“H. P. Lovecraft’s Book Of The Supernatural”
Edited by Stephen Jones
Read by: Bronson Pinchot, Steven Crossley , and Davina Porter
Published by AudioGo
Running Time: 16hrs 44min
I know I should have looked deeper into this book before requesting to listen, but I saw the name H.P. Lovecraft jumped on it. I was hoping for an audiobook full of Lovecraft’s stories but instead I got a collection of gothic Supernatural tales from the 19th Century. Granted the stories were a mixed bag of treats, some good, some average and some just plain boring. The readers of the stories were also a mixed bag of treats. Some good and some seemed as though they were, as the saying goes, “phoning it in.” Bronson Pinchot did well with some of the parts he took part in but there were times where it seemed as though he was forcing a feel of the old gothic tales but what happened was his delivery was downright boring, the same goes with the other readers. Some stories were perfectly read while others were dull each narrator had their moments of each.
The basis of this book is H. P. Lovecraft’s 1927 essay on Supernatural Horror in Literature and talks about the evolution of the genre from the early Gothic novels to the work of contemporary American and British authors. Throughout, Lovecraft acknowledges those authors and stories that he feels are the very finest the horror field has to offer: Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson, Guy de Maupassant, Ambrose Bierce, and Arthur Conan Doyle, each story is prefaced by Lovecraft’s own opinions and insights in their work. It is a nice collection of supernatural gothic tales and for any fan of supernatural and horror a good study of the genre.
The stories are too numerous to sum up but I will touch on some of my favorites and some which require some extra mention.
“Markheim” by Robert Louis Stevenson
When faced with a supernatural being (that could be “the Devil”) after murdering a shopkeeper, Markheim must evaluate his life for redemption. This was one of the most intriguing stories of the collection, in that it forced a man who has thrown away his life to review and determine his own worth.
“Message Found in a Bottle” by Edgar Allan Poe
This was a very nice Poe story in which a man is a sole survivor on a ship that is adrift in the Pacific. As the ship gets closer to Antarctica he spots another ship which boards and finds himself a ghost aboard that strange ship. Typical Poe story in that the literary illustration of the events and background will lose you in this one.
“The Middle Toe of the Right Foot” by Ambrose Bierce
I found this one to be humorous for some reason, probably due to the completely unrealistic aspect of the story. It is not a very well set up, in fact it’s very abrupt in the plot build-up but the essay segment before warns the listener of this. Basically a man kills his wife and children and for some reason he has to fight a duel with a man in the same house he murdered his family. The police come to the home the next day to find the man dead, but no wounds on his body and 3 sets of footprints in the dust. Fun ghost tale, but very awkward in structure.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Oilman
I have read this story before and loved it. The main idea behind the story is a first person story told by a woman who at first seems to be suffering from what today would be called postpartum depression, but slowly descends into madness after being shut in a room with ugly yellow wallpaper. The wallpaper begins as ugly but as the woman loses herself into the madness begins to love the color and sees women “creeping” around outside her window, soon she wants to stay in that room so she doesn’t have to creep along with them. Very creepy psychological horror story told by the woman who at first seems normal but soon changes.
“The Recrudescence of Imray” by Rudyard Kipling
I didn’t find much horror in this one, but the idea that a murdered man’s ghost comes back to help find his body and his killer seems to be the gist of the story. Not up to par with a Lovecraftian story but interesting in its historical aspect of the genre.
“The Hands of Karma Ingwabanashi” by Lafcadio Hearn
This one is almost humorous. An old woman is dying and she tells the young girl that comes to sit by her in her dying days that she is to replace her as the wife of the lord. The girl protests and as she helps the woman to stand. As she does so the woman grabs the girls breasts and dies. The hands become “infused” with the breasts and they stay with her for the remainder of her life making the young girl not able to marry. Weird tale there.
Other stories include: “The Burial of the Rats” by Bram Stoker, “The Red Lodge” by H R Wakefield, “The Captain of the PoleStar” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Villa Desiree” by May Sinclair, “The Voice in the Night” by William Hope Hodgson, “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, “The Dead Smile” by F Marion Crawford, “The Wind in the RoseBush” Mary E Wilkins-Freeman, “Novel of the White Powder” by Arthur Machen, “The Tale of the German Student” by Washington Irving, “Who Knows?” by Guy de Maupassant, “The Invisible Eye” by Erckmann Chatrian, “What Was It?” by Fitz James OBrien, and “The Torture by Hope” by Villiers de Ilsle Adam
Nice collection as a whole but with the variety of stories, they may not all be your favorites, but they do present a good historical variety of supernatural horror.