I’m a 55-year old woman.
I’ve read most of H.P. Lovecraft’s works. I don’t care for his poetry so I haven’t read much of it.
Lovecraft is my favorite author to read in bed (under the covers, of course!) on a hot summer night–so much fun! It’s like being a kid again. I grew up in a big hundred-year-old farmhouse, and all the house-settling clicks and deathwatch beetles and scratchy tree branches and the occasional howl of a coyote were great background noises while I read Lovecraft in bed and waited for one of the “decayed” Whateleys or Marshes to trod up the creaky staircase and burst into my room and gobble me up!
Almost all of Lovecraft’s stories are based on the theory that at one time, the Old Ones (good guys) and the Deep Ones (bad guys) fought, and the Deep Ones were cast under the sea, where they are biding their time until they can rise to the surface and regain power.
The Deep Ones are all related to “fish” (Mother Hydra), and therefore they are frightening-looking to human beings–picture giant fish with legs. Frightening, right? (Riiiight–as frightening as Charlie Tuna.)
Many of his stories are about forays that the Deep Ones occasionally make up onto the surface world, often because some dunce stumbles upon a magic mirror or portrait or book (e.g. The Necronomican) that they use to unwittingly call up the Deep Ones and allow them a portal onto the surface world. The Deep Ones that make it back onto the earth’s surface wreak havoc and spread terror and devour a bunch of hapless country hicks before someone manages to chase them back into the ocean, usually by figuring out how to call up the Old Ones who use their power to defeat the Deep Ones once again and bring peace to the village–for now! Bwoo ha ha! That magic mirror is STILL sitting out on the coffee table waiting for the NEXT unsuspecting individual to stumble across it and start the whole cycle of horror up again! Aieee!
He’s fun to read. His style is quite hyperbolic–he over-uses a vocabulary that I would describe as childish and silly (“lugubrious” is an example of a typical H.P. Lovecraft adjective). It’s like reading the Weekly World News–somewhat flashy and the kind of thing that you don’t read very often, but when you do, you’re probably on vacation in a place where you’re not worried about impressing people.
Many of his antagonists are fish-people–c’mon, this is FUN STUFF! This is evolution gone wild! We all know that man and fish do not mate–but in Lovecraft’s stories, they do, and the result is a hideous, slimey, “lugubrious” fish person (screams of horror from the victim in the story who is being eaten!).
To me, this is Daddy playing “boogie man” with his little children! It’s FUN! My dad used to play “The Claw” with me and my brother–he would twist his face and form his fist into a claw, and then chase us while cackling, “I am the Claw! Bwoo ha ha!” We would scream and run all over the house, and eventually he would catch one of us and basically nothing happened. Wow, that was fun!
If you read the Little House books, you will learn that sweet Pa Ingalls did the same thing with Mary and “Half-Pint” Laura–“One game they loved was Mad Dog.” Pa would mess up his hair, get down on all fours, growl, and chase the girls all over the log cabin.
So my dad wasn’t being a monster, he was being a dad. And I think that’s kind of what H.P. Lovecraft does in his stories–he’s trying to scare grownups who are still little kids at heart and miss having their daddies chase them through the house.
His best stories are very well-constructed and build beautifully. They are full of foreboding–you just know that this isn’t going to end well at all, although some do end well; e.g., “The Dunwich Horror.”
I think that “Shadow Over Innsmouth” is one of his best stories–so fun and exciting to read, and the ending is a surprise worthy of O. Henry.
My favorite Lovecraft story is “A Colour Out of Space.” This story is full of friendship and loyalty and love, and so very very sad. What’s amazing about it is that it is very similiar to what happens to victims of a nuclear accident. I see no harm and much good in this story, and think that it would be good for Christians to read.
I can certainly understand why certain young people who immerse themselves in Lovecraft could become overly-pessimistic and gloomy about the condition of the universe, and possible if they have the chemical imbalances in their genes, this could precipitate a depression. It could certainly cause a young person to become mired down with despair.
The answer, IMO, is to make sure that any young person who reads Lovecraft thoroughly understands that these stories are FICTION. Lovecraft was an unhealthy man who lived as an invalid with two maiden aunts and led a very secluded life and died very young. During his life, he was virtually unknown, and he wasn’t a commercial success with his writing. There are theories that he was a homosexual, which back then, was not something that everyone celebrated. His rather pathetic life is mirrored in many of his stories, and his protagonists are seeking a way out of the despair and horror of their situation.
We have to help young people try to see Lovecraft’s stories and poetry as his attempts to survive in a world in which he didn’t seem to fit in. (I can see why a lot of teenagers would identify with H.P. Lovecraft.) But just as Lovecraft’s protagonists did, we need to fight against the tendency to hide from the world and instead, go out and FACE whatever frightens us and overcome it.
Lovecraft tried to do this not only by writing fiction, but also by his letter-writing by which he mentored many young writers who have since become famous (e.g., Robert Bloch, who was just a young boy when he started corresponding with Lovecraft. Bloch went on to write Psycho. one of the most famous thrillers of all time.)