used as a basis for creative writing by fans - might therefore be seen as falling under the concept of Dionysian imitatio. When writers within the Lovecraft Circle (or later authors writing in the Lovecraftian vein) thus use H. P.Õs fictional universe - his characters, places or his occult bibliography - for their own stories, they are doing so in imitation of, and potentially even as homage to him. Although many of the individual elements in LovecraftÕs artificial universe have been borrowed and re-borrowed, developed and altered by other authors and in different media, it is the evolution of the Necronomicon that influenced and guided the way in which his oeuvre is perceived today. Due to its elusiveness and pseudo-folkloric aspects, the dark tome stands metonymically for that part of LovecraftÕs fiction that has gripped and captivated readers and coerced a number of them into doubting the fictitiousness of parts of his writing. First and foremost among those elements falsely considered reality is the Necronomicon. As Lovecraft himself not only tolerated or encouraged but actively partook in a pooling and sharing of ideas and materials, he would surely have been delighted by the continuous spreading of what August Derleth christened ÒThe Cthulhu Mythos.Ó5 Lovecraft himself imitated the styles of authors he admired. Lord DunsanyÕs influence in particular has often been cited as crucial in LovecraftÕs career as, in S. T. JoshiÕs words, one of the Ògreat dreamersÓ of literary history.6 In a letter from 1929 Lovecraft proclaims: ÒThere are my ÔPoeÕ pieces & my ÔDunsanyÕ pieces - but alas - where are my Lovecraft pieces?Ó7 He need not have worried, however, as he quickly went from being inspired by his predecessors to inspiring others. According to Harold Bloom in The Anxiety of Influence (1973), the desire to become an influence is the only motive which can explain why writing and reading still occur in an environment where everything has already been written.8 ÒThe prayer then is to be an influence, and not to be influenced, and the precursor is praised for having been what one has become.Ó9 Although, in Stephen KingÕs words, Òthe reader would do well to remember that it is his shadow, so long and gaunt, and his eyes, so dark and puritanical, which overlie almost all of the important horror fiction that has come since,Ó LovecraftÕs focus did not seem to lie on being an influence, but rather on expressing to and discussing his ideas and nightmare visions with like-minded people.10 While mimesis thus stands for the imitation of nature by art, and Dionysian imitatio denotes art imitating other art, Oscar Wilde is one of the main representatives of the concept of reverse- or anti-mimesis, which sketches the phenomenon of life imitating art. His essay ÒThe Decay of LyingÓ in Intentions is formulated as a Socratic dialogue in which one participant (Vivian) tries to convince the other (Cyril) of the necessity of a return to lying - the Òtelling of beautiful untrue thingsÓ - as the main function of art.11 Walter PaterÕs ÒlÕart pour lÕartÓ creed is sketched in VivianÕs Ònew aesthetics,Ó which are grounded in the principle that ÒArt never expresses anything but itselfÓ (Wilde, p. 42). Vivian further advocates Òthat Life imitates art far more than Art imitates lifeÓ (Wilde, p. 30). According to his theory, the consumption of texts shapes the way in which we see the world: ÒThings are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced usÕ (Wilde, p. 39). It also depends on the tools of interpretation and representation available to us; the pre-existing system of signs constituting our language. Words are, in a Saussurean sense,
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always already pre-inscribed with meanings and connotations. In using language, in short, we are already imitating that which has come before. Potolsky mentions that Òthe tradition of imitatio anticipates what literary theorists have called intertextuality, the notion that all cultural products are a tissue of narratives and images borrowed from a familiar storehouse (Potolsky, pp. 53-54). The term intertextuality was coined by Julia Kristeva in her considerations of, and elaborations on, the texts of Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin and his theories of dialogism. In essays such as ÒWord, Dialogue and NovelÓ she defines three dimensions of textual space, namely the Òwriting subject, addressee and exterior texts.Ó12 As this third category of Òexterior textsÓ indicates, intertextuality, for Kristeva, denotes the text being influenced by other texts. The notion of a network of textual pre-knowledge, carried by the reader, through which each reading of a new text is being filtered, makes the conception of a self-contained text impossible. [As] a text is available only through some process of reading [É] what is produced at the moment of reading is due to the cross-fertilisation of the packaged textual material (say, a book) by all the texts which the reader brings to it (Worton, p. 1). Roland Barthes calls intertextuality Òthe impossibility of living outside the infinite textÓ and goes on to say that Òthe book creates meaning, the meaning creates life.