“What secret would open the gate, wiser men than we would have to find.”
– H.P Lovecraft
(Rats in the walls)
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937), is one of the most celebrated storytellers today in the horror genre. Being the genesis of the Ctulhu Mythos and Lovecraftian horror genres, he is not just one of the most read author but arguably the most influential to many modern authors, artists and musicians who we admire today. Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Guillermo del Toro, and the list of notable names goes on. His stories and letters immortalized his name that for every aspiring author/storyteller, it is a must to read his astounding works.
The first story that I have ever read from Lovecraft was The Call of Cthulhu. Just like most readers who were born three to four decades after his death. I was already an adult at the time, and how I wish that I have read Lovecraft’s works in my teenage years, years before the realization that I want to write stories myself.
Horror – is one of the main reasons that made me embrace literature wholly. I love everything about horror and although I regard Stephen King as my primary influence, H.P Lovecraft has a huge impact on my storytelling. His writing style (mostly in the first person narrative) is so effective that sometimes, a reader could feel the essence of the setting’s environment. In Dagon, I felt like I am watching the unnamed narrator from a window as he narrates. But it was his story – The Rats In The Walls which lifted my respect for the great American author to the pinnacle. It gave me great chills when Delapore and his group had finally discovered what was hidden under the Exham Priory. He visualized one of the most terrifying panorama in literature using words as if he was touring the reader inside a dark gallery of mystery and terror. I believe that The Call of Cthulhu is Lovecraft’s magnum opus but to me, I would say that The Rats In The Walls is second to none in terms of plot and narrative. It is a literary masterpiece.
But like many other authors, H.P Lovecraft work has been receiving criticisms, too. And his most recurring criticism until today is him – being a racist. As a constant reader of Lovecraft, I understand the criticisms and sentiments from both readers and authors. In his short fiction The Rats In The Walls, he named his black cat “Nigger Man”. In one of his works, I remember a line that reads, he was frightened when confronted by a nautical-looking negro. And lastly, his poem titled On The Creation Of Niggers. And it was indeed, unpleasant.
Well, my personal take on this, as a person who obviously don’t know Lovecraft personally and as a reader who doesn’t have a mite of idea what he was thinking at the time he was writing his racist lines and pieces, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Anyone could play with words. And base on his era, that could be understandable. Again, could be. But in the present times, especially now as I write this piece (April 06, 2021), you don’t justify racism. I’m not saying you can’t, but you don’t. Racial based hate and crimes has been rampant in the past twenty years or so.
So my conclusion to the issue is this, H.P Lovecraft was a great writer. And yes, somehow, he was a racist. And that characteristic of his left a scar to his legacy. And some people will use this flaw again and again. A dead person could not defend himself, but his legacy and contributions to literature will stay.
Even though he is being regarded as one of the most read authors in the 20th Century, H.P Lovecraft’s life was not something anyone would envy. He did not live the life which most people deserve. In fact, he died penniless and almost unknown at a young age of forty-six. His biggest payday during his prime was less than three hundred U.S dollars. His financial troubles even caused the failure of his marriage to Sonia Greene.
H.P Lovecraft left us with many of his notable characters and cosmic beings which we could use or imagine as metaphors to a plethora of things and issues. He has managed to pound our chests and rattle our minds to make our own understanding for the unknown. And most importantly, any breathing soul could make a story influenced by Lovecraftian literature to continue his remarkable legacy for decades to come.
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”
– H.P Lovecraft