This is the the eighteenth entry in my read-through of the commemorative edition of Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H P Lovecraft.
|...for you see I died that time eighteen years ago.|
Part of it, I guess is the suggestion of “ghoulish humour”, that sort of EC comics story where the protagonist's fate is always a painful metaphorical pun on their actions, a PUN-ishment, if you like. When I was a horror movie-obsessed kid, it used to frustrate me that so many 80s horrors were more black comedies than real shockers (that's why Hellraiser was such a revelation). I like black comedy, too, of course, but these stories at their weakest descend into parody and slapstick. Horror and comedy share the characteristic that they are done best when they are played with a straight face.
An H P Lovecraft Encyclopedia points out that this story was rejected by Weird Tales, suggesting that perhaps the gruesome climax made Farnsworth Wright nervous about censorship. On the other hand, perhaps he felt this minor work was below HPL's usual standard.
The final horror of the story revolves around the doctor's de-coalescing corpse. In A Life, Joshi makes an interesting observation about the frigid Dr Munoz, saying “Munoz, clearly, embodies Lovecraft's ideal type: a man who belongs both to the aristocracy of blood and the aristocracy of intellect; who is learned and in his field but also dresses well.” It's another variation on the theme of hopelessness and degradation that HPL's so fond of. Even the urbane Dr Munoz can could do nothing to prevent his eventual decline into, essentially, a pool of runny shit. Like the genteel degenerates Pickman and Robert Suydam, even a man as upstanding as he is doomed to descend to the level of the grossest form of matter.
Next: “The Shunned House”