Ó13 Our perception of reality is thus portrayed as being influenced by the imitations of reality we absorb through art and the texts around us. If we - like WildeÕs Vivian - believe that our perception of reality is what makes reality, and that this consequently shapes imitations thereof in art, then we indeed accept a perpetual cross-fertilisation of art and reality taking place at all times. In a further elaboration on this reciprocity of influence between perception and creation, Wilde has Vivian proclaim that Òthere may have been fogs for centuries in London. [É] But no one saw them and so we do not know anything about themÓ (Wilde, p. 39). This stance is echoed in J. R. R. TolkienÕs poem ÒMythopoeiaÓ (1931) by contrasting its opening line Òyou look at trees and label them just so,Ó taken from a previous conversation with his friend, C. S. Lewis, with the qualification Òyet trees are not Ôtrees,Õ until so named and seen.Ó14 The terms mythopoeia or mythopoesis - the act of creating mythology - are now also used for a genre of fiction promoting not only a fictional universe, but also an artificial mythology therein. Tolkien, one of the main figures in this genre, wrote the poem, in which he discusses and defends creative myth-making, as a response to Lewis.15 The poemÕs epigraph is therefore directed from the maker of Middle Earth to the creator of Narnia - two of the most well-known and fertile fictional universes of recent times. It reads: ÒTo one who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though Òbreathed through silverÓ (Tolkien, p. 97). For Lovecraft mythopoeia was without a doubt a worthy occupation, as, in his words, Òan artificial mythology [could] become subtler & more plausible than a natural oneÓ (Letters, IV, p. 70). He states: A plausible idea is a plausible idea - and it doesnÕt make a damnÕs worth of difference whether or not it has ever formed part of an actual mythological fabric. The fact is, I rather prefer purely original weird concepts as opposed to those derived from genuine folklore (Letters, V, p. 169). In this, Lovecraft seems to be in agreement with VivianÕs second doctrine, saying that Òall bad art comes from returning to Life and Nature, and elevating them into ideals.Ó Although they can serve as basic inspiration, Vivian proposes that Life and Nature need to be ÔenhancedÕ by artistic emulation before they can be of any service to us (Wilde, p. 52). Although striving for a certain amount of realism in his fiction - simply to make the emergence of the weird all the more startling by contrast - Lovecraft did not at all mind Ôlies breathed through silver:Õ ÒI respect honest realism in fiction, but donÕt seem to get wholly fascinated till phantasy enters
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itÓ (Letters, II, p. 277). While having been enraptured with GrimmÕs fairy tales, classical mythology and The Arabian Nights as a child, in the adult LovecraftÕs opinion Òthe best artificial mythology, of course, is Lord DunsanyÕs elaborate & consistently developed pantheon of Peg‹naÕs godsÓ (Letters, IV, p. 70). The delight he took in those real as well as fictional myths is related to his focus on heritage and tradition. A connection to and continuation of longstanding convention and custom seemed to help Lovecraft counteract the feeling of being adrift in an uncaring and aimless universe (the basis of his philosophy of cosmicism). Mythologies, fairytales and legends provided him with a similar sense of stability. In his own words Òtradition means nothing cosmically, but it means everything locally & pragmatically because we have nothing else to shield us from a devastating sense of ÔlostnessÕ in endless time & spaceÓ (Letters, II, p. 357). As tradition and the perpetuation of the familiar demand a certain degree of repetition and adherence to conventions, Potolsky is right to state that Òimitation is the effective origin of tradition itselfÓ (Potolsky, p. 52). H. P. Lovecraft himself is part of a tradition. His legacy to speculative fiction, and particularly to what was to become the horror genre, is as manifold as it is wide-reaching. The inhabitants of the world of the Cthulhu Mythos are still with us and crop up time and again all over the landscape of popular culture. Computer and tabletop games, film and television are examples of where LovecraftÕs ÒGreat Old OnesÓ (his pantheon of fictional gods) and their entourage have made appearances. LovecraftÕs mythopoeic genius has rendered his creations and thus himself - immortal. L. Sprague De Camp went so far as to say that LovecraftÕs ÒCthulhu Mythos is an imaginative creation ranking with Lewis CarrollÕs Wonderland, BurroughÕs Barsoom, EddisonÕs Zimiamvia, BaumÕs Oz, HowardÕs Hyborian Age, and TolkienÕs Middle Earth.