This collection of horror stories by H. P. Lovecraft has been on my shelf for a year or so, and I've been in a mood for cozy creepiness this winter, so last month I pulled this one down and read it. That it's taken me so long to post about it, or indeed about anything, is due to an increase in both new activities and in migraines. Am now attempting to get both under control, with some success.
These stories were mostly a pleasure, which is not surprising since I've never met a ghost story I didn't like. And the straightforward ghost stories were the most successful for me, probably because they gave me what I love: not-too-disturbing creepiness and graceful prose. The fantasies interested me less--why do I often find fantasy disappointing? "Beyond the Wall of Sleep," for instance, just seems overblown. "Into the Mountains of Madness," starts off with a great premise: that Antarctica, the last uncharted continent, contains a dreadful mystery. But when the mystery is revealed, it's disappointingly, clunkily, silly. "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward," on the other hand, if a bit too long, scared me nicely with its undead ancestors and raised demons. The classic "The Dunwich Horror" didn't disappoint either. Atmospherically set in 1920s New England, and building up layers of mystery, its first half was everything I love. And the final part was well-handled, the "horror" itself not shown except through the reactions of the few who saw it and lived.
What I didn't know but probably should have, is how much Stephen King owes to H. P. Lovecraft. It's obvious that King was heavily influenced by Lovecraft, he borrows so much--isolated New England towns with secretive inhabitants, Indian burial grounds as tainted places, foolish humans calling up ancient evils. Some imagery and the name of a demon from "The Dunwich Horror," I'm pretty sure, appear in King's novels The Tommyknockers and Needful Things.
After reading these stories, I googled Lovecraft and found a terrific website for fans of Victorian horror called Gaslight. The site has archived hundreds of gothic/horror/mystery stories as well as essays and criticism written by both famous and unknown authors between 1800 and 1919.