Monday, June 30, 2014

Lovecraft Reconsidered

   I spent most of the weekend writing, so my reading was pretty minimal. I did a partial reread of Frank Belknap Long’s memoir, H.P. Lovecraft: Dreamer on the Night Side, and sections from Lovecraft Remembered, an Arkham House book that collected various essays by people who actually knew Lovecraft. All this reading about HPL is part of some research I’m doing for a story idea, but also because I enjoy reading about the writer.

   I’ve come to the conclusion that Lovecraft’s reputation for being reclusive and misanthropic was pretty much wrong. He had many friends and he spent a lot of time visiting them. He even had ‘normal’ friends, people who lived in his neighborhood and who knew him just as a person and not the writer of Weird Tales. Over the years, folks who haven’t read about Lovecraft in depth have chosen to focus of the stranger aspects of the man’s life, as if someone who wrote such visions of cosmic horror couldn’t possibly be just a regular guy.

   Not to say that he wasn’t strange in some ways, but I think that part of his personality has been blown out of proportion. The thing you see time and again in the memoirs is what a nice guy he was, and how he would go far out of his way to help friends. He was also very funny and even whimsical, and though his one long term relationship went down in flames, (He was briefly married to a woman named Sonia Greene) the reminiscences of several of his female friends show that more than one of them would have liked to have been closer than just friends to HPL.

   I’m also reading a book about Lovecraft’s New York years, which is made up of the letters of one of HPL’s friends, George Kirk. Kirk and Lovecraft were part of a circle of friends, mostly writers, and Kirk makes no secret in his letters to his fiancé, that Lovecraft is the most fun member of the gang to hang out with. This is a contemporary report, as opposed to someone saying nice things about the departed.

   Anyway, I know there are people who don’t want to let facts get in the way of a good story, and they’re going to cling to their image of H.P. Lovecraft as a strange and lonely man, living in seclusion in shadow-haunted Providence, but to a large degree, these folks are confusing the writer with his writing.


Tim Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Knight said...

I guess people dwell, and put emphasis, on the quirks in Lovecraft's character as it helps blur the line between fiction and reality, casting him as a character in one of his own tales of cosmic horror.

Paul R. McNamee said...

Thoughtful post, Charles.

I think people in the public eye get that a lot. Only certain aspects are focused on and forced to align in people's minds with that person's fame as well.

Keith West said...

Thanks for this post, Charles. While I don't know a great deal about Lovecraft the human being, I know enough about Robert E. Howard to be able to see the parallels between how the two men have been remembered. It's a shame that these men have been tarred with the brushes they have. Too many people today focus on folks from past eras and how they don't measure up to contemporary standards, especially in areas of such as race, to name just one example.

Anonymous said...

I think Lovecraft was the first SCI-FI/fantasy/comics/computer nerd before that term or any of those categories existed.
He was really smart, great fun around those he knew, somewhat shy, somewhat uncomfortable around the opposite sex, had strong likes and dislikes,etc.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Thanks for all the great comments, folks. And yes, if HPL were around today, he'd probably be like many other fans we know, just far more talented.