The Haunter of the Dark - H.P. Lovecraft

The Haunter of the Dark: Collected Short Stories Volume Three (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural) - H.P. Lovecraft, M.J. Elliott, David Stuart Davies

So...I had difficulties with this one.


I've never read any Lovecraft before (unless you count a desultory look at "Polaris" a couple of years ago), and this anthology of some of his stories was kind of a revelation. His Dream-Cycle stories in particular nail something that I've been trying to get at for years: the evocation of a place or a country so strange and wonderful that it's actually kind of terrifying. Stories like "Polaris" and "The Doom that Came to Sarnath" have an imaginative power entirely different from anything I've ever read. Possibly the longest of these stories, "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" (over 100 pages long), suffers from its length, as previously terrifying creatures become familiar and no longer a threat; but on the whole these are fantastic stories.


Even the more prosaic stories are powerful and scary: I loved the title story, "The Haunter of the Dark", though it took a while to get into, and "The Shadow out of Time" was really interesting (although if this is Lovecraft's idea of a perfect race I wonder about his home life). But it's these "real-world" stories that are really problematic for me, because, to put it baldly, Lovecraft is deeply racist. In stories like "The Horror at Red Hook" and "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", fear of the foreigner is only thinly disguised as fear of green monsters with teeth, and horror is brought by immigrants from the East. He's also quite mean to Polish people in "The Dreams in the Witch House". And in "The Thing on the Doorstep" he literally says that men have better brains than women.


It's worth noting that Lovecraft was writing almost a hundred years ago, but should this make any difference to how we judge him? I certainly think his racism goes beyond being a product of his time, in that it seems more extreme than that of other authors from his era. So currently I'm veering between "OMG this is awesome" and "Fuck off, Lovecraft. You are an idiot." What do you guys think? Is it okay to like something this problematic? Or should the world boycott Lovecraft? And would doing so be any different from boycotting modern authors with objectionable views - like, say, Orson Scott Card?