I picked up this collection of gothic stories from the library so that I could read one of them, “The Doom That Came to Sarnath,” for the 1920 Club. Then I decided to read the rest of this beautifully presented book.
It’s hard for me to know what to say about it, because this type of gothic horror story, which used to appear in such magazines as Weird Tales, is just not my thing. On the other hand, it is almost definitely for people who like this genre. I prefer my scary stories to be about things that could happen or about ghosts, but Lovecraft is clearly drawn to grotesque creatures, dark family histories of the most freakish, and ancient rituals and beliefs become reality.
That he was deeply knowledgeable in the latter and often based his stories in actual locations or history is attested to by the many annotations and pictures in the margins of this book. That his writing is heavily dependent on description, some of it highly florid, is also certain. He loves using adjectives and adverbs, many of them unlikely, such as describing ruins as “hideously ancient.” In fact, he seems to have a fascination and repugnance for old things, both at the same time—or at least his narrators do.
The earlier stories are very short, only a couple of pages, while the later ones get longer and longer, so that I finished about half of the book but more than 3/4 of the stories.
Some of the more notable stories are “The Shunned House,” based on an actual house in Providence, in which the inhabitants seem to die off; “The Rats in the Walls,” combining a haunted house story with one of his favorite themes of a dark, hidden family history; and “The Outsider,” about a being who discovers he lives in a crypt. One of the stories, “Ex Oblivione,” described as a prose poem, I was unable to finish, but the rest were entertaining enough, just not my thing.