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!

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I forgot to mention in my review how much I adore this cover…

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.

An excerpt:

“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!

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§ 3 Responses to The Classic Horror of HP Lovecraft Review

  • I have to agree with your thoughts about knowing the views of a creative person. Too often we’re bombarded with what an actor thinks, or an artist felt and it can cloud your experience with their creativity. But once you’ve learned this about someone, you can’t unlearn it. I remember studying abroad in Spain and learning all about Salvador Dali and being so repulsed by his personal history, his infatuation with Hitler, and his demented relationships that I couldn’t look at his work. The same holds true for Wagner and his music.

    But I’ve read many authors who I’ve later discovered to be less than enlightened in their beliefs. I still don’t know how to reconcile it, but it also makes me a little wary of reading biographies of people who’s work I respect. Then again, it’s good to know all facets of a person if you really want to say you like them. It’s a puzzle, but I love the way you have thought it through.

    • crfricke says:

      Thanks for writing! It’s true, this isn’t the first time I’ve had this kind of complicated relationship with a writer or artist. In fact, it’s funny that you mention Wagner–my family has close historical ties with Wagner and The Ring Cycle, and so as I grew up and learned more about him, I wasn’t sure how to feel. I admire the music, and am very proud of the Frickes’ connections to it, but I can’t make excuses for certain beliefs, and especially not how those beliefs were later tied to Germany’s justifications for unspeakable, inhuman acts. But knowing, in the end, is always better than not knowing–it gives you the power to decide what about a writer or artist you admire, and what you don’t, and where that line is drawn. And you’re never the person caught with nothing to say when someone says, “Ugh! How can you LIKE them? Don’t you know…” You do know. And that’s the better choice, every time.

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