Book Review: Diving into H.P. Lovecraft

Back in December I started a 23-hour collection of H.P. Lovecraft’s prose work on Audible. This seemed like a not-crazy idea at the time because I had a forty-minute commute home from work every day.

I’ve been working from home for over two months, which means far less designated audiobook listening time. Anyway, I finally finished this collection last week. This review is not about the work of Lovecraft himself, but more about how this collection was put together and narrated, and what I’ve taken from it as my first true introduction to Lovecraft’s work.

Lovecraft’s weird fiction lore permeates modern fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal horror. At least, that’s what I’ve been told. There seem to be a ton of books and other works based directly on Lovecraftian mythology that I want to read. Other stories have taken these types of themes and modernized them, in a way, like in Netflix’s Stranger Things.

The point is, I wanted to read Lovecraft not from some burning fascination with his nightmares of existential horror, but to understand his work and see how its themes have filtered down through a century-plus of storytelling.

Having never read any of Lovecraft’s work before, it was intimidating to dive into this volume. I was drawn to this collection because narrator Finn J.D. John included snippets of Lovecraft’s life and the impact events in his life may have had on his writing. This organization made Lovecraft’s early work accessible. Presented in chronological order, groups of Lovecraft’s stories are interspersed with short overviews from John to explain Lovecraft’s writing career during each period.

John also briefly discusses the prejudiced attitudes that become abundantly clear in Lovecraft’s writing in a way that both acknowledges and leaves those attitudes aside. Thus the reader is allowed to appreciate Lovecraft’s writing regardless of any personal feelings about the man. At least, that’s what I took from it. I didn’t feel like he glossed over Lovecraft’s blatantly obvious racism, but he also didn’t dwell on it.

As for Lovecraft’s work, it’s hard for me to pin down specific stories, because I mostly listened to multiple stories in a single sitting. I enjoyed it, and it was interesting to see the progression of Lovecraft’s work from paranormal fiction to cosmic horror.

“The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” was one of the final stories in this collection, a 4-hour narrative that connects many of Lovecraft’s earlier stories and characters. Listening to it felt bleak and grey for about 3 hours, with creatures of only vague description and a winding plot that was nonetheless intriguing. It finally ended in a crescendo of cosmic imagery and with a curious ode to Lovecraft’s native land of New England.

“The Rats in the Walls” also sticks out to me, and of course, “The Call of Cthulhu”, which introduces the single most iconic creature in Lovecraft’s mythos.

I’d like to listen to each story again and take some time to consider each on its own footing, but that is for another day.

This was a great way for me to learn about Lovecraft and experience his work without feeling overwhelmed. I’ll likely pick up the second volume of this collection — perhaps once I’m driving regularly again.

Steve D

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Diving into H.P. Lovecraft

  1. Just an FYI for you…. Literary Critic S.T. Joshi has amassed quite a body of work on Lovecraft, and is considered to be THE Lovecraft expert and biographer of our time. Joshi is also one of our first “official” Horror genre Literary Critics, and has made writers of Weird Fiction his area of expertise… He is definitely worth reading for every Lovecraft fan!

    1. Thanks for the reference! Looking at his website… he has a ton of work on Lovecraft! I will definitely need to check out some of his work. Is there a particular non-fiction work you’d recommend I start with Joshi?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.