Review: The Collected Stories of H. P. Lovecraft: Volume One
The Collected Stories of H. P. Lovecraft: Volume One
by H.P. Lovecraft
published by Ignacio Hills Press & E-Pulp Adventures
“It is an unfortunate fact that the bulk of humanity is too limited in its mental vision to weigh with patience and intelligence those isolated phenomena, seen and felt only by a psychologically sensitive few, which lie outside its common experience. Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal; that all things appear as they do only by virtue of the delicate individual physical and mental media through which we are made conscious of them; but the prosaic materialism of the majority condemns as madness the flashes of supersight which penetrate the common veil of obvious empricism.”
written by H.P. Lovecraft
Many authors cite H.P. Lovecraft as a major influence, and new works are written in his madness-inducing milieu, the Cthulhu Mythos. I recently saw Marilyn Manson talking about how his life had been changed by a chance encounter with the Necronomicon…a non-existent* book that Lovecraft invented and referenced several times in his works. I don’t know if Manson was being deliberately deceptive, or just playing along with Lovecraft’s nudge-nudge, wink-wink “believers”.
Now, when you hear that, and if you know Lovecraft is a horror writer, you might feel like he’s not for you.
That might be true.
I do have to say, though, he’s a good writer…it isn’t just a gimmick. He’s erudite, evocative…and yes, moving. If he hadn’t been a pulp writer, I think he might get assigned in school.
Here’s an example:
“As his hammer blows began to fall, the horse outside whinnied in a tone which may have been encouraging and may have been mocking. In either case it would have been appropriate; for the unexpected tenacity of the easy-looking brickwork was surely a sardonic commentary on the vanity of mortal hopes, and the source of a task whose performance deserved every possible stimulus.”
–In the Vault
written by H.P. Lovecraft
This is a large collection, with 48 stories. You might think it would get repetitive…I didn’t find that. There is a wide-range of feels from the poetic to more realistic horror.
You don’t get everything (it does say Volume 1, after all). You don’t get At the Mountain of Madness, which has been in the blogosphere lately with a possible high-profile movie. However, many other well-known stories are here, including Herbert West, Reanimator (the inspiration for a series of movies); The Lurking Fear; Dagon; and The Doom That Came to Sarnath.
I particularly liked the inclusion of The Unnamable, a meta-tale in which Lovecraft appears to write himself into the story…and make fun of his reputation at the same time:
“Besides, he added, my constant talk about “unnamable” and “unmentionable” things was a very puerile device, quite in keeping with my lowly standing as an author. I was too fond of ending my stories with sights or sounds which paralyzed my heroes’ faculties and left them without courage, words, or associations to tell what they had experienced. We know things, he said, only through our five senses or our intuitions; wherefore it is quite impossible to refer to any object or spectacle which cannot be clearly depicted by the solid definitions of fact or the correct doctrines of theology – preferably those of the Congregationalist, with whatever modifications tradition and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may supply.”
Are there negatives? Yes. The stories can be horrifying, although that’s the intent. A bigger issue for a lot of people is going to be the political incorrectness. While the “n word” shows up in a number of older books I read, this is more than a casual reference. It’s not just a name…several groups are treated as inferior.
That’s honestly going to be too high a barrier for a lot of people. It would be possible to put together a collection that didn’t have those stories, but that’s the problem when you try to do a collector’s edition.
There also isn’t much in the way of background information. I like that they tell you when and where each story was originally published, but there is no author bio.
The price is right at ninety-nine cents, but I didn’t even pay that. One of my readers, Allison, generously bought it for me from my wish list. I absolutely don’t expect anybody else to do that…it was a nice surprise.
Overall, I’d say I certainly enjoyed reading it (it made some long drives a lot more interesting), although the stereotyping did mar the experience for me.
* There have been editions of the Necronomicon written after Lovecraft, including a 1973 and 1980 version. It’s possible Manson encountered one of those.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.