Ó16 Few of his inventions, however, were so persistently viral as the Necronomicon. What makes it particularly remarkable is the bookÕs twofold development, which can be broken down into its fictional history devised by Lovecraft and its actual history - meaning the evolution and career of a book (or in this case: books). Such a distinction has become necessary, as the perpetuation of Lovecraftian mythopoeia has reached a stage so elaborate, that the boundaries between the fictitious and the real have become blurred. There are, as already mentioned, those among LovecraftÕs readers who would like to believe in the NecronomiconÕs existence, and in a wider truth behind the entire Mythos. Lovecraft first mentioned the book in his story ÒThe Hound,Ó which was published in Weird Tales in 1924, although hints toward it can be detected in earlier works, such as ÒThe Nameless City,Ó which was published in 1921. In 1927, he formulated ÒThe History of the NecronomiconÓ in order to make it easier for himself and others to use his materials in a consistent manner and to enhance verisimilitude. If the details of their collective allusions toward the dark tome corresponded to one another, so the idea it would appear more believable to the readers. It is unlikely that it was ever intended for wider circulation, but in 1938 a fan published the leaflet (De Camp, p. 410). The ÒHistoryÓ tells us that the NecronomiconÕs original Arabic title is Al Azif, a term denoting the nocturnal sounds made by insects in the desert, which were held to be conversing demons (in another act of appropriation Lovecraft has taken this particular detail from Samuel HenleyÕs notes to William BeckfordÕs Vathek) (Joshi, p. 285). The incongruity of having a Greek title for a book supposedly written by an Arab has thus been circumvented. The ÒMad ArabÓ Abdul Alhazred is further reported to have authored the book in Damascus, where he either died or disappeared around 738 AD. In his letters, Lovecraft repeatedly stated that the name Abdul Alhazred was a pseudonym he took around the age of 5, when his love for The Arabian Nights was at its height (Letters, I, p. 122). In the ÒHistory,Ó he devised a faux biography for this character, which Derleth later took up and altered, and which has now also become selfperpetuating. The circumstances of AlhazredÕs death, according to the ÒHistory,Ó were heinous indeed, as, after dabbling in the spells and incantations of the grimoire, he was
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publicly devoured by an invisible demon in the local marketplace. In 950 AD the Al Azif was secretly translated into Greek under the now famous title Necronomicon.17 Opinions on the exact translation of the Greek title abound. According to Joshi, the closest direct translation would be ÒA Consideration [or Classification] of the Dead,Ó rather than LovecraftÕs own ÒAn Image [or Picture] of the Law of the DeadÓ (Joshi, p. 285). Around 1228, the ÒHistoryÓ goes on to relate, Olaus Wormius made a Latin translation of it. Although Wormius existed (he was Danish physician), he was born in 1588 rather than the 13th century. De Camp regards this mistake as an indication that the essay was not intended for publication and therefore Òdashed off [É] without checking the factsÓ (De Camp, p. 410). Both the Latin and the Greek version of the grimoire were banned by Pope Gregory IX in 1232. Eventually, an English translation was made (but never printed) by John Dee, Queen Elizabeth IÕs court astrologer. Different versions of the Necronomicon are said to be held in a number of libraries across the earth, including the University library of Buenos Aires and, of course, that of the Miskatonic University at Arkham, that fabled nexus of Lovecraftian lore. In yet a further twist of intertextuality and self-reference, Lovecraft mentioned the possibility of Upton Pickman (from his own short story ÒPickmanÕs ModelÓ [1926]) to have possessed a copy of the Necronomicon before his mysterious disappearance. Also, he indicated that R. W. Chambers is rumoured to have derived the idea of his The King in Yellow (1895) from the Necronomicon. It is, of course, the other way around. By reversing the timeline so that the Necronomicon appears to predate The King in Yellow, Lovecraft gave it another level of authenticity which it would otherwise have lacked. It becomes obvious that he indeed was master of intertextual devices, such as referentiality, allusion and presupposition. Lovecraft and his friends used each othersÕ creations to engender an air of authenticity for their pseudo-mythological literary landscapes, and Lovecraft felt that, in so doing, they followed a tradition of weird fiction. According to him, Ò[Robert W.] Chambers borrowed [Ambrose] BierceÕs artificial mythology just as Clark Ashton Smith & I allude to each otherÕs artificial mythologies in our respective talesÓ (Letters, V, p. 120). The writers of the Lovecraft Circle embedded their fictional tomes amidst actual grimoires, as in LovecraftÕs ÒThe Festival,Ó (written 