1. Oldmanofthemountain

    Oldmanofthemountain Member

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    Thoughts on HP Lovecraft and his works?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Oldmanofthemountain, Jun 28, 2020.

    What are your general thoughts on HP Lovecraft’s works? How high of quality are they in your personal opinion? Do they deserve their iconic status and influence in today’s popular culture?
     
  2. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    I like some, I really like a small handful (mainly the Innsmouth stories, on which the movie Dagon was based), most of them I don't care much about. But I'm glad I've read a whole passel of them. Sounds weird, doesn't it?

    I also kind of like the Herbert West, Re-Animator stories (on which you-know-which movies were based) if you remove the weird repetitions. They're there because the story was serialized in a magazine and for whatever reason they published it in very short segments, and each one began with a brief recap of all that had gone before. In the book I have (one of them anyway) the reiterations are left in place, making it a real chore to read. I prefer the movies I think, but I do like the stories (with the above caveat).
     
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  3. More

    More Active Member

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    Lovecraft was an interesting person. Unfortunately, the stories reflect his racism and bigotry . Mix that with some strange language and repetition,it's hard to read. It can't be denied he has had a big influence on other writers and the arts . There is a problem with a number of historical writer,regarding outdated attitudes but I sense the mood is changing and he will probably fad away .
     
  4. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Contributor

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    His best work, I feel, is "Rats in the Walls." I think it captures his elegant use of environment in his prose, as well as refined detail and tone. It's only failures as far as I can tell are the Lovecraft usuals: telling someone's emotions instead of showing and a bit of overwriting. I can get over the overwriting though, as it is a bit of the style. Those "kill your darlings" followers won't like it much though.
     
  5. galaxaura

    galaxaura New Member

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    Of course, works cannot be separated from their authors. In my opinion, texts with racist content should under no circumstances be read without reflection. But just because they also have problematic aspects, does not mean that all the writings of an author must necessarily be completely problematic.

    I recently heard "At the Mountains of Madness" while driving a car and didn't find it so hard to hear.
     
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  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    Not much of a fan myself, but he was born and raised (and died) in Providence. Here's his house in College Hill (one of them anyway), right around the corner from where I live now.

    [​IMG]


    And here's his grave in Swan Point Cemetery. I smoked a joint there once when I was a kid because we thought it would be "cool."

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. LazyBear

    LazyBear Banned

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    Necronomicon is like a decaying face looking back at you from the mirror of white guilt. Looking away is futile, for the core of human nature contains a wild animal following the alpha or dying alone. Prejudice is how humans make fast decisions based on little information. No pride nor reason, just survival mode with minimum risk. Hear the war-cry and all your high thoughts about yourself are gone. Your body moves on its own like in a pack of wolves acting on pure instinct until you wake up with blood on your hands. Hitler learned how to master this by appearing like a strong leader, so knowledge about your primal self is one of the weapons against brainwashing.

    When reading Lovecraft's stories, it tells how people were thinking, like a window back in time, a reminder of how segregation can cause bigotry and fear unless we learn from past mistakes and move forward. Forgetting white people's fear and guilt from a past time would be like pretending that the holocaust never happened, so I will keep reading historical literature to understand rather than pointing fingers at someone who could be any one of us. Most people recently believed that quantum entanglement was humbug, simply because a program on television said so with expert scientists. The people before us riddiculed the idea of bacterias and so on. What if nobody ever told you that a certain race was even human? From where would you get that idea? Repeat false messages a few thousand times without objection and you lose the ability to question it without sounding like a nutjob to the people around you. Even if you're not a racist, saying something that would be politically correct in our time would be oddly specific and random to them. It's all about understanding the context from when the book was written.

    As a victim of prejudice myself, I know that 90% comes from good intentions, people simply think that their prejudice is the truth without looking at the statistics. Many common "facts" are repeatedly debunked in scientific papers that only me and a few others actually read. People rather shy away than asking me about my disability. Someone else always gets the job. The political correctness people tell me which words I should be offended by, which is the worst of all insults by saying that I'm not capable of speaking for myself.
     
