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Has anyone ever read...

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  • Has anyone ever read...

    Has anyone ever read anything by H.P. Lovecraft? My friend keeps telling me i have to read his books, but i'm not sure if they're my cup of tea. I was just wondering about opinions on them, he seems to think i should read them next. But i'm leaning towards more E.C. books. If i could get opionions that would be great, thanks.
    Oh i forgot to add that our tastes in books tends to differ, I lean heavily towards Fantasy and he reads alot of different things. Also (blasphemy) he wasn't to thrilled with the Cornelius Quartet (i suppose i should get around to reading that soon).

  • #2
    Hi Numazel,
    Personally, I like H.P. Lovecraft. But then, I'm weird! 8O
    His fiction is very different from Michael's works. More horror or dark fantasy, I think they're calling it now, than the EC books. He also wrote in the 1920's so his prose and writing style is very different to anything recent you might have read. He also only wrote 1 full novel. Most of his stuff is short stories.
    Hope that helps,
    Ken
    Ken Boorman
    ************
    Purveyor of the Runestaff and Stormbringer Legends
    ************

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    • #3
      no . . . . the hand. . . .

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      • #4
        I like Lovecraft for the mythological darkness. However, if I were choosing between anything HP wrote and the EC series, I would choose just about any of the ECs.

        By the way, you should give Cornelius a shot, regardless of what your friend thought. They are wickedly prophetic and Jerry makes any apocolypse quite fun.

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        • #5
          oh i'm going to give cornelius a shot, i have the book, i'm just so swamped with books that i've been meaning to read that i'm not sure where to start, well i guess i do since i started the Kane series yesterday (after FINALLY finishing Dancers at the End of Time). Anyways thanks for you help, i'll have to give Lovecraft a chance i guess... after i finish the EC books

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          • #6
            Lovecraft is great. You can get all his books online, free now.

            There are many other authors of this type also that may be better?

            Try Howards Mythos stories, Clark Ashton Smith and William Hope Hodgson.

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            • #7
              Re: Has anyone ever read...

              Originally posted by Numazel
              Has anyone ever read anything by H.P. Lovecraft? My friend keeps telling me i have to read his books, but i'm not sure if they're my cup of tea. I was just wondering about opinions on them, he seems to think i should read them next. But i'm leaning towards more E.C. books. If i could get opionions that would be great, thanks.
              I'm sure a number of people here have read Lovecraft.

              Lovecraft's work falls into 3 broad categories: straight horror, Dunsanian dreamland fantasy (more or less), and something that is often referred to as the "Cthulhu Mythos" stories. I don't know whether Lovecraft himself ever used that label. I doubt it, but it's possible. It's also a bit misleading, since the mythological substructure that supports the Cthulhu Mythos to some degree permeates a number of the stories in the other categories -- especially the dreamland fantasies.

              The dreamland stories were the earliest work, I think, and written perhaps too-much under Dunsany's influence. Dunsany appears to be a very difficult writer to emulate; strange that so many writers try to do it. :-] The notable fiction from this period is the short novel, The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. This is a strange amalgam of dream-vision, horror, and (in parts) unsuccessful whimsical fancy. The conclusion is to me not exactly satisfactory. Still, I like the book for what it does well, and just ignore its faults, which are easy targets.

              The straight horror stories are very uneven, but some of his more highly regarded stories fall into this category. One that pops into my head just now is "Cool Air."

              The stories that have been assigned to the Cthulhu Mythos canon are also uneven, but they are among his most influential work. Some notable examples are "The Dunwich Horror," "The Color out of Space," "The Shadow over Innsmouth," and what might be his most accomplished story, "The Whisperer in the Darkness." The ideas behind these stories, and indeed much of Lovecraft's fictional aesthetic, seems to arise from sources like Arthur Machen's "The Great God Pan" and sometimes from Ambrose Bierce. You need to read a few of the stories to determine whether it's your cup of tea.

              Opinion on his achievement is divided pretty sharply.

              There are critics and writers who have accorded him the title of the "greatest American writer of the supernatural since Poe." I have an opnion, but I'll pass on delivering it.

