During the R.I.P. Challenge this fall, I had decided to read some Lovecraft. The challenge has already ended, but I’m still going to continue what I started. Today I’m going to talk about two of H. P. Lovecraft’s short stories–“The Lurking Fear” and “The Rats in the Walls.”
The Lurking Fear
Like “Herbert West: Reanimator,” this story was originally published as a serial. This time Lovecraft doesn’t need to run a recap of what’s already happened, which makes the story far more readable.
The protagonist has an interest in the occult. He hears stories revolving around Martense Mansion and decides to investigate. He decides to spend the night with some companions, only to find *dun dun dun.* Since this only made our narrator more curious, he begins doing research in the village and gets caught in a storm with a new companion, only to find *dun dun dun!* Of course, after two major events ending in *dun dun dun,* he becomes even more curious (read: stupid) and decides to dig up an old Martense grave, only to find *dun dun dun!* (This is kind of a fun way of handling spoilers, but I could see it getting very annoying very quickly, so I’ll stop now.)
This was a pretty cool story, and one of my favorite by Lovecraft thus far.
The Rats in the Walls
This story is narrated by the last surviving member of the Delapore family. After discovering that his family’s ancestral property in England was for sale, he decides to move there and renovate it. The villagers are very superstitious about the property and refuse to have anything to do with it, and there had always been mysterious and grim legends surrounding the family that lived there. When Delapore begins spending the night, he notices the strange behavior of his cat and begins to hear noises in the walls at night. Deciding to investigate, he journeys to the crypt to discover his family’s secret…
This is the point where my commentary turns into an outright rant. This would have been my favorite Lovecraft story thus far if the man didn’t happen to be such a racist dick. I understand that authors are in part the product of their time. Even Dostoevsky is given to rants about the inferiority of the Germans. However, there’s a huge difference between having some backward ideas and being a douchebag about it. Naming the narrator’s black cat “N____ Man” crosses that line. (And no, I’m not going to pollute my blog by actually spelling it out.) It’s just a dick move. Were this any other author, I’d probably not continue reading, but it’s Lovecraft. The man was a genius who happened to create one of the most compelling worldviews within the genre of horror, even to this day.
Where does this leave me? Well, it’s hard to say. While I’m reading, I often desperately want one of the Elder Gods to rip a narrator’s face off after he says something that makes me angry. However, by the end of one of these stories the narrator usually encounters some satisfactory form of poetic justice. It’s just incredibly frustrating.
Returning to the story, Lovecraft does toy with some interesting ideas in this piece, including the sins of previous generations being inherited through a family. One of the other themes that crops up in both stories today is the price that one must pay for knowledge. Lovecraft’s tales are chilling enough to give me nightmares (Clive Barker is the only other author who’s been able to do that), and if you can get past the obnoxious racism I think that they’re definitely worth reading.