As I was reading this little HP Lovecraft horror story, which is arguably the lynchpin in his entire oeuvre, I realised that Lovecraft is not a good writer because he’s too busy listing bits here and there with thrown in weird-fiction-like adjectives to describe the drab settings he places characters in rather than entering deeply into that setting to unsettle the reader.
His characters are always on the periphery, observers safe at a distance of lifetimes, that are looking in at eldritch entities from a vantage point too safe to be scary.
Thus these “unknowable” things can barely be deemed such out of a sheer sense of security in the reader. Until the end of his stories when that safety blanket crumbles a little as the main character gets to personally know the knowledge these unknowable things can convey. Usually through a dream, which is quite safe also really.
Where he is great is his imagination. Rooted in despair and evoking dread, Lovecraft’s stories envelop you in a sense of foreboding anxiety and dire interest in the cosmic occult. He’s infectious in what he portrays but not in how he portrays it. Mostly lacklustre yet never forgettable.
If there is one thing I think is necessary when reading Lovecraft is to read over 400 pages of his short stories, so around 50 stories, to gain the necessary insight on what he has achieved and what he was trying to say. Bleak and weird but utterly profound in how long it stays with you after the fact.
The greatest Lovecraftian story you can read though is Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Providence. An amalgam of all his stories taken literally. Brilliant, really.