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The Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature

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4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,601 ratings  ·  136 reviews
H. P. Lovecraft's "Supernatural Horror in Literature," first published in 1927, is widely recognized as the finest historical survey of horror literature ever written. The product of both a keen critical analyst and a working practitioner in the field, the essay affords unique insights into the nature, development, and history of the weird tale. Beginning with instances of ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published January 1st 2000 by Hippocampus Press (first published 1927)
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Bill  Kerwin

In this lengthy essay of literary criticism (first completed in 1927, revised in 1934), H.P. presents his considered opinions of most of the well-known—and more than a few obscure—practitioners of the gothic and the weird. Unlike his own creative works, however, this critical piece, though knowledgeable and useful, is neither original nor essential.

He writes justly of the gothic and early romantic traditions, and the three modern masters Arthur Machen, M. R. James and Algernon Blackwood, and he
...more
ᴥ Irena ᴥ
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
'The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.'
Supernatural Horror in Literature is Lovecraft's take on horror fiction. It is a pretty long essay consisting of ten chapters, each focusing on different things. And it is really good.

The chapters are self-explanatory:
Introduction
The Dawn of the Horror-Tale
The Early Gothic Novel
The Apex of Gothic Romance
The Aftermath of Gothic Fiction
Spectral Literature on the Continent
Ed
...more
J.G. Keely
Sometimes called 'the most important piece of literary criticism in the Horror genre', Lovecraft's essay on the history and method of supernatural horror is a great resource for readers and writers alike, as it mostly consists of a list of his favorite authors and their most notable and unusual stories. Really, an editor should go through the text, collect all the stories and authors Lovecraft mentions, and then make them into a shot story collection, with this essay as an introduction--hard to ...more
Werner
Jul 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Serious readers of "horror" and supernatural fiction
Shelves: about-literature
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." --H. P. Lovecraft

The sentence above is often quoted, but many readers aren't aware of its context. It opens this short monograph (really, a very long essay), which Lovecraft originally wrote in 1927, after a three-year stint of intensive reading, in response to the request of a pen pal, W. Paul Cook, for a historical survey of weird fiction to be published in The Recluse, a ma
...more
Amy Sturgis
Every time I reread "Supernatural Horror in Literature," I find something new to appreciate. This is an invaluable resource, both for what it tell us of the development of the Gothic, weird fiction, and horror (and, for that matter, science fiction and fantasy) -- Lovecraft is a well informed and insightful critic who grasps context as well as content -- and also for what it tells us of Lovecraft's influences and inspirations. Anyone interested in imaginative literature should consider this a "m ...more
Nicole Cushing

Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly about this book:

The Good: If you read this book, you'll get a sense of the historical development of the dark "weird" tale (in the U.S. and Europe). If you're like me, you'll find yourself reading the various descriptions of stories and novels and finding yourself underlining them for future addition to your to be read list. That might be the coolest thing, actually...through this book, I've discovered all sorts of other authors I wouldn't have known about.
...more
Lee Klein
Feb 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this rad, free, typoriffic eBook accessible through goodreads, which led to downloading a dozen ePub files for books listed available via the Gutenberg Project. Not sure how many I'll actually read but, like Bolano's Between Parentheses, this explodes your to-read queue (out of respect for others' update streams, I only added one book I couldn't find at the Gutenberg Project site). Also I found this interesting in terms of going though 2666 again recently and noting bits apparently influenc ...more
Marina (Sonnenbarke)
This is an amazing essay on weird fiction, the only problem with it is that it spoilers lots of books big time. That is extremely annoying and prevented me from giving it 5 stars. It would be a great introduction to weird fiction if not for this. However, this reason alone makes me advice against reading it if you haven't already read a lot of weird literaure.
Michael
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovecraftians, horror fans, literature students
Recommended to Michael by: Serendipity
Shelves: literary-studies
As someone who loves Lovecraft, but doesn’t care much for most of what passes for “horror” writing, this book is a wonderful readers’ guide for me. I’ve tracked down a number of the stories he recommended, and in general have found them quite enjoyable. Even in cases where I’m not as enthused as HPL was, (eg: Lord Dunsany), I’m interested to see the influences on my favorite writer of weird fiction. For others with as much interest in him as I have, this book is a must-read.

For the rest of you,
...more
blake
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
The greatest survey of horror and supernatural literature ever, only marred by the author's tragic mortality. Lovecraft was a sensitive soul and true fan of The Weird and this essay appropriately dismisses the works of great writers because they are not The Weird. It's kind of funny, for example, to hear passing reference to Northanger Abbey or a discourse on Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables with reminders that they're not quite up to snuff.

But they're really not up to snuff, if t
...more
Curtis
May 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This should perhaps be more aptly titled "The History of Supernatural Horror in Literature." Lovecraft does an excellent job of listing works that contain cosmically horrific elements and themes – and that's it. If you're looking for a Grand Unifying Theory of supernatural horror, this isn't the place to find it. It's more genre-definition-by-name-dropping than critical combination of theoretical ideas.

Nonetheless, it's an interesting and useful resource. I don't know that I'll ever read it all
...more
Donald
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, writer-reads
This started as a historical essay on weird fiction that was published in 1927 in a magazine called The Recluse. The edition I was able to find is a 1973 reprint of a 1945 reprint. Interesting that no one since has taken on the task of writing about writers, and that Lovecraft's thoughts have stood the test of time.

I've pulled some names out of this edition. Perhaps I can even find some of the novels mentioned and thereby see into the past in order to more understand supernatural horror today...
Kevin Lucia
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably the only downside: SO comprehensive, I have no idea if I'll ever be able to read all the tales suggested. Highly recommended for anyone reading or writing in the horror genre. And highly readable, also.
Charles
Jun 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Lovecraft not only wrote very fine horror fiction in his own right, he was a student of the genre and this is an excellent introduction to the topic of supernatural literature, although, of course, it does not deal with later works.
Brenton
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovecraft is no doubt the king of the early 20th-century horror genre. I don’t always love his prose style and his (thankfully sparse) dialogue is abominable. But he can evoke an atmosphere that commands attention as he draws from myth, legend, superstition, religion, the occult, faërie, folktale, and rumour to create weird tales and horror stories that readers loved in his day and love still. Lovecraft was terribly influential for Stephen King, who in many ways exceeds Lovecraft in popular appe ...more
Raechel
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovecraft & horror fans.
This is a short book, but worth the read if you're a HP Lovecraft or horror fan.

Supernatural Horror in Literature is HP Lovecraft's essay on...well, supernatural horror in literature. He breaks his essay into chapters covering The Dawn of the Horror Tale, The Early Gothic Novel, The Apex of Gothic Romance, The Aftermath of Gothic Fiction, Spectral Literature on the Continent, Edgar Allan Poe, The Weird Tradition in America, The Weird Tradition in the British Isles, and The Modern Masters.

While a
...more
Ebster Davis
Jun 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got to geek together with a dead guy, how cool is that?!

Basically this is a large essay where he reviews the history and development of the Gothic-paranormal horror genre (or as he sometimes calls it, "The Weird").

I loved hearing his take on the different stories, he was even a bit critical of Edgar Allan Poe (who he's a fanboy of). He even included a few stories I wouldn't have thought of as belonging to the genre, and some I hadn't heard of and will definitely check out.

I think it's funny
...more
Fernando Suarezserna
I got four key takeaways from this book:

- According to Lovecraft, in the horror genre, creating the right atmosphere is way more important than plot.
- In short stories, character is not that important. Lovecraft mentions Edgar Allan Poe as an example, whose main characters were usually gloomy, mysterious men, and we don't usually get to know anything about them, oftentimes not even their names, yet his short stories were awesome.
- There are authors such as Bram Stoker whose ideas were so good, t
...more
Benjamin Stahl
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A very informative and thorough exploration through the greats works of the genre, by one of the masters of the genre. I particularly like that Lovecraft drew particular attention to Bierce's The Spook House and Kipling's The Recrudescence of Imray, as I found those to be the scariest of their respected authors also. I also wonder, if he were still around, what Lovecraft would have to say about Stephen King.
Kenn Schubach
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great essay from HPL. You can find almost all of his writing influences mentioned in here . . . then add in the house library he had access to from the time he was a small child . . . especially the sciences . . . voila!
Elisabeth Haljas
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written overview of the past centuries of mystical and supernatural writings. The older version of King's Danse Macabre, and shorter as well. Definitely arose curiosity of a few other authors I hope to read from in the future.
Michelle
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Essentially a long essay on what he likes and suggestions for how to go about it. Interesting if you're an aspiring writer or looking for reading suggestions, provided you can find any of it.
Britton Summers
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." H. P. Lovecraft

Lovecraft's a writer that keeps pulling me in despite the fact that my issues with his work have been frankly clear. Many of my fellow horror aficionados have recommended me this essay that was written by Lovecraft in 1927 and so, after some hesitation, I decided to pick it up. I found that while it was helpful in understanding the roots and history of gothic a
...more
Erica Zahn
Aug 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lovecraft
At around 27,000 words the essay is lengthy for the amount of matter covered, though I of course value the opinions given (the subjectivity of the subject is one of the dominant aspects of the piece). Lovecraft, when unedited (as he usually is), admittedly has a tendency to ramble, although this has the advantage of a more natural, conversational feel. Although labelled ‘supernatural horror’, it mostly concerns the gothic, since this provides the most significant precursor to what we would term ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror, essays
Lovecraft’s history of the weird tale covers territory that is now more familiar to readers than it was when HPB published it in the 1927. But even if the chronology the major players are known, readers will still find more obscure names they might want to seek out.

Although it was not HPL’s intention, his at best qualified praise of the 18th and early 19th century progenitors of the modern weird tale reinforces my conviction that I will never read on of these classics of Gothic writing. They re
...more
Eric Hart
May 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read Lovecraft's landmark essay about 20 years ago. Going back to it after re-reading all of his stories as well as S. T. Joshi's biography gave me new insights into Lovecraft's understanding of the genre. Joshi's notes help to identify the influence these works had on Lovecraft's writing, and add context and information about the works covered.
Emi Kanter
May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must recommend this to every horro fan.
sologdin
some cool readings here of the gothic and early horror writings. Shows a rhetorical discipline not evidenced in the fictions.
Jack Wolfe
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
spoopy

***

H.P. Lovecraft is currently famous in three major ways:

1. Readers of horror fiction recognize him as one of the masters of the "weird tale."

2. People who are vaguely into dark stuff like to buy Cthulu merchandise.

3. Well-meaning lefties think he's a horrible racist scumbag whose name should be scrubbed from he annals of literary history.

"Supernatural Horror in Literature" is Lovecraft's brief history of weird fiction. To people in category (1), it must be counted as essential. It is her
...more
Valentina Salvatierra
Not an essay that has aged particularly well. It's value depends a lot on what you're looking for.

If you're looking for reading recommendations of horror novels and short stories pre-1920s, then this can be fairly useful. A large proportion of it is just that: a list-like compendium of various authors and their works, with Lovecraft assessing their relative merits, often in harsh and amusing ways, according to his own personal taste. So this book would be pretty satisfying as the basis for a rea
...more
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Literary Horror: History of Literary Horror Challenge 16 32 Oct 21, 2017 11:41AM  

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12,386 followers
Howard Phillips Lovecraft, of Providence, Rhode Island, was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction.

Lovecraft's major inspiration and invention was cosmic horror: life is incomprehensible to human minds and the universe is fundamentally alien. Those who genuinely reason, like his protagonists, gamble with sanity. Lovecraft has developed a cult following for his Cthulhu Mythos, a
...more
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” 1989 likes
“The one test of the really weird (story) is simply this--whether or not there be excited in the reader a profound sense of dread, and of contact with unknown spheres and powers; a subtle attitude of awed listening, as if for the beating of black wings or the scratching of outside shapes and entities on the known universe's utmost rim.” 28 likes
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