  8. The_Joker

    The_Joker Banned

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    He was second to none when it came to ideas, basically inventing a subgenre of horror by himself that still influences many works to this day, including my own. However, I felt he was a better poet than a writer. Very descriptive with unique word choices, but didn't really get people due to being, well, kind of a loser. Sadly I feel he identified more with his monstrous creations than the people around him. His personal views are lamentable, but a byproduct of his neurosis. He never acted on his views in any way, and deserves pity rather than scorn. It's tragic his life couldn't have gone differently, with how brilliantly gifted he was.
     
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  9. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    What does that mean? He was one of the most famous writers in the world! If you're referring to the poverty, he seems to have adapted well to it and perhaps it helped make him the writer he was.

    In fact, I've just re-read Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, detailing his time in several Nazi concentration camps. It explains the ideas that went into his Logotherapy technique, based on the fact that what makes life endurable and positive is to find a meaning and a purpose that drives you on, not wealth or popularity or anything material. In that sense, it's clear Lovecraft was wealthy beyond most. He got to do what he wanted to do with his life.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
  10. The_Joker

    The_Joker Banned

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    Money isn't everything.
     
  11. Oldmanofthemountain

    Oldmanofthemountain Member

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    Didn’t Lovecraft pass away at a relatively premature age? I think he was only in his late forties when he died painfully from stomach cancer or something.
     
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  12. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Active Member

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    I've never read the man, but I have a friend who is obsessed with his work. What book of his should I start out with?
     
  13. The_Joker

    The_Joker Banned

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    He didn't do novels, he only did short stories of various lengths and a few novellas. I'd start with The Dunwich Horror or The Colour Out of Space.

    All his stuff is available for free here (his work is public domain now).
     
  14. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Like someone else said - I think he's more of an ideas kind of guy. As a writer he is probably worth reading, no one can best him when he's on point. Rats in the Walls, Terrible Old Man, Doom that Came to Sarnath, and Cats of Ulthar are all great stories of fantasy, sci-fi, or horror. As a writer, a sentence by sentence writer, he's very clumsy and melodramatic - and some of his stories (especially the early ones) are so boring I probably couldn't finish them in a single sitting.

    He's very misunderstood as a writer I think, as are the techniques his best stories use. The horror of The Call of Cthulhu, probably his best story, isn't really Cthulhu himself being real, but it's the almost metaphysical aspect he might not actually be real. The narrator never actually sees any first hand evidence of the Cthulhu cult, or R'lyeth, or anything - it could be a story about a guy finding a load of notes his uncle kept around, because the old dude had an idea for a novel or something. You don't know, and you aren't supposed to know. Lovecraft used the unreliable narrator a lot.

    It's easy now, because people have done it for so long, to try to construct a 'Lovecraft mythos', with a timeline and 'Oh, when did the Star Things come to earth?' and honestly doing that is probably pointless. The Cthulhu Spawn mentioned in 'At the Mountains of Madness' is more just a little joke really. He was never really that serious a writer, especially not of any kind of cosmology.

    Also, yeah, he was a racist. His stories are often influenced by his racism on a sub-textual level, like the weird Deep One things that came from the sea and took over Innsmouth. However, it must be said (and I'm not going to defend the guy) he had a horrible life and he was very weird. And his letters show toward the end of his life he was starting to regret a lot of his earlier opinions - probably not enough to redeem him in the eyes of any reader, and I don't remember he ever regretted his racism, but it is what it is. You can't change it. Sometimes writers worth reading were in real life jerks and if you are going to stop reading them then that's your choice and all, but contextualising things is important. And no, I don't mean his racism was typical of the time, because honestly it really wasn't. It was maybe more typical of upper class British life in the seventeenth century, which he seemed to love larping as. He'd often end letters with stuff like 'Yr. Obt Servent, Howard Philips Lovecraft esq.' and dating letters written in (say) 1921 as 'March 21st, 1621'. He was a weird guy. I don't approve of his racism myself, but I will still say he's worth at least a read through because his good stories probably do make up for his bad stories.

