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H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction Kindle Edition
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About the Author
Howard Phillips "H. P." Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) was an American author who achieved posthumous fame through his influential works of horror fiction. Virtually unknown and only published in pulp magazines before he died in poverty, he is now widely seen as one of the most significant 20th century authors in his genre.--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B08KHJV4NN
- Publisher : DXBooks (September 27, 2020)
- Publication date : September 27, 2020
- Language : English
- File size : 1795 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 482 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #438,017 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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The Beast in the Cave (page 1 of hardcover)
The Alchemist (page 6 of hardcover)
Under the Pyramids (page 270 of hardcover)
Through the Gates of the Silver Key (page 889 of hardcover)
Not the end of the world, but this digital volume is most definitely NOT the complete fiction.
By Derek Porter on September 7, 2016
That's because while he is a seminal genius, most of his writing shows obvious signs of bad or amateur writing skill. What HP Lovecraft needed most was a good editor and writing mentor, and a longer lifespan in which to improve his talent and achieve literary maturity.
However I would like to say that I have fond memorable moments of the high points in this book. There is a lot of awesome stuff in here (I have been currently engaged for days in trying to imagine what a symphony of "loathsome piping" might sound like), but if you are an adult who can soberly read with the critical eye of an English or history teacher correcting essays, then you will not be able to look past the flaws. That's why I say he needed a good editor, because that's what good editors do - they carve out all the crap and give honest feedback. HP Lovecraft had tremendous creativity and imagination, but his exposition and grasp of narrative flow was poor, which a good editor would help fix.
For instance, in The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath there is an obvious point in the story at which Lovecraft clearly gets stuck in his narrative, and then just starts making stuff up exactly as children do when they are trying to tell a story and only want to keep talking to keep the train moving despite the fact that it has already derailed. He reminded me of my boss's 5 year old daughter who begins explaining something to me but then just starts rambling nonsense in an attempt to stretch out her ability to keep me paying attention to her. (I am aware that it was Lovecraft who was also 5 years old when he began having nightmares about creatures that found their way into this point of the story, but sadly he wasn't able to make an adult translation of the memories and instead just cut and paste them in wholesale in a profoundly childish regression of literary skill). I was very disappointed with the story at that moment - a story that I was starting to think might get five stars, but wound up only getting 3.5 from me due to the childish attempt to crowbar his narrative out of the jam it was in.
Lovecraft correctly states that "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." However he proceeds from this premise to a rather weak series of attempts in much of his writing to sow this kind of fear in the reader's mind by withholding details of a particular monstrous creature/event/sight by merely saying it was ghastly or horrible; indescribable or unmentionable. He even goes so far in one of his stories to attempt a refutation of this criticism (revealing that my criticism was leveled at him in his own lifetime) that he sets up his semi-autobiographical fictional self, Randolph Carter, in a debate with a colleague , that while quite brilliant in its own way, totally sidesteps the critique with a distraction by refuting an accusation that wasn't the one made in the first place (this is a standard trick in debate). This is further proof of the author's own intellectual immaturity on top of his emotional immaturity (yes we know about his upbringing from the introduction). In literary terms it's a cop-out to avoid describing something because you think that a cheap facsimile of "fear of the unknown" is being effectively employed. Something isn't scary just because you say it is, and trying to work around it by calling it so horrible as to be indescribable without the listener going insane only shows a lack of imagination and literary creativity, which comes as a disappointment from one who is otherwise so clearly gifted and ahead of his time. These are the things that an editor and/or mentor could have fixed or improved. Yes, we have a fear of the unknown, but not a fear of the inadequately elaborated. HP has confused the two.
He also overuses a list of words in his stories that a good editor (or even a freshman high school English teacher) would surely circle with a red pen and suggest he employ more synonyms. Where would just about any of his stories be without the word cyclopean? He loved that word beyond all others, even using it inappropriately at times just to bootstrap it into a story. How many other recurring scenes contained viscous, gelatinous, dripping, fungoid, eldritch horrors? He is obsessed at times with abnormal geometry (whatever that means), monoliths, gambrel roofs and all manner of "ghastly" and "blasphemous" things, much of it just silly to the core. In one story alone he uses the word conjecture so many times that you know he just recently learned the word and fell in love with it. Editor to aisle three for cleanup please, editor to aisle three, thank you!
