Ahhhhh...back in LA after a trip to Wisconsin so excellent as to take all other trips I've ever taken and shake them soundly by the scruff of the neck. (Photographic record can be found here, sonic evidence here.) I think by tomorrow I will have recovered, though the jury's out as to when the ol' liver will uncalcify.
Anyways, long and unpleasant airplane rides in the service of rock and roll means one thing: reading. As I had a particularly stressful return flight, I visited the airport bookstore looking for something that I would enjoy, but that would put me to sleep.
And lo and behold, H.P. Lovecraft really did the trick. His stories have, for the most part, pretty much the same plot: ancient evil discovered by cultured gent who should have known better, other realities and dimensions bleeding into ours such that we are constantly surrounded by invisible and profoundly inhuman evil, etc. Someone, at some point, will see one of Cthulu's tentacles or something, and then they start to gibber, they lose their mind, their hair turns white or falls out, and they might turn to jelly.
I don't even know how to describe his writing style, other than Gothic, Gothic, GOTHIC. Lovecraft makes Poe look like Hemingway - it's kind of endearing, actually - and he's occasionally wickedly funny.
Stephen King, of course, owes a monstrous (sorry) debt to Mr. Lovecraft, and if you've never read any of the latter's stuff, it's worth a trip to the library to check out this particularly idiosyncratic and highly influential horror writer. I'd recommend the following short stories: "The Shadow Out of Time", "The Lurking Fear", and "The Nameless City". (I found 'em in the Penguin Classics collection, The Dreams in the Witch House, which is handily annotated if you have no idea who, say, Abbadon is.)
As much as I enjoyed those three stories, and several of the others, the book does make an excellent sleep aid if you're already a little tired and on an airplane. Something about the dense, florid writing full of weird names and dry lessons in ancient history - combined with the low buzzing sound coming from the jet engines and the feeling you get when you realize you're somewhere nature definitely did not intend for you to be, altitude-wise - fits really well with Lovecraft's aesthetic.
I perked up for the good stories, and dozed off for the more unfortunate ones, and I managed not to give myself an ulcer thinking about where my lap steel might be on route to, or how many pounds of luggage it was being crushed under. Everybody wins.
Of course, I did have this whacked out dream where I opened the door to the airplane lavatory and inside I saw a luminous effulgence of pale globs of putrescence that did seem to me to pulse with a malicious intent, drawing into the silent corners of my mind and filling me with dread of nameless horrors older than time, of Yigg, and Ib, and of sonorous rites of ethereal priestcraft...Yigg! Shuggath!! AIIIIE, R'LYEH!!!!!!!!!! Hei! Hei! The venegance of the infinite abyss is upon me...In the dim light I behold the gods of earth!