Sunday, February 7, 2016

Great Tales of Horror by H.P. Lovecraft

As I write, I have Mexican radio playing from my bathroom as an excellent renovator of bathrooms gives our guest bathroom a face lift. 

 Outside are several men in yellow, glow-in-the-dark  t-shirts that say "All About Trees" carving up a giant oak's branches-the reason I bought this house-after telling me only a fool would buy a house with a monstrosity like that only thirty feet from the foundation. No, they didn't use the words, "monstrosity" or "fool", but I can read between the lines. 

There's a lot of noise on my roof and I hope I won't be calling a roof repairman to fix any damage falling branches the size of logs may be incurring up there. Please, God, don't let a branch go through a window.  Like that one almost did.

And here I am about to write on a favorite author.  My husband's favorite, that is.  Still, I enjoyed the collection of twenty horror stories I read.  

At first I wasn't quite sure how to take Lovecraft.  I had always read good old fashioned vampire and ghost stories or science fiction.  The former being about evil beings in the metaphysical world, mostly from countries with a early pagan/Christian heritage and the latter about man's ability to conquer his environment with the invention of machines.

Lovecraft's stories are about neither, yet also both.  Kind of.  Lovecraft takes the traditional scary elements from the past but applies a humanistic, naturalistic cause to them.  Scary things that go bump in the night are no longer spirits or undead but rather, something from another planet, another dimension, or life forms previously unknown-often higher up on the evolutionary scale.

His goal is to create tension and suspense but provide no relief.  He wants the reader to leave the story still hanging on the cliff. Any relief I felt was to put the book down and remind myself that I was reading a work of fiction.

This is not to say his writing is not very good and he expertly pulls the reader into the surreal world he has created.  His descriptions are effective without being getting bogged down in detail and I could clearly see the environment and creatures he invented.  

He has a particular writing technique in common with another writer of horror:  Edgar Allan Poe.  Neither Poe nor Lovecraft will clarify what is going on until practically the final paragraph, preferably the final sentence if they can manage it.

It amazes and frustrates me how an author can string the reader along, telling you how dreadful something is ("I'm writing this from an insane asylum because no one believes me!") without telling you what is happening. They add bits of detail like strewing breadcrumbs along a trail in a forest, luring you deeper and deeper into the darkest part of the woods before jumping out from behind a tree and going, "BOO!"

Some of the better known tales in this collection are:

The Call of Cthulhu, At the Mountains of Madness, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Herbert West Re-animator, and the Haunter of the Dark.  These stories involve creatures of great size and power from other planets, people from the Salem Witch trials possessing their descendants' bodies, bringing the dead back to life and transferring brains into metal canisters to take people's entities back to home planets.  How did Lovecraft go to sleep at night?  What a tormented soul he must have had.

The men outside just plowed through a fence and tore down a power line.  Now we're out of power.  Maybe I don't need to read about horror.  I seem to be living it right now.  Maybe they're not really men?  Are those lizard tails I see peeking out of those yellow shirts?  What if....?

What mutant life form is creeping out from under my pillow?!!


  1. I laughed at your post. i am also very impressed by your furry friend.

    I have read many Lovecraft stories. I love them for all the reasons that you mentioned. There is something about his stories that elicit a sense of dread for me. At the Mountains of Madness may be my favorite.

    1. Hi Brian! I first heard of Lovecraft from one of your reviews.I agree that At The Mountains of Madness is one of the best.
      My furry friend is Henrietta Sweet Pea. :)

  2. Sharon, since I love the light and hate the darkness, I passed on this review..until now. So entertaining. Loved your description of all the stuff going on at your house, and then how the horror stories got your brain to "seeing things". I also wonder how Mr. Lovecraft sleeps at night..and what has caused him to dwell in this darkness. I wonder what it would be like living next door to him?

    1. HI Phyllis. I have not read an exhaustive biography but I must confess that he unfortunately was one who lived in darkness. It fascinates me how people like Lovecraft will turn from God even though it means living in darkness. I will say I don't find his stories any more godless than by Edgar Allen Poe. And as long as they don't write anything graphically immoral or use offensive language I like reading their thoughts-if anything to compare it to the light that we live in. I hope that doesn't sound like I'm justifying reading him. I certainly wouldn't want a steady diet.
      Josh wants me to read Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan. I personally find someone like Vonnegut's anti-god worldview more insidious because it's more realistic and intends to be persuasive. We'll see if I can finish it.

  3. My limited reading and understanding of Lovecraft has always left me with a nagging question: How much of the writing is creative genius v. how much of the writing is the spilling over from a psychotic mind? Perhaps that is a distinction without a difference in the case of HPL.

    1. Hi R.T. A very good question. I think Lovecraft must have had some psychological or emotional issues. I'm glad I'm not him, even if he does write compelling stories.


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.