    Also, not many people read them now, but the dude was a god-awful poet. Except for maybe Providence and some of the sonnets out of Funghi from Yugguth, his poetry is basically unreadable. As a non-fiction writer, I've not read his science pieces but his philosophy pieces are not terribly interesting, he didn't understand Nietzsche, but his literary criticism is at times actually quite interesting. His essay on horror literature and his essay on Roman literature are pretty good.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
  15. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    46 and 7 months according to his gravestone.
     
  16. Oldmanofthemountain

    Oldmanofthemountain Member

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    What is it about Lovecraft and his works that makes him so influential and iconic, in spite all of flaws? Would it be hyperbolic to call him the "Tolkien of horror and science fiction"?
     
  17. GrahamLewis

    GrahamLewis The important you is perfectly indestructible. Contributor

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    I have read and enjoyed some of his work, like "Rats in the Walls" and "The Dunwich Horror." I've started and abandoned a few others, with a sort of twinge of loss, because they seemed good but the writing lost me. I guess I'm with the ideas man crowd.

    I don't recall the racism, but I don't doubt it was there. I found, and was disappointed by, casual racism in such respected writers as James Thurber and PG Wodehouse. I call it casual because it seemed to be written as incidental, e.g. without malice. Not acceptable, but not out of touch with those times. I am embarrassed by it, but read past it.

    Many moons ago I worked in a furniture warehouse as part of a two-man team, and my partner was a black man about my age (20ish). We got to talking about literature, and he said he didn't like Mark Twain because he "wasn't nice about black people." I agreed, except to point out that Huckleberry Finn, if properly read, is a satirical attack on white bigotry, that the hero and brains of the operation is Jim (the escaped slave) while all the white characters, including Huck, are almost clownlike, albeit also cruelly racist. Like (paraphrasing from memory) when Huck, pretending to be Tom Sawyer, says he is late because the steamboat's boiler exploded. "Goodness," said the aunt, "was anybody hurt? Huck/Tom: "No ma'am. Killed a n*******.

    My friend said he agreed, sort of, and we went on to other topics.
     
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  18. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    My suspicion is that his racism was largely a fear of the different, of outsiders. This showed itself in his terror of outer space, of alien creatures and strange ancient gods—all of which come from "out there" somewhere. I think it was the cultural disease that infected many in Victorian times. They considered themselves the pinnacle of evolution, at the most highly civilized level, and they repressed sexuality and mankind's inherent animal qualities, the brutality and aggression. This is a perfect setup for projection, and I believe that's exactly what powered the nightmarish visions featured in his stories and those of other horror writers around the same period. Individually and collectively, the repressive always fears an eruption of that which they repress.

    Yes, he identified the 'others' often by swarthiness, but also by primitiveness, a quality that the Victorians thought was lost to them. They were in a way over-civilized, had lost touch with the natural world and their natural place in it, and so they both overvalued and undervalued (and feared) those races that were still in touch with it, as well as those deep-lying regions inside themselves (in the unconscious) that kept popping up in their dreams and that they projected out onto 'the others'.

    In several of Arthur Machen's stories (Victorian supernatural horror in the Weird vein like Lovecraft) the horror comes through a very 'earthy' and 'swarthy' woman, who is often a housekeeper or has some other lowly position that puts her in contact with the men of science (main characters). She seems to be the vehicle for the ancient supernatural horror largely because her femaleness and indigenous qualities put her far more directly in touch with that pagan sexuality and naturalness that had been ousted by Christianity and science. The pagan was deeply feared. It represents an eruption of the very things they kept repressed—sexuality (especially of a decidedly non-Christian and non-Victorian type) and raw aggression and hatred (as opposed to their polite, mannered ways). The female has always been seen as a conduit for the natural and the primitive into our safe civilized world, partly because of their more direct access to emotion and partly because their bodies are subject to the powerful tidal pull of nature once a month, which can strongly affect their mood and serves as a demonstration that, try as we might, we can never escape our roots in nature and biology. Of course another conduit for pagan aggression into the civilized world would be masculine aggression and violence, a theme pursued in Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde—much more obviously about the unconscious.

