Miscellanea, Reviews

The Shunned House (from The Other Gods and More Unearthly Tales) by H. P. Lovecraft

Do you ever have one of those days where you’re overwhelmed and upset and nothing goes right? I knew by 8:30 am that today would be that day. So when I read Just Book Reading’s favorable review of The Shunned House this morning, I knew that if I got the opportunity to do so, I would read it today. As it turns out, I own a collection of Lovecraft’s stories that features The Shunned House, but if you don’t, you can find it here

The Other Gods.A sizable portion of my day job is technical writing and editing, so my blog provides a nice outlet for the use of my superfluous vocabulary and penchant for adjectives. While I do love minimalism, I also have a healthy adoration for those authors who are perissological. Often, and particularly in The Shunned House, H. P. Lovecraft is one such author.

From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.

The Shunned House is the story of a house on Benefit Street in Providence, Rhode Island. There have been no reports of specters or illusions, but nearly all the residents of the house die an unexpected death. If they manage to survive, they are driven mad. The only sign of an unnatural presence is an odd yellow vapor in the dank basement, mold growing in the pattern of dead bodies, and a sense of evil pervading the air. It’s possible that the house has a sanguinolent hunger, as some of the victims have been drained of blood. As the conservative protagonist and his physician uncle decide to investigate, they are faced with unimaginable horror.

Yet after all, the sight was worse than I had dreaded. There are horrors beyond horrors, and this was one of those nuclei of all dreamable hideousness which the cosmos saves to blast an accursed and unhappy few. Out of the fungus-ridden earth steamed a vaporous corpse-light, yellow and diseased, which bubbled and lapped to a gigantic height in vague outlines of half-human and half-monstrous, through which I could see the chimney and fireplace beyond.

The Shunned House is not Lovecraft’s best work, but it is a decent, if slightly overwritten short story. It has a wonderfully eldritch atmosphere without being overtly horrifying. The backstory provides a fascinating history of the house whilst showcasing New England’s sensibilities in regards to superstitions – superstitions being relegated to the poor, uneducated residents of the backwater Nooseneck Hill. If you find my synopsis and review to be slightly overwritten, consider it a tribute to the author. If you don’t find it to be so, well, consider yourself as pretentious as I am.

I doubt The Shunned House will scare anyone, but it is mildly disturbing. H. P. Lovecraft has influenced many of my favorite modern authors including Stephen King, Joe R. Lansdale, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman. He is worth reading solely for this reason (though certainly his stories are excellent). I’d advise using The Shunned House as your gateway into the Lovecraftian world, 3/5.

There is not a single reference to food, so I am omitting your food recommendation for the day. I almost got creative and recommended a jello mold, but I find jello to be truly and utterly disgusting. For any of you wondering if my day improved, it did. I finally went to see Stoker this afternoon and I was the sole occupant of the theater (unnerving, yet pleasant, which is exactly the same description I’d give the film). I’d recommend it. One of the best (and slightly ridiculous) parts of the evening was I had trouble getting into the theater because they thought I was too young. I had forgotten my ID and though they eventually let me in, they only charged me the student price. Admittedly, I do look very young for my age. But 16? No. However, everyone likes to be flattered, even if it’s unfounded.

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  • http://booksaremyfavouriteandbest.wordpress.com booksaremyfavouriteandbest

    I’d be THRILLED if someone asked me for ID!

    • http://www.fourthstreetreview.com Rory

      It was flattering, but at the same time…16, really? I always get asked when I buy a drink because I do look about 20 and it’s understandable, but it was the movie theater!

  • http://gravatar.com/justabookreader Amy

    Jello is the most disgusting food on earth!

    Glad I inspired you to read it. After having read a second Lovecraft story (At the Mountains of Madness), I agree it’s not his best work, but for a short free short story, it’s a good introduction.

    • http://www.fourthstreetreview.com Rory

      It also helped with my owned but not read TBR stack. I knew buying that Lovecraft book years ago would pay off eventually, so thanks for giving me a reason to dust it off!

      And jello, ugh…

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