              Some writers and critics speak dismissively of him. In particular, fault is often found with the quality of his prose and the somewhat turgid presentation of his story. Part of this is that Lovecraft tried to tell his story by suggestion and hints, with the implication that we don't know all the truth and perhaps can't face it. Another part was probably more deeply rooted in his personality and approach to writing.

              The prose issue becomes readily apparent when you read a number of the stories. In moments that call for a heightened description or forceful use of language, Lovecraft tends to fall into an oh-my-god style where he uses a lot of emotional value-judgement adjectives instead of presenting a proper image. Heavy use of words such as "unspeakable," "loathsome," "ghastly," etc is rampant where a bit more precision is called for. Years ago, Harlan Ellison, no fan of Lovecraft's, burlesqued this style when he described something as "a Stygian uncleanliness, foul beyond description, spoor of the pit and festooned with a moist evil." That's a pretty extreme parody, but Lovecraft sometimes writes that way. :-]

              There's some truth in what his denigrators say, I believe. However, a sympathetic reading of Lovecraft, that doesn't disregard his intentions, will probably yield an appreciation of the visionary quality of some of his best work. And his influence on the modern horror story -- which doesn't rely on ghosts or ancient revenants but on the horror lying just beneath the surface of modern reality -- this influence has been immense. Cheap imitators of Lovecraft, e.g., Derleth, aren't his immediate progeny; Leiber and Robert Bloch clearly were, and understood what Lovecraft was trying to do, and thereby found their own solutions to the
              same problems.

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              • #8
                Though I dearly love some of Lovecraft's work (the Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a favorite), it doesn't help his case that a lot of his stuff now comes over as died in the wool out and out appalingly racist in his literary treatment of black people.

                Yes, alright, he was writing in the 1920, and yes, the comments and thoughts of many of his characters were perfectly common at the time.

                It doesn't make them any less appaling, though.

                Maybe I should enter Lovecraft in the "guilty pleasures" thread.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jeremiah
                  Though I dearly love some of Lovecraft's work (the Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a favorite), it doesn't help his case that a lot of his stuff now comes over as died in the wool out and out appalingly racist in his literary treatment of black people.
                  Yes, he can be pretty far out on the edge. To use Mikey_C's expression in a different
                  context, it can be "cringeworthy."

                  It wasn't pure racism. It was a horror of general "foreigness." The correct
                  term is, I believe, xenophobia. A very unlovely neurosis, at best.

                  Originally posted by Jeremiah
                  Yes, alright, he was writing in the 1920, and yes, the comments and thoughts of many of his characters were perfectly common at the time.

                  It doesn't make them any less appaling, though.
                  It's a feature of a lot of writing of the period. ANY writing of ANY period must be
                  judged with an awareness of the general mentality of the times. I've seen people
                  jump on some of Faulkner's best work for a lack of political correctness, so it's
                  not uncommon for people to fall victim to a lack of historical perspective. Similarly,
                  the case with Twain's Huckleberry Finn.

                  Originally posted by Jeremiah
                  Maybe I should enter Lovecraft in the "guilty pleasures" thread.
                  I've already done so, but you should feel free to engage in "piling on."

                  LSN

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                  • #10
                    I'm a great fan of Lovecraft - warts and all. I can't excuse the racism, although it probably bubbled up from the same deep well of paranoia that fuelled his horror stories. I think Lovecraft was actually trying to break away from the horror genre and was starting to write in a science fiction vein. In a way, the obligation he felt to describe everything alien as loathsome and hideous, was perhaps starting to detract a little from his "cosmic" visions.

                    I'm not too convinced by the "Cthulhu mythos". I don't think that HPL was specifically trying to invent a pantheon in that way. Avoid the "posthumous collaborations" - August Derleth just took some abandoned ideas from HPL's notebook and wrote his own tales around them - some of them quite laughable.

                    I would say that perhaps Lovecraft needs to be read a little ironically, for his stylistic failings - the profusion of adjectives, etc. However, his prose is highly enjoyable for its own sake - to get all sniffy about it is to miss the point in my humble opinion - a bit like complaining that the Ramones only played three chords! Despite his idiosyncratic use of language, I find his imaginary world very vivid and easy to enter into.

