The Classic Horror of HP Lovecraft Review
August 7, 2013 § 3 Comments
It’s been quite a while since my last post, and I’ve been missing my dear little blog. But I’ve been busy writing up a storm, and some other projects are taking shape. I hope to be posting more regularly again soon!
In the meantime, I’ve got another review up at Bookslut, on the Oxford University Press’s The Classic Horror of H.P. Lovecraft, edited by Roger Luckhurst. Check it out here: www.bookslut.com.
I had a little bit of trouble writing this review, because while I was familiar with Lovecraft’s writing and the expansive Mythos that it spawned, and I have great respect for his influence in genre lit, I didn’t know much about his biography. What I learned in Roger Luckhurst’s thoughtful and engaging introduction was enough to sour me towards Lovecraft as a man, and to view his writing through a different lens.
Lovecraft was a xenophobe and a racist, and was quite outspoken about this. He had a deep fear of “otherness,” and this influenced his writing in a big way.
So I was faced with a question–can I still admire this author? How much should personal politics affect the way we revere authors whose contributions to our collective imaginations and our culture are undeniable? I still don’t have a good answer, but at least I tried to explain my thought process, when given the chance to learn more about HPL and his world.
“It is strange to think that what makes Lovecraft’s fictions so terrifying, uncanny — and thus enduring — are the very products of his troubling fear of otherness. We cannot separate the man from the work in the same manner, to cite a recent example, that potential audiences of Ender’s Game were recently asked by Orson Scott Card to ignore his homophobia on the grounds that Ender’s Game, being set “more than a century in the future,” had nothing to do with his political views. Were Lovecraft alive to make the same strange plea, it would be hard for him to argue that the revulsion and fear his characters feel when face to face with extreme otherness do not mirror his own.
So why read Lovecraft? Twenty years ago, S.T. Joshi proposed that this question would always bear asking, until Weird fiction became a more accepted genre, worthy of study. But now, with the renaissance of speculative fiction, sci-fi, and Weird fiction currently saturating literary magazines and publishing houses, genre seems no longer to be the crux of the question. But the question still exists. What with Lovecraft’s literary demerits, and the influence of racism and xenophobia on his work, the question seems even more pressing, despite the current interest in strange tales. I can’t offer you an answer (and neither, I would like to point out, does Luckhurst).
I will say that there is something satisfyingly uncanny about reading Lovecraft that is only compounded by this context. Like his many narrators, readers of Lovecraft will find themselves glimpsing something deeply unsettling: a worldview and a man filled both with revulsion and with wonder.”
Thanks for reading!