Review of Tentacles Longer Than Night (Eugene Thacker)

Reading Horror As Philosophy

Whereas part two in his horror of philosophy series saw Thacker read philosophical texts as part of the horror genre, part three finds him reading works of horror as philosophy, establishing myriad connections between two battlefields many would say fight obviously dichotomized wars. He begins by grounding philosophical inquiry with the principle of sufficient reason, since, as he coolly applies it to horror: “what is often at stake is the verification of something strange actually existing.”

From there, Thacker once more employs his abyss-like knowledge to finding flits of philosophy in well-known authors such as Poe, Dante, and Lovecraft. Thacker also plumbs obscure, gothic literary manifestations, gathering texts from Lautremont, Blackwood, and others.

Like a Cubist Painting a Lovecraft Monster

While the concept of reading horror as philosophy set me up for what I imagined would be the most enjoyable book of the trilogy, Thacker’s preponderance for elevating esoteric work and plowing into their delineated verbiage over against peppering his treatise with recognizable modern examples left me wanting. However, it does seem as if Thacker chose the high ground, keeping his philosophy in the rafters. Its like if a cubist chose to paint one of Lovecraft’s beasts: fascinating, but I sometimes yearned for something recognizable.

Surely, more contemporary examples appear, but these are anti-mainstream and avant-garde at their finest. He is no nonsense about the audience he serves, an audience which may include readers of Lovecraft and Poe, but not people who read Lovecraft and think The Shining and American Psycho are two of modern cinemas great horror(ish) films. Nonetheless, the usual erudition, tirelessness, and construction toward a definite thesis remain forefront: exactly what I’ve come to expect from Thacker.

As All Trilogies Must…

If anything, the real let-down is the ending. Where the first two books commenced tightly by referencing the title and the point of the exploration, this book peters out by listing other obscure texts: rabbit trails for the reader of above-average courage to wade up to the neck into. Instead of a bang, the book resigns with a hushed whisper. It didn’t seem fitting for the trilogy. It made the work of reading seem like the work didn’t end at the last word. Which can be done properly with literature. Then again, it’s nice when a book just ends and I can take a breath again.


 

Tentacles Longer Than Night is published by Zero Books.

 

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