- Paperback: 194 pages
- Publisher: Civil Coping Mechanisms (October 28, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1937865142
- ISBN-13: 978-1937865146
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,083,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting-Improvised-Men: The Last Letter of H.P. Lovecraft Paperback – October 28, 2013
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"What Gary Lutz has been doing at the level of sentences and words, Blackwell is doing at the level of stories, essays, and novels."
-Green Mountains Review
"The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting-Improvised-Men is an utterly terrifying book. While one might expect the prescribed distance of the meta-textual frame, and the faux-academic conceit of an annotated edition to somehow soften the terror of insanity and the disgusting squalor and physical decay described both in Lovecraft's letter and Blackwell's notes, the novel's structure and tone serve only to heighten the terror and disgust."
"As with the best books that use a dubious editor to call into question every word of a document, in particular Nabokov's Pale Fire, a surreal moment is inevitable for any reader of Natural Dissolution: when you forget whose story you're reading, Blackwell's or Lovecraft's. . . . The book thus infects readers just as Lovecraft's letter does Blackwell, just as Blackwell's ancestor's letter did Lovecraft, calling into question the stability of the written word as a whole."
"[The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting-Improvised-Men] isn't just a pastiche of Lovecraft . . . Horror gets deconstructed and Lovecraft is retrofitted in a work that is less concerned with categorization than the 'dissolution' of existence. Experience itself becomes suspect as does the scholarship of pain."
From the Back Cover
"Gabriel Blackwell is a madman. He channels the eldritch paranoia of H.P. Lovecraft so well that this book practically shudders in your fingers. Come to read the 'last letter' of the Master from Providence, Rhode Island but stay for an introduction to Gabriel Blackwell, a master in the making. The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting-Improvised-Men is literary gamesmanship of the highest order and a damn good companion in the darkest hours of the night."
"It's difficult to know if Blackwell is a sharp editor, a stone-faced ventriloquist, someone possessed by the ghost of Lovecraft, or all three. The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting-Improvised-Men is a startling investigation of the evanescence of the self. It's not so much that it will leave you changed as that it will leave you nameless and wandering."
"The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting-Improvised-Men is fiendishly clever, endlessly byzantine, and brilliantly tongue-in-cheek-in-cheek. In this book, Blackwell has essentially invented a new genre, the inverted quest: having started at the Holy Grail, the seeker works his way backward into mental and spiritual derailment. Gabriel Blackwell tips his hat not only to Lovecraft, but also to Thomas Bernhard, Samuel Beckett, David Foster Wallace, and anyone who's ever explored the dark horrors (and humor) in the suffocating inferno of the self's banalities."
"The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting-Improvised-Men is a literary puzzle-box far more intelligent, transgressive, and compellingly creepy than many who dwell in Lovecraft's shadow could ever have hoped of crafting, and comes as an easy recommendation to those daring to explore cosmic horrors eclipsing startling shapes and simple scares."
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All of which goes a long way to explain his continuing popularity well into the 21st Century, while the other, more successful pulp writers of his own time are all but lost to obscurity. Lovecraft somehow speaks to the current human condition. This is the Age of Crippling Anxiety, and Lovecraft is fast becoming its patron saint.
Gabriel Blackwell’s The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting-Improvised-Men taps into that pervasive feeling of alienation and helplessness that bleeds out crimson between HPL’s purple prose and infects the reader. And the manner in which Blackwell does it!
Here are the bare bones of the plot: Lovecraft did not die of a combination of bowel cancer and Bright’s Disease. Or rather, he did, but the illness was merely a symptom (and not the only one) of a foul existential contagion transmitted to him through a textual artifact, a letter from a deranged fan resident in an asylum. And the name of this secret priest of the Great Old Ones? Gabriel Blackwell.
Natural Dissolution... is the record of the author (the present-day Gabriel Blackwell) traveling to Providence to search for his vanished girlfriend (who may or may not actually exist), where he finds temporary work shredding old hospital documents. Among these he finds HPL’s file, and within that, he finds Lovecraft’s final hand-written letter to his fan/persecutor/killer, which details the effects of that Blackwell’s (no relation? Maybe. Maybe not...) letter to him, and the rapid slide into hallucination, madness, and disease it triggered in him. Effects which, as the author Blackwell soon learns during his own descent into madness, continue to transmit through Lovecraft’s own letter.
There are some marvelously descriptive passages in Natural Dissolution..., passages that deliver on the fevered promise of both Lovecraft’s fiction and psychedelic use: if we could only look deep enough into things, then all would be revealed. It’s William Blake’s doors of perception getting busted wide-open, only to reveal, not a spacious and infinite universe of light and reason, but a claustrophobic infinite regression of fractal foulness, mutating forms, and crushing psychological darkness. Lovecraft, who only thought he saw the truth at the bottom of things, finally sees it, and it kills him. Blackwell, who only wants to find his girlfriend, instead finds a twisted passage (through the transcription and translation of the letter) into the emptiness of his own existence. The final chapters, with his return to the West Coast (divested of the letter by a thoroughly Lovecraftian trope: the jostle/mugging by a dark stranger in an alleyway near the piers) and the half-life he left there, give the reader a final maddening coda: Gabriel Blackwell the Author is perhaps host to the personality of Gabriel Blackwell the Lovecraft correspondent, and evidence of another person or entity living in the apartment he rents (and has filled with hoarded material to become a maze-like mirror of his psyche) hints that doors through time and mind have been opened and will never shut.
That being said, Natural Dissolution... is also funny as hell. There’s a real David Foster-Wallace feel to the narrative, a dry humour in the sorting of awful phenomena and altered perceptions. Much of the story is pieced together through footnotes, and footnotes to footnotes, reminding me of House of Leaves, but in a good way. And Blackwell hits the perfect tone for Lovecraft’s voice: plummy and self-assured at points, devolving into “my god, that hand! The window! The window!” fevered hysteria at others, but sympathetic at all times. It’s Lovecraft’s last letter, and it feels just so, which is an amazing accomplishment.
Far and away one of the better literary horror novels I’ve read. Witty, urbane, deranged and ultimately very unsettling. Highly recommended.
if you're into Lovecraft or Nabokov's Pale Fire and Borges, I highly recommend this book.