My acquaintance with Lovecraft felt much like one of his own stories, in retrospect. In reading what authors inspired my favorites, or lightly researcMy acquaintance with Lovecraft felt much like one of his own stories, in retrospect. In reading what authors inspired my favorites, or lightly researching some famous novel, I occasionally heard his name come up. No one was ever specific about him, but he was always linked up with a foreboding sense of dread and terror. He remained a mystery to me.
That could not have kept up for long. After reading his stories, I realized that Lovecraftian influences have completely pervaded American culture. Every single association we find between horror and slime, green goo, tentacles, invisibility, aliens, they all came from him. It felt like reading the biography of my best friend: I kept seeing things I knew, but could now identify the “why.”
This volume of Lovecraft is the perfect introduction. It loosely follows his own career: humble beginnings as a pulp fiction writer, slowly evolving into a master of his craft. It is as if every story lead up to the next, continuing what was great and dropping what didn’t work. His so-called Dream Sequence is well represented with works such as The Lurking Fear, The Outsider, and my own favorite, The Rats in the Walls. Although a few intermediate works could have been left out to make room for more classics (i.e. getting rid of The Horror at Red Hook or Cool Air and adding Dagon,) the stories soon become the most notable works of the “Cthulhu Mythos.” Piecing together his horrid cosmic mockery of humanity without that occasional side effect of insanity is easy to do with this volume. As a writer, Lovecraft was not much of a groundbreaker. His stories are generally written in the first person by individuals who are, essentially, all the same. He has the tendency to use a few words quite a few times (After all, something “indescribable” can only be describe, ultimately, one way.” Truly representing 1920’s mentality, females play almost no roles, and blacks are literally portrayed as animals. Herbert West: Reanimator and my own favorite, The Rats in the Walls best exemplify this. Although I believe it’s a dirty word and choose to refrain from using it, I could not help but laugh out loud at the name of the narrator’s cat in this last story: “Nigger Man.” Apparently, Lovecraft himself had a cat of this name. As with most instances of racism, it’s more humorously juvenile than offensive, and is best ignored as a part of 20’s culture.
So, although Lovecraft is not a groundbreaking writer, his is still a groundbreaker. I believe he can easily be compared to Tolkien: although he ignores some basic rules of “good” writing, he makes up for it a thousand fold in creativity. Lovecraft has created an extra-terrestrial universe so believable, even the most hardened horror fan feels some sort of anxiety after turning out the lights. Speaking of other famous authors, it would not be remiss to label Lovecraft as the 20th century Poe, as many scholars have done before. Both lost the women in their lives to horrid diseases, and died all too young, unknown, sickly, and drunk in a gutter. Both were plagued by demons that could only be released on the page. And we, the audience, are able and willing to reap the sweet rewards of their suffering.
It is important to remember while reading Lovecraft that many of the elements may seem familiar, often times spoiling part of the fun. This is not because Lovecraft is not as scary as modern horror writers, it is because modern horror writers have been so inspired by him. Stephen King and Peter Straub, the editor of this volume, freely admit Lovecraft as an idol. Therefore, don’t be surprised if the story of plot device seems a little overused; be happy that you are now reading it in the original form.
I fell in love with Lovecraft after reading this book. Besides a rather hefty price tag, it is of superb quality, excellent editing, and is an absolute must have for anyone who has ever expressed the tiniest grain of interest in horror, science fiction, or Americana. Alexander Pope said that he stood on the shoulders of giants, and I believe most modern writers can say the same. We are but the lookers, Lovecraft is the giant. ...more
Envy captures the single greatest hallmark of Russian literature: ambiguity. It is the same sense of confusion that leaves true lovers of Flannery O’CEnvy captures the single greatest hallmark of Russian literature: ambiguity. It is the same sense of confusion that leaves true lovers of Flannery O’Conner saying to themselves “I know this was important… but why?” Olesha’s novel concerns itself with one of the most important ideas in the newly formed USSR, the “New Soviet Man.” Rejecting the alcoholic, bored, womanizing, unorganized model of a true man that used to be famous, Lenin wanted to glorify the youth, virility, equality, and mechanic devotion of Russians to the motherland. Envy shows a number of men, and a few women, who attempt to become this “New Soviet Man.”
As is to be expected, failure abounds. Olesha does a magnificent job of describing the intricate contradictions between the numerous characters and their varying beliefs. The pull and tug between the old and the new, the rich and poor, large and small, known and unknown, hatred and love, all of these make up the conflict Russia faced, moving into the glory that might have been the USSR. The audience is left wondering who can be trusted, who is just putting on a façade, who is a true man, and what in the world Ophelia is. Even the most devoted reader will leave the novel with no answers; immensely happy, but with no answers.
Envy is an incredible portrait of Russia at a difficult and confusing time, especially for its inhabitants. The writing itself is much like the story: full of dreams, lies, deception, and, of course, envy. Who is jealous of whom, what is real and what is a dream, and what are the true motives of the characters, these are all questions the reader is forced to answer with little help. The writing mirrors the labyrinth of lies, leaving the half-informed reader in the same shock of confusion and suspicion as the characters. Any writer who can make his audience feel that has accomplished something special.
Although short, Envy is not a novel for someone unaccustomed to ambiguity. You must have a open mind, or the story will simple stop itself. It is no wonder that the Russian government was equally confused by the novel, as both sides found themselves alternatively glorified and mocked. Easily readable in a long afternoon, Envy is a work that gets inside your head. As we all know, there is no higher praise. ...more