H. P. LOVECRAFT: THE CLASSIC HORROR STORIES

PrintE-mail Written by Ian White

It’s quite sobering – as well as rather sad – to realise how many artists were ignored while they were alive, only to be feted for their talents many years after their death. As Roger Luckhurst describes in his thought-provoking introduction to this edition, H. P. Lovecraft was mostly overlooked during his lifetime. He was mainly perceived as a pulp writer who, by all accounts, didn’t tend to rate his own abilities very highly. The fact that his work not only defined but pretty much underpins the foundations of the genre ‘weird fiction’, and that Lovecraft almost singlehandedly transformed horror into something metaphysical and quasi-religious, inspiring the likes of Stephen King, Guillermo Del Toro and Stuart Gordon along the way, only makes his contemporaries disregard for him all the more amazing. Still, H. P. was in good company. The same could easily be said of one of Lovecraft’s own major influences, Edgar Allan Poe.

These days, most people – even those who don’t read horror – will know who Lovecraft is and will almost certainly have heard about Cthulhu, the malevolent many-tentacled beast that dominates much of Lovecraft’s oeuvre, even if they can’t pronounce the Great Old One’s name. And if you’re new to Lovecraft, this new Oxford World’s Classics Edition is a fantastic place to get acquainted, since the edition brings together nine of the maestro’s best-known tales including the mighty The Call of Cthulhu, the unnerving The Shadow Over Innsmouth, the genius and quite mind-bending, The Dreams in the Witch-House and the playfully transgressive witchcraft mash-up The Dunwich Horror.

Many people criticise Lovecraft for his overblown prose, the barely suppressed racism within much of his writing (the first story in this collection, The Horror at Red Hook, is a fine example of that) and his seeming disinterest in his human characters, all of whom seem puny and irrelevant when stacked against the writer’s impressively malevolent pantheon of elder Gods. All that’s true, but he was also an absolute virtuoso at creeping under the reader’s skin and scaring them so badly that they couldn’t go to sleep without leaving the lights on. The intervening decades since these stories were published haven’t diluted that effect. This book is a testament to Lovecraft’s enduring ability to thrill us while simultaneously scaring us stupid, and as such it is very highly recommended.

H. P. LOVECRAFT: THE CLASSIC HORROR STORIES / AUTHOR: H. P. LOVECRAFT / PUBLISHER: OUP OXFORD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

 


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