I recently decided to re-read Umberto Eco’s strange, dense novel Foucault’s Pendulum. I was pleased to discover that it not only holds up over the decades since I first read it way back in high school, but that I found much more in it to appreciate now that I’ve had a few dozen additional years of, well, “life and stuff” to color my perspective.
Much of the book consists of a very convoluted tour of occult beliefs and conspiracy theories—at times it’s just a firehose of information from Eco’s very widely-read mind. It’s hard to imagine any bizarre historical belief, no matter how obscure, slipping by without at least a brief mention in Pendulum.
And so as I read, I found myself waiting hopefully for a mention of… Cthulhu. While most of us read Lovecraft for the cool slimy monsters, bits of the Cthulhu mythos (or at least, its infamous tomes) have been co-opted by real-world belief systems. Mostly (I presume) in a winkingly self-aware postmodern kind of way. That’s exactly the sort of oddball thing that should crop up alongside all the other crazy beliefs Eco explores. And anyway, it’s hard for me to imagine that Lovecraft wasn’t represented in the pulpy pop culture that Eco appreciated.
Friend, I was not disappointed. In the final pages of Foucault’s Pendulum, a shout-out:
I don’t know if it qualifies as a meme (or if the cool people are even still using that word), but Ken Hite started something nifty with his “Tour de Lovecraft” project. Hite read his way through H.P. Lovecraft’s stories and wrote up a short essay about each one—a combination of critical analysis and personal reflection. Although it started as a project on his blog, those essays have been published as a book (which I heartily recommend, should you ever decide to delve into Lovecraft yourself).
Now others have picked up that idea, following the same format with different authors:
Tour de Bond: Gareth-Michael Skarka reads through Ian Fleming’s 007 novels. Very interesting if, like me, you’ve seen many of the Bond films but never read the stories upon which they were (often very loosely, it seems) based.
Tour de Holmes: Eddy Webb gives the Sherlock Holmes tales a similar treatment.
Both are well worth following. There’s something very appealing about reading a fan’s overview of their favorite series—it’s not “Everything Ian Fleming wrote ROCKS!!!!” fanboy gushing, but something more like “Here are the points at which Fleming really shines; here’s where he tripped up; and here are the elements that made me fall in love with his work.”
I really enjoy this “tour” format. It works well with short and/or serial literature of the Lovecraft, Holmes, and Bond variety. I’ve considered undertaking a project like this myself, but am unsure if I’d be able to stick with it.by