The Tomb by H. P. Lovecraft
Perf. Ryan McCluskey (2006) BBC
Radio 4 Extra, 12 Jan. 2015
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.