Tales

Tales

A twentieth-century successor to Edgar Allan Poe as the master of “weird fiction,” Howard Philips Lovecraft once wrote, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” In the novellas and stories he published in such pulp magazines as Weird Tales and Astounding Stories—and in the work that remained...

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Title:Tales
Author:H.P. Lovecraft
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Edition Language:English

Tales Reviews

  • Chris Johnson

    Let's first acknowledge that Lovecraft is a master of hooking the reader with the first sentence. A few of the best:

    "I repeat to you, gentlemen, that your inquisition is fruitless."

    -

    "Of Herbert West, who was my friend in college and in after life, I can speak only with extreme terror."

    -

    "I am forced into speech because men of science have refused to follow my advice without knowing why."

    -

    "It is true that I

    Let's first acknowledge that Lovecraft is a master of hooking the reader with the first sentence. A few of the best:

    "I repeat to you, gentlemen, that your inquisition is fruitless."

    -

    "Of Herbert West, who was my friend in college and in after life, I can speak only with extreme terror."

    -

    "I am forced into speech because men of science have refused to follow my advice without knowing why."

    -

    "It is true that I have sent six bullets through the head of my best friend, and yet I hope to shew by this statement that I am not his murderer.'

    -

    "After twenty-two years of nightmare and terror, saved only by desperate conviction of the mythical source of certain impressions, I am unwilling to vouch for the truth of that which I think I found in Western Australia on the night of July 17-18th, 1935."

    -

    Lovecraft is of course a master of cosmic terror, a diabolical architect of supremely weird fiction. He has mapped out a whole new realm of mood, of vast and nameless horror. Everyone should give a chance to some of his more epic works, of which I'd name 'At the Mountains of Madness', 'Herbert West - Reanimator', 'The Shadow over Innsmouth' and the longest work 'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward', all of which were epic, weird, horrible and unforgettable.

    For some really interesting thought on Lovecraft, I'd also recommend the collection of Michel Houellebecq's essays

    , which, along with this edition of Lovecraft as a new entry to the Library of America, might inadvertently bring Lovecraft out of the graveyard and parking lot - where he is revered by the trench-coat wearing, clove-smoking, dungeon & dragon playing goth crowd - where I believe he should firmly remain. This type of stuff is best experienced in solitude by disenfranchised outsiders because it is, as Houellebecq points out, staunchly nihilist and expresses Lovecraft's alienation from the world through his utterly fantastic and amazing creations. And I mean fantastic and amazing in the original and undiluted sense: in that they are both the stuff of fantasy, and that they truly inspire awe. All hail the true master of weird terror, the un-crowned king of cosmic, timeless horror.

  • Brittni

    It’s tough to give a rating to an anthology, but I have to give five stars for Lovecraft’s style and subject difference. My quote book is mostly filled with his horrifyingly beautiful words now. He’s truly a one-of-a-kind writer, although his stories share large similarities: a logical protagonist, not given to superstitions, encountering something to shake his beliefs; otherworldly entities; a certain book called The Necronomicon; the struggle against madness after learning too much...

    I didn’t

    It’s tough to give a rating to an anthology, but I have to give five stars for Lovecraft’s style and subject difference. My quote book is mostly filled with his horrifyingly beautiful words now. He’s truly a one-of-a-kind writer, although his stories share large similarities: a logical protagonist, not given to superstitions, encountering something to shake his beliefs; otherworldly entities; a certain book called The Necronomicon; the struggle against madness after learning too much...

    I didn’t much like the gorier stories in this collection, such as “The Colour Out of Space”, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, and “Herbert West – Re-animator” (the last of which I was not keen on reading to begin with, knowing enough about the movie it inspired). My favorites, rather, were “The Rats in the Walls”, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, and—most favorite—“The Outsider”. These stories are the ones that end in a more particularly sad way. Every story’s protagonist has to deal with either deaths around him, or a complete weariness and horror in spirit after his ordeals, but my favorite selections were a bit different. In the first two, the protagonists feel revulsion for that which is going on around them, but in the end they become what it is they hate. This, in its own way, is more horrifying than anything else could be, because they can’t escape their fate. There’s a lingering finality to these stories that the others don’t have. In “The Outsider”, the protagonist is actually a horror all along, without knowing it, trying to reach out to others who run from him. There’s something both horrific and beautifully sad in that.

