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Reading Lovecraft – Part 3

Part 1 here, part 2 here.

The Street (1919)

The history of a city as seen from the point of view of its oldest street, from the settlement’s earlier times to a contemporary manifestation of said street’s spirit as it tries to prevent a great national calamity.

The core idea is very interesting: history subtly narrated by a street’s genius loci. However, this quickly turns into a xenophobic, racist manifesto which utterly chokes what few beautiful articles of description are included. The main plot point (a band of -most probably- communist terrorists that seek to overthrow the state) is puritanical, uninspired and highly secular. Shame for the genius loci. 1/5

Read here.

The Doom that Came to Sarnath (1919)

Of the fabled city of Sarnath in the land of Mnar and how it was built where ages ago the stone city of Ib stood. Of how the men of Sarnath came and killed the alien residents of Ib whose shape they found offending. Of how Sarnath became the grandest city of Mnar, resplendent and magnificent, proud enough to celebrate annually the slaughter of the people of Ib. How on the thousandth anniversary of that ancient slaughter, DOOM came upon Sarnath.

A magnificent chronicle, compact and terse. Hubris and pride leading to downfall. It obviously owes a lot to Dunsany, both in prose style as well as in the majestic description of Sarnathian extravagant buildings. The establishment of a moment in space and time that will reverberate throughout Lovecraft’s works. Bonus points for the uncanny use of all-capitals DOOM. 4/5

Read here.

The Statement of Randolph Carter (1919)

Randolph Carter is questioned about the disappearance of his friend Harley Warren; the story is his statement. Randolph was the last person to be seen with him, going to a swamp carrying shovels and other tools. His memory of the fateful night is in fragments but he remembers his friend descending into a sepulchre they had just unsealed.

It seems that Lovecraft is at his best when doing pure traditional horror. This is his second such story (the first being the Tomb), and what a story it is! Tense, with a masterful grasp of description, suggestion and allusiveness, the horror always remaining just beyond eyesight and hearing up to the masterful ending. The first true gem of H.P. 5/5

Read here.

The Terrible Old Man (1920)

In the New England town of Kingsport an old sailor living alone in an isolated manor is rumored to have hoarded great wealth. Three foreign men decide to rob him.

This very short horror story is the first introduction of the fictional town of Kingsport. The xenophobic aspects aside (nothing as all-pervading as in The Street), the story is well-paced, with interesting if slightly unresolved curios, and a vicious ending. Nothing spectacular but enjoyable nevertheless. 2/5

Read here.

The Tree (1920)

Set in the classical ancient world, this story concerns two highly gifted sculptors (which also happen to be close friends) who are hired to create a statue of the goddess Tyche. When one of them succumbs to death, the other tries to honor his friend’s memory before finishing the semblance of the goddess.

Despite the rather predictable ending, this is a nicely written (if somewhat disjointed in parts) exercise in a setting unusual for Lovecraft. The intertwining of landscape and humanity is always a plus. 2/5

Read here.

The Cats of Ulthar (1920)

An explanation of the Ultharian ban on the killings of felines. Including nomad people, a malevolent old couple and a legion of cats.

Another Dunsanian tale, highly compact and efficient with a righteous sense of justice and vengeance. The chain of retribution formed by the blending of human, animal, landscape and the divine, is undoubtedly cathartic, while the modus operandi is memorably macabre. 4/5

Read here.

26 Jul 2020

Tags: horror   lovecraft
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