This is a good scholarly edition of a collection of Lovecraft's `weird' stories edited and with an excellent introductory essay by Roger Luckhurst. Written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these stories have long had a cult following but it's only fairly recently (the last forty or so years) that they have been taken more seriously. Mingling gothic with the decadent and what we would now call science fiction, these aren't supernatural in a ghosts `n' vampires way, and instead conjure up images of decay, disgust, insanity and a kind of existential horror.
Greatly influenced by the intellectual climate in which he was living - the challenges of Darwin to the biblical narrative of man's place in the world; the degeneration and racial theories that at least partly sprang from theories of evolution; the growth of scientific knowledge and questions of alien life from space - Lovecraft fuses science and the idea of something far more visceral and `primitive' to inform his own visions of transcendental horror, especially in the Cthulhu stories.
I'd never read Lovecraft before so this was the perfect introduction. With nine long-ish stories plus Lovecraft's own essay on the supernatural in fiction, this is an excellent edition for new and existing readers.
This handsome and well presented book brings to mind Greatest Hits albums by major recording artists. Selecting a handful of stories from a larger body of work is always leaving yourself open to criticism if someone disagrees with the choices of what went in and what was left out.
Happily the publisher here has selected nine stories from Lovecraft's collection that most fans would agree represent the master of the weird tale in the best light. The selection contains his better known works, focussing on the Cthulu Mythos and some of the Necronomicon referencing tales. As a place to start these are probably the best stories to get stuck into.
The book is well made with good binding and quality paper and comes with an interesting introduction by Roger Luckhurst who discusses the tales place in the literary landscape.
Of the tales included my personal favourites are 'The Dunwich Horror', 'Call of Cthulu' and the 'At the Mountains of Madness' which, from looking at other reviews, are probably the most loved of all his stories. I'd have enjoyed an excuse to re-read 'Herbert West: Reanimator' or 'The Lurking Fear' but can't say I'd replace any of those included with these choices.
If you enjoy these, do seek out the rest of Lovecraft's work - Wordsworth's Mystery and The Supernatural range have three volumes of Lovecraft's tales available at very cheap prices or some can be found online for free.
To have a good copy of stories you will likely wish to read and read again, for the current price, this book is a steal.
I'm a great fan of the 'weird fiction' genre and H. P. Lovecraft was undoubtedly one it's most influential writers. I'm particularly impressed that this compilation has been published by Oxford University Press which lends an air of credibility to his work.
There are nine stories:-
The Horror at Red Hook, The Call of Cthulhu, The Colour out of Space, The Dunwich Horror, The Whisperer in Darkness,
At the Mountains of Madness, The Dreams in the Witch House, The Shadow over Innsmouth, The Shadow out of Time.
Plus an appendix; Introduction from 'Supernatural Horror in Literature'.
I particularly enjoyed the opening introduction from Roger Luckhurst which is packed full of background information about Lovecraft and his work. An excellent place to start if you're new to this author and want to find out more. Lovecraft does divide opinion. His 'neurotic' writing style and constant striving to escape into other worlds, other realities, isn't for everyone. If you're hoping for a collection of standard, or contemporary, horror stories you're in for a surprise.
The book runs to a total 487 pages and the quality of presentation, hardback edition, superb.
This book brings together some of HPL's stories published from about 1926 onwards. Each story is extensively and interestingly annotated to tell when it was written, where published and how it fits in not just to HPL's own "Cthulhu Mythos" but also the wider landscape of "weird tales". There is also an excellent introductory essay by Roger Luckhurst which tells us about HPL's life and puts his work into the context of the period in which he was writing. Luckhurst's argument in part is that, love him or hate him, HPL has remained an influence on writers of weird fiction up to the present day. He credits HPL with being one of the main writers who moved horror away from the human-centric gothic tale, with its vampires, crucifixes and garlic, to a universe where man is an insignificant and helpless part of a greater whole.
I admit it - I thought the stories ranged from loathsomely mediocre to hellishly poor myself, (even though I've always been partial to mushrooms). Luckhurst quotes Edmund Wilson on the subject of HPL's tendency never to use one overblown adjective when four would do..."Surely one of the primary rules for writing an effective tale of horror is never to use any of these words - especially if you are going, at the end, to produce an invisible whistling octopus." My feelings precisely!