    I was able to figure out the underlying mysteries in each story before the author actually revealed them, but that didn’t take away from the stories. Lovecraft makes a point of reiterating that there’s more beyond the scope of human knowledge, poking fun at the black-and-white mind of logical man. What could be more frightening to the practical person than to discover that what he used to deem impossible, actually exists? Even the most intellectual man, priding himself on his ability to stay unshaken, couldn’t handle what Lovecraft’s characters run into. This is a message of warning to everyone out there that it’s dangerous for the logical mind to believe with a certainty that there’s not something more out there, and I love it. Lovecraft seems to have been a logical man himself, but he’s poking fun at others who are so narrow-minded to presume they know what can and can’t be real.

  • Kate

    I took one of those quizzes online to see which famous author "I write like" (iwl.me) and it came back as H.P. Lovecraft. Having never read his works, I think now would be a good time to start.

    Oh man, this book was excellent! H.P Lovecraft was way ahead of his time in his writing. He was bizarro before bizarro was even a genre and his horror is right on - creepy and kind of gorey, but excellently done. He kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next.

    Even though I

    I took one of those quizzes online to see which famous author "I write like" (iwl.me) and it came back as H.P. Lovecraft. Having never read his works, I think now would be a good time to start.

    Oh man, this book was excellent! H.P Lovecraft was way ahead of his time in his writing. He was bizarro before bizarro was even a genre and his horror is right on - creepy and kind of gorey, but excellently done. He kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next.

    Even though I enjoyed all the stories in this awesome collection, my top 3 selections would be:

    1.

    - because of it's bizarre qualities.

    2.

    - because he allows readers to glimpse "terrifying vistas of reality, and our frightful position therein."

    3.

    - because it's really creepy and was a fantastic Halloween treat!

    I can now see how H.P. Lovecraft influenced horror, gothic, bizarro, and sci-fi genres and continues to inspire writers in these genres today.

  • Jason

    I have little patience for schlock. I can't enjoy bad art ironically, and I can't seem to "turn my brain off" when I'm reading. The writer needs to intrigue me, and be doing something interesting. I try to read only "the good stuff," even within the bounds of "genre fiction" like science fiction and horror, and as such, I had always avoided Lovecraft. I had heard he was sub-par, a bad writer, a repetitive hack, and I had no reason to waste my time, when there are so many other great writers out

    I have little patience for schlock. I can't enjoy bad art ironically, and I can't seem to "turn my brain off" when I'm reading. The writer needs to intrigue me, and be doing something interesting. I try to read only "the good stuff," even within the bounds of "genre fiction" like science fiction and horror, and as such, I had always avoided Lovecraft. I had heard he was sub-par, a bad writer, a repetitive hack, and I had no reason to waste my time, when there are so many other great writers out there and unfortunately I only live once.

    But I was wrong. And so are the people who dismiss Lovecraft out of hand. He is not sub-par. He is not mediocre. He is not a traditionally skillful prose stylist, true, but he is an extremely powerful storyteller, relying on a toolkit that is idiosyncratic and bizarre but functions spectacularly in the stories that work. He creates worlds and feelings that jab into your mind's eye and stay there. He is an acquired taste, indeed, but that taste can be acquired very easily within a few pages, just by reading slowly. That's all it takes. Settle into your chair, take a sip of your tea, and begin, and you'll soon discover you're in the hands of a master. Not a self-conscious master, I think, not someone who knew what he was doing intellectually, but someone with a wild and unique imagination who spurted his nightmares forth uncensored onto the page and thereby created art. Not every story here hits those high marks, but when they do, there is nothing else like them.

    Of the early stories, The Music of Erich Zann is the best. It is low-key, but legitimately disturbing. Soon thereafter something happens, and Lovecraft's art takes a significant leap forward with The Call of Chthulu, which is a masterpiece. Lovecraft does not get the credit he deserves for his structural and formal choices - Call of Chthulu, like Frankenstein, is told in a web of nested narratives that are fascinating and bewildering, with the climactic horror (and it does not disappoint) buried at the center of the web. Then there is the absolutely splendid surprise of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, an unfairly neglected but masterful horror novel, with its detailed focus on a man going mad and its unforgettable image of creatures buried deep in wells beneath the Earth crying for food for centuries.

    Sometimes it doesn't work so well. The Dunwich Horror and The Thing on the Doorstep both feel redundant, mere retellings of stories he already told much better before. And At The Mountains of Madness, while clearly skillful and influential, to my mind takes far too long to get where it's going. Dreams of the Witch-House is nothing special.

