Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Some H.P. Lovecraft Stories

For the RIP challenge's Peril of the Short Story, I have mainly been reading Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (as six posts should have made obvious by now), but I also decided to read some H.P. Lovecraft on the side.  This is my first experience with Lovecraft, who I had barely heard of up until a short piece about him that I used when tutoring for the SAT.  At that time, I developed some interest but mostly dismissed him as a genre writer (how awful!), but when this challenge came up and I saw that Lovecraft was a big inspiration for Gaiman, I decided to give him a shot.  I can tell you that this was an excellent decision and one that I would recommend for all you Lovecraft virgins out there.
Okay, I should probably amend that statement.  If you're not the kind of person who gets a certain amount of pleasure from tiptoeing to the bathroom in the dead of night, convinced that something's going to grab your ankles, and are likely pee the bed rather than risk it, you probably should just skip right over Lovecraft.  If, however, you like a good scare on those nights when you've got the apartment to yourself, then get your scared little butt to the bookstore, because this is some good reading.

While reading Gaiman, I can't really see the Lovecraft inspiration, but while reading Lovecraft, I can see what Gaiman is drawing from.  Lovecraft likes the first-person narrator, all of whom have the same sort of conversational honesty while delivering the most disturbing of truths that Gaiman shoots for in many of his stories.  However, I don't doubt Lovecraft's narrators, or at least not their sincerity.  There is something so engaging about them that works really well in the short form.  The stories and situations he creates don't need more space: they are a glimpse of the horrifying, incomprehensible but disturbing to the core.  And they're more than just ghost stories - they are literature in their scope and execution.

One complaint that I suppose you could have about Lovecraft is that he reuses a lot of themes and plot elements.  In only five stories, I've noticed that he uses a lot of rats and semi-human creatures who feast on human flesh (I told you it wasn't pleasant), but he employs them so well that I really don't mind.  It (oddly) reminds me of a quote from Gilmore Girls: "You don't dictate to an artist, you don't tell him what to do.  I mean, no one ever walked up to Degas and said, 'Hey, pal, easy with the dancers, enough already.  Draw a nice fruit bowl once in a while, will ya?'"  Rats and semi-cannibals are Lovecraft's art, they're what he does - and that's cool with me.  They're also probably the two things most effective at giving me the willies on the way to the bathroom.

If you're still not convinced, here's the first story in the collection I bought, "The Rats in the Wall."  It is ridiculously excellent and well worth a read.  It involves an American man who discovers his ancestor's British home, centuries of rumors and fears, and secrets buried deep.  Also kitty cats.  To get the best experience, I suggest you print it out, wait until it's dark out, turn out all the lights except for the one on your bedside table (a flickering candle will do), and curl up in bed with it.  Question: Is it weird that getting scared is so much fun for me?

4 comments:

  1. I've only ever read one Lovecraft story (Pickman's Model, which I'm going to be reading again shortly) but it was fantastic and I really need to read some more of his stuff. I'll look for The Rats in the Wall.

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  2. Oops, I forgot the link to the story. It's there now! Read it! And Pickman's Model is one of the ones I read. It was great, though it confused me a bit at first, an issue I didn't have with the others.

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  3. Story is bookmarked so I can read! Thanks!

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  4. asome!!! story...must read it.thanks!!!

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