H. P. Lovecraft’s Book of the Supernatural edited by Stephen Jones

Why I Read It: I have been trying to expand my reading horizons; with this book it was classic horror that I explored.

Where I Got It: From the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy classic suspenseful short stories, check this out.

Narrators: Bronson Pinchot, Steven Crossley, Davina Porter

Publisher: AudioGO (2012)

Length: 16 hours 44 minutes

Stephen Jones, the editor, has presented us with an interesting collection of horror genre short stories, spanning decades, hand picked by H. P. Lovecraft. In this book, Lovecraft provided a a short introduction to each story, sharing his thoughts on the tale and the writer. This collection contains some of the biggest names in the genre, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allen Poe, and Washington Irving, along with others who dabbled in the genre, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, and Robert Louis Stevenson, among other authors. Through this collection, I could see the evolution of the gothic and macabre storytelling over the decades.

In the last few years I have read a bit of Lovecraft (Early Horror Works which was odd, entertaining, not necessarily scary), Bram Stoker (Dracula was was heightened tension and dread and I quite enjoyed it), Washington Irving (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle were more subtle than I expected but still enjoyable), Rudyard Kipling (Kim was a fascinating tale of India which I didn’t quite get but entertained me anyway), and Arthur Conan Doyle (I’ve always found his Sherlock Holmes to be a bit predictable and the endings to be abrupt). So going into this book, I had some preconceived notions of what I was in for. Oooops.

Let me be honest. I wanted to fall in love with this genre that has been around since campfire ghost stories were invented through this book. But I didn’t. At first, I thought perhaps it was just a few of the earlier tales, where all the women are considered somewhat hysterical or silly and need to be protected and rescued. I moved through each story, waiting for that jewel that would be the door into the rest of the book and hence the whole field of the horror genre. Yet the stories overall remained predictable, with the main characters going about normal day to day activities until they glimpse something unusual which is chocked up to fatigue, silliness, perhaps insanity, and usually ending in a way that left so many questions unanswered that the story was not very satisfying.

With that said, if you are already in love with this genre, then you should check this collection out. I found Lovecraft’s introduction to each story to be the most fascinating part of the book – his reasons for choosing each tale, his own fascination or appreciation of the author. It was definitely worth my time to find out that this genre probably won’t be one of my big book loves in life.

The narrators provided an excellent variety in voices for the short stories. I sometimes stay clear of audio short story collections if there is only a single narrator, as I find it difficult to move from tale to tale with the same voice. Several times in this collection, the tale called for a believable scream or hysterical outburst and the narrators did not disappoint.

What I Liked: Lovecraft’s introductions to each story; the variety collected in one book; the audio production itself was well done.

What I Disliked: Overall, the stories were predictable; the ladies were silly or hysterical and needed manly protection or assistance; many of the endings were left so open-ended that they were not satisfying.

As part of Stainless Steel Droppings’ R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event, I am going to count this book as horror. This event is still going strong until the end of October, so feel free to hop over there and join the fun.

4 thoughts on “H. P. Lovecraft’s Book of the Supernatural edited by Stephen Jones”

  1. too bad, 🙁 I too have been meaning to read more old school gothic stuff, and what little Lovecraft I’ve read I’ve enjoyed. The open endedness, that does seem to pop up a lot in horror like this, we’re never told if the creature ever actually died. . maybe it’s still around, tapping on your window!

    1. Many of the open endings dealt with the reader having to decide if the narrator truly experienced something supernatural (no matter how nebulous), or if the narrator is unreliable and possessed/hysterical/supernatural/a giddy woman. To me, that pointed to lazy writer.

      I recently read Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger which had a somewhat nebulous ending, but it was done really well. So I won’t give up on the horror genre totally.

  2. I guess a lot of these were written way back when! I confess that I like some of the classical horror. I enjoyed Dracula in particular but I think that’s because I enjoyed the style of narration telling the story through letters. Can’t say I really enjoyed Sleepy Hollow. I read Arthur Conan Doyle years ago and I confess I did like the stories – particularly the way Holmes and Watson talk to each other and also I was always trying to figure out what was going on – usually without success!
    I definitely don’t think you should give up on horror, you just need to find the right style for you (although, saying that, I don’t tend to read a lot of horror, oh, except for the occasional Zombie story that is).
    Lynn 😀

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