HP Lovecraft's commonplace book

Courtesy of Bruce Sterling's "Beyond the Beyond," a transcript of HP Lovecraft's commonplace book (the technical term for a notebook that writers use to jot down their ideas). I've always considered Boing Boing to be my commonplace book -- I love that it's searchable and annotated, but I miss the homey, handwritten nature of a print commonplace book. Wish I could see Lovecraft's handwritten edition here (though I'm grateful for the transcript).


1 Demophon shivered when the sun shone upon him. (Lover of darkness = ignorance.)

2 Inhabitants of Zinge, over whom the star Canopus rises every night, are always gay and without sorrow. [x]

3 The shores of Attica respond in song to the waves of the Aegean. [x]

4 Horror Story

Man dreams of falling--found on floor mangled as tho' from falling from a vast height. [x]

5 Narrator walks along unfamiliar country road,--comes to strange region of the unreal.

6 In Ld Dunsany's "Idle Days on the Yann"


The inhabitants of the antient Astahan, on the Yann, do all things according to antient ceremony. Nothing new is found.
"Here we have fetter'd and manacled Time, who wou'd otherwise slay the Gods." [x]


7 Horror Story

The sculptured hand--or other artificial hand--which strangles its creator. [x]

8 Hor. Sto.

Man makes appt. with old enemy. Dies--body keeps appt.

9 Dr. Eben Spencer plot. [x]

10 Dream of flying over city. [Celephaïs]

11 Odd nocturnal ritual. Beasts dance and march to musick. [x]

H. P. Lovecraft's Commonplace Book

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  1. Cool and thanks to you and Bruce Sterling. Rudy Rucker distributed a PDF with some of his notes a few years back. It was pretty neat to see his workflow.

    I don’t miss handwritten notes for work or my amateurish writing. I spent more hours than I can count transcribing them to digital form.

  2. Cool.

    I’ve actually experienced #4 and #10 in dreams, though of course, I’m not dead and mangled…(had a sucked-up-into-the-tornado dream once, too).

    I wonder how many of these entries are daily ruminations and how many are dream journal material?

  3. There’s a book of Lovecraft’s like this in the John Hay library at Brown University. It’s about two inches wide, thin brown leather cover, handwriting cramped but unremarkable. The one they have is the one with the germ for Dagon.

  4. I remember finding a print copy of this during my college years, at the height of my Lovecraft obsession. I must have spent hours in the library flipping through the pages. I nearly dedicated my life to Lovecraft studies then and there because of the commonplace book and the critical works of Joshi.

  5. Love the appearance of the old meaning of gay.

    Also, it seems that 5 use the reverse of creeping normalcy. That is, creeping horror via the slow realization that the road followed is not of ones world.

  6. Man reads commonplace book, is possessed by angry spirit of Lovecraft.

    The horror. The horror.

  7. A commonplace book is where you write down other people’s quotes that mean something to you.

    This looks more like a writer’s working journal.

  8. A lot of beginning writers think the secret to success lies in finding just the right story ideas. More seasoned writers often realize that a cool story idea can only get you so far; what really what counts is the execution.

    This list just underscores that idea for me. For example:

    4 Horror Story
    
Man dreams of falling–found on floor mangled as tho’ from falling from a vast height.

    There are a million ways to write a really bad, punch-line-driven story out of this. It takes someone like Lovecraft (if Lovecraft is your taste) to pull this off successfully.

    On the other hand, I can’t imagine this ever being good:

    
7 Horror Story
    
The sculptured hand–or other artificial hand–which strangles its creator. [x]

    It puts me in mind of The Creeping Hand of MST3K fame.

  9. On the other hand, I can’t imagine this ever being good:

    


    7 Horror Story 
The sculptured hand–or other artificial hand–which strangles its creator. [x]

    It puts me in mind of The Creeping Hand of MST3K fame.

    On the other hand, the seed of a good idea is often closely related to a bad idea. See “The body politic” by (IIRC) Clive Barker for a take on “mans own hands revolt” that really does work. Although like most good horror short stories it probably wouldn’t survive a trip to film – you really need to see inside the characters head or it turns into Ash vs his Evil Hand really quickly.

    1. On the other hand, the seed of a good idea is often closely related to a bad idea. See “The body politic” by (IIRC) Clive Barker for a take on “mans own hands revolt” that really does work.

      I don’t know. Sounds like it might be a little …

      (wait for it)

      … heavy handed!

      (Thank you, thank you! I’ll be here all week!)

      You’re right, though. I suspect there’s no such thing as a 100% bad story idea if you can find the right author, the right imaginative twist.

  10. ‘
Man makes appt. with old enemy. Dies–body keeps appt.’

    That is one hell of a good story idea.

  11. 
7 Horror Story 
The sculptured hand–or other artificial hand–which strangles its creator. [x]

    Would make a great Berserker story.

  12. Finally, the answer we’ve been looking for as to why Cory posts and re-posts the same things over and over. (Well, it’s not just him, to be fair.) It’s his commonplace book. Got it. Here I thought it was for the readers…..

  13. You are now among the few people who will get the joke in Somethingawful’s series of “commonplace book” articles: http://www.somethingawful.com/d/search.php?kw=commonplace+&type=title&sort=date&limit=50&search=1

    Tupac Shakur

    1991

    1 A nigga look in an antique mirror and his face is a skull (murder? He own death?)

    2 Dice from hell – nigga wins and then dies and then another nigga picks up the dice

    3 An inhuman nigga comes up out of a book

    4 Kids gunned down on the playground return as bats – pursue a nigga with some careless aim

    5 A phantasm in the projects – warning of future niggas of great evil from out of time

    Predator Drone MQ-1C

    1 Gen. Petraeus becomes a cat – travels in dreams

    2 A drone switches to black hot, cannot switch back to white hot – a witch’s curse?

    3 Ghost missile

    4 dust occludes satellite – a bloody symbol in the sky

    5 drone does not want to fire on civilians – must

    The REAL Tila Tequila

    2007

    1 – Trying to fit Wifey into my dress – bizarre consequences.

    2 – Glitter thong @ web store (evil?!?!)

    3 – Woman w/ no panties takes mysterious car service 2 bar while on period – TMZ posts picture of tampon string & beefies LOL

    4 – Wifey threw’d computer out oriel window, lands on ancient cobbled street of strange foggy village – dawn brings trip to Mac store.

    5 – Andy Dick hatches from primordial egg.

  14. Wow I had no idea that this book even had a name, let alone that a world famous authors snippets would look just as brief and disjointed (and read together eclectic) as mine.

    I use Evernote for mine since its on my desktops and iphone and never far from hand.

  15. Cory, surprised and disappointed at the lack of completeness and, in particular, atrribution in this post and in the post you cited. David E. Schultz is the Lovecraft scholar who labored for many years to accurately transcribe and annotate this interesting & important item. It was most recently published in Collected Essays, Volume 5: Philosophy; Autobiography & Miscellany from Hippocampus Press, edited by S. T. Joshi. You have a platform here and should support people in the trenches doing the work.

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