Oh R’lyeh? The Information Provided, Your Knowledge and Your Imagination

I’ve also become a tad obsessed with that term. Non-euclidean. It’s so pretty – if none of you are familiar with it or haven’t been subjected to Lovecraft’s mind-badongling prose let me define it for you:

“It is denying or going beyond Euclidean principles in geometry, especially contravening the postulate that only one line through a given point can be parallel to a given line.”

Got it? No, I don’t quite understand either.

Which is something that I’ve come to realise. When reading Lovecraft’s works especially, how much should you know in order to gain the full sense of what the author had intended?

The reason why I use Lovecraft as an example is because his style of writing so perfectly parallels with the notion of knowledge being power ultimately driving humans to madness. Essentially, knowing too much will drive you to insanity.

The man himself said that “The most merciful thing in the world… is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents”, relaying the notion that there are some things that people are best off not knowing.

Image by Abigail Larson

During his works Lovecraft decides to describe to us in detail many things that the human mind can correlate and still keeps other things relatively unknown. Instead he would beautifully describe what’s being seen and subject to us the emotions concerning the scene.

Returning to the notion of non-euclidean, Lovecraft’s city of R’lyeh is described as being built with this geometry as a major theme in its architecture. What I find the most fascinating about this is that you are given the impression by the text that R’lyeh is a maddening, insanity inspiring necropolis. This you know through the basic description of what he’s telling you but again he’s giving details to it afterwards; he tells you the architecture in geometric terms.

You can garner some comprehension of what he envisions with the terminology and the descriptions of what the narration is speaking of. Yet those who don’t know what he’s speaking of in terms of what he’s stating are still getting a conveyance of just how maddening and horrifying he wants this city to be. Either you imagine it roughly how he’s describing it thanks to his text (as is the same thing with most author’s works) or you try to imagine what he’s talking about, affixing all of the horror that he’d written into it, and when you find your imagination somewhat failing at the concept, you still manage to create a particularly scary image for yourself.

Ultimately, people aren’t always going to understand what the author intends to bring across to the reader. Sometimes they will give a concept that some people can’t wrap their heads around and sometimes they may confuse you with their logic. Authors need to come across to their intended audience well enough that they would enjoy the tale, come back to it later again and again, and/or spread the word of the fable.

It’s not enough that you don’t understand what the author is saying and you bridge the gap yourself. Granted that there will be times in which that will happen to you over and over again, but there is a difference between them being too good or being too poor.

The author themselves needs to be able to translate their words effectively onto paper that you get their intended effect. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use your imagination. There will always come a time when you bridge the gap between their words and what you’re imagining.

I believe that the best writers guide your imagination rather than dictate it.


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