    But the best ones are uncanny. They maintain a very particular tone of dread and expectation, gradually but, in the end, violently widening our perspective, and somehow that new perspective is itself the source of the horror. How does he do that? I don't know. But that's the most effective, the deepest kind of horror, isn't it, horror at the true nature of reality? Horror at our true place within it? The Colour Out of Space, The Whisperer in Darkness, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and The Color Out of Time are all masterpieces of the genre. These are fundamental tales of the smallness of humanity in the face of the universe, and they are brilliant. Anyone interested in horror (what Lovecraft and others have more usefully called Weird Fiction) needs to read at least the best of these stories.

  • Sam

    Lovecraft! Burdened by poor word choice, clumsy with narrative, and hampered by psycho-sexual and racial issues by the bucketful, an asexual aristocrat from Providence wrote some of the most genuinely disturbing stories in American literature. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but even if one doesn't enjoy his eldritch horrors from beyond the wall of sleep, they can at least appreciate how his stories represent a certain kind of paranoia: one that could have only been penned by an exceedingly

    Lovecraft! Burdened by poor word choice, clumsy with narrative, and hampered by psycho-sexual and racial issues by the bucketful, an asexual aristocrat from Providence wrote some of the most genuinely disturbing stories in American literature. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but even if one doesn't enjoy his eldritch horrors from beyond the wall of sleep, they can at least appreciate how his stories represent a certain kind of paranoia: one that could have only been penned by an exceedingly well-read, exceedingly poorly socialized xenophobe from the cloistered halls of New England. Highlights: "The Call of Cthulu", "At the Mountains of Madness", "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", and, for its absolutely ridiculous xenophobia and racism, "The Horror at Red Hook".

  • Woolrich13

    How odd a man was Howard Phillips Lovecraft? He was an atheist and Darwinist who insisted on marrying his Jewish wife at a high Anglican church service. Also, he gave a spoken abstract analytical review praising Hitler's "Mein Kampf" to same Jewish wife as well as Lovecraft's then literary agent (also Jewish), who proceeded to more or less ignore him and say, "Oh, that's Howard!" However, this was during Lovecraft's more sociable phase, such as it was, when he had a very, very unhappy stay in

    How odd a man was Howard Phillips Lovecraft? He was an atheist and Darwinist who insisted on marrying his Jewish wife at a high Anglican church service. Also, he gave a spoken abstract analytical review praising Hitler's "Mein Kampf" to same Jewish wife as well as Lovecraft's then literary agent (also Jewish), who proceeded to more or less ignore him and say, "Oh, that's Howard!" However, this was during Lovecraft's more sociable phase, such as it was, when he had a very, very unhappy stay in New York City, which, to him, was the most repugnant city on earth, with its lack of historical continuity, noise and clatter and endless hordes of foreigners. For the most part, Mr. Lovecraft stayed at home in Providence, Rhode Island and lived as a recluse--a writer who did most of his work at night--and socialized mainly with two maiden aunts. He disliked many, many people, and his racist views supported some of this enmity. Lovecraft saw no purpose to the Universe--none whatsover--and so he invented a strange pantheon of "gods" for atheists and agnostics--Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Azatoth and their hideous, eldritch, ineffable kin. These same gods wanted nothing more than to be set loose on the world and devour everyone in it, and various of their agents (either often unsuspecting effete scholars or, alternately, mobs of plotting ethnic cultists) wanted to help them along. There's something quite compelling about these "Cthulhu Mythos" stories, and most of them are in this same Library of America volume. They represent a chaotic world of paranoia, where humanity's little hopes and dreams are worse than worthless. They are very dark, and it's easy to see why writers such as Michel Houellebecq have embraced Lovecraft as a literary influence.

    Does Mr. Lovecraft have his faults, besides the personal ones listed? Yes, he repeats himself (as he was writing for pulp magazines such as "Weird Tales" mainly), he is inordinately fond of adjectives and a somewhat stuffy pseudo-18th century writing style (as he fancied himself an English gentleman of that era at times), and, in some of his earlier stories, he slavishly copies other writers (mainly Poe and Lord Dunsany). But, by tapping into his own fears, contempt for others, and hatred of religion, he created something quite unique in world literature and sui generis (until dozens of Lovecraft imitators followed him to the printed page). Some of his work reminds me a bit of Belgian fantasist and horror writer Jean Ray (q.v., "The Mainz Psalter" and others), but the two were rough contemporaries in the 1920s and 1930s and apparently knew nothing of one another's work! I suppress an odd shiver at this coincidence, as I suspect dread Cthulhu's influence, dear reader.

