Lisa Bouchard's Reviews > H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction

H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft
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's review
Mar 15, 2012

it was ok
Read from March 15 to September 06, 2012

I have read as much of this book as I can.

Perhaps if I didn't read story after story I would not have felt so battered by Lovecraft's hatred for anyone not like himself.

Unfortunately, hatred is a deal-breaker for me and if he were writing today I would never in a million years buy anything he wrote.
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06/20 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Wonderbunny (new)

Wonderbunny I think Lovecraft is a writer you read a few stories from and set aside for a few months or years and then read a few more stories. I don't think reading an entire book straight through by him is the way to go. He is better in small doses.

Lisa Bouchard You're absolutely right, Wonderbunny!

message 3: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Swensen The man lived a very sheltered life. Died young and didn't get out much. I like to think that if he hadn't spent his whole life cooped up with his aunts, he might have been less xenophobic... but who knows.

Lisa Bouchard I like to think the best of people, too. Unfortunately all he has left to speak for him is his work.

Robert Daniel is partially correct, Howard Phillips Lovecraft did grow up a very sheltered individual, even by the standards of the day his life was one of uncommon reserve, however his views on race, as abhorrent as they are to us today, were in fact quite commonplace and accepted in society at the time. That's really the thing to remember when reading Lovecraft, or any author's work written before, say, the mid 1960's, and that is, the work can not be read in a vacuum. It, like the author, is a product of the time in which it was written.

Recall that when the movie "Birth of a Nation" debuted in 1915, the President of the United States (Democrat Woodrow Wilson) commented favorably on the racist polemic, noting that it was "terribly true". This was a movie that aggrandized the Ku Klux Klan, and organization that was not only mainstream but widely regarded as respectable by White society at all levels. That is the society in which HPL came of age. So it is understandable that the many attitudes and/or beliefs expressed in Lovecraft's work that are today considered abhorrent or bigoted were for him, common place and acceptable. You can see this again and again in other author's works from other time periods. Mark Twain, for example, is among the most celebrated authors of American literature and yet his characterizations and use of language have been deemed racist by more than a few critics.

My point here is to separate the man from the ideology, at least in modern terms. You wrote about his "hatred" for those unlike himself. That is a simplistic and provocative presentation of what he believed and espoused. Lovecraft was first and foremost an Anglophile and a believer in the superiority of Anglo-Saxon (re:English) civilization, even to the point that he believed England to be morally and culturally superior to the United States. This is likely due in no small part to the fact that his family could trace their lineage back to the founding of the first Massachusetts Bay Colony.

His predilection to view English civilization as superior in no way meant he hated the non-English, much less the non-whites, despite his belief in racial and cultural separatism. A fact that his marriage to Sonia Greene, a woman of Eastern European descent, serves to underscore - Lovecraft had no problem with the fact that she was both Ukrainian and Jewish, because he saw in her a woman who had acculturated.

Reading Lovecraft is not necessarily for everyone - his work is often depressing and involves nihilist themes, his word choice is challenging to say the least, and as you discovered, his social and political beliefs are not what we would consider mainstream today. That said I have found that his stories are among the most thought provoking, memorably, and yes, enjoyable works to read. Lovecraft is one of the few authors from the early 20th century that I actively seek out for the challenge, and reward, of reading.

message 6: by Wonderbunny (new)

Wonderbunny Robert wrote: "Daniel is ..." Interesting commentary and you're correct - his attitude towards other must be looked from the time in which he lived. I think due to his depressing and nihilist writing though, for me, his work is better taken in a small doses.

message 7: by Sandy (new)

Sandy I have to be honest, close mindedness is the same no matter what side you are on. Can you not just enjoy the writing, the new ideas and so on? It seems a shame to be so small minded as to dismiss something so trivially.

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