H. P. Lovecraft. What am I doing wrong?

[I’ve received an awesome comment from sledpress! It’s way more valuable and informative than my actual post. If you are here to explore the works of Lovecraft I suggest you scroll to the end to read her comment.]

I love all things dark in literature. I like scary, and deep, and difficult. I am ok with slow reads. I like thinking, watching and trying to understand. That’s why I was sure I’d have a lasting relationship with the complete collection of works by H. P. Lovecraft (it shows $0.59 for the Kindle edition at the moment, by the way, at least for my region). The lasting relationship never happened, even though “cosmic horror” still sounds very intriguing. Truth be told, I haven’t read much of the collection yet. And that is the problem in its core. I can’t! How do you read this? How do you read this boring, preachy, monotonous and-now-my-dear-reader type of writing?!

I’m sure there are movies (and lots of other art too) based on these stories that are outstanding because the ideas are gripping, unique and haunting. But the stories themselves are unreadable! Whenever I tried to get remotely scared I got bored sooner.

There were legends of hidden lake unglimpsed by mortal sight, in which dwelt a huge, formless white polypous thing with luminous eyes; and squatters whispered that bat-winged devils flew up out of caverns in inner earth to worship it at midnight.

I guess, I was supposed to get scared but I was born a century too late for that.

There was actually one short story that I enjoyed. The Beast in the Cave is written in quite the same style but it’s concise and the topic is thought-provoking.

I failed to like a few other stories that I tried. I thought I was looking at a wrong place so I went for something that I expected to be a major treat, The Call of Cthulhu … and failed to like it either! I couldn’t even finish it! In fact, it was worse than a simple DNF – I dropped the story and read the remains of the plot on Wikipedia! I was too interested in the events but couldn’t last through this tedious enumeration of verbs and nouns.

My post is in no way a review of the works by Lovecraft because I’m obviously doing something wrong. A thing that major and important simply can’t be what I now perceive it to be – a product of breathtaking imagination trapped by pompous and unnecessarily entangled writing. So what am I doing wrong? Shall I read something else by Lovecraft first? What then?

Updated to add: got sent this as a reaction to my post. So far it’s the most entertaining thing I discovered about Lovecraft.

Updated. The awesome comment by sledpress:

“It’s okay, babe. Even those of us who love HPL admit that he is pedantic, needlessly verbose, maudlin and overwritten. I came to Cthulhu and the rest at the age of ten, which made it easier to be scared by the scary parts. But he truly did not find a voice that wasn’t a parody of itself until late in life, and I think “The Shadow Out of Time” is the best thing he ever did stylistically. The early stuff, which is all full of fainting from fright and people going “aaaggh” and contrived Gothic, is just one of those acquired tastes, like really peaty whiskey (which I also love). And those of us who treasure cats can relate to the wonderful cats in “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath,” who in a subplot reveal an ability to leap to the Moon and back carrying a human with them, in sufficient numbers. (Lovecraft adored cats.)

He was a neurotic man deeply damaged by his mentally ill parents, stilted in relationships (his marriage lasted six months), sickeningly racist and absurdly pretentious about his New England background. But there was always something about him that made me want to throw him over my shoulder and burp him, sort of. There is a biography of him by L. Sprague de Camp which might be on Kindle, not too dense, which makes for entertaining reading.

A group called the HP Lovecraft Historical Society (HPLHS on Facebook) has made several retro-style films of the books, and their “Call of Cthulhu” in silent-film style, with captions, is delicious and catches both the horror and the corniness.

If you can get through “Unknown Kadath,” there is what amounts to a piece of fan fiction called “The Dream Quest of Vellitt Boe” which is a feminist excursion on his dream world. Delicious.”

8 thoughts on “H. P. Lovecraft. What am I doing wrong?

  1. It’s okay, babe. Even those of us who love HPL admit that he is pedantic, needlessly verbose, maudlin and overwritten. I came to Cthulhu and the rest at the age of ten, which made it easier to be scared by the scary parts. But he truly did not find a voice that wasn’t a parody of itself until late in life, and I think “The Shadow Out of Time” is the best thing he ever did stylistically. The early stuff, which is all full of fainting from fright and people going “aaaggh” and contrived Gothic, is just one of those acquired tastes, like really peaty whiskey (which I also love). And those of us who treasure cats can relate to the wonderful cats in “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath,” who in a subplot reveal an ability to leap to the Moon and back carrying a human with them, in sufficient numbers. (Lovecraft adored cats.)

    He was a neurotic man deeply damaged by his mentally ill parents, stilted in relationships (his marriage lasted six months), sickeningly racist and absurdly pretentious about his New England background. But there was always something about him that made me want to throw him over my shoulder and burp him, sort of. There is a biography of him by L. Sprague de Camp which might be on Kindle, not too dense, which makes for entertaining reading.

    A group called the HP Lovecraft Historical Society (HPLHS on Facebook) has made several retro-style films of the books, and their “Call of Cthulhu” in silent-film style, with captions, is delicious and catches both the horror and the corniness.

    If you can get through “Unknown Kadath,” there is what amounts to a piece of fan fiction called “The Dream Quest of Vellitt Boe” which is a feminist excursion on his dream world. Delicious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my god … I’m so thankful to your reply, I’m not sure how to express it. Your comment brings so much more value than my original post. Do you mind if I add it to the main text? I’m sure many people will find it useful. Thanks for all the recommendations! I knew there’s more for me to try but I didn’t know where to look anymore.
      And I love your writing so much, as always 🙂 “Even those of us who love HPL admit that he is pedantic, needlessly verbose, maudlin and overwritten. ” This is just beautiful :))

      Like

      1. Now I have to go and lie down with a cold cloth before I get too pleased with myself. But of course — use my comment any way you want! I was excited to see a post about a “cult” writer I enjoyed.

        I may have odd gaps in my literary diet, but I get very absorbed in the stuff I like.

        Like

  2. I agree he is wordy and not particularly scary. I don’t think it’s supposed to be scary horror, just weirdness. I generally like his style but I guess if a writer these days was writing like that now, then it wouldn’t be so successful. I quite like the wordiness and his stories made a big impression on me as a teen (maybe a lot of readers discover his work at this age) but I’m not under illusion that it’s excellent literature or anything. Maybe he is just not for you 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think you are right about the age. I already met a few people who read his books in childhood or when a teenager and enjoyed them. It’s sad I missed the time. But I will still try. Sledpress in her comment above pointed me to a few interesting directions regarding his works, so I will still explore 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I get this. It’s just the style of the age. A lot of writers from this time have a similar style, to name a few – M.R. James, Robert W. Chambers, Arthur Conan Doyle (I think the Sherlock stories are almost unreadable). Even though I dislike the writing style, I can appreciate the lore, and world building. I don’t think they’re meant to be scary in the sense that we now think of horror. Gothic tales were/are more an exploration of atmosphere and tension. Or at least that’s how I read them. I could be wrong, though.

    There is no doubt Lovecraft was a morally detestable individual. I think many household names of old (and sadly, present) are of questionable character. I try my best to view the art separate from the artist, although, that’s sometimes a challenge. 🙂

    Like

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