Knowledge brings pain. Madness offers release.
The Thing on the Doorstep (13-16)
“I have sent six bullets through the head of my best friend.” With this provocative opening the narrator launches into his preamble, summing up more than a decade of friendship in a few pages, but this time the summary proves satisfying, with a real sense of who these characters are. A marriage to a strange woman marks the beginning of the real story. The summaries become more focused as they outline the steady decline of the friend. The friend raves about strange visions, speaking in a broken and fragmented speech common to Lovecraft’s stories. Then, just as suddenly, he regains his composure and calmly dismisses his prior behavior.
The story is an easy read. The writing is clear and concise, for Lovecraft, though still a little verbose. Aside from the friend’s wild rants the story remains a mundane tale, until the titular ending when something on a doorstep reveals the full horror of what has happened.
The Shadow over Innsmouth (14-16)
The story opens with vague allusions to the town of Innsmouth, where a recent investigation led to numerous arrests. The narrator admits he was the one to spark the investigation. He traveled to Innsmouth after a trio of historians piqued his curiosity. Upon arriving he took a tour of the town and found it even odder than he expected. Finally, he plied a local drunk, hoping to learn a bit more about the strange town. What he heard was a series of tall tales, easily dismissed, until he is forced to spend a night in the peculiar town.
The story is longer than most in the anthology, but the writing is strong enough to make the reading nearly effortless. The chapters are well structured and linger on each aspect of Lovecraft’s storytelling style: his historical accounts as prologue, his attention to architecture, his ear for accents, and his belief in knowledge as a horrible burden. And this is where the story truly steps away from others in his work. The story does not reveal the truth of horror and then end abruptly. It lingers, forcing narrator and reader to repeatedly confront the horrible truth as the narrator struggles to escape.
The story does rely on some rambling characters in place of summaries, but each character speaks with a unique voice, thick with accent and perspective, adding their own personality to what might otherwise be a dry account of information. Overall this may be Lovecraft’s strongest story. It’s definitely my favorite.
Best of HP Lovecraft 6of6- Anthology