What's the appeal of Lovecraft? And horror in general?

Tinsel

Science fiction fantasy
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Messages
422
#21
"The Call of Cthulhu" was definitely a horror story and so was "The Picture in the House". I personally wouldn't read Lovecraft if he did not create complex plots. That is what keeps me interested in his stories. I can read them more than one time and continue to gain a perspective on what is being described in detail. It is difficult to see all of it because it really is heavy work, but that is the appeal and the challenge!

If I simply read Lovecraft than it does not work well. I find it more productive to wait until I have a lot of energy before I read a story of his. I have tried reading it when I had mediocre energy and I did not make it through the story, however that is not the case with other books. I am not aware of any other writer that provides the depth of Lovecraft. One day, I intend to become a fire breathing dragon, and than I'll dive into the waters of Dagon.
 

Fried Egg

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 20, 2006
Messages
3,485
#22
I'm fairly new to both Lovecraft and horror in general. Only recently have I started to read horror, being previously primarilly a fantasy and SF reader.

What attracted me to horror? I suppose it was becoming aware that there was a type of horror out there for me, one that is not about about trying to shock and disgust the reader but instead about humbling one's self by being confronted with the vastness, indifference and strangeness of the universe. By being filled with a sense of awe and wonder at nature and confronted with our own insignificance and irrelevence and the knowledge that we might be living in a small, fragile oasis of calm and simplicity surrounded by an infinite sea of choas that might snuff out our sanity like a candle frame in the eye of a hurricane.

I don't like all of Lovecraft's stories but many of them I adore. "Shadows over Innesmouth" is one of my favourites although it is unique in at least one way, I seem to recall J.D. mentioning that it is the only Lovecraft story that contains a chase scene. In that sense, it might even be thought of as being one of Lovecraft's more conventional stories.
 

Connavar

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2007
Messages
8,411
#23
Myself i love reading horror because in the hands of a quality writer it can be great,thrilling read in many shapes.

HPL archaic prose style i dont have much respect for but its easier to get past for me now that im trying to read him again.

I got from the library The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories and his prose style doesnt bother me. I just hope the stories thrill,scare me because i love classic horror and with my taste in horror it wouldnt be nice if i found HPL to be overrated.
 
Joined
Feb 12, 2011
Messages
80
#24
Just want to add that to me, Lovecraft's stories work better orally. When I read The Statement of Randolph Carter loud to myself it had much more impact.

As has been said, my fascination for Lovecraft is his universe, his mythos and how he attacks the fear of the unknown. Fear of the dark, of the deep, of the beyond. Our own sanity. That's some powerful **** right there.



:M:

 
Last edited by a moderator:

Fried Egg

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 20, 2006
Messages
3,485
#25
I got from the library The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories and his prose style doesnt bother me. I just hope the stories thrill,scare me because i love classic horror and with my taste in horror it wouldnt be nice if i found HPL to be overrated.
I'm glad you're trying him again. I would suggest not necessarilly reading them in order and going straight for "Pickman's Model" and "At the Mountains of Madness" first as they're the best (in my opinion) stories in that collection. If you like those, then go on to try other stories in the collection.
 

Connavar

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2007
Messages
8,411
#26
I'm glad you're trying him again. I would suggest not necessarilly reading them in order and going straight for "Pickman's Model" and "At the Mountains of Madness" first as they're the best (in my opinion) stories in that collection. If you like those, then go on to try other stories in the collection.
Yeah i have not much interest in reading his Dunsanian stories like Joshi said he would not be remembered if he ever only wrote those stories. I checked them out only to see how his prose style improved in those stories from his regular stories. Maybe not Dunsany poetic prose but nicer to read than his regular style.

The introduction said his later,mature style is first seen in "Under the Pyramids" which i started with to read before "Pickman's Model" and "At the Mountains of Madness".

I did read The Tomb to know his early stories from earky 1920s or earlier is his low level,younger days works.

His prose style is the hardest i have read of all slow horror styles but i had to give him a fair chance even if i might never like him like i do CAS,REH. You dont have to be great prose write to be quality horror writer in my eyes.
 

Fried Egg

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 20, 2006
Messages
3,485
#27
I would also avoid "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" for now too. I found that quite hard work, although ultimately rewarding. Just not for reading now while you're still making up your mind about his work.
 

Connavar

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2007
Messages
8,411
#28
I would also avoid "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" for now too. I found that quite hard work, although ultimately rewarding. Just not for reading now while you're still making up your mind about his work.
I had the same thoughts since i dont think i have the time to read all the stories since its a interlibrary loan i can have only 2 weeks. I choosed him this time since i dont have time for novels but i can read a shorter story or two per day.
 

Fried Egg

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 20, 2006
Messages
3,485
#29
I had the same thoughts since i dont think i have the time to read all the stories since its a interlibrary loan i can have only 2 weeks. I choosed him this time since i dont have time for novels but i can read a shorter story or two per day.
Well, "At the Mountains of Madness" is quite long...but worth it. ;)
 

Tinsel

Science fiction fantasy
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Messages
422
#30
There was a hell of a lot of running around in "The Call of Cthulhu" but the long scene in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" was articulated by irregular sounds and later more obvious signs of what was taking place. He had to escape, rather than get chased (now that I think about it).
 

dask

dark and stormy knight
Joined
Nov 1, 2008
Messages
3,213
Location
Pacific Northwest
#31
As for the appeal of horror, Dorothy Scarborough, in her essay "Modern Ghosts", put it this way: "We are too fond of being fooled by phantoms to surrender them, for 'the slow touch of a frozen finger tracing out the spine' is an awesome joy." Hear, hear.
 
