Friday, February 24, 2017

Bonus FFB: The Best of H. P. Lovecraft

Robert Bloch mentioned in Once Around the Bloch that he'd written an introduction to a hefty Arkham House collection of H. P. Lovecraft's work.  It happens that I have a copy of that book.  Not the Arkham House edition but the Ballantine reprint.  I hadn't read Lovecraft's work since the '50s, so I thought it might be fun to dip into it again and see what I thought.

The complete Table of Contents is below.  The stories I read were "The Rats in the Walls," "The Outsider," "The Call of Cthulhu," and "The Dunwich Horror," all of which I'd read back in the old days.  I had no trouble at all with the writing style.  In fact, I was quite comfortable with the long paragraphs, the lengthy descriptions, the many adjectives, the arcane vocabulary.  It was like visiting an eccentric old friend.  Not that the stories were as effective as they once were.  There's a big difference in reading Lovecraft as a teenager and as a really old guy.  I think this is particularly obvious in "The Outsider."  Has there ever been a sensitive teen who didn't read this and identify with the narrator, even at the very end?  Especially at the end, maybe.  Great stuff.  The creepiness factor in the other stories is still high, but it's not the same as it was in the old days.

Lovecraft has come under a lot of fire lately for his racist attitudes.  I wonder how many people will toss the book aside when reading "The Rats in the Walls" when they come to the name of the narrator's cat.  Probably quite a few.  There are lots of references in the stories to degeneracy and mongrelism, too, so be warned.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Heritage of Horror, by Robert Bloch
The Rats in the Walls
The Picture in the House
The Outsider
Pickman’s Model
In the Vault
The Silver Key
The Music of Erich Zann
The Call of Cthulhu
The Dunwich Horror
The Whisperer in Darkness
The Colour Out of Space
The Haunter of the Dark
The Thing on the Doorstep
The Shadow Over Innsmouth
The Dreams in the Witch-House
The Shadow Out of Time


George said...

Ballantine Books published four or five of these "BEST of Lovecraft" volumes. I really like the one with the Neil Gaiman "Introduction." I'm with you: despite Lovecraft's prose style, his unique vision is quite powerful.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I first discovered Lovecraft (and through him, Robert E. Howard, Frank Belknap Long, Clark Ashton Smith, etc.) in the early 1970s, when I read most of his stuff. I even found a house near where we lived in Brooklyn at the time where Lovecraft had lived!

I like his stuff.

Todd Mason said...

Reading "The Outsider" at age eight, it took me a while to figure out for certain that that was a mirror...which it Seemed to be what he was saying...and was.

I don't think Arkham House managed to publish this, unless we're counting THE OUTSIDER AND OTHERS as the earlier edition...Goodreads suggests that Derleth actually edited this one, though it could've been Del Rey himself...any citations in the volume?

Unknown said...

Don't remember any citations. Will check if I think of it.

Mathew Paust said...

Lovecraft scared the bejeebies out of me when I first read him, as a youngster, and read him no more. Now that I'm a tad more mature, I reckon it's time to catch up.