    Anyway, let us ask ourselves, can a racist be a great writer? Yes, no matter how much we may deplore his or her personal opinions or worldview, he or she indeed may. It's absurd to suppress their work for this fault alone, and Orwellian academics who do are fools of the first rank. Is Lovecraft a great world writer? Well, he has his talents, and, while I can't compare him to Shakespeare or Swift, he has earned a deserved place at the front line of genre writers, particularly in the field of horror. What he does, he does very well and, if, as I do, you wince while reading parts of "The Horror at Red Hook" or "The Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family" (which is basically a weak allegory concerning repugnance about miscegenation), it's likely to be made up for by the sweeping cosmic weirdness & terror of "The Call of Cthulhu," "At the Mountains of Madness," or "The Colour Out of Space." Take Mr. Lovecraft's work with a grain of salt, accept his human failings if you can, and you may be rewarded.

  • Bam cooks the books ;-)

    "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."

    This collection of 22 tales by Lovecraft was selected by Peter Straub.

    1. 'The Statement of Randolph Carter': Carter's friend disappears in a cemetery while they are conducting an experiment and he is questioned by authorities. Short and eerie.

    2. 'The Outsider': learns the truth in the mirror.

    3. 'The Music of Erich Zann': "the ghoulish howling of that accursed viol..."

    4.

    "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."

    This collection of 22 tales by Lovecraft was selected by Peter Straub.

    1. 'The Statement of Randolph Carter': Carter's friend disappears in a cemetery while they are conducting an experiment and he is questioned by authorities. Short and eerie.

    2. 'The Outsider': learns the truth in the mirror.

    3. 'The Music of Erich Zann': "the ghoulish howling of that accursed viol..."

    4. 'Herbert West--Reanimator': a brilliant doctor devotes his career to reanimating corpses with horrifying results!

    5. 'The Lurking Fear': solving the mystery of the ghoulishly haunted Martense mansion.

    6. 'The Rats in the Walls': an excellent story about the ancient family legacy hidden in the walls of Exham Priory.

    7. 'The Shunned House': an investigation into a house of death goes horribly wrong.

    8. 'The Horror at Red Hook': devil worship in Brooklyn!

    9. 'He': Lovecraft apparently loathes NYC.

    10. 'Cool Air': an undead doctor

    11. 'The Call of Cthulhu': the cult of the Great Old Ones

    12. 'Pickman's Model': an artist of the creepy and fantastic and his unspeakable model

    13. 'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward': tampering with Nature

    14. 'The Colour out of Space': a meteor causes strange happenings

    15. 'The Dunwich Horror': a force that didn't belong in our world

    16. 'The Whisperer in Darkness': the fungi from Yuggoth!

    17. 'At the Mountains of Madness': Lovecraft's famous novella about exploration in Antarctica.

    18. 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth': young man learns the truth about his ancestry.

    19. 'The Dreams in the Witch House': bad dreams and black magic.

    20. 'The Thing on the Doorstep': demonic possession

    21. 'The Shadow Out of Time': contact with the Great Race

    22. 'The Haunter of the Dark': a young author awakens something monstrous.

    Done!! Great collection spanning twenty years of writing.

  • Mauoijenn

    Lovecraft at his best!!!

  • L.S. Popovich

    I read this volume long ago. I have since replaced it with a more comprehensive collection of Lovecraft's works. This seems like a cash-grab by Library of America, rather than a proper treatment of this writer's stories. You can find a cheaper, larger complete tales edition by Chartwell classics. It's 1112 massive pages compared to the 800 here. It claims completeness but contains fewer than 60 works. If you're like me, and feel the need to really read all of this man's unsettling stories, you

    I read this volume long ago. I have since replaced it with a more comprehensive collection of Lovecraft's works. This seems like a cash-grab by Library of America, rather than a proper treatment of this writer's stories. You can find a cheaper, larger complete tales edition by Chartwell classics. It's 1112 massive pages compared to the 800 here. It claims completeness but contains fewer than 60 works. If you're like me, and feel the need to really read all of this man's unsettling stories, you will need to look elsewhere - there are many ebook editions with rare stories, letters and collaborations. In truth, Lovecraft wrote many thousands of letters and too many stories to bind in one volume, though his fame increases with time, his talent can be gleaned from a few clever and disturbing examples. You don't really need to worry about the clunkier, earlier tales.

    Examining his sentences, dialogue or character choices are not necessarily a productive or enlightening exercise. But letting the stories wash over your unprepared mind, sinking into the whirling storm of imagery he conjures, and dreaming and revisiting the haunting, unimaginable dilemmas his stories continually present, is well worth the headache of trying to understand him as a writer, which very few probably ever will.