Joined
May 9, 2006
Messages
13,885
#34
Yes, I think he left soon after he began. Nonetheless, the question -- shorn of its pejorative formulation -- is a worthy one for discussion; and, as it is one -- at least the latter part --which has been given various answers over the years (at least since Addison's dealing with it in the Spectator nearly 300 years ago), yet has yet to be resolved, I think such a discussion could be very interesting.

Several of the people here have given some very good answers, nearly all of which I would agree with to some degree. I do think HPL is a much better writer, and as for Zadok Allen's shout... unfortunately, that was a convention of the time, and yes, I agree that it can be quite risible, depending on how it hits the individual reader. (It took me a long time to get past that very response when I hit the "titan elbow" in "The Shunned House", in other respects one of my very favorite among his tales.) I don't quite find the cannibal recluse in "The Picture in the House" as over-the-top, but that may be because I see him as being as much symbolic as literal: To me, he represents the past devouring its offspring, much as Chronos is depicted as doing... an image or concept which resonates throughout a great deal of HPL's work. This seems, to me, to fit very well with the opening paragraphs of the story, where he is creating such a complex reaction to these remnants of the past: respect, fascination, repulsion, distrust, fear, horror, wonder, a sense of the sublime, a feeling of indebtedness, and many other emotions, all touched on with just the right amount of each one to evoke that feeling of the other which is nonetheless terrifyingly familiar... somewhat like Freud's argument on the topic of the uncanny.

Ultimately, I think for me that is the appeal of Lovecraft. Yes, there are the layers of the familiar thrill and other emotional responses I have had from reading his works in the past; but he is such a multilayered writer that I find each time I visit one of his works, this is overlayed with something new; a new insight, a new facet which I had not previously experienced; just as with all great literature (and yes, I would put HPL in that category; if not among the highest, he is still within that august company). Ramsey Campbell (in the documentary Fear of the Unknown) makes the comment that, in reading M. R. James -- a fine writer in many ways, and certainly one of the most important figures in the history of the weird tale -- one experiences the same thing over again, perhaps slightly diluted; but in reading HPL one often finds something quite different wioth each reading, so that each time a story is read it is a different experience, and thus has a different impact as a whole.

"Horror", per se, is only a very, very tiny part of it; and even then, the horror in HPL is frequently a symbol for something much greater and less easy to define. "Fear" may be closer to the mark, but "unease", a feeling of reality shifting just slightly from all our accepted concepts, is closest, I think. That feeling that all we accept as reality may be nothing more than comforting illusions we've built for ourselves, which may at any moment crack open and reveal the abyss which lies within as well as without. That can be a truly terrifying experience, and for those who genuinely encounter it, it tends to make them question everything forever after. Nothing is certain any longer.

Then there is the feeling of tragic isolation of his protagonists: so many of them encounter the culminating terror alone, and there is so seldom any solid evidence of its existence for others to find, thus leaving that person more alone than were they isolated on a remote island away from all human contact... because they are alone in the midst of teeming millions. They have truly become "the Outsider", "a stranger in this century and among those who are still men", still genuinely members of the human community. (This is why, despite its many flaws, that tale is one of the keystones of Lovecraft's work.)

There is also love of beauty: beauty of the natural landscape, beauty of language, the beauty of darkness and dream, of the fragility of all we hold dear (and whose very fragility and evanescence makes it all the more precious to us). After all, Lovecraft himself was a great lover of beauty, especially that of Nature and art; and his own prose style is actually much closer to the ideal of the poetic vision than to the flat, pedestrian prose to which we of the last century have become accustomed.

These things, too, are among those which what is mistakenly called "horror" so often offer. One has only to read, say, Gautier, or Baudelaire, or de la Mare, or Machen, or much of Poe or Hawthorne, or Mrs. Radcliffe, or even Spenser or Marlowe or Shakespeare, to realize that. Try, for instance, reading Thomas De Quincey's excellent essay, "On the Knocking of the Gate in 'Macbeth'", or Burke's A Philosophical Inquiry into the Supernatural in Poetry", or Anna Laetitia Barbauld's "On the Pleasure Derived from Objects of Terror", or Sir Devendra P. Varma's The Gothic Flame, among just a few, to get a better understanding of what it is which appeals to readers of "horror" stories... at least, those who respond to something other than fake gore and "stinger" moments (and after all, generally speaking, what is less effective than verbal buckets of blood on a page of writing -- unless it actually symbolizes something more?). As Lovecraft himself noted early on in Supernatural Horror in Literature:

There is here involved a psychological pattern or tradition as real and as deeply grounded in mental experience as any other pattern or tradition of mankind; coeval with the religious feeling and closely related to many aspects of it[...]
and just as prone to a sense of wonder, awe, mystery, and majesty, as the best religious or mystical art.

That, in brief, is the appeal of Lovecraft, and "horror" in general.....
 

Similar threads

Top