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Pointers for essay

Zenaphobe

New Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2006
Messages
3
#1
Greetings!

I have been assigned a short compare/contrast essay in my expository writing class and decided to write it on two authors I enjoyed from my youth, H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King.

I would have picked something easier if I had thought about it longer, but my professor thinks it may be a good challenge to pursue it.

I am at a loss where to begin.

Anyone here have a suggestion that may help nudge me in a good direction for this topic?

It only has to be 3 pages double spaced, so, it shouldn't be too complex.

Anyone have an idea for a good comparison or contrast?

Thanks! :)
 
Joined
May 9, 2006
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13,883
#2
Ooooph; where to begin? Had you picked two of the more modern writers, it might have been easier; but King and Lovecraft are, in most ways, about as far apart as one can get. True, both wrote horror tales, but King is very modern, HPL was very much influenced by older literary models, though his philosophical outlook ("cosmic indifferrentism", as it's been called) was very modern indeed.

For me, it is difficult to see areas of similarity; King largely deals with traditional tropes, Lovecraft tended to avoid such, or to give them entirely new spins (though those have now become, themselves, stereotyped), as with the ghoul-changeling theme, or the ghost/avatar, or the vampire as seen in "The Shunned House". Also, King is much more violent and given to gore; Lovecraft was almost entirely about atmosphere and implication; what violence or gore there is in his stories is largely off-stage or distanced, where King places the reader right in the middle of it.

Perhaps there is one slight similarity, in that King does allow for the universe to be a place wherein human beings are at the whims of chance or laws they cannot understand; though I must say I feel Lovecraft conveyed that much more powerfully; both writers, however, had no inclination to soften the impact of this on their most sympathetic characters. So perhaps that could be one point on which to compare them.

Mostly, however, I think it would be contrasting their styles, approaches, philosophies, etc., even though King has written some Lovecraftian pastiches (the short stories "Jerusalem's Lot", "Crouch End", "Gramma", the novella "The Mist" all having Lovecraftian elements, for instance).

I have a question: How long do you have to do this? There are quite a few good books on Lovecraft out there, though most are not carried by bookstores; the best biography is S. T. Joshi's H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, which far supersedes the earlier biography by L. Sprague de Camp; Donald R. Burleson's H. P. Lovecraft: A Critical Study is a good brief examination of his life and work, rich in ideas that may give you some good directions in which to go. There have been several books on King, but I'm not really familiar with any of them, so can't recommend anything there. Perhaps someone else here can do so?

At any rate, welcome to the Chronicles, and I hope some of this helps. If you'd like more information, please feel free to PM me, or to ask for further information in this thread. Good luck!
 

Zenaphobe

New Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2006
Messages
3
#3
Hi J.D.,

Thanks for the reply, sounds like a got a hum-dinger of a topic eh?

I am going to try to go the style comp/cont route and see if I can garner enough to meet the content requirments.

This paper is a classroom and home project, so I am not pushed for a final project, but need an outline by this Tuesday.

Thanks!
 
Joined
Jun 1, 2004
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#4
Well if you really wanted a modern day Lovecraft who wasn't a deliberate rip-off, you could have considered Thomas Ligotti...the only problem is, there's already an exhaustive if sometimes pretentious and not entirely convincing essay on Ligotti's site which compares the works of the 2 L's.

You could probably present Lovecraft and King as 2 extremes of horror writing both of which have tremendously influenced newer entrants to the genre in their respective ways. I think one of the biggest differences between King and HPL is that King cares a lot about the characters in his books (the good books, that is) and works his ass off towards creating very convincing players. In fact character writing and offering an interesting chronicle of modern American pop culture/history is one of King's strongest points as a writer. With Lovecraft, you would rarely find a character that wasn't more or less a blank slate for the horrors that descended. You could say that Lovecraft left it deliberately that way so that readers could easily fill themselves in the character's shoes and experience the horrors in a more first-hand fashion.


j.d. has pointed out some of the stories where King has drawn on Lovecraft as an inspiration (I'm not sure I'd consider Gramma part of that, though, it was more of the creepy decaying old person thing, another big King trick-in-the-bag). King himself discusses Lovecraft in his chronicle/analysis of the horror genre, Danse Macabre. But you can see from the tone of the discussion that while King is a huge admirer he is not looking at HPL as a soulmate or prime influence. King probably owes more to Bradbury and Ellison than to Lovecraft.
 

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