Let's briefly address the issue of the innate racism and xenophobia in some of his writings, because it was the 1920s and 30s, and many of the cliches about swarthy foreigners being natural suspects for membership in sinister death cults were current then (and in fact survived in vivid detail in mainstream American culture at least until 1984 with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) and he was obviously a sheltered Anglo-Saxon New England coward with a fragile psyche. I will say that it's a shame and that I don't approve or agree, and that it certainly detracts some of the value of his work, but what's done is done. And yes, he did have some stories where the bad guy(s) where white, but there wasn't any additional insinuation that their racial identity had anything to do with it, just that they were a few bad apples, unlike the darker skinned people of the world who just seemed to him to be evil by default. You know, just because their ancestors didn't come over on the Mayflower. Sure. Gotcha. Makes perfect sense.
What HP Lovecraft considers one of the most horrifying things in his stories though - beyond his fear of people that aren't Caucasian, is the premise in some of his tales that the very thought that there might be intelligent life other than humans - out in the universe and right here on earth previous to our own existence - is a legitimate cause for absolute soul-shattering horror. Please. Were people back then really that shocked at the mere idea? Was that true horror then? I'm guessing it was just ol' nervous nelly Lovecraft at the wheel again. Sure, it was the 1920's and 30's, but it wasn't the middle ages, and just 40 years after his death the public was falling in love with the myriad alien creatures shown in the cantina on the planet Tatooine in the first Star Wars movie. Nobody was dying of fright. I'm not sure if he was frightened of those ideas himself, or if he was acting as narrator, and just writing them because he thought we the reading public would find it frightening. Hard to say, and rather moot anyway nowadays, as modern children routinely entertain themselves with endless speculation about other worlds and creatures. One might wonder what Lovecraft would think of the 1960s TV series Star Trek. Would he die of fright? Today we just laugh at the bad special effects and costume/makeup design.
There's also a number of stories where he is clearly anti-science, which I can understand in the context of the Dada art movement's reaction to the horrors of World War One and its newly invented military technology for killing people on an unprecedented scale, but he brushes with very broad strokes and sets up a false dichotomy (which, depressingly, people still do today) between science and whatever romanticized idea is currently in fashion; which in Lovecraft's case was an immature retreat into some regressive state of idealized childhood. That's not just anti-science but anti-intellectual and just a plain misguided and pathetic knee-jerk reaction. More points lost.
Now on to his universe of evil gods. He doesn't really say much about them. More intimate details about their motives, agenda, purpose etc. Doesn't really provide any true mythological back story on how they came to be or what their interactions or relations with/to each other are and how they generally operate other than the basic fact that they are chaotic, negative, destructive forces with an insatiable will to ruin everything for no apparent reason. Fair enough I guess, since that's how most evil forces seem to work in fairy tales, but here they are pretty rough sketches even by that standard. This has the added effect of robbing the stories of meaning when we encounter the evil humans who are always trying to conjure them into the world for the same meaningless appetite for annihilation. That would be cool if he had them espouse a deep belief in Nihilism and to flesh that out, but that's just one more literary/philosophical achievement he leaves on the table. Also, for all the times he references the city of Arkham or Miskatonic University, he doesn't really say much about them to bring them more sharply into the reader's mind, but then again he does have a way of writing about these things in the same simple and casual way that Hardy Boys stories are written, even though you get a better feeling for Bayport and even Barmet Bay than you do for Arkham.
Yet for all the shortcomings, in his finer moments his prose is striking, profound and compelling. In these moments he is in full command of language evoking a cerebral and sublime alternate world and universe of the macabre and a fractured psychosis of mind and spirit. Everything is sent spinning in a nauseating whirlwind of howling fury as the daily comforts we take for granted are cruelly ripped from our feeble grasp. But then he stumbles and loses his balance and we are back to bad writing again, which as I've said before, a good editor and a longer lifespan would have vastly improved and raised my rating. Remember that it's not just how much you liked a particular part of a story that you rate the whole story on, but the entire story and all its parts - the language, the mechanics; how the narrative is constructed, the sequencing of events; avoiding incongruous word choices (particularly his penchant for archaic words, some of which improve the feeling of the sentence and some of which are clunky burdens). There's so much more to good writing than just "I liked the part about the blind idiot god Azathoth - so cool man." That's like scuba diving around a pristine coral reef and only looking at one plant or fish. You can't judge the whole thing on just that.
You may have to put the book down and read something else for awhile, as I do, but I think if you open the book with an open mind and stick with it, you will enjoy it as much as I have.
Top reviews from other countries
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 15, 2020
Wouldn't reccomend to anyone for love nor money.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 12, 2017
10/10 would read again.