Some nights ago I started reading the complete fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. I’ve been wanting to explore this topic for a while now, and I decided it was time.
On a completely unrelated note, let me tell you that I’ve been obsessed with the board game Arkham Horror ever since my friends first introduced me to it last year.
Ok, maybe this isn’t completely unrelated. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game / Lovecraft’s work I should probably add that Arkham Horror is loosely based on some of H.P. Lovecraft’s most well-known fictional creations, such as the Great Old Ones and gates that lead into different worlds. Anyway, since I could easily write a whole post about this game, I’ll stop here. Suffice it to say that I was intrigued and therefore very happy when I received the board game as well as a beautiful edition of Lovecraft’s collected fiction for Christmas.
Since most of Lovecraft’s stories are short stories, they’re perfect companions for that last half hour before lights out that I like to spend reading in bed.
The first story I read was The Beast in the Cave. According to the introductory chapter of my collection, this is the first story Lovecraft ever wrote / published, and I must say: it is a good story – eerily good if you consider that it was written by a fourteen-year-old boy. O.o
The story is only a couple of pages long, which is why I would actually recommend you read it for yourself. It’ll only take a couple of minutes – you’ll probably be able to get through it while you’re waiting at the bus stop – and it’s available for free. You can read it here or listen to an audio book recording of it here if you prefer having it read to you.
I’ll wait while you check it out.
…*insert elevator / loop / hold-the-line music here*…
Done? Great, then let’s continue:
As I said, I’m just starting to get into Lovecraft’s work. Nevertheless I feel like his very first story already does a very good job at introducing some of the ideas and concepts that are typical for his writing. It is a horror story, and yet there isn’t much explicit horror in it. The element of horror is the very explicit blank Lovecraft chose to leave unfilled between the lines. It’s in the presence of the unknown and the unknowable that can be felt throughout the text, and it’s in the protagonist’s fear of the darkness that surrounds him.
In case you still haven’t read the story by now: the protagonist is on a guided tour through a famous cave when he suddenly finds himself alone with his torch about to expire. As he contemplates his chances of survival, he recalls stories that he heard about the cave until it seems like these stories might be more than lurid tales…
Ultimately, I’d like to argue that this isn’t your classic horror story. There is monstrosity in it, but I don’t think that that is what the story is about. I think it is about the human mind, it’s irrational fears and the extremes to which human beings can be driven – to the point at which the presence of any remaining shreds of humanity actually becomes debatable. But maybe I’m attributing too much meaning to too short a story here. Who knows, I’m sure it happens occasionally – I am a literature student after all, and therefore finding meaning in words on pages is kind of my thing I guess. (<- In case anyone needed an explanation of what it is I do: this. Very simply put, but essentially true.)
Have you ever read anything by Lovecraft? Is there anything you think I should especially be looking out for while I’m working my way through my edition of his complete fiction?
Any fellow Arkham Horror fans out there? Ever tried playing it on your own? I find that it’s really hard and probably impossible to win, but I keep trying anyway. 😉