I naively dove right in to the Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft with no real idea what was in store for me. I’d recently read Mexican Gothic and Wuthering Heights I was interested in exploring this sort of creepy side of gothic stories. I wasn’t prepared for the month it would take me to read all 1,342 pages (I read three or four other books in between, because I just couldn’t do it all in one go).
Lovecraft is known for Cthulu and The Necronomicon, but I hadn’t realized that his style is what I would call impressionistic. By that I mean Lovecraft’s characters share a lot of impressions and feelings about the horrors they witness and experience, but most of the monsters and even the worst of the experiences are left to the imagination, with very few details and descriptions. This is an interesting juxtaposition with Lovecraft’s extensive descriptions of architecture and carvings, so we know that he uses this as a storytelling technique to allow the reader to imagine horror however they will.
Some of his short stories get a little repetitive, some of them drag on, and some of them are really interesting and strange. I was let down quite a lot by The Call of Cthulu, which I thought would be longer and more interesting. But other stories I’d never heard of more than made up for it. Additionally, Lovecraft would continually refer to and return to characters and places in his stories, building a loose continuity within them that made me wish this particular compilation was put together differently.
This particular edition seemed to have little to no rhyme or reason behind the organization of the stories. It wasn’t in order of writing nor publication, nor were the stories with like characters and locations always grouped together.
But as I said, I needed to take a few breaks while working my way through Lovecraft. While some stories gripped and engaged me, I frequently found myself reading without actually taking in anything of the story. Most of the stories had minimal dialogue and the set up to the moments of horror often dragged. Lovecraft is certainly an interesting writer and worth exploring for anyone who enjoys horror, gothic, and simply strange stories. But I wouldn’t advise committing to the complete works all in one go.