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Friday, October 10, 2014

"Cool Air" by H. P. Lovecraft

First appeared in Tales of Magic and Mystery. Reprinted by Farnsworth Wright, Elizabeth Lee, Alden H. Norton, Seon Manley, Gogo Lewis, Don Ward, Gerry Goldberg, Stephen Storoschuk, Fred Corbett, Stuart David Schiff, Helen Hoke, Carol Serling, Charles G. Waugh, Martin H. Greenberg, Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, and Stephen Jones.
The plot is simple. A man seeks lodging, finds it and visits his mad-scientist upstairs neighbor, who does not mind mixing science with the occult. The scientist or "benevolent fanatic" keeps his room cool. Nonetheless, the narrator feels repulsion.
Commentary & Spoilers
The cooler breaks down and the man dies. In fact, the man had died long ago, and only keeping himself cool extended his "life."

This scientist does seem mad--strange inventions, quirky personality, and general creepiness. But he isn't without human scruples--as far as we see, anyway. We do not see experiments with little to no ethical structure.

Lovecraft, like Poe, depends almost solely on effect--a deranged creepy, horror with its potent final image--as opposed to plot or character.
Notes: (from S.T. Joshi and Peter Canon)

  1. Apparently, Lovecraft couldn't write below 73 degrees, fainted at 20 degrees. He loathed the cold.
  2. Air conditioners only occurred in factories, not homes until WWII.
  3. The above editors point out that the ending letter written by a dying man is a common technique for Lovecraft.

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