Goodreads Review of "The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft" by H.P. Lovecraft

The Definitive H.P. LovecraftThe Definitive H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

About once a year, I take a reading tour through the "founders" of the genres I write in. For Fantasy I tend to re-read The Lord of the Rings. For Science Fiction I will work my way through a few works by Heinlein or Asimov. (Though I will occasionally read Anne McCaffery's "Pern" novels in place of either Fantasy or Sci-Fi.)

And, for Horror, I read H.P. Lovecraft.

I tended to avoid horror when I was younger, simply because I had no taste for "splatter" - descriptive violence in place of thoughtful writing. Then, in my Junior year in High School, I was introduced to a short story by an English Teacher. I read "The Rats In The Walls" for the first time, and my whole outlook on horror was changed forever.

After that, (and every year since) I devoured every piece of fiction that Lovecraft created. Here there were no chainsaw massacres, no knife-fingered demons, no hockey-mask-clad mass murderers. Instead, these were stories of normal human minds being slowly deconstructed as they were exposed to horrible truths about themselves and their place in the cosmos. It was from Lovecraft that I first learned the inklings of mental atmosphere as a valid component of horror writing.

One did not require a haunted house or a foggy abandoned moor to be terrified. One could be terrified by the perceptions of things that no one else could perceive ("The Thing On The Doorstep" is a perfect example.)

But Lovecraft could also create a terrifying physical atmosphere as well. From the crumbling farmlands of "The Colour Out of Space" to the all-time creepiest-cities-ever of Innsmouth and Arkham, his characters were not waiting for something to jump out from behind the bushes or between the buildings to frighten them. No, the bushes and buildings themselves were terrifying: vistas of wrongness, harboring ancient dark secrets leading only to madness. The Universe was a dark and forbidding place, not to be explored by frail and tiny minds such as our own.

Though literary analysis has not been kind to Lovecraft's personal racist and misogynist beliefs, his writing still remains beyond par for those who have any interest in Horror, and his "Cthulhu Mythos" generates excellent stories by world-class authors to this day. Anyone with the slightest interest in psychological horror, or curious about one of the founding fathers of the field of Horror writing, should take the time to read this compendium of Lovecraft's best works.

Just be prepared to sleep poorly, with the lights on, after putting the book down.

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