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Etidorhpa

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Etidorhpa

by John Uri Lloyd

 

Have you not sometimes felt that in yourself there may exist undeveloped senses that await an awakening touch to open to yourself a new world, senses that may be fully developed, but which saturate each other and neutralize themselves; quiescent, closed circles which you can not reach, satisfied circuits slumbering within your body and that defy your efforts to utilize them?

This was a weird, weird, book.

I’m so glad I encountered it.

I couldn’t believe that I didn’t already know about it.  How is it possible that my own city was the setting and origin of a strange fantasy novel which influenced HP Lovecraft, and here I am, an avid reader and no stranger to Cincinnati’s museums and libraries, and yet I’ve never heard of it?

Now that I’ve read it, I understand, a little better, why I’ve never heard of it. I don’t like to use the word unreadable, but this was not an easy book to read, and I freely confess to skimming the scientific explanations (complete with diagrams) which took up page after page after page of its text.

I liked the beginning section quite a bit. It told the story of Lew Drury, who is visited in the night by a mysterious stranger who wants to read him an unpublished manuscript, but Drury has to promise to have it published, and also, the stranger has a knife. I’ll bet a lot of literary agents have this problem.   He starts to tell the story, about how he joined and then betrayed a certain nameless secret society, whose members then coerced him, as punishment, to use certain chemicals to completely change his appearance and go with them to an unknown destination.

So far, I’m right with you, book.  Secret society? Chemicals to make you look inexplicably old? Come with me, and don’t ask questions? I’m there. Let’s do this.

The destination turns out to be a cave in Kentucky, which is the entrance to (sure, why not?) a hollow-earth setting, where, deep within the center of the earth, there’s a whole other ecosystem and society.  This isn’t my first hollow-earth story, but I have to give credit to Lloyd for being really and truly committed to convincing the reader that his science is legit. I didn’t understand a word of the science he used to convince me, but, to be fair, I got really bored and started scanning past it after a few chapters.

If you can battle through the part of the book where he explains and explains and explains, your reward will be a freaky scene in which Drury drinks the liquid he finds in the cup of a certain mushroom, and has a vision of beautiful men and a beautiful woman in an ideal, beautiful society that he too can be part of…  – it really was a pretty great payoff, and it’s easy for me to see why the Spiritualists love this book.

If you decide to read this book, make sure you get a version with the illustrations – they do a lot to make the book better, and add to the general weirdness of the whole thing. If H.P. Lovecraft had been into herbalism and chemistry instead of paranoia and xenophobia, this might be the book he would have written.

I thought about following the chain from here to H.P. Lovecraft, but I’ve read lots of Lovecraft already, and I have a lot of questions about John Uri Lloyd and the Eclectic Medicine movement, so that’s the direction I want to follow.

Next link: John Uri Lloyd: The Great American Eclectic

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Written by Contented Reader

September 2, 2017 at 11:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized