Miriam's Reviews > The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft
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really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, lovecrafty

The blurb says: A nameless terror surges through centuries to engulf the soul of Charles Dexter Ward, a brilliant New England antiquarian. Rather amusing in retrospect, as the character doesn't seem to realize the danger until near the end; if the book were written from Ward's perspective, presumably he would be having a satisfying few years of progressing in his fascinating historical research. His family, too, is only mildly concerned, wishing he would write more often and maybe get a girlfriend. Only the omniscient narrator is really worried.

The Horror is mostly rather understated, but the monstrosities are classic Lovecraft:
It is hard to explain just how the single sight of a tangible object with measurable dimensions could so shake and change a man; and we may only say that there is about certain outlines and entities a power of symbolism and suggestion which acts frightfully on a sensitive thinker's perspective and whispers terrible hints of obscure cosmic relationships and unnameable realities behind the protective illusions of common vision.

It's kind of sweet on some level that Lovecraft thinks it is fine for grown men to scream hysterically and maybe faint when they see scary stuff. Not the 18th century guys, though; they were made of sterner stuff back then and only have PTSD when the action is over.

I enjoyed this book. It is not very scary, so don't be put off by the NAMELESS TERROR expressed by various characters. The prose is somewhat less purple than is oft Lovecraft's wont -- my impression is that he is a lot more lurid when writing about the Dreamlands and other Unknown exotic locations than when using real world settings (this is set in an area he knew himself, and that is clear from the descriptions of streets and houses and neighborhoods; it may be extra enjoyable if you are from this bit of New England yourself).

My edition, which is the Creation Oneiros one, had enough typos to be mildly distracting, but on the plus side did not have the claustrophobically squashed print I've encountered in several Lovecraft reprints.
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Reading Progress

January 23, 2018 – Shelved
January 26, 2018 – Started Reading
January 26, 2018 –
page 99
56.57% "Mrs. Ward's nerves had begun to snap under the strain. Her nocturnal listening had bred some morbid hallucinations which she confided to the doctor with hesitancy, and which he ridiculed in talking to her, although...

Although in fact he ought to have realized by this point that she isn't imagining any of it. And even if she was, how is "ridicule" best medical practice?"
January 28, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-12 of 12 (12 new)

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message 1: by Forrest (new)

Forrest Makes you wonder if H.P. tapped a different part of his brain when he was writing about the Dreamlands. Or perhaps he just let the influence of Dunsany through more.


Miriam Could be either, or just for fun. I think quite a few writers have more than one style -- Cat Valente comes to mind as someone who is sometimes quite purple, sometimes genuinely poetic, sometimes neither.


message 3: by Forrest (new)

Forrest Miriam wrote: "Could be either, or just for fun. I think quite a few writers have more than one style -- Cat Valente comes to mind as someone who is sometimes quite purple, sometimes genuinely poetic, sometimes n..."

Very true. It's just that you rarely see Lovecraft stray from his purple prose, so it seems like a more stark contrast.


[Name Redacted] This was my favorite book when i was 11 or so -- I re-read it a couple years ago and enjoyed it...but also realized that thanks to my doctorate I can now tell the "real" magical terms from the ones he created. That revelation almost caused me more existential terror than anything Lovecraft has written.


Miriam In the alternate reality setting of After the End of the World all the books mentioned in Lovecraft really exist, but Lovecraft had nothing to do with them (in this world he was a pulp writer more in the vein of Robert E. Howard).


[Name Redacted] Miriam wrote: "In the alternate reality setting of After the End of the World all the books mentioned in Lovecraft really exist, but Lovecraft had nothing to do with them (in this world he was a p..."

Not entirely incorrect! He borrowed some from other Weird authors (a common thing then) and others were actual texts.


Herman Gigglethorpe "Not the 18th century guys, though; they were made of sterner stuff back then and only have PTSD when the action is over."

Valancourt's reaction to Lovecraft monsters ought to be fun.


Miriam The Lovecraft-universe genre could really use more diversity of mashups.


message 9: by J. (last edited Feb 20, 2018 02:01PM) (new)

J. Boo It's hard for a single mom seeking a second chance at romance to make it in New York City, and doesn't Shub-Niggurath, The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, know it! Also starring Sean Hayes as Sassy Gay Friend and the possessed corpse of John Ritter as Principal Smythe-Jones.


Miriam That sounds amazing. Much better than Booty Call of Cthulhu.


message 11: by J. (new)

J. Boo Not only shouldn't I have been surprised that that was a thing, I shouldn't have been surprised that it was a trilogy.


Miriam Fingers crossed it stops with three.


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