The Tomb by H. P. Lovecraft

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The Tomb by H. P. Lovecraft

Perf. Ryan McCluskey (2006)  BBC Radio 4 Extra, 12 Jan. 2015

BBCiPlayer to 11 Feb. 2015



Listening to Ryan McCluskey’s full-bodied rendition of the Lovecraft tale, a macabre story of how the obsessive James Dudley became incarcerated in an asylum, tormented by thoughts of death, the past, and his apparently immortal relatives, I could not help feeling how Lovecraft strives to write as far as possible in the Gothic manner.


He takes a vivid pleasure in recounting unearthly experiences, often using the kind of colorful onomatopoeic language found in Romantic poetry.  In a first person narrative such as The Tomb, such techniques give the impression of a highly sensitive speaker, one who sees beyond the corporeal into the threatening universe underneath.  Nothing is quite what it seems; blackness conceals an other-world in which corpses come alive, ghosts haunt the mind, and individuals yearn for the onset of day.


In thematic terms, this kind of story denotes Lovecraft’s search for alternative means of expression, a desire to transcend the faux-realism of late Victorian and early twentieth century writing and discover new constructions of consciousness.  We might describe him as modernist in outlook, even though his narrative method is far from innovative.


As a subject for radio drama, or radio readings, his stories are ideal, as they draw listeners into a close identification with the subject, and then consciously surprise them with unexpected moments or a surprise dénouement.  It would be invidious to give away the ending of “The Tomb” – suffice to say that it is not quite what one might expect.