Happy Birthday, Lovecraft; Or, Screw You, Lovecraft, You Horrible Racist

A bust of H.P. Lovecraft at the Providence Athenaeum

A bust of H.P. Lovecraft at the Providence Athenaeum

Lovecraft has always been a little problematical, with his pulpy origins and outrageous racism, yet weirdly compelling stories.

A while back, I dived into a big collection of his work, re-reading At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow Out of Time.

Mountains is great, exciting yarn or explorers going further and further into the ruins of pre-human (and, as it turns out, of non-earthly origin) civilization, but Shadow is one of Lovecraft’s best. Comparatively long, it feels like it drags, but not in a bad way. In a piling on sort of way, where the accumulation of slow building unease and paranoia becomes nearly unbearable.

But what are to think of him? I can’t say. Should I stop reading him because of his not just slight racism, like the doddering grandfather who makes uncomfortable remarks about the Japanese and World War II every time there’s a kung fu movie on TV (he really can’t tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese), but thought the Asian girl you brought home was adorable, but rather full on Mississippi Burning-style racism? Maybe, but I won’t. Does that make me a bad person? A hypocritical person? I don’t know.

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