Friday, April 11, 2008


{Stephen was kind enough to alert me to his review of Houellecbecq's book. The review is from Horror World. (click).}

H.P. LOVECRAFT: AGAINST THE WORLD, AGAINST LIFE by Michel Houellebecq. Translation from French by Dorna Khazeni. Translated & published in 2005

Reviewed by Steve Middaugh

Readers should know that this book is comprised of three parts: a long essay by Michel Houellebecq, and two novellas by H.P. Lovecraft; "Call Of Cthulhu" and "The Whisperer In Darkness". This should be worth the price of admission for anyone being introduced to the works of H.P. Lovecraft for the first time, and, of course, for anyone who's familiar with works of Houellebecq.

There are very few literary critics who are willing take stock of Lovecraft seriously like that of Joyce Carol Oates, S.T. Joshi, Donald Burleson, August Derleth, and Lin Carter. Even Lovecraft now has most of his works of weird fiction in nice hardbound editions compliments of The Library of America. H.P. Lovecraft's works will live on despite the misconceptions and the lambasting from the critics like L. Sprague DeCamp, Edmund Wilson, and Colin Wilson.
Houellebecq is now an addition to those who argued that Lovecraft deserved serious scrutiny and the written works, mainly the weird fiction, be given a second or third look. Houellebecq wrote a sympathetic bio of Lovecraft to further his arguments.

He argues that even though Lovecraft had a lot of xenophobic tendencies, that's what propelled him to pen the "great texts" as Houellebecq calls it. It's not just his xenophobia that propelled them however, but also his puritanical dread of sex, and his anti-capitalism. All these were the stuff of Lovecraft's weird fiction.

Stephen King was quite right in his intro that Houellebecq's essay would certainly create controversy and a lot of arguments among Lovecraft fans and detractors alike. Even yours truly would dispute most of Houellebecq's insights.

As much as I liked the essay, it hasn't broken any new ground in my humble opinion. Much of the interpretations of the tales were nothing new if you read a lot of S.T. Joshi's work on that subject. Houellebecq's sympathetic bio has left much to be desired. Even though Lovecraft proved to be xenophobic, much from his experience in Brooklyn, New York, he's not as reclusive as was originally thought to be. Houellebecq, I think, left out the fact that Lovecraft did do some traveling later on: Quebec, Richmond, Charleston, St. Augustine, & New Orleans. It's an interesting essay by Michel Houellebecq for those not familiar with H.P. Lovecraft and his weird fiction, but it didn't break new ground for me. So, a marginal thumbs up for this book.

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