    Like Poe, and Blackwood, Lovecraft is occasionally genuinely frightening. The uniquely thrilling aspects of his supernatural storytelling are often imitated but rarely equaled. Once you have savored the wonder and elegance of his most famous works, check out Clark Ashton Smith, who was a poet through and through and Arthur Machen, who took on the same subjects, but wrote more for aesthetic appreciation. There are a lot of purveyors of the weird these days, but Lovecraft may forever remain the king on the 'mountain of madness.'

  • Eric Farr

    I think I've read enough Lovecraft for one life. I actually read several of Lovecraft's more well-known stories while in high school and college, so this collection allowed me to revisit many of those same stories with some distance and maturity. Some of the tales were new to me, including "At the Mountains of Madness," which I understand is supposed to be one of his better-regarded works.

    Lovecraftian cosmic horror is so relied-upon in various tabletop and video games that, I think, I felt I

    I think I've read enough Lovecraft for one life. I actually read several of Lovecraft's more well-known stories while in high school and college, so this collection allowed me to revisit many of those same stories with some distance and maturity. Some of the tales were new to me, including "At the Mountains of Madness," which I understand is supposed to be one of his better-regarded works.

    Lovecraftian cosmic horror is so relied-upon in various tabletop and video games that, I think, I felt I must like his tales when I read them at a younger age. What can I say? Everyone's impressionable to some degree. But looking on these stories now, my primary reactions are revulsion and boredom. Revulsion because of the deep, intractable racism and xenophobia on display in most of his stories. Boredom because of the pretentious prose and over-use of certain words (Lovecraft, dude, "tittering" has never been a scary word ever in any context, and why did you ever think otherwise?).

    I found that I still liked his shorter stories best. "The Music of Erich Zann," "Pickman's Model," and "The Colour Out of Space" are stories that I could actually recommend to anyone. They are bizarre, cryptic, and mysterious. Rather than attempting to ratchet up tension by repetitive allusion, these stories build naturally to (admittedly pulp and hackneyed) revelations. They don't give too much away too early on because they don't go on and on. They end before they can ruin themselves. Plus, the shorter form seems to have helped avoid some of the more intense racist descriptions that crop up in works like "Herbert West--Reanimator" (seriously, the grotesque and bestial descriptions of black men are horrible, and merely hand-waving racism as part of the times is not an adequate excuse, both due to the extremity of the obvious race hatred and the reality that never at any point in time has there been a single view on race).

    The stories that really define the Cthulhu Mythos, Lovecraft's fondly remembered mythological achievement, are really somewhat of a mixed bag. I did like "At the Mountains of Madness," which felt like pulp horror trying to do pulp adventure, and the creepy tale of infiltration and disguise that is "The Whisperer in Darkness." But "The Call of Cthulhu," no matter how frequently invoked in geek culture, is ruined by the significance of mixed-race individuals as proponents of the dark cult. Side note: if you want to see a better version of "The Call of Cthulhu," skip the short story and watch the 2005 black-and-white silent film by the same name, which has some fun playing with elements of 1920s cinema while removing the racist elements of the story without damaging the plot and actually deepening some of the mystery.

    It's more than "The Call of Cthulhu," though. Much of Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos can be read as an allegory regarding the evils of race-mixing. Take "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," which on its face is a decent mystery regarding a small town's dark secrets, punctuated by a fairly tense chase sequence. The story is about a cult who has bred with sea creatures from the South Pacific. It's not a very subtle allegory. Similar themes are apparent in stories like "The Dunwich Horror" and "The Thing on the Doorstep." "The Horror at Red Hook" is basically a rant against immigrants. And so on. Also, women basically always take a background seat, unless they are villains or possessed. I would have been surprised to see a female protagonist or hero given the times, but I think there is something to be said about the villainous appearance of basically any notable female character, aside from the occasional housekeeper.

    Finally, some of the remaining stories are just laughable, like "The Dreams in the Witch House." Obvious surprise, uninteresting prose, and absurd premise define more than a few of the stories.

    The collection varies widely in quality, and I would not recommend it to anyone. Though if you are already a Lovecraft fan, or simply looking to add a decorative touch to your bookshelf, this Library of America hardcover edition is quite lovely in appearance. It also includes some notes regarding the text and a brief life chronology of Lovecraft. The notes are a little sparse, but this volume seems more focused on presentation and preservation rather than academics, anyway.

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