However, whether a fan of HPL's style or not, the introductory essay and annotations provide interesting insights into a genre that has had considerable influence over the years and those alone make the book a worthwhile read, hence my four star rating.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher.
It had been many years since I read any HP Lovecraft, so when I saw this in the Vine newsletter, I decided to order it, despite the fact that I prefer my Ghost and Horror stories in the autumn & winter. Lovecraft has a strange, eccentric writing style, with touches, to my mind, of Poe, a similarly tortured soul, and I imagine he was probably under the influence of something (chemical, not Cthulu!)for much of his output. The book is aptly titled, as the stories are indeed classics, most of which I had read in my student days. If you are familiar with his work, it is a nice collection, and for anyone new to the author, or the genre, it is an excellent introduction to the strange worlds Lovecraft created. As I said before, I usually keep such books for the long dark nights, but these stories still brought chills to me, in the muggy summer nights of 2013....
So draw the curtains, close the blinds, light some candles, and immerse your self in the mind of HP Lovecraft. With this volume, you will not be disappointed.
HP Lovecraft's tales of horror have stood the test of time well and this collection of stories really get your imagination working.
My favourite is The Dunwich Horror which is just a great thrilling tale.
Well worth your time.
on 14 August 2013
I have always wanted to read H. P. Lovecraft as I enjoy classic horror stories, but was never sure where to start. I found The Classic Horror Stories an excellent place to begin. I have always been wary of H. P. Lovecraft as I saw him as being an author whose stories were very 'out there' so I enjoyed having a chosen selection of stories to read. I really enjoyed the stories and will certainly check out some more. This is a very handsome edition of stories and with good quality binding. I particularly enjoyed the fact that it was an OUP edition because the book includes an excellent introduction, notes and an essay on Supernatural Horror in Literature at the end.
I love horror stories, and this collection is great its gives you a taste of some of the best stories that will have you gasping in horror and Jumping at every bump in the night
I consider this to be a very important publication; a real step forward for the respectability of the "pulp" genre so often belittled by critics in a kind of snobbish dismissal.
The fact that this collection of short stories by H P Lovecraft is published the OUP gives it a respectability rarely afforded to a writer who has probably influenced more fantasy writers than any other. I could name a dozen who owe their careers to this man.
I was raised on a diet of pulp volumes of fantasy fiction usually in poor quality paperbacks with lurid, eye-catching psychedelic covers found in every hippy's bag in the 1970s.
Lovecraft, like Poe before him, wrote from a position of pain, despair and a need to find a light somewhere in his world. His outlet is in his writing and in his creation of a mythological alternative world where, almost anything is possible.
This current volume is not especially courageous for its choice of stories ~ fans will know these already. My particular favourites, "At the Mountains of Madness", "The Call of Cthulu" and the ever anthologised "Dunwich Horror" are included here. What is important is the respectability given to the author by the extremely readable, if a trifle academic, introduction by Roger Luckhurst and the extensive notes on the stories themselves. You can Google for hours and still not find such an impassioned distillation of the Lovectaft's work.
I hope this will find the academic audience necessary to continue the elevation of the genre; in times depression and vulnerability there is nothing quite like a scary story and here you are ihe hands of a master if not The Master!!
I have been a long time fan of H P Lovecraft ever since I played Call of Cthulhu (Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying) as a teenager. This book is a sturdy hardback, complete with nifty bookmark, with ten Lovecraft tales: "The Horror at Red Hook," "The Call of Cthulhu," "The Colour Out of Space," "The Dunwich Horror," "The Whisperer In Darkness," "At the Mountains of Madness," "The Dreams In The Witch-House," "The Shadow over Innsmouth" and "The Shadow Out of Time."
One small criticism is that I kept seeing asterisks everywhere. At first I naturally assumed that it was a bizarre plot by some nameless horror which lurks in the shadowy liminal realms between Sanity and the terrifying spaces into which no man should ever stray - as you do. However: I discovered that the editor had "helpfully" used them to flag up references (in the endnotes) which might prove obscure to 21st century readers. He could have done that without spoiling the line of the text, but that may be nit-picking.