chapter  17
10 Pages

ABJECT AND GROTESQUE

ByKelly Hurley

En route to an isolated New England seaport to conduct a bit of antiquarian research, the narrator of H. P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ (1936) surreptitiously studies his bus driver, an Innsmouth man, and is overcome by ‘a wave of spontaneous aversion which could be neither checked nor explained’. The driver is marked by strange gill-like creases running down the sides of his neck, scaly grey-blue skin, ‘a narrow head, watery-blue eyes that seemed never to wink, a flat nose, a receding forehead and chin, and singularly undeveloped ears’ (Lovecraft 1982: 254). Nor is the bus driver atypical in his repulsive appearance, the narrator will learn after becoming stranded in Innsmouth that night and watching its seemingly deserted streets fill with ‘uncouth, crouching shapes’. Some generations back Innsmouth’s human population mated with vaguely anthropoid sea-creatures, ‘fabulous monsters . . . half ichthyic and half batrachian in suggestion’ (Lovecraft 1982: 285, 252), and their loathsome fish-froghuman descendants, at various stages of transformation into bodies more suited to water than land, now creep and shamble and hop through the streets of Innsmouth and swarm in its waters.