Lovecraft Short Stories
A Review of Selected works
- The Outsider: In what I can only describe as a moment of cosmic irony, this story, which I loved beyond words received some harsh criticism for being senseless and unrealistic. I own a collection of Lovecraft tales in a book titled The Call of Cthulhu and other Weird Stories. In the back of this tome, is an appendix of explanatory notes for each tale. The notes on this piece start by saying “On the level of plot, The Outsider makes little sense…” and it just gets worse from there. But I, for one, loved this story. I had an idea early on that the narrator was dead, confined to some dark, dismal afterlife but the description of his climb up into the land of the living, for me, was breathtaking. I immediately thought about The Upside Down from Stranger Things. (In Stranger Things, you may remember the false electric company van the government hid in; the company name was “Hawkins Power and Light”—H.P.L.) Now, the notes in the back say this story was paying homage to Poe, who is my literary hero which also probably explains my love for this piece. For me, the eerie quality of this piece is the POV, where I, the narrator, am the monster and pity me, for I have no memories and have been alone for as long as I can recall. So to review it, the language is dark and mysterious, the feel of the piece is so isolating and when this poor soul cannot take the solitude of his/her very existence and risks it all to climb above the trees. They end up walking out onto solid ground which is dizzying enough for one’s mental stability, but then, in the distance our protagonist sees a familiar and comforting sight. Approaching with growing joy and delight, we see a lovely party filled with others who the narrator hopes to make acquaintance. But the joy is short lived as his/her very presence strikes terror in the hearts of the party goers and he/she is once again left alone with no company but themselves. But, low, what is this? A terrible image of a monstrous creature approaching even as he/she approaches it. It is at the moment that hands about to touch land on the smooth, glass surface of the mirror and full recognition sets in. In the end, our protagonist realizes that you can never go back, even those who may have once mourned you would scatter with fear at your return. There is peace in the acceptance of death.
Ugh—you guys this is so beautiful. Please tell me you loved it too.
- Pickman’s Model: This one disappointed me. It was a great build up with Thurber telling Eliot about the strange artist Pickman and his realistic paintings of such horrific scenes that Dr. Reid, Joe Minot, and Rosworth dropped him. But Thurber is made of tougher stuff, because he can appreciate art, even the most morbid of it, Pickman befriends him and brings him to his private studio. The majority of the short story is Thurber telling of their trip to the studio and the sordid history of the area with homes dating back to the witches of Salem and pirates and the like. When they arrive, we are told of the sickening scenes Thurber sees on the paintings that would never be accepted in “the club”. The life-like demons feasting on human flesh. And then there is the strange well in the floor, leading down to god-knows-what. I wanted to know what he had down there, is it his prisoner or is he the prisoner of it? Has he sold his soul for his art and if so, in what way? But ultimately, the only answer we get comes from a crumpled up photograph that Thurber accidentally stole telling us the one thing that we as astute readers knew all along: These demons are real! Maybe that was shocking in the 20’s but I needed more. I wanted the demon to burst out and do something. Otherwise, it was well written, great imagery and had a good pace.
- The Call of Cthulhu: Last but not least. This was an interesting tale. I think Lovecraft has so many other better stories, it is odd that Cthulhu has become Lovecraft’s “familiar”. For those of you who can’t get past the old-style New England literature here’s the gist: A man inherits his uncle’s estate, man finds an odd collection of research among his things relating to an ancient cult. He reviews and shares his findings in this tale which he swears will not be shared with anyone. Basically, an ancient being in hibernation at the bottom of the sea, sends messages out via dreams to sensitive artist types. These messages culminated around the time of an Earthquake that we discover caused this ancient being’s realm to rise up out of the sea but not quite the whole way. Just enough to cause a lot of havoc and deaths before yet another earthquake caused the realm to sink back into the sea. What we know is we barely escaped worldwide domination by this ancient being and that there are still secrets cults worshipping him all over. Interesting, sure, the story is a fun scavenger hunt with the clippings and statuette found among his uncle’s things. Cthulhu as a monster is well-imagined and his history/backstory is solid. But I think Lovecraft has done better. I like his shorter pieces reminiscent of Poe like The Outsider. But that’s just me. There are plenty of cultists out there who would disagree and probably feed my head to Cthulhu, so what do I know?