1923, published 1925) where the Necronomicon appears amongst copies of Joseph GlanvillÕs Saducismus Triumphatus (1681) and Nicholas RemyÕs (aka Remigius) Daemonolatreia (1596). For the fun of building up a convincing cycle of synthetic folklore, all of our gang frequently allude to the pet deamons of the others. [É] Also, I sometimes insert a devil or two of my own in the tales I revise or ghost-write for professional clients. [É] Thus our black pantheon acquires an extensive publicity & pseudo-authoritativeness it would not otherwise get (Letters, V, p. 16). Some examples of other authorsÕ dark tomes which Lovecraft helped to circulate are Clark Ashton SmithÕs Book of Eibon, Robert E. HowardÕs Unausprechlichen Kulten, August DerlethÕs Cultes de Ghoules and Robert BlochÕs de Vermis Mysteriis. Lovecraft did not limit himself to the Necronomicon either; examples of his other fictional occult texts were the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan. While none of these other fabricated grimoires are now as widely known or regarded in a light as controversial as the Necronomicon, their existence proves the fact that Ògrimoires were a favourite motif for the writers of pulp horror and fantasy.Ó18 While many Victorian and Edwardian novelists had actual occult interests underlying the use of grimoires in their writing, Lovecraft held no belief in the supernatural whatsoever (Davies, p. 262). As part of the perpetuation of the myth surrounding the Necronomicon, theories concerning LovecraftÕs own biography have been planted by what could be called conspiracy
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enthusiasts, intending to make it a debatable matter how far-reaching his - in truth very limited - occult knowledge really was. In 1925 he proclaimed to Ònever [have] read any of the jargon of formal ÔoccultismÕÓ (Letters, II, p. 27). In the next year, however, he would have embarked on research in this area for a collaboration with Harry Houdini (for whom he had ghost-written the story Under the Pyramids in 1924) on the book-project The Cancer of Superstition, which was never actually undertaken due to HoudiniÕs death that year. One of those writers partaking in a perpetuation of supposed mysteries surrounding Lovecraft and his work is Colin Wilson. In his introduction to George HayÕs The Necronomicon, he elaborated on and printed a hoax letter from non-existent Dr. Stanislaus Hinterstoisser regarding Winfield Lovecraft (H. P.Õs father) and his supposed connections to Egyptian Freemasonry, including his possession of a copy of the Necronomicon.19 Despite WilsonÕs admission that the whole affair had been a hoax, the speculative seed was planted, and people interested in the Necronomicon are frequently led astray.20 Lovecraft believed that writing a weird story functioned along similar lines as constructing a hoax and although Òthis pooling of resources tends to build up quite a pseudoconvincing background of dark mythology, legendry & bibliographyÓ Lovecraft repeatedly assures his correspondents that Òof course none of us has the least wish actually to mislead readersÓ (Letters, IV, p. 346). He says: I am opposed to serious hoaxes, since they really confuse and retard the sincere student of folklore. I feel quite guilty every time I hear of someoneÕs having spent valuable time looking up the Necronomicon at public libraries.21 Nevertheless, his striving for verisimilitude and cross-referentiality enhanced the chances of readers being fooled, even prior to such efforts as Colin WilsonÕs, or that of the often-cited prankster who managed to smuggle an index card for the book into the files of Yale library (De Camp, p. 410). It is easily demonstrated that the Necronomicon is by no means the only fictitious text which developed a life of its own, merely because the readership wanted to believe in its actuality. At the beginning of the 1600s, for instance, two anonymously published pamphlets appeared within a year of each other in Kassel, Germany, promoting the existence of an ancient and mysterious secret fraternity, well-versed in the art of alchemy. The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, a follow-up novel, heavy in alchemical allegory, appeared in 1616, proceeding to elaborate on the earlier manifestoes and giving details about RosenkreutzÕs supposed biography. It is a matter of ongoing debate whether the original Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross ever really existed, but the pamphlets caused immense excitement regardless, and laid the foundation for many ÒRosicrucianÓ societies thereafter.22 Similarly, in 1973, a small-press edition called Al Azif appeared, consisting of eight pages of simulated Syrian script repeated 24 times. In 1977, the Necronomicon by Simon was published, probably produced by the occultists connected to the New York bookshop the ÒMagickal Childe.