by Jessie Roberts
“[T]he fact is … he was a godawful writer. He was so bad,” writes Peter Damien of H.P. Lovecraft:
A Lovecraft story isn’t delivered so much as thudded down on the table in front of you like a quivering glob of wet cement. So the writing isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. And the man himself wasn’t that great either, a fairly unpleasant, incredibly racist guy who had a bit more sympathy for Adolf Hitler than you’d really hope for out of your 20th Century Icons of Writing list. He wrote a bunch. He wasn’t that successful. He died. The stories lingered. And why? Because the ideas beneath the ugly exterior were astonishing.
The notions of vast and ancient gods, hidden texts and cults, madness, and insanity in the realization that there was a world beyond ours and it was too horrifying to comprehend–all of his ideas were themselves amazing things. It’s just that Lovecraft lacked the capability to do anything useful with them himself. To use a perhaps wobbly metaphor, it’s as if Lovecraft wrote piles and piles of source code, but never thought to compile it into a beautiful and functional piece of software. So instead, the world was greeted with pages of source code, which, the world not being made up solely of programmers, did not read smoothly, did not look pretty, and was not interesting. The remarkable thing is all the people who have later come along and compiled that source code of ideas into amazing works of art.
Previous Dish on Lovecraft’s legacy here.