One more recommendation for Halloween reading. I first heard of Lovecraft in high school when Stephen King put out a collection of short stories called Nightmares and Dreamscapes. One story in particular was especially effective, a bone-chilling number called “Crouch End.” In it, a young couple get lost in a weird suburb of London and encounter some malevolent, mysterious beings that are clearly evil and alien, but never fully revealed, only darkly hinted at.
The best part was a scene where one of the heroes, who knew astronomy reasonably well, tried to get oriented by looking at the sky, only to get nauseatingly dizzy(along with the reader) at seeing a totally foreign arrangement of stars. What a classy, elegant, and supremely unnerving method of showing the reader that we’re not in Kansas anymore.
This great detail wasn’t of King’s own making, though. He borrowed it–as well as the atmosphere, theme, and even names in the story–from H.P. Lovecraft, whom King has often said was one of his major influences.
Lovecraft is popular, just not enough so. He deserves a far wider reading than he gets. He writes with the same breathless straining for evocative, psychological superlatives that we identify with Poe, but updates Poe’s interest in realistic fantasy to his early 20th century Progressive era: stories usually involve dispassionate researchers scrutinizing documents and offering detached observations to the reader.
A sample of Lovecraft, from his novella “The Shadow Out Of Time“:
There was a hideous fall through incalculable leagues of viscous, sentient darkness, and a babel of noises utterly alien to all that we know of the Earth and its organic life. Dormant, rudimentary senses seemed to start into vitality within me, telling of pits and voids peopled by floating horrors and leading to sunless crags and oceans and teeming cities of windowless, basalt towers upon which no light ever shone.
Dude. Sweet. Continue reading