The premise of H.P.LOVECRAFT'S FAVORITE WEIRD TALES is certainly interesting - take several stories that horror master Lovecraft regarded as his favorite pieces of weird short fiction, based on his correspondence, and compile tham together in one volume. If you think this would yield an enjoyable book, you'd be correct - there really isn't a bad story in the bunch (the closest thing to a clunker is M.P. Shiel's "The House Of Sounds", which struck me as merely bizarre for the sake of being bizarre), but I'll try to discuss what I thought was the crème de la crème as concisely as I can.
- "The Novel Of The Black Seal" by Arthur Machen: Machen was my great discovery in reading this collection. It's amazing to me that his work is seldom discussed anymore except amongst horror aficionados - like Lovecraft, Machen strikes me as a writer of brilliance who just happened to write horror fiction. "The Novel Of The Black Seal" has to be one of the eeriest stories I've ever read, centering around the notion that the legendary "little people" of the British Isles have been (to quote Machen) "called... 'fair' and 'good' precisely because [our ancestors] dreaded them, so they dressed them up in charming forms, knowing the truth to be the very reverse." If you enjoy stories like Lovecraft's "The Whisperer In Darkness", this one will likely knock you out of your chair.
- "The Yellow Sign" by Robert W. Chambers: In which we encounter an early use of what was to become a standard Lovecraftian trope: the Evil Grimoire. The last several paragraphs of this story are uniquely disturbing in a way that's difficult to describe - I found myself re-reading them several times, trying (unsuccessfully, I'm afraid) to pin down how Chambers got his effects. A really good one.
- "The White People" by Arthur Machen: I'm actually not that fond of hyperbole, but it seems to be hard to avoid in describing Machen's work; this might be the most accomplished English-language horror story I've ever read. I described it on my blog as "Ulysses (Penguin Modern Classics) meets Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Unabridged Classics) in Hell", but that only begins to hint at the story's aura of unearthly dread. It's a shame that more critics and scholars aren't aware of this one.
- "The Floor Above" by M.L. Humphreys - a story of enormous subtley, originally published in the pulp magazine WEIRD TALES. I actually had to read this one a couple of times to figure out exactly what was going on.
Well, if you've read this far, you'll probably find this worth picking up, even if you already own a couple of the stories in other volumes. Lovecraft fans will, of course, find it particularly interesting, but I'd recommend it to anyone who'd like a demonstration of how horror fiction can refrain from explicit violence and be all the more effective because of it.