On HP Lovecraft, HAUNTER OF THE DARK and The Melancholy of All Men

I’m not a fan of HP Lovecraft. I’ve read several of his short stories, listened to several more via audio dramas, and while the cult of Lovecraft is strong, and I appreciate his dark ramblings, I’m not particularly a fan of them.

I’m far more fond of the work of some of his contemporaries such as Clark Ashton Smith, MR James and particularly H Russell Wakefield.

And this goes beyond Lovecraft being a product of his manifest destiny upbringing, his work judged on its own… largely drones on me. He has a tendency to ‘talk’ his stories into repetitive circles, perhaps feeding his love for litany and language, at the expense of momentum and a story. And perhaps even simpler, as a pulp writer, paid by the word, padding the story was not out of the realm of his possibility or his purpose.

Whatever the truth his stories to differing extents, are perhaps not the better for their length. HAUNTER OF THE DARK being an example. The most interesting thing about the story is the 4 line poem that opens it.

I have seen the Dark Universe Yawning
Where the Black Planets roll without aim
Where they roll in their horror unheeded
Without knowledge, or luster, or name
… From the opening of THE HAUNTER OF THE DARK

That’s a great opening, unfortunately the story fails to be worthy of it.

I consider myself a person with some patience, and appreciation for the setting of mood. As I said I’m a fan of some of Lovecraft’s contemporaries, and even a few of Lovecraft’s own stories (The Outsider comes to mind), but the HAUNTER OF THE DARK showcases the over stylization that hinders rather than helps the world Lovecraft is trying to create. He can take 10 sentences to say “Blake ran out of the building”, and if you’re enriched by those 10 sentences that’s fine, but largely it’s a repetition of ten sentences he used to describe his protagonist walking into the building.

His erudition, taken to such extremes… is by definition pedantic. And as such his work can be far from compelling.

But at moments, in small doses, his work rises above the minutiae of the man, to be something not unlike… a window onto the melancholy of all men.

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