I read the Shunned House as the starter book for a book club as part of an online community. Many of the members expressed a fondness for weird horror such as Lovecraftian horror, and as this was the only story of his on Project Gutenberg I suggested it.
I’m not too good with horror as I get scared easily and am afraid of the dark. I do love H. P. Lovecraft’s overwrought descriptive style, and the cadences of language that you hear when you read his prose aloud. Redolent with adverbs, his work flows beautifully.
Years ago, I had a book that was meant to be his collected works but I had to go quite slowly through it so I didn’t get scared. The Shunned house didn’t feel familiar at all, until flamethrowers were mentioned, which set me to smiling, much as they did the first time I read it. I love the way he slowly builds atmosphere, hinting at things and then backtracking. He pulls you in well with the half-glimpses he provides while still letting you conjure up much of the monstrosity.
Only recently had I heard of how racist H. P. Lovecraft is, and that it influenced his work. Oblivious could be my middle name, except I’m not that self aware. I’d never noticed it before, and for a moment I’d like to strike off on a tangential discussion about what to do when a creator has conflicting views that you find distasteful. For me, I feel it’s good to know where they’re coming from and try not to let it influence me too much, but that’s no reason not to try their artwork otherwise we’re just creating our own echo chambers. If you find it’s tainting it, or don’t want to give money to a person that holds those beliefs or does those things, then that’s your call. There were a few jabs in the Shunned House, but not that many, maybe because it’s a short story.If I hadn’t had heard that, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have even noticed it.
I liked The Shunned House until the very last page – the ending is quite sudden and feels like some of my student’s stories when they’re racing the clock in an exam as we have to ping them if they turn in an unfinished story: excitement, adventure, cool bit… and they went home, The End. It’s not just that I want to savour it for a bit longer but the hero whomps the baddie then final curtain falls three paragraphs later, which was exceedingly jarring. I know that you should leave some strings untied and your readers wanting more, but this was a bit extreme.
It’s a nice short read that I knocked over while out shopping. Our daughters fell asleep on the couches in a cafe and I polished it in the course of two beers. In the book, there’s a monster that attacks people in their sleep, and the protagonist’s uncle is attacked, causing him to call out and run the gamut of facial expressions. Just as I was reading that part, our youngest woke up and started growling and grimacing which sent my heart rate spiking and added an extra depth to the story. She hadn’t been out for long enough, so I rocked her back to sleep while polishing off the book and the beer.