Lovecraft’s Book

The World’s Greatest Horror Stories (a.k.a. H.P. Lovecraft’s Book of Horror): edited by Stephen Jones and Dave Carson (1993/2004) containing the following stories:

Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927/1935) by H. P. Lovecraft: pretty much an essential essay on horror in literature up to the mid-1930’s;

The Signalman (1866) by Charles Dickens: understated and almost documentary in its approach, with Dickens striving for an understated realism that works extremely well;

The House and the Brain (1859) by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (variant of The Haunted and the Haunters; or, The House and the Brain): haunted house story becomes almost New Age by the end as it moves into occultism and pseudoscience;

The Body Snatcher (1884) by Robert Louis Stevenson: classic and disturbing tale of ‘Resurrection Men”;

The Spider (1915) by Hanns Heinz Ewers (trans. of Die Spinne 1908): really odd and disturbing tale of suicides caused by… what. exactly?;

The Foot of the Mummy (1882) by Théophile Gautier (trans. of Le Pied de Momie 1840): whimsical dream-journey anticipates similarly themed stories by Dunsany and then Lovecraft ;

The Horla (1886) by Guy de Maupassant (trans. of Le Horla 1887): a really lovely tale of madness and alien invasion by de Maupassant, who was himself suffering from mental illness by the end of his too-short writing career;

The Fall of the House of Usher (1839) by Edgar Allan Poe: Poe’s indispensable tale of rot;

The Damned Thing (1893) by Ambrose Bierce: Bierce’s invisible monster in a somewhat slight tale that’s not Bierce’s best horror story;

The Upper Berth (1885) by F. Marion Crawford: justifiably in the running for Best Ghost Story Ever, a model of suggestion, pay-off, and chilly, water-logged creepiness;

The Yellow Sign (1895) by Robert W. Chambers: Chambers’ scariest story helped set the stage for all the mysterious, forbidden volumes to come — though his forbidden volume, The King in Yellow, is available in finer bookstores everywhere!;

The Shadows on the Wall (1903) by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman: a fine ghost story, subtle and concerned with the quicksand of family grudges;

The Dead Valley (1895) by Ralph Adams Cram: Wow! I hadn’t read this concise voyage into a very bad place, and it’s a doozy;

Fishhead (1913) by Irvin S. Cobb: A weird bit of American regional horror that looks ahead to Lovecraft’s own squirmy human/fishmen hybrids;

Lukundoo (1907) by Edward Lucas White: Africa Screams. Not so much scary as inevitable;

The Double Shadow (1933) by Clark Ashton Smith: one of Smith’s many, many great dark fantasy stories isn’t so much scary as it is disturbing in its description. Smith’s wizards were always doing something arrogantly stupid.;

The Mark of the Beast (1890) by Rudyard Kipling: A showcase of Kipling’s attention to description of foreign lands (in this case India) and the British men stationed there. As in a lot of his work, the natives are much more sympathetic than many of the British;

 Negotium Perambulans (1922) by E. F. Benson: The description of place here is top-notch, though horror is somewhat absent due to both a sort of inevitable schematicism and a refusal to make the threatened parties sympathetic in any way — they’re really just sorta dumb;

Mrs. Lunt (1926) by Hugh Walpole: OK, this is a really solid ghost story with what seems to be an extraordinarily interesting psychological study of homophobia and masculinity;

The Hog (1915/1947) by William Hope Hodgson: Hodgson’s gonzo masterpiece of cosmic forces manifesting as a giant, deadly, spectral hog, with only ghost-finder Carnacki and his crazy-ass ghostbusting technology to oppose that force, at least at first;

The Great God Pan (1894) by Arthur Machen: One of the all-time ten or 20 great horror novellas;

Count Magnus (1904) by M. R. James: Almost all of James’ ghost stories are terrific, and this is one of the four or five best, with its mysterious undead Count and its hapless travel-book writer.

The entire anthology: H.P. Lovecraft’s essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature” covers so much ground that one could easily assemble a dozen different anthologies by following its lead. This is one such anthology, and Jones and Dave Carson (who also illustrates) have done a fine job of mixing much-anthologized necessities with several stories that I haven’t seen before (and I’ve read a bloody awful lot of horror stories). Each story comes with a relevant quotation from Lovecraft’s essay, which is also reprinted in its entirety at the beginning of the book. Highly recommended.

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