                    I do wonder about the practice of "Lovecraftian magic" and some of the subcultural detritus that has built up around him, though.
                    \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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                    • #11
                      I like Lovecraft a lot. His storys have such a dark and creepy atmosphere. He didnt need to be blatantly violent or gory to be scary. He scared you with things unknown. I do remember however having trouble pronouncing Cthulu. I still dont know exactly how its pronounced. Hehe.

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                      • #12
                        I like Lovecraft.
                        I don't mind his descriptions not being so verbose as it forces a readers imagination to work a little harder, so it's hard for me to see it as a cop out.
                        A precise description of something horrific to HP may not have seemed all that horrific to a given reader. The use of the generalized adjectives gave leeway for the reader to imagine what terrified them most.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by liar_on_high
                          I like Lovecraft.
                          I don't mind his descriptions not being so verbose as it forces a readers imagination to work a little harder, so it's hard for me to see it as a cop out.
                          A precise description of something horrific to HP may not have seemed all that horrific to a given reader.
                          There's a precision to being suggestive. Leiber understood this. Robert Bloch did,
                          too. Henry James, in "The Turn of the Screw," certainly understood it.

                          One doesn't need to be hamfisted in the description, but telling the reader
                          what to think is a no-no. It puts one off, and causes the reader to step back
                          from the story, rather like an exhibition of Brechtian alienation.

                          As I've pointed out elsewhere, Lovecraft does this all the time. Fortunately, in his
                          best stories, it's mostly disposable, and the story left behind still works.

                          I see Lovecraft's approach as a frank admission of failure to capture the essence
                          of his vision in words. He falls back, and says, "No, I can't describe it, it's
                          hideous beyond the power of description." It's something any admirer of
                          Lovecraft must come to grips with at some point, even if it's to deny that
                          there's a problem.

                          Originally posted by liar_on_high
                          The use of the generalized adjectives gave leeway for the reader to imagine what terrified them most.
                          This is rather like using a Rorschach inkblot in lieu of a painting, then saying,
                          "There, you can imagine whatever is necessary to fit the title of this painting."

                          I don't think that's exactly what Lovecraft was doing.

                          LSN

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by L_Stearns_Newburg

                            Originally posted by liar_on_high
                            The use of the generalized adjectives gave leeway for the reader to imagine what terrified them most.
                            This is rather like using a Rorschach inkblot in lieu of a painting, then saying,
                            "There, you can imagine whatever is necessary to fit the title of this painting."

                            I don't think that's exactly what Lovecraft was doing.

                            LSN
                            We have entered speculative territory here.
                            Whatever he was doing worked for me.
                            The framework and mood of the stories gave enough ammunition for his "suggestions" to spark my imagination sufficiently.
                            Whether he intended this or it was a lack of ability will remain unanswered.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I see Lovecraft's approach as a frank admission of failure to capture the essence of his vision in words. He falls back, and says, "No, I can't describe it, it's hideous beyond the power of description." It's something any admirer of Lovecraft must come to grips with at some point, even if it's to deny that there's a problem.
                              This is true - most of his characters go hopelessly mad and / or die as a result of what they see. I'm not so sure that's a failing - its just reflective of the medium Lovecraft was writing for. You might also argue that for Lovecrafts work to be scary, it is necessary to allude to the horrors he is describing - that they are beyond human understanding. Indeed he does rely to an extent on the imagination of his readers to, in effect, scare themselves. As much as we can be scared these days of course (when with CGI we are overused to nightmarish digital monsters).

                              I don't see it as a failing per se - merely the literary equivalent of a horror move director teasing the audience with brief glimpses of the monster. if it is a failing it is perhaps the Lovecraft's work did not go anywhere after that.

                              As someone said the prose is perhaps a little arcane, an acquired taste perhaps. Others such as Clark Ashton Smith are perhaps more immediately accessible, and CAS wrote some mythos stories along with Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard for Weird Tales.

                              At the Mountains of Madness I believe is Lovecraft's major novel -
                              Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

                              Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

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