Ó The so-called Simon Necronomicon (or even Simonomicon) is the most popular and wide-spread published Necronomicon today. It carries itself as a bricolage of actual Sumerian myth and some of the Lovecraftian pantheon. In 1978, George HayÕs Necronomicon: The Book of Dead Names (with WilsonÕs introduction) was published. There are now several Necronomicons available on the market, all of them trying to fill the gaps Lovecraft left in his hints toward the book - all of them failing to fulfil the promise Lovecraft made, by virtue of their physical reality (See Harms). The exact concept and actuality of the Necronomicon is even more difficult to grasp by a modern non-reader of LovecraftÕs stories. That it is now entirely possible to come into contact with the fake grimoire through channels other than LovecraftÕs fiction, is another reason why the Necronomicon is occasionally taken at face-value. Perhaps the most likely
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place to encounter the tome in popular culture today is Sam RaimiÕs Evil Dead franchise (1981 - 1992).23 It is here that the Necronomicon receives its gruesome attributes, reminiscent of the forbidden book in Robert SoutheyÕs 1798 poem ÒCornelius Agrippa,Ó of being bound in human flesh and inked in human blood. Although those who believe in the truth of LovecraftÕs stories and the physical existence of Abdul AlhazredÕs original Necronomicon are very much in the minority, there are occult practitioners who use the Simon Necronomicon or elements taken from LovecraftÕs stories to perform chaos magic - a branch of ritual magic. As early as 1955, Kenneth Grant, an associate of Aleister CrowleyÕs, created the ÔTyphonianÕ Ordo Templi Orientis as a form of spin-off of CrowleyÕs Ordo Templi Orientis. In his essay ÒThe Influence of H P Lovecraft on OccultismÓ K. R. Bolton explains that Grant has done much to reconcile LovecraftÕs nightmare fantasies with ancient mythic entities, the view of Grant and others being that the Necronomicon is a legitimate esoteric text extant on the astral realm and accessed in dreams.24 Grant regards Lovecraft and Crowley as part of the same mythic and occult system. BelieversÕ stubborn resistance to accepting the fictitiousness of the Necronomicon is here supported by a circumvention of the issue of authenticity through claiming that the Necronomicon is a channelled work, possibly even accessed without the authorÕs awareness of the process. To strengthen his own claims, Grant provided a list of correspondences between the Cthulhu Mythos and that of Crowley. Furthermore, there are those who would like to believe that Lovecraft was made privy to some of CrowleyÕs secret teachings through Sonia Greene, who supposedly knew the occultist before she married Lovecraft.25 These are just some examples of the many ways in which Lovecraftian influence has manifested in modern spiritualism. In the creation of the Necronomicon, Lovecraft builds on both the real grimoire tradition and the way in which grimoires are depicted in works of fiction. H. P. and his friends start using and adapting each othersÕ grimoires in their fiction, while Lovecraft sneaks the Necronomicon into works he revises or ghost-writes for professional clients. Embedding it within a number of real occult books and historical figures, he causes readers (especially before the age of the internet) to quickly lose their sense of what is real and what is not. Writers outside the Lovecraft Circle then start to generate and publish their own versions of the Necronomicon, some of which are now used for Lovecraftian Chaos Magic, which means that, effectively, there are a number of functional, if not Òreal,Ó Necronomicon-grimoires in circulation at present. This shows that the idea of the Necronomicon is deeply palimpsestic, inscribed and re-inscribed by various authors over the decades. All Lovecraft did was to provide the structural framework of the idea, based on both the conventions of weird fiction (at his time not yet called the horror genre) and grimoire tradition. He provided the necessary gaps for readers to fill, and for other writers to elaborate on. Not only have LovecraftÕs admirers, in the spirit of Dionysian imitatio, continued to write and create in his universe, but, as an example of anti-mimesis, the Necronomicon has birthed itself straight from LovecraftÕs pages. His idea of the Necronomicon is nearly inviolable, for its ambiguity, mystery and allure are, of course, afforded it by its non-existence. This is not to say that Lovecraft was not tempted to try his hand at actually penning the book: As for writing the Necronomicon - I wish I had the energy and ingenuity to do it! I fear it would be quite a job in view of the very diverse passages and intimations which I have in the course of time attribute to it! I might, though, issue an abridged Necronomicon containing such parts as are considered at least reasonably safe for the perusal of mankind! When von JuntzÕs Black Book and the poems of Justin Geoffrey are on the market, I shall certainly have to think about the immortalisation of old Abdul! (Letters, IV, pp. 39-40).