    Lovecraft didn't often use women in this way (that I'm aware of) except in The Thing on the Doorstep, but even then it was really a masculine spirit that had possessed the woman. He tended more toward the horror coming through either dark-skinned males, usually cultists for some ancient pagan religion, or from underground, outer space, the depths of the sea, and the ancient past. All of which are very familiar symbols of the unconscious, which of course is where repressed things actually reside and grow until they emerge, monstrously deformed, to rend and destroy the repress-er.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
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  19. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I don't know if he could be called the 'Tolkien of Horror and Science Fiction'. When most people think of fantasy they think of elves being tall, beautiful and blonde with their own language, dwarves under mountains, dragons and adventures in a medieval-ish world - Tolkien seems emblematic of the genre. When most people think of horror they'll tend to think of something like Dracula, Frankenstein, or 80s slasher films. Lovecraft didn't define horror or sci-fi like Tolkien did fantasy.

    The first question is a good one. I don't know if there's a simple answer but I think it's a combination of his monsters and his tone more than anything he actually wrote. Forbidden knowledge, secrets, and the dangers of exploration are interesting. There's a lot of people who have never read Lovecraft, but know about him because they've have played a game based on his writing - and a lot of video games recently have taken less from Lovecraft himself and more from the Arkham Horror board game. It often seems to be anyway, given how much Lovecraft inspired media has protagonists as private detectives (even though Lovecraft never once wrote a character like that) with guns battling against the children of Dagon/Cthulhu. Lovecraft himself would never have written a story like that, he was much more of a pessimist.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2020
  20. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    (Sorry for the double post)

    That and his friend August Derleth was a very good friend indeed, and kept pushing Lovecraft even when no one would listen. Lovecraft's reputation was first made in France during and after WW2, and they tied him to the existentialist movement. After that he got a footing and only became more and more fashionable in 'geek culture' which is I suppose like Tolkien though.
     
  21. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    I believe it's specifically because he tapped so effectively into the well of the unconscious and pulled out some very archetypal visions.
     
  22. Oldmanofthemountain

    Oldmanofthemountain Member

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    Aren't most of Lovecraft's protagonists usually (though not always) are just solitary academics who come across some unspeakable timeless horrors, and mostly ended up dead (either by committing suicide or killed by the antagonistic horror) or driven insane?
     
  23. Oldmanofthemountain

    Oldmanofthemountain Member

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    Didn't Lovecraft's protagonists usually (though not always) just solitary scholars who come across some unspeakable timeless horrors, and mostly ended up dead (either by commiting suicide or killed by the antagonistic horror)
     
  24. Oldmanofthemountain

    Oldmanofthemountain Member

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    Apologizes for the duplicate posts. My computer glitched out on me, and I accidentally submitted it twice.
     
  25. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Not academics, but you are right. Lovecraft was a big fan of the British writer M.R. James (who frankly I like more than Lovecraft, personally) whose protagonists are academics. Lovecraft's are more writers, or people who seem to not need to work and so have the free time to explore things and that sort of exploration drama is interesting to people. Especially when combined with huge monsters and unknown forces beyond our understanding.

    I've also thought, I think people like Lovecraft because his world isn't one of good vs. evil. It's a whole other beast, and one that his friend August (who coined the term 'Cthulhu Mythos', which I really dislike) got entirely wrong. August tried to make Lovecraft's aliens into element-based gods and some were good and some were bad, and even if August was a good writer (he wasn't) that's entirely missing the point of Lovecraft's writing.

    There is something very compelling about Lovecraft's vision of the universe being a godless, pitiless place and his 'gods' are a reflection of that. They are often metaphors for the forces at work we don't understand.

    Or rather Azathoth and Yog-Sothoth are.
     

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