The Lurking Fear

Rummaging through paperbacks in a thrift store yesterday I came across a copy of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Lurking Fear, one of several collections of HP stories brought out by Ballantine in the early 1970s. I had most of the stories already, somewhere scattered through different books, but with half my library in storage, I would never find them.

And now I wanted to reread Lovecraft. This happens to me periodically, in times of stress usually. For me, Lovecraft is a kind of literary comfort food. This may seem strange to some, but not as strange as the stories themselves.

So I ponied up 50 cents and bought it.

All the things I love about Lovecraft are on display here, as well as the cringe-making parts. The title story is what you might call Early Transitional Lovecraft, still strongly influenced by Poe, with an infusion of pulp magazine male adventure stuff mixed in with the raving neurasthenia. 

But what I like best are the pieces of pure Lovecraft that float to the surface, not yet integrated into a personal style, but unique to the man and completely insane.

Striking and grotesquely disproportionate similes abound:

” . . .vague new fears hovered menacingly over us; as if giant bat-winged gryphons looked on transcosmic gulfs.”

This is what I read Lovecraft for. 

And I love the casual assumptions in this:

“Sometimes, in the throes of a nightmare when unseen powers whirl one over the roofs of strange dead cities toward the grinning chasm of Nis, it is a relief and even a delight to shriek wildly and throw oneself voluntarily along with the hideous vortex of dream-doom into whatever bottomless gulf may yawn.”

I know, right? We’ve all been there. 

People who can’t read Lovecraft often fault him for purple prose.  But “purple prose” ain’t in it; this is over-the-top bad writing taken to wonderful extremes, transmuting into poetry. Extreme overwriting as an analogue to extreme states of consciousness, that was HP’s project, coming out of Poe.

My plan for the day: make a pot of tea and read more Lovecraft.

I feel better already.




1 Response to “The Lurking Fear”

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