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It would have been quite the challenge to strike a suitable balance between the verisimilitude that a full-blown, realistic text of the Necronomicon would have demanded, and yet maintain the elusiveness and mystery defining the Lovecraftian grimoire. To fill these fruitful conceptual gaps for readers, instead of letting them do so themselves, would have deprived the idea of the Necronomicon of a substantial part of its allure. It is therefore questionable whether he would have done Òold AbdulÓ a favour at all. He muses: Òseriously-written books on dark, occult, and supernatural themes - in all truth they donÕt amount to much. That is why itÕs more fun to invent mythical works like the Necronomicon and Book of EibonÓ (Letters, V, p. 286). It is presumably also more fun to simply allude to these tomes, rather than to fully formulate them in the guise of a real occult manuscript. Harms and Gonce have aptly described the conundrum as follows: If the Necronomicon were a genuine occult text from the 8th century, as Lovecraft reported it to be in his fanciful history of the book, I have no doubt whatsoever that it would consist of a tiresome collection of prayers, prosaic instructions about diet and hygiene, incomprehensible names, and lists of ingredients for potions. [É] In its intangibility lies its power (Harms, p. xii). If the product created through a process of reading is indeed due to the crossfertilisation of the text by all the texts which the reader brings to it, then, using the preexisting elements of grimoire tradition, the conventions of weird fiction and the slowly emerging ÒCthulhuvian traditionÓ Lovecraft accessed various intertexts readers brought to the table (De Camp, 434). Thus exploiting the presupposition of the intertext, he needed no more than hint at the NecronomiconÕs content to bring it to life. Avid readers of weird tales will have been familiar with references to the Necronomicon in other peopleÕs works. Presupposing the existence of the Necronomicon along with the rest of the Mythos is thus devised to make the reader assume a pre-existing source- or inter-text. To return to the aforementioned Saussurean concept of a pre-inscribed language system, it is worth quoting Culler, for whom The notion of intertextuality names the paradox of linguistic and discursive systems: that utterances or texts are never moments of origin because they depend on the prior existence of codes and conventions, and it is the nature of codes to be always already in existence, to have lost origins.26 The fact that we are used to lost intertextual origins - or simply the impossibility of tracing them - makes LovecraftÕs mythopoeic work much easier. Familiar with the idea of untraceable and obscure sources, the reader is arguably more likely to respond to the echoing of a tradition or the allusion to a specific item with credulity. Repetition and continuous reiteration is an important element specifically of the Gothic genre, of which weird fiction is now seen to form a part. Genre fiction generally relies to a certain extent on this recognisability of tropes and themes for effect. Pleasure can be derived precisely from this recognition of imitation, which is then not just repetition, but the aforementioned completion of an act of interpretation. ÒThe characteristic feature of mythical thought,Ó according to LŽvi-Strauss, Òis that it expresses itself by means of a heterogeneous repertoire which, even if extensive, is nevertheless limited.Ó27 If the same building blocks are used and re-used in the construction of myth and fiction, then, in VivianÕs world, reality is also built of a finite amount of elements (if only because we have a finite number of signs available to us). Like the spreading of a rumour or a conspiracy theory, repeated and consistent mentioning of the NecronomiconÕs reality eventually made it so. What is true for his famous grimoire is also valid for numerous elements throughout the rest of his fiction, in which Lovecraft both utilised and built on an already existing intertextual fabric. It could be said that the Necronomicon is the ultimate presupposed - or, as some people would like to
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believe - lost intertext. Here, it was not only art that imitated other art, but indeed, in an antimimetic moment of creation, Life imitating Art.
Weird fiction can be seen as a precursor to (and mixture of) the horror, fantasy and science fiction genres. Michel Houellebecq, H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life (San Francisco, CA: Believer Books; 2005). 3 Matthew Potolsky, Mimesis (London: Routledge, 2006), p.1. 4 Intertextuality - Theories and Practices, ed. by Michael Worton and Judith Still (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990), p. 6. 5 August Derleth (1909 - 1971), as well as being a contributor to the Mythos himself, is responsible for establishing Arkham House Publishers, and thus for getting LovecraftÕs stories published and circulated more widely. 6 ÔBut in the fall of 1919 Lovecraft fell under the influence of the Irish fantaisiste Lord Dunsany, and for at least two years would do little but write imitations of his new mentorÕ. Quoted in S. T. Joshi, H. P. Lovecraft: A Life (West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, 1996), p. 21, 168. 7 H. P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters, 1925-1929, ed. by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei (Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1968), II, p. 315. 8 Graham Allen, Intertextuality (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 137, 139. 9 Harold Bloom. The Anxiety of Influence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 126. 10 Stephen King, Danse Macabre (London: Macdonald & Co Publ. Ltd., 1981), p. 118. 11 Oscar Wilde, Intentions (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1913), p. 54. 12 The Kristeva Reader, ed. by Tory Moi (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), p. 36. 13 Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text (New York: Hill and Wang, 1975), p. 36. 14 J. R. R. Tolkien, Tree and Leaf (London: Unwin Hyman, 1988), p. 97. 15 Humphrey Carpenter, The Inklings: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and their friends (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1978), p. 43. 16 L. Sprague De Camp, Lovecraft: A Biography (New York, Doubleday, 1975), pp. 434, 444. 17 ÔThe name was probably suggested by that of the Astronomica of Manilius [É] quoted by Lovecraft in his newspaper columnÕ (De Camp, p. 167). 18 Owen Davies, Grimoires (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 264. 19 The Necronomicon, ed. by George Hay (London, Corgi Books, 1980), p. 13-63. 20 The fact that LovecraftÕs grandfather Whipple Phillips actually was a Freemason (albeit of the normal, nonEgyptian kind - which was really rather common for businessmen in those times) probably did not help matters either. 21 Quoted in Daniel Harms, and John Wisdom Gonce III, The Necronomicon Files: The Truth Behind the Legend, (Boston MA: Weiser, 2003), p. 21. 22 Frances A. Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972). 23 In The Evil Dead (1981), the protagonists still deal with something called ÒThe Book of the DeadÓ or ÔMorturom DemontoÕ but in the sequel (Evil Dead II [1987]) it is already called ÔNecronomicon Ex-mortisÕ, which is also the name it will have in Army of Darkness, the third instalment (1992). 24 K. R. Boldon, ÔThe Influence of H. P. Lovecraft on Occultism,Õ in The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies, 9 (2010) http://irishgothichorrorjournal.homestead.com/LovecraftOccultism.html [accessed on 31 August 2011] 25 No substantiation or proof exist for this rumour. 26 Jonathan Culler, ÔPresupposition and Intertextuality,Õ in Comparative Literature 91/6 (1976), 1380-96 (p. 1382). 27 Claude LŽvi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (London: Weidenfeld and Nocolson, 1966), p. 17.
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Works Cited: Bloom, Harold, The Anxiety of Influence - A Theory of Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997) Boldon, K. R., ÔThe Influence of H. P. Lovecraft on OccultismÕ, in The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies, 9 (2010)
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http://irishgothichorrorjournal.homestead.com/LovecraftOccultism.html [accessed on 31 August 2011] Carpenter, Humphrey, The Inklings: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and their friends, (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1978) Culler, Jonathan, ÔPresupposition and Intertextuality,Õ in Comparative Literature 91/6 (Dec 1976), 1380-96 De Camp. L Sprague, Lovecraft: A Biography (New York: Doubleday, 1975) Davies, Owen, Grimoires (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) Harms, John and John Wisdom Gonce III, Necronomicon Files: The Truth Behind the Legend (Boston MA: Weiser, 2003) Hay, George, ed., The Necronomicon - The Book of Dead Names (London: Corgi Book, 1980) Joshi, S. T., H. P. Lovecraft: A Life (Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, 1996) Lovecraft, H. P., Selected Letters, 1925-1929 ed. by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, 5 vols (Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1965-76) Moi, Toril, ed., The Kristeva Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986) Potolsky, Matthew, Mimesis (London: Routledge, 2006) Tolkien, J. R. R., Tree and Leaf (London: Unwin Hyman, 1988) Wilde, Oscar, Intentions (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1913) Worton, Michael and Judith Still, eds., Intertextuality - Theories and Practices (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990) Yates, Frances A., The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972) Films: Evil Dead, dir. by Sam Raimi (Renaissance Pictures, 1981) Evil Dead II, dir. by Sam Raimi (Renaissance Pictures, et. al., 1987) Army of Darkness, dir. by Sam Raimi (Renaissance Pictures, et. al., 1992)

Working With English: Medieval and Modern Language, Literature and Drama 8, Gothic Histories (2012-13): 41-50